Chris Brown

Graffiti |

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R&B-POP

Even for a performer accustomed to executing fancy footwork, Chris Brown is in a tricky position releasing a new album just 10 months after assaulting then-girlfriend Rihanna. Even if he made another Thriller, would it really be possible for his fans to forgive and forget? Brown spends half of Graffiti acting like the whole thing never happened. On swaggering jams like "I Can Transform Ya," the rubbery-grooved first single with Lil Wayne and Swizz Beatz, he's still a 20-year-old fly guy. But there are also regretful breakup songs ("So Cold") and wound-licking ballads ("Lucky Me") that paint a deeper picture.

DOWNLOAD THIS: "Crawl," a soaring, heartfelt piece of romantic redemption

Allison Iraheta

Just Like You |

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POP-ROCK

If Allison Iraheta is striving to be just like anyone on her debut album, it's Pink. From her tough rock edge to the bluesy shades of her voice—both belying her 17 years—last season's fourth-place-finisher on American Idol sounds like she could be Pink's bratty little sister. In fact, the power ballad "No One Else" was cowritten by the "So What" singer (along with Idol's Kara DioGuardi). Two other tracks, including the punk-spiked standout "Friday I'll Be Over U," were produced by Max Martin, a frequent Pink collaborator. Elsewhere, "Scars," all vulnerable introspection, sounds like it could be an outtake from M!ssundaztood. At least until she finds her own voice, Iraheta has picked a good person to emulate.

R. Kelly

Untitled |

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R&B

The title—or lack thereof—of R. Kelly's new album is unfortunately an indicator that, 17 years after his recording debut, the R&B star is running out of fresh ideas. When he makes lyrical reference to his 1993 classic 12 Play on "Go Low"—one of his routine bump-and-grinders—it feels like a concession that his most inspired days are behind him. Still, Kelly shows that he has a few surprises left. On "Echo," for instance, he uses yodeling—yes, yodeling—as an expression of sexual ecstasy. Meanwhile, on the humorous highlight "Be My #2," he cleverly plays on his player image over a soul-disco groove that conjures up bell-bottoms and Teddy Pendergrass.

Susan Boyle

I Dreamed a Dream |

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POP

As a reality TV star, Susan Boyle was a compelling feel-good story. As a recording artist, though, there's little interesting about her. It's as if your sweet Aunt Alice, the one who warbles at family gatherings, got a record deal. Boyle, the sentimental favorite who finished second on Britain's Got Talent in May, turns up the schmaltz on this karaoke-ish collection of covers ranging from the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses" to Madonna's "You'll See." She lacks the requisite sultriness to bring any real heat to a torch song like "Cry Me a River," while her attempts at gospel on numbers such as the hymn "How Great Thou Art" will leave you uninspired.

FOR DOWNLOAD PICKS INFO GO TO PEOPLE.COM/DOWNLOADTHIS

>• Mary J. Blige (right) serves as an executive producer and contributes a bluesy original ("I Can See in Color") to this soulful—and soul-affirming—companion to the acclaimed drama.

>ADAM LAMBERT

For Your Entertainment

On his post-Idol debut, the season 8 runner-up struts his guyliner-wearing stuff with a confident display of glam pop-rock. Best is the stomping opener "Music Again."

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NORAH JONES

The Fall

After splitting with her longtime beau and bassist, Jones picks up the guitar and adds a fresh bite to these tunes, all while sounding sexier than ever.

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LEONA LEWIS

Echo

From soul-stirring ballads to pulsating techno jams, this follow-up to Lewis's platinum debut Spirit is more varied musically and more vibrant lyrically.

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WALE

Attention Deficit

With help from Lady Gaga, Pharrell and Jazmine Sullivan, this D.C. emcee demands your attention on 2009's second-best hip-hop debut (after Kid Cudi).

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>• From Bob Dylan and Andrea Bocelli to Sugarland and David Archuleta, these tinsel tunes will get you in the holly-jolly spirit.

BOB DYLAN, CHRISTMAS IN THE HEART

With his grizzled delivery, Dylan brings a grinchy edge to all the warm-and-fuzziness that the season usually offers. Despite the '50s nostalgia, Pat Boone he's not.

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MARY MCBRIDE, EVERY DAY IS A HOLIDAY

The singer-songwriter mixes traditionals with less obvious covers as well as two originals, including the fun, flirty "Bring It On."

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SUGARLAND, GOLD AND GREEN

The country duo put a new shine on old gems like "Winterland Wonderland" and serve up five originals, including the title track (nicely sprinkled with a bit of "The First Noel").

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ANDREA BOCELLI, MY CHRISTMAS

On his first holiday album, the tenor aims for the heavens—or at least the cathedral steeple—with his majestic voice. Joining are Mary J. Blige, Natalie Cole, Reba McEntire and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (on "The Lord's Prayer").

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A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS 7

Some of the artists featured on this compilation—including Miley Cyrus, Vanessa Hudgens and Sean Kingston—weren't even born when the series benefitting the Special Olympics began 22 years ago. Ouch!

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DAVID ARCHULETA, CHRISTMAS FROM THE HEART

Last year's American Idol runner-up delivers a winning set of yuletide faves such as "What Child Is This." It's all as impossible to resist as those dimples.

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NEIL DIAMOND, A CHERRY CHERRY CHRISTMAS

Diamond keeps it kitschy on this collection, with playful turns on chestnuts like "Sleigh Ride" and "Jingle Bell Rock." But originals such as "Christmas Dream" lack sparkle.

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STRAIGHT NO CHASER, CHRISTMAS CHEERS

With their potent vocals, this 10-man a cappella outfit gives you plenty of reason to raise a glass of eggnog.

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TORI AMOS, MIDWINTER GRACES

Amos, who grew up playing Christmas music in her minister father's church, gifts this set with her ethereal presence on classics like "Star of Wonder" and "Emmanuel," in addition to new songs like the torchy "Pink and Glitter."

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>• On Beauty Will Rise, the Christian music star, 47, works through the pain of his daughter's tragic death in 2008.

ON SHARING HIS GRIEF

I first thought there's no way I'll write about [5-year-old daughter Maria Sue (inset) being killed after she was accidentally run over by her brother]. It was literally me crying out. But as sad as the songs are, hope is a heartbeat underneath.

ON HIS FAMILY NOW

Our children are doing great. My wife and I struggle. You grieve differently.

ON MARIA'S LEGACY

This summer we opened Maria's Big House of Hope, a special-needs orphanage in China. It's a great way to see beauty come out of this.

>• Mary J. Blige (right) serves as an executive producer and contributes a bluesy original ("I Can See in Color") to this soulful—and soul-affirming—companion to the acclaimed drama.

>ADAM LAMBERT

For Your Entertainment

On his post-Idol debut, the season 8 runner-up struts his guyliner-wearing stuff with a confident display of glam pop-rock. Best is the stomping opener "Music Again." [

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]

NORAH JONES

The Fall

After splitting with her longtime beau and bassist, Jones picks up the guitar and adds a fresh bite to these tunes, all while sounding sexier than ever. [

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  

]

LEONA LEWIS

Echo

From soul-stirring ballads to pulsating techno jams, this follow-up to Lewis's platinum debut Spirit is more varied musically and more vibrant lyrically. [

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  

]

WALE

Attention Deficit

With help from Lady Gaga, Pharrell and Jazmine Sullivan, this D.C. emcee demands your attention on 2009's second-best hip-hop debut (after Kid Cudi). [

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  

]

>• From Bob Dylan and Andrea Bocelli to Sugarland and David Archuleta, these tinsel tunes will get you in the holly-jolly spirit.

BOB DYLAN, CHRISTMAS IN THE HEART

With his grizzled delivery, Dylan brings a grinchy edge to all the warm-and-fuzziness that the season usually offers. Despite the '50s nostalgia, Pat Boone he's not. [

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  

]

MARY MCBRIDE, EVERY DAY IS A HOLIDAY

The singer-songwriter mixes traditionals with less obvious covers as well as two originals, including the fun, flirty "Bring It On." [

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  

]

SUGARLAND, GOLD AND GREEN

The country duo put a new shine on old gems like "Winterland Wonderland" and serve up five originals, including the title track (nicely sprinkled with a bit of "The First Noel"). [

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  

]

ANDREA BOCELLI, MY CHRISTMAS

On his first holiday album, the tenor aims for the heavens—or at least the cathedral steeple—with his majestic voice. Joining are Mary J. Blige, Natalie Cole, Reba McEntire and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (on "The Lord's Prayer"). [

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  

]

A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS 7

Some of the artists featured on this compilation—including Miley Cyrus, Vanessa Hudgens and Sean Kingston—weren't even born when the series benefitting the Special Olympics began 22 years ago. Ouch! [

bgwhite bgwhite   

]

DAVID ARCHULETA, CHRISTMAS FROM THE HEART

Last year's American Idol runner-up delivers a winning set of yuletide faves such as "What Child Is This." It's all as impossible to resist as those dimples. [

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  

]

NEIL DIAMOND, A CHERRY CHERRY CHRISTMAS

Diamond keeps it kitschy on this collection, with playful turns on chestnuts like "Sleigh Ride" and "Jingle Bell Rock." But originals such as "Christmas Dream" lack sparkle. [

bgwhite bgwhite   

]

STRAIGHT NO CHASER, CHRISTMAS CHEERS

With their potent vocals, this 10-man a cappella outfit gives you plenty of reason to raise a glass of eggnog. [

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  

]

TORI AMOS, MIDWINTER GRACES

Amos, who grew up playing Christmas music in her minister father's church, gifts this set with her ethereal presence on classics like "Star of Wonder" and "Emmanuel," in addition to new songs like the torchy "Pink and Glitter." [

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  

]

>• On Beauty Will Rise, the Christian music star, 47, works through the pain of his daughter's tragic death in 2008.

ON SHARING HIS GRIEF

I first thought there's no way I'll write about [5-year-old daughter Maria Sue (inset) being killed after she was accidentally run over by her brother]. It was literally me crying out. But as sad as the songs are, hope is a heartbeat underneath.

ON HIS FAMILY NOW

Our children are doing great. My wife and I struggle. You grieve differently.

ON MARIA'S LEGACY

This summer we opened Maria's Big House of Hope, a special-needs orphanage in China. It's a great way to see beauty come out of this.

  • Contributors:
  • REVIEWED BY IVORY JEFF CLINTON.