Thriller — 25th Anniversary Edition |

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CRITIC'S CHOICE

R&B-POP

You don't have to go any further than the Top 10 of this week's pop charts to appreciate the monumental impact of Thriller. On her dance hit "Don't Stop the Music," current pop It Girl Rihanna, who wasn't even born when Michael Jackson moonwalked his way to history, rips the "ma ma se, ma ma sa, ma ma coo sa" refrain from "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'." It's a shrewd move, but all it makes me think is how much fresher—and fiercer—the source sounds, even today. On the 25th anniversary reissue, "Beat It" still rocks, "Billie Jean" still burns, and the title tune, with its so-wacko-it's-genius Vincent Price rap, still thrills. The new remixes by will.i.am and Kanye West make the mistake of messing with iconic material. But Senegal-born singer Akon enriches the African flavor of "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'," turning it into a funky world-beat jam.

The Orchard |

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REVIEWED BY V.R. PETERSON

JAZZ-POP

The third disc is the charm for Wright, who startles listeners with a smoky voice and a rootsy-gospel vibe. Again the Georgia native does more than sing—she shares writing credits on eight of Orchard's dozen tracks, including "Speak Your Heart," a lover's plea to "let me in or let me go/It's time to let me know where you're standing, babe." She also covers songs by an eclectic array of artists such as Led Zeppelin and Patsy Cline and transforms Ike Turner's bluesy "I Idolize You" into a fusion of honky-tonk piano, searing guitar and raw desire. But it's "My Heart" (cowritten by singer-songwriter Toshi Reagon), with a relentless beat and infectious refrain, that's sure to please.

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Jackson is reportedly bringing in some big guns—Kanye West, will.i.am, Akon, T-Pain and Ne-Yo—for his first studio disc since 2001's Invincible, tentatively due later this year.

"I used to try and moonwalk, but it really never worked out for me. Him being the star that he is motivated me to be who I am." —LUDACRIS

"It's insanely still one of the best [albums] ever. I love everything about it—all the musical hooks and the conviction." —NATASHA BEDINGFIELD

"The 'Thriller' video just trumped everything. I was trying to find a girl like [Ola Ray] with the same Jheri curl." —JAMIE FOXX

"[Fall Out Boy] covered 'Beat It' on a live DVD we're putting out. Thriller probably influenced anyone big now." —PETE WENTZ

"That's the first album I ever bought. I had the pleather version of the red leather jacket. I wore it every day until I grew out of it." —RYAN REYNOLDS

Kelley, 28, has a new CD, Special Company, and a new bride, whom he met when she appeared in his "Only You" video.

ON HEIGL INSPIRING HIS MUSIC "Two Cups of Coffee" is about being apart when I was touring. I woke up one morning, ordered breakfast, looked at this empty chair next to me and went, "I got too much of me and not enough of you."

ON THEIR UTAH WINTER WEDDING It was like being married in Narnia with snow everywhere. I used to teach ballroom dancing, so Katie and I cut it all doggone night.

ON JAMMING WITH FERGIE ON HIS HONEYMOON We met Fergie and Josh [Duhamel] a year and a half ago and rekindled the relationship in Cabo. I played drums while Fergie sang Sublime's "Santeria." It was a lot of fun.

ON IF HE FEELS LIKE MR. KATHERINE HEIGL I don't. But sometimes I [miss] my privacy. This morning I went jogging, and they're taking photos of me. She's the movie star. Am I going to have to start wearing a mask?

JEWEL turns up the twang on "Stronger Woman," a self-assured midtempo track previewing her first country album, Perfectly Clear, due in June. At iTunes.com.

GAVIN DEGRAW rocks out on "In Love with a Girl," the upbeat first single from the self-titled follow-up to his 2003 debut, Chariot, due in April. At musicstore.connect.com.

ASHANTI, dismissing a cheating boyfriend, mixes vulnerability and venom on "The Way That I Love You," a ballad from The Declaration, due in spring. At musicstore.real.com.

The British singer-rapper, 28, previews the star-studded clip for the first single from her U.S. debut, Shine (due April).

For Estelle, it was only fitting that Kanye West (with Estelle, above) and John Legend (right) should appear in the video for "American Boy." After all, West raps on the cut, and Legend signed Estelle as the first artist on his new label, Homeschool Records. And she met both men in 2003 at Roscoe's House of Chicken n Waffles in L.A. So what would Estelle's dream American boy be like? "Smart like [Barack] Obama, as charismatic and musical as Kanye and as stylish and sexy as John Legend."

VAMPIRE WEEKEND Vampire Weekend
On their debut album these four recent Columbia University grads make ultracatchy college rock like "Campus." They also get high marks for quirkiness, integrating strings, African textures and a bit o' Irish.

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K.D. Lang Watershed
With a voice that is decadently rich and lush, Lang delivers both torch and twang on her first album of original material since 2000. Warmly rendered tunes like "Shadow and the Frame" are perfect for curling up by the fireplace.

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