BY CHUCK ARNOLD
CHRISTINA AGUILERA
"Ain't No Other Man"
The first single from Aguilera's upcoming double disc, Back to Basics (due Aug. 15), is surely the funkiest thing she's ever done. This horn-infused retro-soul workout really lets Aguilera blow, conjuring up shades of vintage Aretha and Chaka.

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JESSICA SIMPSON
"A Public Affair"
Simpson channels early Madonna and even a bit of Diana Ross ("Ain't No Mountain High Enough") on the giddy title track from her fifth disc (due Aug. 29). While the song makes for lightweight summer fun, it's the equivalent of a cheesy beach read.

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WINNER
BEYONCE FEATURING JAY-Z
"Deja Vu"
With its jazzy swing, '70s horns and a soulful lead vocal by Beyoncé, who makes like Off the Wall-era Michael, the first single from Miss B's second solo album, B'Day (due Sept. 5), has us crazy in love all over again.

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JANET JACKSON FEATURING NELLY
"Call on Me"
Jackson called on boyfriend Jermaine Dupri to help produce the lead single from her upcoming album, 20 Years Old (due Sept. 26), and the midtempo result is as irresistibly sweet—and ultimately fluffy—as cotton candy. Nelly even gets to croon.

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Sinners Like Me
REVIEWED BY RALPH NOVAK
COUNTRY

The most telling song on Eric Church's appealing debut is "I Pledge Allegiance to the Hag," a tribute to Merle Haggard so ingratiating that the country great himself shows up to sing along. Church, a 28-year-old North Carolinian, doesn't sound much like Haggard—there's only one voice that mellow and true—but he's got a similar attitude: unapologetically masculine, unapologetically romantic and unapologetically Christian. Not merely hitting the notes, Church invests his lyrics with conviction, whether kicking up his heels ("Guys Like Me"), waxing affectionate ("How 'Bout You?") or reflecting on his transgressions ("Sinners Like Me").

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DOWNLOAD THIS: "I Pledge Allegiance to the Hag"

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DOWNLOAD THIS: "I Pledge Allegiance to the Hag"

Sacred
REVIEWED BY CHRIS STRAUSS
POP-ROCK

Things are surely a little less lonely for this Tex-Mex trio now that they have Grammys (for their 2004 hit "Heaven") to keep them company. On their second studio album, the brothers Garza up the ante with greater musicianship and confidence, even adding a horn section on the defiant anthem "My Way" (no, not the Sinatra standard). While their self-titled debut traced a more direct line to their Mexican heritage, Sacred celebrates their Lone Star State roots on cuts like the excellent country kicker "Outlaws," featuring Willie Nelson and their Tejano musician dad, Enrique Garza Sr.

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DOWNLOAD THIS: "Outlaws"

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DOWNLOAD THIS: "Outlaws"

Begin to Hope
ALT-POP

There's never a dull moment with Regina Spektor. On this follow-up to her quirky major-label debut, 2004's Soviet Kitsch, the Russian-born, Bronx-raised Spektor delights in small adventures, recalling "when I found a human tooth" and the "month when I only ate boxes of tangerines" on "That Time." With topics ranging from dreams of orca whales to "November Rain" by Guns N' Roses, the classically trained singer-songwriter bolsters her enviable chops with something contemporaries Tori Amos and Fiona Apple lack: a playful sense of humor.

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DOWNLOAD THIS: "Better"

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DOWNLOAD THIS: "Better"

The River in Reverse
REVIEWED BY V.R. PETERSON
CRITIC'S CHOICE
R&B

Costello, the wry veteran of new wave, pop and classical, joins New Orleans piano man and R&B treasure Toussaint on a memorable disc full of irresistible grooves and social commentary (including the title tune, with its bracing Katrina references). Yet what truly resonates are the ballads of gospel-tinged angst backed by old-school harmonizing. When it comes to passionate pleas, Costello may not rival Otis Redding, but his efforts on the charming standout "Nearer to You" can't be denied.

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DOWNLOAD THIS: "Nearer to You"

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DOWNLOAD THIS: "Nearer to You"

For more information on where to find our Download This picks, go to www.people.com/downloadthis

SOUNDS OFF

Having won NBC's America's Most Talented Kid at 12, the singer-songwriter, who turns 16 on July 27, now boasts her own MTV show, Cheyenne, and a pop-rock debut album, The Day Has Come.

ON THE PRICE OF BEING AMERICA'S MOST TALENTED KID I never really told anybody about my music at school, only my really close friends. Then [officials] actually aired the show around the whole entire school, and that caused a lot of problems. I was a straight-A student and all of a sudden I didn't want to go to school anymore because of the things people were saying. That's why I'm homeschooled now.

ON DATING I don't really have time for boyfriends. A lot of older guys [try to pick me up]. I have to get my bodyguard on them.

ON TURNING SWEET 16 I really wanted a party, but I'm realizing that I have to give up those kinds of things for my career, which is okay. And no, I won't learn how to drive. I'm really too scared, especially in L.A. [where Kimball lives].

ON HER DREAM PROM DATE Johnny Depp or Orlando Bloom. Or maybe Heath Ledger.