Sheryl Crow is coming back with a vengeance. After sitting out much of 2004, she has not one, but two albums ready to go for 2005. "I want to put out an artist record first and then a pop record in th

Sheryl Crow is coming back with a vengeance. After sitting out much of 2004, she has not one, but two albums ready to go for 2005. "I want to put out an artist record first and then a pop record in the fall," she says. "I'm going to hand both my records in [to Interscope] probably in the last bit of January."

So what makes an "artist" record different from a "pop" record? Crow laughs and says, "Probably the art record will never get any airplay. It's just a really heartfelt, stripped-down, no-bells-and-whistles record that lyrically probably has heavier content than maybe a pop record does."

She adds that she still loves writing pop songs, "but for me, just for a long time, I've been wanting to sit down and write songs that I feel compelled to write."

She figures that the success of 2003's "The Very Best of Sheryl Crow" (which has sold 3.2 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan) allows her "to put out a record that's maybe not as commercial."

Given her very public romantic relationship with cyclist Lance Armstrong, she says it is no surprise that her mood is upbeat these days-and it shows in her music.

"I am writing a lot more love songs because I'm really happy in my life, and I'm in a really positive relationship, but there's also so much stuff to write about in the world. It's a really interesting time to be an artist."

She adds that any performer now has to guard against the cult of celebrity. "People are having such an adverse reaction to celebrities that to be a celebrity is a negative term, and to be an artist, you have to fight that part of it. For me, in order to find a way to reach people in a medium that's based on commerciality, but to also say something, is a real interesting question and really exciting."