The White Stripes. The band that put the "rock" back in Detroit Rock City (sorry Kid) and helped spark a nationwide garage-band revolution has recorded a new album, "Elephant," at punk poet Billy Childish's Toerag Studios in London. Putting their status as critics' darlings to the major-label acid test, Jack and Meg White drop this highly anticipated recording in April, with a U.S. tour to follow. Even if it turns out to be pink or white (or striped), this is one elephant that won't stand in the room unnoticed.
Coldplay. The most sensitive-guy U.K. rock band that isn't Radiohead or Doves undertakes a three-month U.S. visit beginning Jan. 21. The band is still touring behind "A Rush of Blood to the Head," the perfect 2002 follow-up to their Grammy-winning burst of lovelorn pain, "Parachutes." Unfortunately, Coldplay is skipping L.A. this time around.
Dixie Chicks. Shania Twain and Faith Hill turned country stars into sex symbols, but the Dixie Chicks proved it was possible to look good and play too. Get an eyeful and an earful with the trio's Feb. 11 DVD, "An Evening With the Dixie Chicks," an extended version of the recent NBC special by the same name, featuring seven songs not on the show, which was recorded at the Kodak Theatre. The boot-scootin' crowd will get the chance to dance with the Chicks in person on a summer U.S. tour for the group's multi-platinum 2002 album, "Home."
Outkast. The most outrageously musical thing to happen to hip-hop since Funkadelic, Atlanta's favorite sons Outkast continue to twist minds and punch lines with an as-yet-untitled spring bomb: a double album that is really one solo album by Big Boi and another Andre 3000, with one new Outkast joint on each. Soft on the heels of 2001's greatest-hits disc, "Big Boi and Dre Present ... Outkast," hip-hop's funkiest duo set out to prove that they're two great tastes that taste great together.
Mary J. Blige. The last time Miss Blige got together with the chief executive of Bad Boy Records, his name was still Puffy. Still, anticipation could not be greater for the pairing that created the streetwise New Jill movement on Blige's 1992 breakthrough, "What's the 411?" Puffy is now P. Diddy, and the roughneck Jills have matured into more hit-conscious R&B; singers, but Blige's album, underway in Miami for a May/June release, certainly has the makings of a major arrival coming off "No More Drama," which got radio play but produced no real shock waves. Look for a stylistic change-up (and a new hairdo to boot?) and big tour from one of the premier soul divas in hip-hop.
-- Dean Kuipers