The ammunition: The first single, "I Can't Believe," teams him with Lil Wayne and finds him up to his usual tricks, trying to get a girl to roll with him. He has plenty of other friends on hand, too, including Chris Brown, Ludacris, DJ Khaled and Kanye West. He helped them have big hits; here's hoping they return the favor.
Keane / Perfect Symmetry (Oct. 14)
and Snow Patrol /A Hundred Million Suns (Oct. 28)
The transition: Beloved across the Atlantic, English band Keane and Irish band Snow Patrol have seen their profile rise here in recent years. But neither yet enjoys as high an international profile as fellow U.K. outfit Coldplay, to whom their atmospheric rock has been compared.
The mission: Keane's last album, 2006's dark, dense "Under the Iron Sea," won critical praise but didn't capture the public imagination as keenly. Snow Patrol had success with 2006 single Chasing Cars, but both bands now face the perennial challenge confronted by rising alt-rock acts: how to further capitalize on commercial potential while maintaining credibility.
The ammunition: Self-produced, with assistance from smart-pop savants Jon Brion and Stuart Price, "Symmetry" is an affirmation of Keane's potential and a marked departure, full of big, buoyant, unapologetically exuberant tunes. For Keane, the third time may be the charm. The moody intensity of Snow Patrol's "Suns," recorded with longtime producer Jacknife Lee, is suggested by titles such as "The Planets Bend Between Us" and "If There's a Rocket Tie Me to It." First single "Take Back the City" confirms that frontman Gary Lightbody's angst-ridden introspection can get heavy, but the tunes have graceful, lyrical touches that may appeal to pop fans and enhance the group's artistic cachet.
T.I. / Paper Trail (Sept. 30)
The transition: On his last album, "T.I. vs T.I.P.," the now-successful rapper confronted his criminally minded alter ego. In real life, the alter ego got the better of it: The Atlanta performer is facing a year in prison on weapons charges after he puts in 1,000 hours of community service. In hip-hop, a rap sheet isn't necessarily a bad thing, but T.I. already had all the street cred he needed.
The mission: Both of his last albums arrived atop Billboard's chart. He needs this one to be big enough to weather the time that he'll be out of the public eye. Defiant single No Matter What signals that he's not sweating his impending ordeal.
The ammunition: Current hit Whatever You Like just leaped from No. 71 to No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart, thanks to first-week sales of 205,000 downloads. He has an A-list of guests and producers backing him: Jay-Z, Kanye West, Rihanna, Lil Wayne and Usher appear, while West, Just Blaze, Swizz Beatz, Mannie Fresh and DJ Toomp provide the beats.