After a career slump, Janet Jackson
answers any questions about what she's done for us lately with Discipline
, her best album since 2001's All for You
. Working without producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis for the first time since before Control
, the pop diva brings in some new blood—and comes up with some fresher sounds. While still letting Janet be Janet, Discipline
puts a spanking new sheen on her mix of clubby dance tracks, candy-coated midtempo confections and sweet and sexy slow jams. Highlights include the bubbly, synth-happy "LUV," "Rollercoaster," an exciting ride with a banging drum loop, and the lushly atmospheric "Can't B Good," on which Ne-Yo, who cowrote this and two other tunes, brings out the Michael in Janet.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Feedback," a fierce robo-funk throwdown
REVIEWED BY IVORY JEFF CLINTON
Known for pulsating electronica, the British duo (singer Alison Goldfrapp and multi-instrumentalist Will Gregory) play more to the coffeehouse than the club this time out. The results are riveting on the Joni Mitchell-esque "Clowns" and the synth-driven "Little Bird," which both showcase Alison's ethereal soprano. Just as striking is "A&E," a simmering alt-rock ballad about the pain of rejection. Minus the frenetic energy of previous hits like "Strict Machine" and "Number 1," Seventh can get gloomy at times, but its chill vibe is as soothing as a cup of chamomile.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Caravan Girl," a fun-filled, danceable ride
REVIEWED BY JESSICA HERNDON
When punk-popsters come of age, they often experiment with more complex sounds. On their fourth CD, these Canadians branch out with the help of Timbaland protégé Nate "Danja" Hills (Britney Spears
), who produced three cuts, and with more mature lyrics focusing on quarter-life crises. Although Simple Plan is tinged with R&B romanticism, hardcore fans needn't worry—songs like "Take My Hand" and "Generation" still hit as hard as "I'm Just a Kid" did back in 2002.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "When I'm Gone," a catchy synth-rock anthem
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From "Low," Flo Rida's No. 1 smash featuring T-Pain, to two new songs by Missy Elliott (including the blazing "Ching-A-Ling"), this soundtrack gives you plenty of reason to bust a move.
SHERYL CROW Detours Detours
takes the nine-time Grammy winner back to where it all started, reuniting her with Tuesday Night Music Club producer Bill Bottrell. The move pays off with some of Crow's catchiest songs since "All I Wanna Do."
LENNY KRAVITZ It Is Time for a Love Revolution
Forever the flower child, Kravitz is still preaching about the power of love. But rarely has this classic-rock disciple delivered his message with more passion and hook-heavy punch.
SHELBY LYNNE Just a Little Lovin'
Lynne dusts off the Dusty Springfield songbook, resulting in this uncannily perfect marriage of singer to material. She inhabits numbers like "The Look of Love" with a torchy sensuality that smolders.
LUPE FIASCO Lupe Fiasco's The Cool
With smart lyrics, savvy beats and an old-school social consciousness, this rapper brings to mind a Q-Tip for the YouTube generation on his second CD. Best is "Superstar," a soulful star turn.
The Welsh cell-phone salesman, 37, has a hit debut album, One Chance, and a U.S. tour starting March 1.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO OPERA? I've sung in church choirs since age 6. It proved an escape because people bullying me wouldn't bother hanging around an extra hour after school waiting for me to finish choir.
WHERE DID YOU GET THE SUIT YOU WORE TO AUDITION FOR SIMON COWELL
? It was a $60 off-the-[rack] supermarket suit. I have short arms and legs, so it looked six sizes too big. I still have it and won't get rid of it—it's a good reminder of where I've come from.
HOW HAS YOUR LIFE CHANGED? I actually haven't gotten around to quitting [my job]. I still need to resign. Meeting Oprah
was huge. One of the first things that happened was I tripped [in front of her]. Typical.
HAVE YOU SPLURGED ON ANYTHING? I got a laptop for myself so I can keep in touch and a pink one for [my wife] Julie-Ann—she likes pink. But we are in the same house as before and get quite a few knocks on our door from people saying hello.