"There'll never be another, never be another like me," boasts Prince on MPLSoUND, one of two new albums he has released simultaneously. And who could argue with him? The dude has always marched to his own funky drummer, from the way he writes (in Prince's world it's "B" instead of "be") to the ridiculously prolific way he puts out records.
MPLSoUND is the better of Prince's new discs, with synth-infused jams that will have you partying like it's 1983. Indeed, songs such as the eerily erotic "Chocolate Box" sound as if they could be outtakes from 1999 or Controversy. When he's not working up a sweat, he's firing up his falsetto on some buttery ballads (the best of which is "Better with Time").
Prince turns on the guitar heroics for LOtUSFLOW3r (also the name of his new Web site), which finds the more indulgent artist branching into rock and, to a lesser extent, jazz. One of the highlights, though, is the James Brownesque "Feel Good, Feel Better, Feel Wonderful."
As if two of his own CDs weren't enough, Prince also supports his latest protégée, Bria Valente, on Elixer, a set of lush midtempo grooves. But nothing will make you forget "Nasty Girl."
Fortress 'round My Heart |
On one of the rambunctious highlights of this disc, Norwegian newcomer Ida Maria sings about being "Queen of the World." Certainly, having just released the year's most exciting debut, she deserves to have some serious swagger. One of the baddest rock chicks to come around in a long time, Maria is a quirky cross between Courtney Love, Karen O and Avril Lavigne
, with a touch of fellow Nordic Björk. She brings a grungy rawness and punk-pop hookiness to tracks like the killer single "I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked," while revealing her soft side on ballads like the wistful closer, "In the End."
Wide Open |
For a guy who doesn't possess one of the most distinct voices or personalities in country, Jason Aldean certainly has a knack for coming up with a hit single, from "Hicktown" and "Why" to "Johnny Cash" and "Laughed Until We Cried." He's done it again with "She's Country," the stomping standout of this solid but unspectacular set. Ironically, the song's more rock than country.
Back to Tennessee |
Cynics might question the timing of Billy Ray Cyrus's new album. It arrives alongside Hannah Montana: The Movie, in which he costars with his teen-phenom daughter Miley, and the title-song single echoes the film's plot about getting back to Tennessee roots. (It and the sweet father-daughter duet "Butterfly Fly Away" also appear on the Hannah soundtrack.) But this CD stands well on its own, thank you very much, with Cyrus smoothly going from traditional ("Country as Country Can Be") to rocking (the Sheryl Crow
cover "Real Gone").
DOWNLOAD THIS: "I Could Be the One," a catchy come-on
For more information on where to find our Download This picks, go to people.com/downloadthis
>THE AIRBORNE TOXIC EVENT The Airborne Toxic Event After the indie release of their self-titled debut last summer, this California quintet has been picked up by a major label. And with their bracing rock attack, they certainly belong in the big time.
ANGEL TAYLOR Love Travels Fresh and honeydew-sweet, this 21-year-old singer-songwriter comes on like a burst of springtime on her full-length debut. Her glowing pop tunes will win over fans of both Corinne Bailey Rae and Colbie Caillat.
BOW WOW New Jack City II Its title may hark back to the 1991 gangster flick, but this disc doesn't find the formerly "Lil" rapper strapping up for any hardcore action. He's still smoothly playing to the girls rather than the thugs.
PJ HARVEY & JOHN PARISH A Woman a Man Walked By She wrote the words and sings. He wrote the music and plays. But whether you like their spooky second album together will depend on if Polly Jean was already your cup of vodka.
>• Even without a new solo album, he's been everywhere! We rate JT's recent collaborations.
CIARA "Love Sex Magic" The latest single to tap Justin's mojo is a hot grinder.
CHRIS CORNELL "Take Me Alive" Even Justin can't save this Middle Easternish mess.
"Rehab" JT and Ri-Ri make a potent (if predictable) mix.
T-PAIN "Can't Believe It" remix Did we really need to hear an Auto-Tuned Justin?
T.I. "Dead and Gone" An affecting meditation is made more haunting by Timberlake's soulful vocals.
>BOB DYLAN gets in touch with his inner Santana on the Latin-flavored "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'," from his 33rd studio album, Together Through Life, due April 28. At rhapsody.com.
LILY ALLEN (right) takes on Britney Spears
with a cheeky acoustic version of the No. 1 hit "Womanizer," from the British singer's digital-only EP F.U.E.P. At iTunes.com.
>• Leading an Asian music invasion, these four artists are ready to conquer the U.S.
UTADA This singer, who was born and raised in New York but is of Japanese descent, released This Is the One, her second U.S. album, last month.
Sounds like: A lightweight Mariah Carey
, with fluffy lyrics.
Fun fact: A decade after its release, the 26-year-old's debut disc, First Love, still ranks as Japan's bestselling album of all time.
SE7EN A major star in his native South Korea, the 24-year-old has just released his first U.S. single, "Girls," featuring Lil' Kim and produced by Rodney Jerkins (Brandy).
Sounds like: The Asian answer to Justin Timberlake
Sample lyric: "Like Will/I'm legend, feel me."
BOA After 12 No. 1 albums in Asia, the 22-year-old South Korean dropped her self-titled U.S. debut last month.
Sounds like: With her heavily produced dance-pop beats, she's the Britney Spears
Key track: "I Did It for Love," her synthed-up single featuring vocals, writing and production by hitmaker Sean Garrett (Beyoncé).
WONDER GIRLS The South Korean quintet will release an English version of "Nobody"—one of three No. 1 Asian hits they've had since launching two years ago—next month in the U.S.
Sounds like: A younger version of the Spice Girls.
Fun fact: Truly a girl group, they're under 21!