The Odd Couple
Were it not for the success of "Crazy"—the insanely catchy hit that propelled Gnarls Barkley to platinum sales and two Grammys for their 2006 debut, St. Elsewhere—the collaboration between singer Cee-Lo Green and producer Danger Mouse might have been just a one-off project. Thankfully it wasn't: The Odd Couple shows that the pop world would be a lot more boring without this twisted twosome. While there's nothing here as genius as "Crazy," it's another trippy journey into psychedelic soultronica. Highlights include "Run (I'm a Natural Disaster)," the speedy, shimmying first single; "Who's Gonna Save My Soul," a gritty, gospel-infused plea; and "Whatever," on which these outsiders connect with the alienated teenager inside.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Surprise," handclapping, '60s-grooving euphoria
This singer-songwriter became a YouTube sensation with her stripped-down version of Rihanna
's smash "Umbrella," exposing the beautiful essence of the song. But while that turn may be the highlight of her full-length debut, Digby shows that she's more than just a savvy cover girl. On Unfold, she rocks against romance on the single-ladies' anthem "Girlfriend" and basks in the glow of love with the radiant guitar pop of "Say It Again."
REVIEWED BY RANDY VEST
For 27 years George Strait has succeeded in country music by turning out solid, well-produced albums with a mix of hook-laden honky-tonkers, sensitive ballads and Texas two-steppers. This is no exception. As usual, some of the strongest material is cowritten by Dean Dillon, who duets with Strait on "West Texas Town," a delightful, fiddle-laced slice of western swing. The troubadour also gets a welcome assist from Patty Loveless on the mournful "House of Cash," about the fire that destroyed Johnny and June's fabled home last year. Strait infuses it all with a laid-back delivery that is seemingly effortless.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "I Saw God Today," the gentle, spiritual single
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& JUSTIN, "4 MINUTES"
The first single from Madonna
's Hard Candy
, due April 29, this meeting of two generations of pop titans is greeted with marching-band fanfare. With Timbaland in tow too, it's an event record.
TINA DICO Count to Ten
From the haunting introspection of the title track to the heartache-on-her-sleeve balladry of "Cruel to the Sensitive Kind," there are countless reasons to appreciate this Danish-born, British-based singer-songwriter.
FERRAS Aliens & Rainbows
The new piano man on the scene comes off like a baby Elton on songs like "Hollywood's Not America," the American Idol
-boosted first single. But Rainbows also displays shades of Coldplay and even Hall & Oates.
VAN MORRISON Keep It Simple
"Soul is not the color of your skin/ Soul is the essence ... from within," sings Morrison on his latest. And as these bluesy tunes demonstrate, he's still one of the most soulful white dudes on the planet.
PRP is basically Daniel Hunter, an 18-year-old from Aledo, Texas, who sounds as if he grew up on '80s radio. On the MySpace phenom's full-length debut, his new-wavish noodling goes from charming to cheesy.
Back after 16 years with Funplex
, the band reflects on some of their patented hits.
"ROCK LOBSTER" (1979) "People ask, 'Don't you get sick of it?'" says Kate Pierson, 59. "And I've never gotten sick of it. It unleashes something in people. They let their freak flag fly when they hear it."
"LOVE SHACK" (1989) "It gave new life to the band and put us back on the map," recalls Cindy Wilson, 51. Adds Keith Strickland, 54: "I live in Key West [Florida] now and there's a karaoke bar called Two Friends. I was riding my bike by it one night and there were about six or seven women onstage singing 'Love Shack,' and the whole place was singing [along]. It's just one that stays alive."
"CHANNEL Z" (1989) "Probably our most straightforward political song up until then," says Fred Schneider, 56. "It was about the state of the country. And who knew nearly 20 years later it'd be worse?"
"ROAM" (1989) "A friend's mother is a psychic," says Pierson, "and when we were making the album [Cosmic Thing
] she said, 'You have to write two more songs.' Then she said, 'I just have two words: topaz and footprints.' Then Robert Waldrop sent us lyrics to 'Roam' and we thought, 'Oh my God, footprints ... roam!'"