Robin Thicke, Jennifer Hudson

That Robin Thicke could become a top name in R&B is proof that anything's possible in the magical world of pop music. A clean-cut white boy with a pop-culture family tree (he's the son of Growing Pains papa, Alan), Thicke nonetheless has a serious jones for syrupy '70s soul music. He may not be the next Justin Timberlake, but his breakout album, The Evolution of Robin Thicke, and last year's Something Else offer a fine mix of smooth and sweet.

The evolution of Jennifer Hudson, meanwhile, has been on full display since she made it to the finals of American Idol in 2004. From there, her many highs (pop stardom, an Oscar for her role in Dreamgirls) and soul-crushing lows (the murders of three family members last year) prove that a fighter's soul goes hand-in-hand with her gale-force voice.

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Christian Schaeffer