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Everyone who's anyone in music is releasing albums in 2007. Even Guns N' Roses.

By Stephen HumphriesStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / January 5, 2007

It's the year in which the musical stars align. In the world of rock, releases are expected from titans U2, Coldplay, and Metallica. Top 40 radio is anticipating albums by Avril Lavigne, Britney Spears, and Kelly Clarkson. And hip-hop looks to rebound from a sluggish 2006 with records by 50 Cent, Usher, and Eminem.

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"This is going to be one of the most prolific release years in quite some time," says Jonathan Cohen, senior editor at Billboard magazine.

But there's one album that will probably trump them all at the sales register: The soundtrack to High School Musical 2: Sing It All or Nothing! The sequel to the musical phenomenon airs this summer. Until then, expect the Disney Channel's other phenomenon, Hannah Montana, to vacuum up every 'tween's pocket money.

But back to those also rans....

Fresh sounds

January is a good month to launch new artists such as "American Idol" runner-up Katharine McPhee. Her self-titled album has been assembled from contributions by producer Babyface and songwriter Kara DioGuardi (Hilary Duff, Kelly Clarkson). "That should be a pretty good blend to suit multiple audiences. Stuff for the people who voted for her based on [her rendition of] 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' on 'American Idol,' but also stuff that's a little bit more club friendly," says Mr. Cohen.

Another rookie to look out for in January is Lily Allen, already a phenomenon in her native Britain. On her debut, "Alright, Still," Allen's swaggering pop tunes surf atop currents of reggae and hip-hop. It's joyous enough to bring a smile to an Easter Island statue.

Also generating buzz: Scotland's The View. "They're punk pop but they write really good songs," says Jim Farber, pop critic for The New York Daily News. "The album is called 'Hats off to the Buskers.' They don't make any attempt to hide their Scottish brogue."

Anticipated followups

Given that the only Paris Hilton record the public was interested in was her police record, we don't imagine she'll release a sequel to last year's album. That should clear valuable shelf space for several highly anticipated follow-up records. The Arcade Fire, the indie group touted by David Bowie and U2, has recorded a sophomore effort titled "Neon Bible." March's slate also includes Air's "Pocket Symphony," which adds Japanese instrumentation to a slinky electro-pop mix. The same month, Good Charlotte – the punk-pop band who seemingly spend as much time in tattoo parlors as recording studios – gear up for "Good Morning Revival." "This record is going to be really big," says Cohen. "The songs are massive sounding."

Until then, all eyes are on The Shins – the soft rockers famously endorsed by Natalie Portman's character in the movie "Garden State" – who return in late January with "Wincing The Night Away." "This record is really good but it doesn't, to my ears, have anything on it that will make them explode onto the mainstream," says Cohen. "I expect this one will sell better than the previous one, because so many more people know about them now."