By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated December 02, 2002 12:00 PM

The next two weeks will see the release of new CDs from two formerly indestructible divas: Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston.

But while a decade ago such news would have translated into automatic great sales for both songbirds, industry observers are now wondering whether they can overcome their bad press and slumping sales of late.

In a lengthy cover story in Sunday’s New York Times, Carey, 32, went under the microscope, while Sunday’s New York Post examined Houston, 39, and quoted a few snippets from the usually reclusive singer’s upcoming Wednesday ABC “Primetime” interview with Diane Sawyer.

Diva One: Citing Carey’s new record contract and her new album, “Charmbracelet,” The Times calls the star’s return “an odd comeback attempt, because most people can’t be sure exactly what Ms. Carey is coming back from. She has to make her fans forget a movie they probably didn’t see (‘Glitter’) and an album they probably didn’t buy (its soundtrack).”

What fans do remember, though, are stories of Carey’s being rushed to a hospital last July, suffering from what her press rep said was exhaustion.

Without going into any detail, Carey told The Times: “I just felt like if I went to the hospital and I went along with it and I actually could get some sleep, maybe everybody that worked for me would see the severity of the situation.”

As for Diva Two: Houston, whose CD “Just Whitney” is tentatively scheduled to arrive in stores Dec. 10, is asked by Sawyer about her skeletal appearance at Michael Jackson’s televised concert last year. The star replies, defensively: “I’m 5-foot-7 and thin.”

Houston was also in court only last week with husband Bobby Brown as he faced a DUI charge. But, reports the Post, she says she reached one of her lowest points last September, after her 81-year-old father’s entertainment company filed a $100 million breach-of-contract suit against her.

Still, to those critics who suggest she may be falling apart for any of a number of reasons, Houston reportedly tells Sawyer, “I’m tough enough.”