With several delays, it's been a bumpy ride to releasing Ciara's third album. Despite that bad omen, Fantasy Ride makes for a fun spin. Things kick into gear with "Love Sex Magic," the Justin Timberlake
-blessed single, which sounds like it could have been on FutureSex/LoveSounds (and that's saying something). Later, Ciara brings the club fierceness on "Work," a percolating electro boogie with Missy Elliott, and takes it to the sheets on the Aaliyah-esque slow jam "Like a Surgeon." A falloff at the end—and Ciara's limited voice—keeps this from Beyoncé territory. Still, there's no shortage of R&B-pop pleasures.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "High Price," a rubbery crunk groove featuring Ludacris
Fight for Love |
Eight seasons into American Idol, most contestants tend to recall an earlier one. Danny Gokey is the 2009 model of Elliott Yamin, who finished third three years ago and has gone on to have a respectable recording career as an R&B-pop artist. On his new album, the likable Yamin largely eschews the old-school soul of 2007's self-titled debut for a more contemporary sound. Cuts like the title-track single and the Stargate-produced "Don't Be Afraid" find him smoothly moving in on Ne-Yo. But the songs—seven of which Yamin cowrote—are not quite in Ne-Yo's league, and the slow-to-midtempo grooves start to blend together after a while.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Let Love Be," the feel-good opener
Katie Melua attended the same performing arts school in London that gave us Amy Winehouse, Leona Lewis and Adele. But while she has sold millions of albums across the big pond, Melua, unlike her aforementioned peers, hasn't made much of a splash in the States. Her third studio disc—just now arriving in the U.S. after being released in Europe in 2007—probably won't change that. There's nothing here as ripe for American consumption as "Rehab" or "Bleeding Love" or "Chasing Pavements." Pictures, with shades of jazz, blues and folk, paints Melua as the U.K. answer to Norah Jones on cuts like the smoky standout, "Perfect Circle." Sometimes, though, it makes for too-easy listening.
Asleep in the Bread Aisle |
On "As I Em," the clever highlight of his debut CD, Asher Roth wisely addresses the "elephant in the room" for any rising white male rapper: Eminem. "'Cause we have the same complexion and similar voice inflection/ It's easy to see the pieces and to reach for that connection," he rhymes with a decidedly Eminem-like flow over a track that samples Joe Jackson's "Geraldine and John." There's no denying the big debt Roth owes Slim Shady, but he can also come off like a young Beastie Boy with his more suburban sensibility and fight-for-your-right-to-party attitude. "Time isn't wasted when you're getting wasted," he deadpans on the humorous hit "I Love College." Nor is time wasted when you're listening to Roth.
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>• A happy day is here for Babs fans: Streisand The Concerts captures the diva performing live in 2006 (Disc 1) and 1994 (Disc 2), while a third disc goes inside the making of The Broadway Album.
>RICK ROSS Deeper Than Rap Forget Bruce Springsteen—in the hip-hop world, Ross is the Boss. He lives up to that title with the best rap album of 2009 so far. Loaded with hot beats and starry cameos, it's a dope showcase for his gruff, gritty delivery.
JASON MICHAEL CARROLL Growing Up Is Getting Old On the title standout of his second CD, this country singer struggles with being "a wild horse that's tough to tame." But elsewhere he's a devoted father, partner and all-around family man.
JILL SOBULE California Years The singer-songwriter solicited contributions from her fans to fund this self-released set (hence "The Donor Song"). And with these folk- and country-tinged tunes, Sobule doesn't let her peeps down.
STARSAILOR All the Plans After both Coldplay and Keane shook things up on their last albums, Starsailor opts not to rock the Brit-pop boat. While there is a definite lack of freshness at play, the familiar (like the Ron Wood-assisted title cut) can still work.
>JASON CASTRO Last year's folky third-place finisher recently signed with Atlantic Records and is working on his debut disc, scheduled for fall release. Should Jack Johnson be worried?
BROOKE WHITE American Idol's Randy Jackson executive-produces High Hopes and Heartbreak, due in July from last season's fifth-placer.
RUBEN STUDDARD The second-season champ is back for more Velvet Teddy Bear action on his fourth album, Love Is, which hits stores May 19.
LAKISHA JONES This vocal powerhouse, fourth in season 6, delivers her first album, So Glad I'm Me, on May 19. It's led by the spirited single "Let's Go Celebrate."
MICHAEL JOHNS Coming in eighth in 2008, Johns releases his debut CD, Hold Back My Heart, on June 16.
>• Whether you've got newborns, toddlers or grade-schoolers, these new discs will soothe and amuse.
BEN RUDNICK & FRIENDS, A FROG NAMED SAM Heading into the summer months, this jaunty CD conjures camp singalongs with classic tunes like "Old Joe Clark" and "Three Little Fishes." Just add s'mores.
RICK SPRINGFIELD, MY PRECIOUS LITTLE ONE The "Jessie's Girl" singer wrote this heartfelt (if kinda corny) collection of original lullabies as a new dad in the mid-'80s. If only any CD could actually get a newborn to sleep through the night.
COME ON, GET HAPPY: THE BEST OF DADDY A GO GO VOLUME 1 Kids' rocker John Boydston (a.k.a. Daddy A Go Go) brings a percussive beat and sly humor to songs like "I Caught My Daddy Watching Cartoons."
ZIGGY MARLEY, FAMILY TIME The reggae scion brings a Jamaican flavor to fun, sunshine-infused duets with Laurie Berkner and Paul Simon, among others.
JEWEL, LULLABY Moms who feel like they were singing along to "You Were Meant for Me" just yesterday—it's been 12 years!—can introduce their tots to the folky singer, whose calming voice is perfect for songs like "Daydream Land."
PLAYHOUSE DISNEY, MUSIC PLAY DATE Yes, it's kind of a cheat to ply your kids with songs from their favorite TV shows. But is loving the "Handy Manny" theme song so wrong?
DAN ZANES AND FRIENDS, THE WELCOME TABLE! The musician tackles a heady subject—interfaith peace—with religious-themed tunes in his signature eclectic style.
EUROPEAN PLAYGROUND If your passport isn't getting much of a workout these days (overseas travel with little ones? ha!), this CD offers a teeny-tiny taste of Europe.