Crazy Love | [
Sometimes bigger really is better. Just check out the gloriously over-the-top version of "Cry Me a River" (no, not the Justin Timberlake
hit but the '50s standard) that opens Michael Bublé's latest. With producer David Foster indulging his flair for the dramatic, Bublé rises to the occasion in grand style. It's a brass-kicking salvo that's impossible to beat here, but there is still plenty of pizzazz to be had. Like the lost member of the Rat Pack, Bublé croons and charms his way through savvy selections ranging from "Georgia on My Mind" to the Van Morrison title cut. In keeping with "Home," there are also two originals, best of which is the Billy Joel-esque "Haven't Met You Yet."
The List | [
After beautifully grieving for father Johnny Cash on 2006's Black Cadillac, Rosanne Cash again draws inspiration from his memory, culling her latest from a list of "100 Essential Country Songs" he gave her. The result is a loving tribute to the classic country tradition her dad came from. Cash, though, puts her own spin on these tunes, adding a touch of torch to songs like "I'm Movin' On" and bringing in guests like Bruce Springsteen, who channels his inner Johnny on "Sea of Heartbreak."
DOWNLOAD THIS: "She's Got You," a Patsy Cline standard
American Ride | [
The most interesting moment on the new Toby Keith album comes at the very last cut, "Ballad of Balad." The notoriously patriotic country star takes a hard—and humorous—look at the propaganda used in military recruitment: "It's not a job, it's an adventure/ Oh yes sir I got that/ Ah but you never told me I'd get my ass shot at." He also takes some shots at America on the title-track single. The rest of this CD, though, offers few surprises. You get the feeling that Keith could have done most of it in his sleep. Or at least while knocking back a six-pack.
Wild Young Hearts | [
The name of this British trio conjures up both rowdy punks and '60s girl groups. So goes the second album from Noisettes, leaping across genres and generations with a groovy mix of dance-rock and retro-soul. Frontwoman Shingai Shoniwa goes from bluesy belter to disco diva, with her tarty, tangy vocals bringing to mind Amy Winehouse and Duffy. Indeed, the hand-clapping title track suggests what Winehouse might sound like on happy pills. Meanwhile, "24 Hours" may have a lyric about a one-night stand, but the song rewinds the clock to an era of pop innocence.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Never Forget You," a sweet Motown throwback
This Is Us | [
Kevin Richardson is looking more and more like a very wise man. The eldest Backstreet Boy left the group in 2006, clearly knowing the trouble the former teen-pop phenoms would have growing older gracefully. On their seventh studio album, they continue to struggle to remain relevant in a JoBros world. When they sing about putting their "hands all over your booty" on the cheesy "PDA," they sound hopelessly lost between being boys and men. Still, tracks like the pulsating "Bye Bye Love" and the R&B-flavored ballad "Undone" keep this from being tragic.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Bigger," a Max Martin-produced pop confection
La Roux | [
There are shades of Lady Gaga in the electro-infused grooves of this London duo fronted by Elly Jackson. But their debut more closely recalls the synth-pop sounds of Robyn's last album. Included are two tracks that have already been hits in the U.K.: "In for the Kill" and the giddy highlight "Bulletproof."
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>MORE THAN A GAME
• Hip-hop gets the most play on the soundtrack to the LeBron James documentary. But alongside cuts by Jay-Z, Drake and T.I., Mary J. Blige (right) scores one for soul with the ballad "Stronger."
• The singer-songwriter, 26, has a new album, The Boy Who Never, and makes his big-screen debut in Whip It.
THE PINK PANTHER (1964)
It's my secret inspiration: Everything goes through this filter of wanting to sound like "The Pink Panther Theme."
THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
For the drama, the epic nature of it. My first experience with writing music was a remix of the theme. Maybe I'll dig it up someday!
"As Time Goes By" played an integral part in the movie and is now such a classic. The song I wrote for Whip It [hopefully will] have a life on its own.
THE LIFE AQUATIC ...
Seu Jorge doing all those David Bowie songs was great. Any version of "Life on Mars?" [helps make] a good soundtrack.
>ALICE IN CHAINS
Black Gives Way to Blue
The grunge rockers return with their first studio disc since '95, replacing late singer Layne Staley with William DuVall. As far as comebacks go, though, it's a bit underwhelming.
Heartbreak on Vinyl
On his latest, '07's American Idol runner-up moves in a dance direction. While sometimes stumbling, he hits his groove on cuts like "Left My Baby for You."
This singer-bassist still possesses genre-bending powers. But though Halo has its moments, it meanders a bit—a problem when it's only 37 minutes.
Read Between the Lines
Mentored by the Go-Go's, these teen girls get points for playing their own instruments on their Disney debut. If only they had better songs.
>• The Aerosmith axman, 59, dishes about flying solo on Have Guitar, Will Travel and the future of his band.
ON GOING SOLO
A lot of the lyrics are about my wife [of 24 years, Billie] and our relationship. I don't want anybody else singing those songs. We're partners, friends, lovers. We're both conspiracy addicts, and some of the songs relate to that.
ON PLAYING GUITAR HERO: AEROSMITH
[I've done it] enough to know I'm not very good. But I think it's a great game [since] it's inspired kids to pick up a real instrument.
ON ROCKING TOWARD 60
You adjust. I don't do backwards somersaults anymore. But my playing is getting better. And I'm lucky to have some good Mediterranean genes!
ON AEROSMITH'S FUTURE
We're on hiatus [after Steven Tyler broke his shoulder in August]. We've gone months at a time without talking just to get some separation. But we're counting on getting back together in 2010.