If patience is indeed a virtue, then pop fans may be among the most virtuous on earth; the standard wait between albums by superstar acts can be longer than a presidential term. Four years after GUNS N' ROSES' Appetite for Destruction, the group's second album will actually be two albums, Use Your Illusion I and II, released the same day but sold separately. At press time, the band hadn't yet submitted finished tapes, but Geffen Records still hopes to ship the long-delayed monster by early July. A two-year world tour starts May 24 at Alpine Valley, Wis.
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN's nearly completed ninth studio album (his first since 1987 and still untitled) will be heavy on ''big- sounding'' rock & roll and R&B, with backing vocals from the likes of Sam & Dave's Sam Moore. Release date could be as early as July; tour plans remain indefinite.
Having toyed with the idea of a greatest-hits package, MICHAEL JACKSON has instead opted to initiate his big-bucks Sony contract with an all-new record, Dangerous, tentatively set for July 16. In what some see as Jackson's attempt to modernize his sound and image, he has been working with a variety of in-demand funk-R&B producers, including Teddy Riley and the team of L.A. Reid and Babyface. Song titles include ''Black & White'' and ''Heal the World.'' He's also said to be leaving behind his quasi-military look.
For their first studio album since 1987's The Joshua Tree, U2 are recording in Germany and Dublin, with early reports indicating more upbeat, danceable songs. Don't expect this until early '92.
BONNIE RAITT has cowritten a song with her fiance, actor Michael O'Keefe, for her next album, Luck of the Draw. Produced by Don Was (who helmed her '89 comeback album, Nick of Time), the album features guest appearances by Kris Kristofferson, Bruce Hornsby, guitarist Richard Thompson, and quirky singer-songwriter John Hiatt.
JOHN COUGAR MELLENCAMP's Whenever We Wanted is, in the words of his manager, ''pure Mellencamp rock & roll with no holds barred.'' No more fiddles and accordions, in other words. One of Mellencamp's own paintings will grace the album cover.
Virgin hopes to show that PAULA ABDUL really can sing by releasing a ballad, ''Rush Rush,'' as the first single from Abdul's third album, Spellbound. Otherwise, the record much of it produced by the R&B-funk group the Family Stand is designed for the dance floor, though Abdul does venture into uncharted turf by tackling a Hiatt song and collaborating with Prince (on a metallic dance track called ''U''). As if to make the public aware that Abdul really is a star, Virgin has priced the CD $2 higher than usual.