Daughtry
REVIEWED BY CHUCK ARNOLD
POP-ROCK

Chris Daughtry must have been scratching his bald head wondering what happened when, in one of the biggest shockers in American Idol history, he was sent home in the final four last season. But while the voters didn't get it right—Daughtry should have been the one to deliver us from Taylor Hicks—it didn't take long for the North Carolina native to get a record deal. Further vindication comes with his debut album, Daughtry, a solid if not spectacular effort that at the very least proves that he is not just another Idol also-ran destined for cruise-ship duty. Daughtry, who wrote or cowrote all but two songs, is at his best on testosterone-charged rockers on which he comes off as the anti-Clay. He really rips into the blistering "What I Want," featuring ex-Gunner Slash on guitar. But he loses some of his edge on poppier mainstream fare such as "Feels Like Tonight," on which Daughtry seems torn between being a headbanger and a heartthrob.

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DOWNLOAD THIS: "What I Want"

When Your Heart Stops Beating
REVIEWED BY CHRIS STRAUSS
PUNK-POP

If the lack of toilet humor from their new band is any indication, blink-182 jokesters Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker seem to be finally acting their age. Now in their 30s, singer-bassist Hoppus and drummer Barker mix melancholy with melody in (+44). While "Lycanthrope" will satiate the pop-punk yearnings of blink fans, there's a darker lyrical feel to this project, begun after frontman Tom DeLonge abruptly quit blink last year. "This isn't just goodbye, this is I can't stand you," Hoppus sings about the nasty breakup on "No, It Isn't." With When Your Heart Stops Beating, though, there is already new life.

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DOWNLOAD THIS: "Lycanthrope "

Doctor's Advocate
RAP

After getting some heavyweight help from Dr. Dre and 50 Cent on last year's double-platinum debut, The Documentary, The Game goes it without both of those major players on this gangsta-fortified follow-up. While alluding to his public beef with 50 on cuts like the reggae-tinged rumbler "It's Okay (One Blood)," The Game spends a lot more time trying to establish that he no longer needs Dr. Dre. He addresses his mentor on the G-funkish "Let's Ride": "You passed me the torch/I lit the chronic wit it/Now the world is my ashtray." The most smoking track, though, is "Wouldn't Get Far," on which The Game enlists another def partner in rhyme: Kanye West.

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DOWNLOAD THIS: "Wouldn't Get Far"

I Loved Her First
REVIEWED BY RALPH NOVAK
COUNTRY

This Alabama sextet scored a No. 1 country hit with the sorrowful title track off this debut. But Heartland can hardly stake claim to the territory of other all-male groups like Alabama and Lonestar. At least on "No Getting Over Me," a Ronnie Milsap remake, they show they could be an effective cover band.

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DOWNLOAD THIS: "No Getting Over Me"

The Greatest Songs of the Sixties
POP

On a quick sequel to this year's hit The Greatest Songs of the Fifties, Manilow pours the schmaltz on Frankie Valli, the Beatles and half of the Burt Bacharach-Hal David songbook. He completely ignores Motown, though. Then again, does the world really need to hear the "Mandy" man crooning "My Girl"?

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DOWNLOAD THIS: "Cherish"/"Windy"
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SOUNDGARDEN, SUPERUNKNOWN I remember having my first car accident to that album. I think the song that was playing was "The Day I Tried to Live."

BREAKING BENJAMIN, PHOBIA I wear that out in airports. I just love their songwriting. And [Ben Burnley's] vocals are amazing to me.

LIVE, SONGS FROM BLACK MOUNTAIN It's good and relaxing. I've always been heavily influenced by that band.

THREE DAYS GRACE, ONE-X Everything is heavily emotive and catchy at the same time.

Damien Rice, 9 With transcendent beauty and cathartic emotion, this alt-folkie's second album seems to discover the secret passageway to your soul. One of the year's best, it creeps up on you until you are completely absorbed.

The Hold Steady, Boys and Girls in America This Brooklyn band, led by standout narrator Craig Finn, delivers a stellar indie-rock record that will let grown-ups channel their teenage years—and help the kids get through theirs.

My Chemical Romance, The Black Parade On an ambitious concept album, MCR marches forward with a goth grandeur that will have you breaking out your Doc Martens.

John Legend, Once Again Reaffirming that he is no ordinary performer, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter and pianist continues to lovingly update old-school soul for the hip-hop generation.

This Boston-area singer (real name: Joanna Levesque), who will turn 16 on Dec. 20, recently landed a Top 10 hit with "Too Little Too Late," the first single off her second album, The High Road.

ON HER FIRST SPLURGE When [my first album] went gold, I bought a diamond "J" ring that my mom didn't know about. She was mad, so she took away my credit card. However, I still wear it to this day.

ON HER EX-BEAU, TEEN SOCCER PRO FREDDY ADU We were together a year and a half. He was my first love. We're still friends. I'm single now. It's tough to find boys that want to talk to me.

ON PESKY FANS It's weird when fans follow me into the bathroom. And once I was fighting with a boy at dinner and someone came up to us. I smiled and put on a happy face. Then we resumed our fight.

ON LIP-SYNCING I don't think I'd be the kind of person who would sacrifice the [live] vocal to dance. I just wouldn't want to.