Compact Picks

RUBEN STUDDARD Soulful He might be ''Flying Without Wings,'' but the American Idol champ has lined up a nice safety net of collaborators -- R. Kelly, Missy Elliott, and Fat Joe, among others -- to cushion his full-length debut. THE BUZZ With its promising R&B/hip-hop slant, Soulful could actually live up to its name. (11/11)

ALICIA KEYS The Diary of Alicia Keys Expect more piano-based ditties from the Clive Davis protegee on the follow-up to 2001's multiplatinum Songs in A Minor -- along with more support from her ''Krucial Keys'' music team. THE BUZZ With five Grammys on her shelf and a phone-book-thick pile of panting press clips, expectations are running high. Maybe too high. (11/18)

NELLY FURTADO Folklore For her hotly anticipated second CD, the Canadian chameleon has called on Whoa, Nelly! producers Track and Field for more of the urban pop, soul, and Portuguese fado that flavored her smash debut. THE BUZZ Was Nelly! a well-timed fluke or the first volley from a major new talent? We'll soon see. No pressure or anything. (11/25)

PUDDLE OF MUDD Life on Display POM's 2001 debut defied conventional wisdom by proving that a grunge band could succeed in the 21st century (provided they had Fred Durst's imprimatur). A source tells us their sophomore effort is ''even bigger sounding.'' THE BUZZ Durst's blessing no longer means much, but we're still betting this'll sell more than Mudhoney's (if not Mudvayne's) entire catalog. (11/25)

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