Flavors of Entanglement
Ryan Reynolds can rest easy. After the actor's 2007 split with former fiancée Alanis Morissette—and subsequent engagement to Scarlett Johansson
this year—he is spared the "You Oughta Know" treatment on the singer's new album. Instead, she deals with the breakup in a far gentler way on "Not as We," the heartbreaking highlight. Another affecting ballad, "Torch," also addresses the extinguishment of a relationship with vulnerability rather than venom. Meanwhile, on "Moratorium"—one of several tracks exploring Middle Eastern and electronica territory—a love-shy Morissette confesses she needs "a breather from the flavors of entanglement."
"I've experienced life, I've experienced death/I've felt pain I never felt before," says Ashanti, summing up the four years since her last studio album in the intro to The Declaration. Then she proceeds to give us a clue about some of that pain on her hit "The Way That I Love You." A dramatic arrangement, highlighted by a cascading, classically tinged piano part, provides the backdrop for this cheating song that ignites a fiery performance from Ashanti. Clearly, girlfriend's been burned: The next two tracks, the synth-infused "You're Gonna Miss" and the fierce, funky "So Over You," also find Ashanti declaring her independence from a man who has done her wrong. The singer tempers all the tough stuff with plenty of tenderness, though, on tunes like the singsong "Good Good" and the slow jam "In These Streets." Here you get the bitter and the sweet.
As the leader of the Wallflowers, Jakob Dylan was never too much his father's son. The resemblance was there, but he was no soundalike. But on his solo debut, Dylan embraces all of his inner Bob, doing Dad proud with a stripped-down set of folk-pop tunes that let us see him as never before. The concise, 10-song cycle was produced by Rick Rubin, who has a knack for getting this sort of thing out of elder statesmen like Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond. Now it's the next generation's turn.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Something Good This Way Comes," the sweetly comforting single
MMJ clearly had the urge to get soulful on their fifth studio album. The smooth-grooving title tune, one of many standout cuts, evokes shades of early Hall & Oates—at least until they break into a midsong jam—while the danceable "Highly Suspicious," with its jerky rhythms, finds them bringing the funk. On both of these tracks, lead singer Jim James adopts a falsetto that owes much more to R&B than rock. But folk, country and psychedelic sounds also figure into the eclectic, multilayered mix.
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Finally! The Oscar winner's long-awaited debut album, due September, is previewed with this Ne-Yo tune that lets her shine with plenty of soul and sass.
BRET MICHAELS Rock My World
Synergy is at play on the third solo disc from the Poison frontman: First single "Go That Far" was the theme song for his VH1 show Rock of Love
. Like the series, this album can be trashy fun, but that's about it.
MONTGOMERY GENTRY Back When I Knew It All
This country duo may not get as much love as Brooks & Dunn, but they make festive, feel-good music like "I Pick My Parties" (featuring Toby Keith). You'll forget about it as soon as the CD is over, though.
AIMEE MANN @#%&*! Smilers
Trends may come and go, but real artists, like this singer-songwriter, remain. On this evocative, well-crafted collection, highlights include the breezy "Freeway" and the bouncy "31 Today."
SERGIO MENDES Encanto
Mendes' last disc, 2006's Timeless, gave a fresh spin on his Brazilian music with guests like Justin Timberlake
. The novelty has worn off a bit for this sequel, with Fergie
, Natalie Cole and Juanes, but it's still fun.
Now that you've won American Idol
, here's some career counsel.
KEEP IT ROCK Play to your rocker-with-heart strengths. It worked for Chris Daughtry, it can work for you.
TAKE SOME CHANCES You didn't win Idol
by playing it safe. Don't start now.
MAKE IT ALL ABOUT YOU Avoid making an album by committee. Keep the producers and outside writers to a minimum.
STAY SCRUFFY Looking a bit rough around the edges gives you a little extra grunge cred.