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REVIEWED BY CHUCK ARNOLD
POP-ROCK

J.D. Fortune defeated all challengers on the reality show Rock Star to become the new lead singer of INXS, but now comes the real battle: taking on the ghost of Michael Hut chence. Turns out the Canadian frontman is exactly what the band needed for its first studio album since Hutchence committed suicide in 1997. Despite the change in personnel, Switch isn't so much a reversal for INXS as a return to the good, trashy fun that marked hits like “Need You Tonight.” On hooky, hot-blooded rockers such as “Perfect Strangers,” a guilt-free ode to one-night stands, it's like welcoming back old friends. With his smoldering swagger, the fine-voiced Fortune seems to be channeling Hutchence (as well as Jim Morrison), although he doesn't quite possess that same devil inside. Even so, when he pays tribute to his predecessor on the affecting ballad “God's Top Ten,” it's a bit of pop heaven.

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DOWNLOAD THIS: “God's Top Ten”

Unpredictable
R&B

His Oscar-winning performance in last year's Ray has indelibly linked Jamie Foxx with one of the greatest R&B artists of all time. But Foxx's own music—on this, his second album (following 1994's little-heard Peep This)—may have you saying, “Hit the road, Jamie.” It's a decidedly predictable collection of contemporary soul with the requisite hip-hop beats, R. Kelly-style slow jams and guest rappers (including Ludacris, Snoop Dogg and Common). Whereas Foxx worked as a featured singer on hits by Kanye West (“Gold Digger”) and Twista (“Slow Jamz”), he lacks the vocal presence to elevate the mostly mediocre material here. And he is completely outclassed when Mary J. Blige joins him for a remake of the 1978 Mother's Finest gem “Love Changes.” A classically trained pianist who helped write 6 of 15 tracks, Foxx is not without musical talent, and he shows promise on the Babyface-produced ballad “Heaven,” a tender tribute to his 11-year-old daughter. Still, this disc will hardly earn him a Grammy to go along with that Oscar.
—C.A.

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DOWNLOAD THIS: “Heaven”

Speak for Yourself
ALT-POP

The O.C. strikes again: Following such acts as Phantom Planet, Death Cab for Cutie and Jem, Imogen Heap is the latest alternative artist to receive a big boost from the FOX teen drama. After the sprightly “Goodnight and Go” was featured in an episode in a December 2004 episode, the haunting, harmony-laden “Hide and Seek” added sonic atmospherics to last May's season finale. Both songs are included on the second solo outing from this British singer-songwriter (and one-half of the duo Frou Frou), who, with her ethereal soprano and electronica-infused sounds, brings to mind a trippier Dido. The ambient allure of tracks such as the lightly pulsating “Clear the Area” and the lovely “Just for Now” speaks for itself.
—C.A.

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DOWNLOAD THIS: “Hide and Seek”

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WHAT I'M LISTENING TO

The O.C. actor, 50, takes a break from the Southern California life with 7 Days in Memphis, his debut album of Memphis-style soul.

SOLOMON BURKE, KING OF ROCK' N' SOUL He's always on my iPod. He sent me a great live recording of himself at House of Blues. I also love his album Don't Give Up on Me, which has the [title] song I sang on The O.C.

BOBBY PURIFY, BETTER TO HAVE IT It's all songs originally recorded during the Memphis explosion of soul. I love it because it's just so real.

SUFJAN STEVENS, ILLINOIS There's something familiar [with this indie singer-songwriter] from my generation, a nod to show business and vaudeville and performance that I find surprising.

FACES, OOH LA LA My wife turned me on to Rod Stewart's old band.

MARVIN GAYE, WHAT'S GOING ON It's so true that the more things change, the more they remain the same. —JENNIFER ODELL