It feels like it's been an eternity since Gavin DeGraw released his platinum debut album, 2003's Chariot. But the singer-songwriter quickly reminds us why we fell for him on "In Love with a Girl," the opening track and first single of his self-titled CD. The tune packs the same kind of straight-ahead, hook-heavy punch as his big hit "I Don't Want to Be," the former One Tree Hill theme song. While the piano man flexes a little more rock muscle on "Girl" and other cuts, even playing guitar this time around, he still comes off more like the Billy Joel for the CW set. And as songs like the teen-drama-ready ballad "Young Love" demonstrate, there's nothing wrong with that.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "I Have You to Thank," a buoyant declaration of love
Shine | [
This British singer-rapper gets down with an array of stars—from label head John Legend and Kanye West
to will.i.am and Wyclef Jean—on Shine, her sparkling U.S. debut. While occasionally evoking Amy Winehouse with her jazzy vocals and fusion of retro-soul and hip-hop, Estelle sounds more like a disciple of Lauryn Hill. "No Substitute Love," one of several reggae-fied tracks, is her very own "Doo Wop (That Thing)." Even better is "Pretty Please (Love Me)," a Motownesque duet with Gnarls Barkley's Cee-Lo Green that is impossible not to adore.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "American Boy," her bumping No. 1 U.K. hit with Kanye
On My Way Here | [
One can't help but see a little of Clay Aiken
in David Archuleta, the 17-year-old frontrunner of American Idol this season. Let's hope that Archuleta does a better job of finding his recording niche than Aiken has. On his fourth effort, the Claymeister continues to pour on the kind of schmaltz that may work on Idol but sounds hopelessly unhip on CD. Still, he's better off doing vanilla ballads than trying to bring a rock edge to "Ashes." Chris Daughtry he's not.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Something About Us," a lush, jazz-kissed ballad
Rising Down | [
"It's for all of my peoples who understand and truly recognize/Some won't get it and for that I won't apologize." So goes the sinister, sinuous "I Will Not Apologize" on Rising Down. Certainly, the Roots' challenging latest isn't for everyone, as the hip-hop band continues to make uncompromising music that goes against the rap mainstream. Take the title track, which sets the dark sociopolitical tone of the CD: "Everything's for sale, even souls/ Someone get God on the phone." But things end on a more upbeat note with "Rising Up," the jazzy, soulful highlight featuring R&B singer Chrisette Michele.
For more information on where to find our Download This picks, go to PEOPLE.COM/DOWNLOADTHIS
>• Bono must be beaming from In the Name of Love: Africa Celebrates U2. This excellent CD, which benefits the Global Fund, returns the love U2's leader has shown the continent.
>CARLY SIMON This Kind of Love On her first album of original material since 2000, Simon tries on a variety of styles, from lush torch pop to sultry Brazilian sounds. It's mostly classy stuff, but her rap turn on "People Say a Lot" is just wack. [
PHIL STACEY Phil Stacey The latest American Idol alum to go country, Stacey turns out a respectable but unremarkable debut. One can't help but wonder if this dude would have really passed muster in Nashville without the show. Probably not. [
TRISTAN PRETTYMAN Hello...x This singer-songwriter follows up her 2005 debut with another set of fetching folk-pop. Adding light blues hues to tracks like "Madly," the breezy first single, she displays shades of Norah Jones and KT Tunstall. [
AUGUSTANA Can't Love, Can't Hurt Formed in Illinois, this quintet, best known for the hit "Boston," sometimes brings to mind a heartland answer to Coldplay on their solid second album. But they're still a rung or two below Chris Martin's crew. [
>JAKOB DYLAN previews his June solo debut with Seeing Things—EP, a three-song, digital-only set of mellow gems like the folk ballad "Something Good This Way Comes." At iTunes.com.
GIRLICIOUS, the bodylicious female quartet formed on the CW reality show Pussycat Dolls Present: Girlicious, makes a saucy dance-pop debut with "Like Me." At iTunes.com.
FLYLEAF, propelled by the impassioned vocals of frontwoman Lacey Mosley, continue their rise with "All Around Me," from the alt-rock quintet's self-titled disc. At music.msn.com.
• All grown up at 28, the Swedish former teen star behind the '90s hit "Show Me Love" is back with a new CD, Robyn, and a new electro-pop sound.
ON HER '90S LOOK There were times when my hair was too big or my lip gloss was too shiny. But I still wear my Doc Martens and my bomber jacket.
ON BACKING UP BRITNEY A guy that I write with a lot [cowrote] "Piece of Me." He asked if I could [sing the] demo for him, and they decided to keep the backing vocals on there.
ON SINGING FOR SNOOP DOGG I sang on a remix of "Sexual Eruption." This was a dream come true. I grew up listening to Snoop. He said he thought [the remix] was "retarded," which I think is a compliment!