Tha Carter III

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"I feel big ... like colossal," says Lil Wayne at the beginning of "Mr. Carter" (on which Wayne, whose real name is Dwayne Carter, trades verses with Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter). And there is no doubt that this New Orleans emcee, riding high on his naughty No. 1 single "Lollipop," is the hottest rapper on the planet right now. (Sorry, Kanye.) His much-delayed, much-anticipated new CD, while losing steam at times, should keep Wayne sizzling throughout the summer. He flows from the hypnotic, bass-heavy "A Milli" to the Babyface-sweetened smoothie "Comfortable." On another highlight, the cleverly constructed "Dr. Carter," Wayne boasts that he has the cure for all of hip-hop's ills over a jazzy, chilled-out groove: "Let me put some more vocab in your IV." But when he likens himself to Martin Luther King on "Playing with Fire," Wayne gets a little too big for his baggy jeans.

One of the Boys

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This singer-songwriter got the ultimate thumbs-up when Madonna called "Ur So Gay"—the highlight of Perry's full-length debut—her "favorite song right now." Wickedly catty and catchy, it's a killer kiss-off to a metrosexual ex: "You walk around like you're oh so debonair/You pull 'em down and there's really nothing there." Ouch. Perry has her own gay moment on another standout track, the Top 5 hit "I Kissed a Girl," while trying to get a guy to notice that she's not "one of the boys" on the kicking title tune. On both of these cuts Perry out-Avrils Avril with her punky attitude and punchy hooks. While the rest of this disc may fall off a bit, there's enough to keep Perry in Madonna's good graces.

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>• The summer-vacation-ready soundtrack to the new Disney Channel movie (premiering June 20) is headlined by cast members the Jonas Brothers on the beyond-bouncy "Play My Music."

We Started Nothing
You may have heard this U.K. boy-girl duo on the iPod commercial featuring the giddy "Shut Up and Let Me Go." There are more fun dance ditties on their debut, even if the cheese factor wears a bit thin.

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Love the Woman
After two albums with husband Kenny Lattimore, this classy songbird is back with her first solo disc since 2000. She makes lush R&B for grown-ups, getting jazzy on tunes like the ballad "Give Me Time."

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Her second set, a digital-only release, shows that there are plenty of reasons to be grateful for this country singer. Highlights include the tender title cut, featuring Vince Gill, and the child-of-divorce song "'73."

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Bringing Back the Funk
This jazz keyboardist-composer taps a funk dream team, including Bootsy Collins and Maceo Parker, for old-school sounds that nod to P-Funk, Kool & the Gang and Earth, Wind & Fire.

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• The '80s headbangers are back with Songs from the Sparkle Lounge. We chatted with frontman Joe Elliott, 48.

ON BEING MIDDLE-AGED ROCKERS It doesn't get any easier, but that doesn't mean it's any less enjoyable. You don't stay up until 6 in the morning partying every night. You might do it once a week. And you plan it.

ON "NINE LIVES" COLLABORATOR TIM MCGRAW Our drummer Rick Allen's brother Robert is Tim's tour manager. Tim is a big fan, so he came down when we were playing the Hollywood Bowl in 2006. We met, and next thing I know he's up onstage with us doing "Pour Some Sugar on Me."

ON WHAT KEEPS HIM GOING I have moments when I'd rather be on a yacht in the Caribbean. But truth be known, I'd probably just get bored out of my brains and run screaming back into the studio.


NEW CD Saints of Los Angeles, which reunites all the original band members.

SUMMER TOUR Crüe Fest, kicking off July 1.


NEW CD Good to Be Bad, their first studio album in 11 years.

SUMMER TOUR A U.K. co-headlining trek with Def Leppard through June 2.


NEW CD Somewhere Back in Time, a retrospective.

SUMMER TOUR European dates July 27 to Aug. 19.


NEW CD Nostradamus

SUMMER TOUR The first Metal Masters Tour (with Motorhead and others) starting Aug. 6.