Femme Fatale |
Since her last studio set, 2008's Circus, Britney Spears
' dance-pop domain has been conquered by younger divas like Ke$ha, Katy Perry and, of course, Lady Gaga. On Femme Fatale-one of the best start-to-finish albums of her career-Spears pulls out all the stops to reclaim her territory, even if it means cribbing from the competition. Indeed, the top track, the apocalyptic party jam "Till the World Ends," practically out-Ke$has Ke$ha. (No wonder-the tune was cowritten by the "TiK ToK" singer.) Elsewhere Spears captures Gaga's downtown sleaziness on "(Drop Dead) Beautiful," one of many electro-infused grooves. With hitmakers Dr. Luke and old collaborator Max Martin handling much of the production, Spears hardly makes a wrong move, even closing with one of her finest ballads in "Criminal."
Panic! At the Disco Vices & Virtues |
While Panic! At the Disco's signature punctuation mark may be back for Vices & Virtues, they've lost two members: guitarist Ryan Ross and bassist Jon Walker. What they haven't lost, though, is their knack for hook-filled punk-pop. Although not quite reaching the heights of 2008's Pretty.Odd., singer and multi-instrumentalist Brendon Urie and drummer Spencer Smith carry on without missing a beat on tunes like first single "The Ballad of Mona Lisa" and the exuberant "Ready to Go (Get Me Out of My Mind)." They continue to indulge their flair for the baroque-from the strings on "Trade Mistakes" and the children's choir on "Nearly Witches (Ever Since We Met ...)" to the accordion and mariachi horns on "Sarah Smiles"-putting the exclamation point on it all.
Mary Mary Something Big |
"Can't keep it in a box 'cause it just don't fit/ My God he's bigger than just music," proclaims Mary Mary over a jittery hip-hop beat on "Something Bigger." After winning two Grammys for 2008's The Sound, sisters Erica and Tina Campbell return with more genre-bending gospel on their sixth album. The title-track opener takes a sample from the Jackson 5 gem "Mama's Pearl" and breaks into a joyous testimony. Another R&B-flavored tune-"Walking," the smooth-strutting single-samples Crystal Waters' 1991 house hit "Gypsy Woman (She's Homeless)." But the a cappella "It Is Well" shows that less can be more.
OOPS! ... I DID IT AGAIN (2000)
Her smash second album solidified her place as the teen-pop queen. Key track: the not-that-innocent title tune
Not a girl, not yet a woman, Spears gets funky-and a little freaky. Key track: "I'm a Slave 4 U," still her sexiest song ever
Dancing her troubles away with hot beats. It's better than it had any right to be. Key track: the media-blasting "Piece of Me"
THE SINGLES COLLECTION (2009)
If you just want the hits, you can't go wrong with this. Key track: "Toxic," her only Grammy winner
All You Need Is
Now After teaming up with Justin Timberlake
and Timbaland last time, Duran hooks up with another cool fan, Mark Ronson, to produce this. The union brings a fresh energy to the old boys on tracks like "Being Followed."
You gotta think that younger brother Charles' success with Lady Antebellum had more than a little to do with Kelley's decision to go country on his latest. Even so, it's a solid if unspectacular effort. The highlight? The soulful ballad "Learning You."
When this Paris-bred chanteuse sings "My Name Is Trouble" on the opening track and first single of 101, you kind of believe her. As mesmerizing as her torch pop can be, it suggests something sinister could be going on underneath the seduction.
NOAH & THE WHALE
Last Night on Earth
The indie pop on the third album from these Londoners can be as quirky as their band name: There are even gospel background vocals! But there's no denying the charms of cuts like the string-laced "Just Me Before We Met."
After Audioslave and solo projects, the 46-year-old father of three has reunited with Soundgarden, just releasing their first concert album, Live on I-5, 17 years after "Black Hole Sun."
It's been two decades since he drummed his way to immortality on Nirvana's Nevermind. Now playing guitar, the father of two, 42, leads Foo Fighters on Wasting Light, due April 12.
Pearl Jam has just reissued Vs. and Vitalogy, while the 46-year-old dad of two will release a solo album in May. He's still alive indeed.
(left) shows that her new dance-pop single is hot in any language on "Ven a Bailar (On the Floor)," the Spanish version of her Top 5 hit with Pitbull. LOVE?-the American Idol judge's first studio album since 2007's Brave-is due May 3.
$1.29 at napster.com.
OWL CITY, the brainchild of Adam Young, teams up with rap newcomer Shawn Chrystopher on "Alligator Sky." The uplifting synth-pop track previews All Things Bright and Beautiful, the second album from the "Fireflies" act, which hits stores on May 17. $1.29 at
KELLY PRICE, the featured singer on the Notorious B.I.G.'s 1997 No. 1 hit "Mo Money Mo Problems," takes a soulful stand on "Not My Daddy." A duet with Mint Condition's Stokley Williams, it's from the R&B belter's sixth album, Kelly, out May 3. $0.99 at amazon.com.