Big name divas battle it out on the music charts. But which one will bring in the highest record sales

By Nicholas Fonseca
October 25, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT
Divas Illustration by Drew Friedman

Shania Twain

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Divas, start your engines! For the next six weeks, five of pop music’s loudest female grandstanders — Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Jennifer Lopez, and Shania Twain — will face off in a potentially eardrum-shattering contest to rule the charts.

Despite earning stacks of platinum records, each woman is at a career turning point. To wit: a major image overhaul (hello, Christina!), the follow-up to two crossover hits (that’s you, Shania), and a forceful attempt to rebound after a near meltdown (oh, Mariah…). ”They’re absolutely pivotal albums,” says Stephen Hill, a programming VP at BET. The pressure only intensifies with one of the busiest fall release slates in years. Notes John Ivey, program director of L.A.’s KIIS-FM, ”There’s no wiggle room for a mediocre record.”

What’s more, the discs break as a new generation of femme phenoms like Ashanti, Avril Lavigne, and ”American Idol” winner Kelly Clarkson (whose first album is due in early 2003) is crowding the charts. ”It’s been the young divas’ turns, but there’s a well-placed belief that we need to go back to the originals,” says Hill. Here’s a look at the chances for diva revival.

CHRISTINA AGUILERA
ALBUM ”Stripped” (Oct. 29) BACK STORY Despite moving 8 million copies of her self-titled 1999 debut album, Aguilera, 21, waited more than three years for her follow-up. STRATEGY Sex sells. Or so she hopes, based on her sleazy first video (”Dirrty”). ”She’s playing it as close to the edge as she can get,” says RCA Records Group chair Bob Jamieson. ”We try to let her have as much creative freedom as possible.” EARLY VIBE The trampy makeover ”definitely takes her out of the teen-pop realm,” says Hill. ”Britney’s [image change] was kind of teasing and naughty…but this stuff’s just nasty!” And while ”Dirrty” peaked at No. 48 on Billboard’s singles chart and was lampooned on ”Saturday Night Live,” nobody discounts her powerful pipes. ”Christina’s drawing attention — just like Madonna did,” says Frankie Blue, a VP at New York City’s WKTU. ”The difference is that she can sing.” REVIVAL ODDS 5-2

Shania Twain

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