Audio Day Dream |

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There is nothing on Blake Lewis's debut album even remotely like "This Is My Now," the insipid inspirational ballad that essentially handed the American Idol crown over to Jordin Sparks in last season's finale. But Lewis definitely seizes his moment on Audio Day Dream, which plays to his strengths in more contemporary sounds. There's a little bit of Justin Timberlake in the white-boy funk of "Break Anotha," a little bit of Keane in the melancholy balladry of "Without You." And the highlight, "Hate 2 Love Her," is the best Maroon 5 song that Adam Levine never crooned. Cowriting all but one tune—and judiciously working that beatboxing—Lewis emerges with a stronger identity, proving, like Chris Daughtry, that winning isn't everything.

Various Artists |

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Whittling down Live Earth—the daylong global event that took place July 7—to one CD and two DVDs is a tough task even for the best of editors. But that is exactly what this combo package (subtitled The Concerts for a Climate in Crisis) attempts, with mixed results. The DVDs are more successful in capturing the spirit and span of the whole thing, with the highlight being Keith Urban and Alicia Keys' hot "Gimme Shelter" at New Jersey's Giants Stadium. Given so much overlap with the DVD selections, the CD is pretty pointless, unless you really need to have Madonna's "Hey You." (Yawn.)

Face Off |

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Taking their cue from Jay-Z and R. Kelly, who teamed up for 2002's The Best of Both Worlds and 2004's Unfinished Business, rapper Bow Wow, 20, and R&B singer Omarion, 23, form a musical merger on Face Off. The results are smooth if unspectacular—good enough to give the girls something to scream about in between solo albums, but hardly worthy of a repeat showdown.

DOWNLOAD THIS: "He Ain't Gotta Know," a T-Pain-produced slow jam

The Black & White Album

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This singer and multi-instrumentalist—whose mother is black and father is white—displays a kaleidoscope of influences, often within the same song. "30th Birthday" splices pop, hip-hop and ska, while the punky "Woke Up White" finds the missing link between Kelis and Karen O. Although frustratingly uneven, Coppola's never boring.

DOWNLOAD THIS: "Raindrops from the Sun (Hey Hey Hey)," a bright ray of singalong pop

Dreaming Out Loud |

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OneRepublic got the blessing of the mighty Timbaland when the mega-producer included a remix of their song "Apologize" on his album Timbaland Presents Shock Value. The tune went on to hit No. 2 on the Billboard pop singles chart even before this, their debut CD, was released. And while there's nothing else nearly as memorable as "Apologize" (so good, it's featured in two versions), Dreaming is hardly a rude awakening. The quintet engages in the sort of melodicism and moody atmospherics that make for entirely respectable Coldplay knockoffs such as "Stop and Stare" and the second-best song: the airy, acoustic-guitar-laced "Won't Stop."

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• If you didn't score a ticket to their just-launched reunion tour, this best-of set (including two nostalgic new songs) is the next best thing. Available only at Victoria's Secret until Jan. 15.

This British tenor—winner of Simon Cowell's U.K. show Britain's Got Talent last June and already an Oprah guest—definitely has chops. But what was he thinking pomping up R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts" on his popera debut?

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THE PIPETTES We Are the Pipettes
The sound of '60s girl groups comes shimmying back to life on the full-length debut from this British trio, who pour on the hooks and the harmonies on sassy tunes like "Your Kisses Are Wasted on Me."

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SERJ TANKIAN Elect the Dead
On his first solo CD, the System of a Down frontman continues to make alt-metal that challenges—both musically and lyrically—including the brilliantly titled "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition."

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The masterful electric guitarist expands his jazz trio with a horn section for 11 cuts full of tints and textures, from the New Orleans funk of "Heck of a Job" to a cover of the '70s country hit "Behind Closed Doors."

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• The Colombian star, 35, is rocking the charts with his new album, La Vida...Es un Ratico, including the long-running No. 1 Latin hit "Me Enamora."

METALLICA, MASTER OF PUPPETS A masterpiece. They changed my life completely. I wanted to have a rock band like them—I actually started out in a rock band.

SILVIO RODRIGUEZ, "EN ESTOS DIAS" He's one of my biggest influences. When I was 9, that was one of the first songs I learned. It's really beautiful, just the sound and voice.

PINK FLOYD, DARK SIDE OF THE MOON I was like 13 when I started listening to this album, always at nighttime. I loved the way David Gilmour played guitar, so simple and delicate. It touched my life.

CAETANO VELOSO, "LUZ DO SOL" Caetano is one of my favorite songwriters from Latin America. And he has the most dynamic voice.

SODA STEREO, "CANCIÓN ANIMAL" They are the most important rock band in Latin America, from Argentina. They are a legend.

U2, "ONE" U2 is one of my favorite bands. There is a strong combination of incredible melodies and amazing lyrics.

SHERYL CROW muses about the state of the world on "Shine Over Babylon," the folk-rock first single from her Feb. 5 release, Detours. At

PRINCE, no stranger to controversy, takes on the owners of unauthorized fan sites dedicated to him with the blistering, bumping "F.U.N.K.," a digital-only release. At iTunes. com.

SIMPLE PLAN returns with the sneering punk-pop single "When I'm Gone," from the Canadian band's self-titled third album, which hits stores Jan. 29. At

'Tis the season of giving for these benefit releases.

FOR THE KIDS THREE! Folky versions of children's classics benefitting the VH1 Save the Music Foundation.

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BIG CHANGE: SONGS FOR FINCA This iTunes exclusive boasts alt-rock gems picked by Natalie Portman, an ambassador for the Foundation for International Community Assistance.

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GIVE US YOUR POOR Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi and Bonnie Raitt turn in rich contributions to fight homelessness.

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NEW ORLEANS BRASS Lively if somewhat repetitive jazz tunes aid the Renew Our Music Fund in the post-Katrina Big Easy.

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THE CAKE SALE Gary Lightbody (Snow Patrol) and Josh Ritter lend their voices for Oxfam's Make Trade Fair campaign.

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