David Cook VS. David Archuleta

IDOL REMATCH

It doesn't bode particularly well for originality that both Davids—reigning American Idol champ Cook and runner-up Archuleta—took the self-titled route for their debut albums. Indeed, originality is exactly what's missing from Cook's disc. While he pretty much holds his own with Chris Daughtry, the novelty of an Idol rocker is gone. Sticking close to the middle of the road, he leans heavily on power ballads. Best are the first single, "Light On," on which he displays shades of cowriter Chris Cornell, and the Bush-esque "Come Back to Me." But the biting "Bar-ba-sol" shows that he might want to sharpen his edge.

David Cook |

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David Archuleta |

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Thr33 Ringz

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R&B
To the delight of the Auto-Tune biz, if not music purists, T-Pain has become one of the most influential—and ubiquitous—figures in contemporary R&B/hip-hop, whether as a solo artist, a featured guest or a producer. He deftly plays the ringmaster on his third album, juggling between clubby grooves and slow jams, singing and rapping, taking center stage and letting one of his side acts work the crowd. In fact, many of the best cuts feature A-list pals, some of whom are returning the favor: Chris Brown, who owed T-Pain for "Kiss Kiss," steps in on "Freeze" and Lil Wayne pays him back for "Got Money" on "Can't Believe It." But the most affecting track—"Change," a surprising revamp of Eric Clapton's "Change the World"—finds him hooking up with Akon, Diddy and Mary J. Blige, who adds a welcome dose of real soul.

Play

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REVIEWED BY RANDY VEST

COUNTRY
Brad Paisley won his first Grammy earlier this year for Best Country Instrumental Performance (for "Throttleneck"). He continues to show off his impressive guitar chops on this mostly instrumental follow-up to his 2007 hit 5th Gear. Playing with such axe masters as Vince Gill and Keith Urban—who also sings on the frisky "Start a Band"—Paisley rocks and swings. Best is "More Than Just This Song," on which Paisley and Steve Wariner deliver a heartfelt salute to their six-string heroes.

Safe Trip Home

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ALT-POP
It doesn't take long on the new Dido album—her first since 2003's Life for Rent—to realize how much she's been missed. "Don't Believe in Love," the standout opening track and first single, returns the British singer-songwriter to classy territory with its jazzy, understated cool. By the third cut, the sultry "Never Want to Say It's Love," her subtly seductive powers will have made you fall for her all over again. Airy songs like the lilting "It Comes and It Goes" and the lush "Let's Do the Things We Normally Do" show that she hasn't lost her light touch. Welcome home, Dido.

Intimacy

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REVIEWED BY CHRIS STRAUSS

ALT-ROCK
After giving a sonic tour of London life on 2007's A Weekend in the City, this U.K. band turns the focus inward on the aptly titled Intimacy. Whether singing about a terminally ill friend on "Biko" or likening a combustible relationship to "fighting fire with firewood" on "One Month Off," frontman Kele Okereke treats the disc as a confessional booth. Techno-infused tunes like "Ares," calling to mind '90s Prodigy and Chemical Brothers, demonstrate that these lads have evolved musically too.

DOWNLOAD THIS: "Halo," danceable angst-rock

For more information on where to find our Download This picks, go to people.com/downloadthis

SEAL Soul
Heidi Klum's hubby could sing the movie listings and breathe soul into them. On his latest album, Seal respectfully tackles R&B classics by Al Green, Sam Cooke and James Brown and proves himself to be a worthy successor to their legacy.

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AQUALUNG Words and Music
Matt Hales—the Brit singer-songwriter known as Aqualung—is still bummed out. But what's really depressing is that his third U.S. disc doesn't approach the slit-your-wrists splendor of 2005's Strange and Beautiful.

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SHONTELLE Shontelligence
It'd be easy to dismiss this newcomer as just a Rihanna wannabe. After all, she's another Barbados beauty who adopts a similar pop-R&B-reggae framework. But songs like "Plastic People" show that there's a little more going on there.

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JOSHUA RADIN Simple Times
On his second CD, this folky singer-songwriter, who performed at Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi's wedding, delivers on modest pleasures like "I'd Rather Be with You," even if he never really blows you away.

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As the MTV series ends its 10-year run on Nov. 16, former veejays look back on memorable celeb visits

1 MARIAH CAREY'S ICE-CREAM MELTDOWN
During a stunning '01 visit, Carey pushed a frozen-treat cart onto the set, then did a striptease. Says Carson Daly: "I'm still shell-shocked."

2 NICK & JESSICA BATTLE OVER BABY
In their Newlyweds 2003 heyday, Lachey and Simpson faced off in a doll-diapering contest (she won). "It never felt like a job," says Daly.

3 JIM CARREY ROBS THE SET
On a visit to promote Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the actor "picked up our 8-ft. Christmas tree and walked right out," recalls Vanessa Minnillo. "I thought, Did this just happen?"

4 DIDDY RUNS ... AND RUNS ... AND RUNS
Diddy, who was training for the 2003 New York City Marathon, sweated out an hour-long episode on a treadmill; guest Britney Spears volunteered to pat him down. "It was cute—and surreal," says Minnillo.

5 TOM BUMPS AND GRINDS
"Getting someone of that caliber out of his comfort zone was amazing," says La La Vasquez (with Cruise and Jamie Foxx in 2004).