Common
Finding Forever |

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CRITIC'S CHOICE

RAP

"My raps ignite the people like Obama," boasts Common on "The People," one of many highlights of his new album. And if any rapper got our vote for President, it would be this enlightened emcee. He continues to uplift the hip-hop nation with his socially conscious messages on Finding Forever, which, like 2005's insta-classic Be, possesses a timeless quality that few rap discs have. Working again with Kanye West, who produced 8 of 12 cuts (and appears on "Southside," a shout-out to their old Chicago stomping grounds), Common has found the Quincy Jones to his Michael Jackson. Soulful and sampledelic, with bits of Gil Scott-Heron, Nina Simone and Paul Simon, Forever is a tightly woven jazz-rap tapestry that provides the perfect showcase for Common's nimble wordplay. On the breakup lament "I Want You," he rhymes, "I spent many years trying to be the heartthrob/I guess it's only right that I got my heart robbed." Dope stuff.

Tegan and Sara
The Con |

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ALT-POP

There's something eerie about this Canadian duo comprised of identical twins Tegan and Sara Quin. They sing in a chilly, detached style that makes them sound more like android clones than flesh-and-blood sisters. It doesn't help that it is hard to distinguish their voices from one another. And the synthetic sounds on their new-wavish fifth album fail to breathe much real life into things either.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Back in Your Head," a bubbly slice of pop

Sean Kingston
Sean Kingston |

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REGGAE-POP

This 17-year-old newcomer sampled a 46-year-old hit ("Stand by Me") on his reggae-pop single "Beautiful Girls" and came up with one of the songs of the summer. It's an old-meets-new-school approach that works more than once on the consistently catchy debut from this Miami-born, Jamaica-bred artist. "Me Love," the sweetly lilting second single, rips from Led Zeppelin's "D'yer Mak'er," while "I Can Feel It" successfully reggae-fies Phil Collins's "In the Air Tonight." Best of all, though, is "Got No Shorty," which takes the old standard "I Ain't Got Nobody" (yes, the same one covered by David Lee Roth) and turns it into a bouncy, OutKast-style rave-up.

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