R. Kelly (jive)

Although still facing child-pornography charges—most notoriously stemming from a videotape allegedly showing him having sex with an underage girl—R. Kelly doesn't shy away from his sleazy side on "Ignition," the hit first single off his sixth solo disc. "Let me stick my key in your ignition," he sings in one of his trademark bump-and-grind ballads. On the rock-charged "Imagine That," he fantasizes about "kissing your body from feet to head." Such steamy lyrics, which some might now find in questionable taste, are nothing new for a man who once rhapsodized about "Feelin' on Yo Booty."

Chocolate is most appetizing when Kelly goes for romance instead of raunch on old-school soul numbers such as "You Made Me Love You" and "You Knock Me Out," which fondly recall Al Green and Marvin Gaye, respectively. These songs help return the focus to Kelly's music, which has made him one of the defining R&B artists of his generation. "Been Around the World," featuring yet another guest rap by Ja Rule, is a sincere love letter to the fans who have remained in Kelly's corner. Diehards will appreciate a bonus CD of six songs originally slated to appear on Kelly's aborted Loveland album.

BOTTOM LINE: Kelly comes back strong

50 Cent (Shady/Aftermath/Interscope)

bgwhite    



It isn't any wonder that on "Patiently Waiting," from 50 Cent's rich new CD, the rapper from Queens calls Eminem "my favorite white boy." The cut is one of two tracks that feature Eminem, who signed 50 Cent to his Shady Records and tapped him for three songs on last fall's 8 Mile soundtrack (including "Wanksta," which is also on Die Tryin'). 50, whose real name is Curtis Jackson, also gets stellar support from Dr. Dre, who produced this disc's bumpin' first single, the hit party anthem "In Da Club," and three other gangsta grooves. Gritty delivery brings a rough-and-tumble realism to the hard-core beats, proving that 50 Cent is much more than chump change.

BOTTOM LINE: Fabulous Fifty

The Donnas (Atlantic)

If the Go-Go's and Hole were to jam together, they might sound like the Donnas. Mixing a fun, pajama-party vibe with grungy, guitar-heavy rock, these four women (none of whom are actually named Donna) prove that they can easily hold their own with punk-pop guy groups like Blink-182 and Sum 41. Although there is a sameness to a lot of the cuts on their latest (there isn't a ballad in the bunch), the Donnas bring a bracing energy and plenty of girl-power attitude to fierce and furious tracks like the first single, "Take It Off." Lead singer Brett Anderson (a.k.a. Donna A.) injects the band's witty lyrics with dry humor, singing sarcastically on "All Messed Up": "Well, I must've had too many Diet Cokes/ 'Cause I'm laughing at all your stupid jokes."

BOTTOM LINE: A rockin' good Night

  • Contributors:
  • Chuck Arnold,
  • Ralph Novak.