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In January, a great deal of attention will be focused on high-profile Jive crooner R. Kelly, whose ongoing legal problems have come to overshadow his musical career, though he has made a quiet comeback with the Urban hit "Ignition," the first single from his upcoming CD, Chocolate Factory (1/14).

2003: A Q1 ODYSSEY

R. Kelly, Linkin Park, Lil’ Kim Lead List of Artists Prepping First Quarter Releases
Apres le deluge, it’s time to start all over again.

Coming off a particularly superstar-studded Q4, Q1 2003 will be a time for labels to concentrate on breaking new and developing artists. Still, a number of familiar names will release new music in the first three months of the coming year.

Of course, this is a very preliminary survey, so don’t blame us if certain release dates shift. A more comprehensive release grid will appear in these pages after the first.

In January, a great deal of attention will be focused on high-profile Jive crooner R. Kelly, whose ongoing legal problems have come to overshadow his musical career, though he has made a quiet comeback with the Urban hit "Ignition," the first single from his upcoming CD, Chocolate Factory (1/14). Kelly had recorded another complete album, Loveland, which was slated for release in November, but that effort was shelved after widespread Internet leaks.

Also scheduled for Jan. 14 are Interscope’s Thicke and No Limit/Universal rapper Choppa. Among the releases due out later in the month are Windham Hill new-age icon Yanni (1/21), Columbia's Solange (sister of Destiny's Child leader Beyonce Knowles, who has her own solo bow coming in March) and an EP from Motown/Universal neo-soul star Erykah Badu (1/28). Zwan, Billy Corgan’s new band, makes its debut on Reprise on Jan. 28 as well.

American Idol runner-up Justin Guarini gets February off to a hair-raising start with his RCA bow (2/4), with Vince Gill’s This Old Guitar & Me (MCA Nashville) coming the same day. The following week sees R&B act Blackstreet’s DreamWorks debut, Arista soul chanteuse Blu Cantrell’s sophomore follow-up to her hit 2001 bow So Blu and the latest from MCA Nashville country stalwart George Strait. Feb. 18 marks the release of Desert Storm/Elektra rapper FabolousStreet Dreams, the follow-up to his 2001 hit, Ghetto Fabolous as well as the debut from touted Columbia newcomer Kenna. The Tuesday after that is the first BIG retail date of the year. Warner Bros’ multi-platinum rap-rockers Linkin Park top a scheduled slate that includes expected new albums from Universal’s 702, Queen Bee/Atlantic’s Lil’ Kim, Elektra rapper Nate Dogg, Elektra pop-rockers Third Eye Blind and a Led Zeppelin anthology from Atlantic (the next best thing to Audioslave’s new album).

March comes in like a lion with the new album from Elektra’s Staind, their first since 2001’s 6 million-selling (U.S.) Break the Cycle, and the Matrix 2 soundtrack on Maverick. Maverick’s Deftones, Atlantic’s Sugar Ray, WB’s Eric Benet (Mr. Halle Berry), Columbia's shaggy-haired heartthrob Pete Yorn, along with Epic’s Macy Gray and Glenn Lewis, all have albums slated for the month, though no specific release dates have been announced. March 11 sees new discs from Loud/Columbia gangsta rappers 3-6 Mafia, Columbia hit R&B group Jagged Edge and Motown/Universal soul crooner Brian McKnight.

Gentlemen, start your cash registers.

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