CRITIC'S CHOICE!

Wiz Khalifa

Rolling Papers |

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  



HIP-HOP

"The world turneth/The weed burneth," rhymes Wiz Khalifa, just in case you didn't get the title of his major-label debut. Not since Snoop back in the day has a rapper extolled the joys of marijuana like this. Cuts like the up-all-night party jam "No Sleep" come floating in on a cloud of pot smoke. But you don't have to be under the influence to get into this smooth-rolling set. Also celebrating his rise to fame-and the other kind of paper it has brought him-Wiz casts a spell on tracks like "The Race," the mellow, mood-lifting highlight.

Robbie Robertson

How to Become Clairvoyant

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  



BLUES-ROCK

It's been 13 years since his last solo album, but Robbie Robertson returns with his seductive powers in full effect. Among the guests are Steve Winwood, Trent Reznor and Eric Clapton, who plays guitar on "This Is Where I Get Off" (about Robertson's departure from the Band in 1976) and cowrote three other songs, including the soulful standout "Fear of Falling." But judging from these tunes, Robertson doesn't have to worry about that.

CHUCK'S PLAYLIST

BRITNEY SPEARS

"Till the World Ends"

The Femme Fatale opener, co-written by Ke$ha, provides dance-floor euphoria in the midst of troubled times.

CHRIS BROWN

"Beautiful People"

The latest club anthem from F.A.M.E. may be even better than "Yeah 3X."

THE STROKES

"Under Cover of Darkness"

On the first single off Angles, these indie rockers get their bounce back.

R.E.M.

"Mine Smell Like Honey"

This Collapse into Now cut, with both jangle and crunch, smells like classic R.E.M.

RADIOHEAD

"Feral"

A wild Afro-beat boogie from The King of Limbs.

JAMES BLAKE

"The Wilhelm Scream"

Haunting and hypnotic, this track from his self-titled debut is more likely to leave you speechless as it transports you into the otherworld of dubstep.

MARSHA AMBROSIUS

"Far Away"

A heartbreaking highlight from the Floetry singer's Late Nights & Early Mornings.

JENNIFER HUDSON

"Why Is It So Hard"

Cowritten and coproduced by Ne-Yo, this old-school slow jam is a memorable moment on I Remember Me.

ADELE

"Someone Like You"

From 21-the year's best and biggest album-a killer ballad. And I mean: crushing.

SUM 41

Screaming Bloody Murder

Divorce sure can be a bummer: First Avril Lavigne ditches the fun on her latest; now ex-husband Deryck Whibley leads Sum 41 into heavier territory, attempting to pull a Green Day. But despite a plodding midsection, all is not lost.

bgwhite bgwhite   



CRAIG CAMPBELL

Craig Campbell

On a winning country debut, this Georgian displays a rich baritone and a witty way with a pen on tunes like the sly "I Bought It" and the suggestive "Fish." Elsewhere, songs such as the ballad single "Family Man" will hit you right at home.

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  



MANDISA

What If We Were Real

Like fellow American Idol alum Jennifer Hudson, Mandisa has recently lost a ton of weight, shedding some 100 lbs. Her pipes, though, remain hefty on this inspirational album. But it can get too pop: Take it to church, Mandisa!

bgwhite bgwhite   



RICHARD ASHCROFT

United Nations of Sound

The Verve frontman hooks up with hip-hop producer No I.D. (Jay-Z, Kanye West) on his fourth solo album. While tracks like "America" pack more thump-and even funk-the sounds run out of steam toward the end.

bgwhite bgwhite   



It's a perfect time to fete the Queen of Soul, who, rebounding from recent health problems, celebrated her 69th birthday last month and is marking the 50th anniversary of her pop debut with a truly regal box set: Take a Look: Aretha Franklin Complete on Columbia, a 12-disc collection that traces the years before she earned that legendary respect at Atlantic Records. Eleven albums are featured-from 1961's Aretha (With the Ray Bryant Combo) to 1965's Yeah!!! In Person with Her Quartet-plus a DVD: Aretha '64! Live on the Steve Allen Show. Packed with extras and vintage artwork, it captures her early career in glorious detail.

DOUBLE TALK

HOW DID YOU TWO FIRST MEET?

MAYER: My dad is a big fan of Tony's, so when he turned 80, I abused all my privileges and [arranged for] Tony to sing "Fly Me to the Moon" without a mic at a party I set up. My dad still brags about it. I'm in your debt, Tony!

BENNETT: Well, with him on my album, I'll sell an extra million. [Both laugh.] I've always admired him. He has "it."

JOHN, WHAT HAS TONY'S CAREER TAUGHT YOU?

MAYER: Tony's never gone out of style. I can't keep up with whatever the new thing is; I can't compete with Lady Gaga. [So] whether it's cool or not, make it good.

BENNETT: I didn't follow trends, I just sang good songs.

WHY DID YOU PICK "ONE FOR MY BABY"?

BENNETT: It was cowritten by Johnny Mercer and first introduced by Fred Astaire. You can't go wrong with that.

MAYER: We almost did "I'll Be Around," but can two people sing "I'll be around"? [Sings] "We'll be around..."

TONY, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT TURNING 85 IN SEPTEMBER?

BENNETT: I'm just starting out! I have a long way to go.

MAYER: When I turn 85-whatever age I'm at-I want to arrive there on time. Some people don't reach 30 till they're 60. Mr. Bennett is right on time.