Tim McGraw

Emotional Traffic |

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COUNTRY

Like being stuck on an L.A. freeway during rush hour, Tim McGraw's Emotional Traffic has been sitting on the shelf since 2010, its release delayed while the country star battled with his record label. Was it worth the wait? Most definitely. McGraw himself has called it "my best album ever," and it's hard to argue with him. The set includes "Felt Good on My Lips," the feel-good single that topped the country charts more than a year ago, but the fresh stuff shows that good songs don't have any expiration date. Highlights include "Right Back Atcha Babe"-which, with its shades of soul and soft rock, brings to mind Hall & Oates-and the wistful closer "Die by My Own Hand." There's even a duet with Ne-Yo, "Only Human," that works surprisingly well. Best, though, is the reflective "Better Than I Used to Be," surely one of the finest songs McGraw has ever recorded: "I ain't as good as I'm gonna get/ But I'm better than I used to be." Amen, brother.

In her 1961 signature hit "At Last," Etta James sang about a happy ending that often seemed to elude the R&B legend. But with her big and bluesy voice-and brassy, sometimes bawdy style-the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, who passed away Jan. 20 after a long battle with leukemia, put every ounce of that pain into her songs. She will live on in the many artists she influenced, everyone from the Rolling Stones and Bonnie Raitt to Christina Aguilera and Beyonce, who portrayed James in the '08 film Cadillac Records. Hopefully James will find the peace in the next life that she struggled to find in this one. At last.

ADAM LEVINE

Maroon 5's lead singer, 32, pipes in on music's big night, The Voice's second season-and his own moves

CATCH THE 54TH ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARDS SUNDAY, FEB. 12, 8 P.M. EST ON CBS

ON NO. 1 HIT "MOVES LIKE JAGGER," NOMINATED FOR BEST POP DUO/GROUP PERFORMANCE

It's exciting to be part of a song that has such an impact. [Mick Jagger himself] supported it enough to allow access to some great archival footage that we ended up using in the video.

ON HIS OWN DANCING

I don't dance; I just move. There's a difference. I do this weird, spastic, slightly rhythmic, all-over-the-place kind of thing. I'm more of a rambunctious child onstage than a dancer.

ON GRAMMY-NIGHT RITUALS

We used to go to this Mexican restaurant to celebrate after the Grammys. But the place supported the movement to make gay marriage illegal [in California], so we bailed on that.

ON THE VOICE'S SECOND SEASON, STARTING FEB. 5

Everyone is thinking bigger and better. We were all kind of deer in headlights last year. Now we know each other better and have fallen into a rhythm.

ON HIS ALL-TIME FAVORITE VOICES

Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Sam Cooke, Paul McCartney, Sting, Ella Fitzgerald. I think Amy Winehouse was just shockingly good, and Lauryn Hill has one of the best voices ever.

ON HIS FAVE SONG BY A FELLOW VOICE MENTOR

I love that "Honey Bee." It's so infectious. I hate Blake Shelton because I can't get it out of my head!

SEAL

Soul 2

This sequel to 2008's Soul finds Heidi's hubby mining more golden R&B. But even with that voice, he can't improve on the originals of "Let's Stay Together" or "What's Going On."

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GRAFFITI6

Colours

Spray-painting their debut album with '60s psychedelia, rave music and falsetto-kissed soul (courtesy of dreamy lead singer Jamie Scott), this U.K. duo makes a vivid splash.

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RUMER

Seasons of My Soul

On one of many horn-laced, Bacharach-esque moments from her debut, this Brit-think Karen Carpenter or Laura Nyro-pleads "Take Me as I Am." Done and done.

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KATHLEEN EDWARDS

Voyageur

The folkie singer-song-writer gets production, vocal and instrumental assists from Bon Iver's Justin Vernon. It all helps make her latest an artful journey.

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