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- March 19, 2012
- Vol. 77
- No. 12
Picks and Pans: Music
Wrecking Ball |
It's fitting that the two most exhilarating tracks on the new Bruce Springsteen album are the only ones featuring his beloved E Street Band sideman Clarence Clemons, that giant of a saxman who died last June. First there's the title cut, which starts as a folkie strummer then builds to a rousing anthem for persevering through life's most brutal blows. When Springsteen repeatedly sings the line "Hard times come and hard times go" like a mantra, you can just feel him summoning all his considerable strength and spirit to carry on in the wake of the Big Man's death. It's a devastatingly touching moment. Then on the gospel-charged "Land of Hope and Dreams," Springsteen imagines boarding that train to heaven, and it sounds like Clemons is waiting and wailing for him at the pearly gates.
Much of Wrecking Ball, though, is about keeping hope and dreams alive in the struggle down here. As ever, Springsteen is the voice of the people, from the "Jack of All Trades" remaining optimistic about finding work with lilting, piano-laced grace to the despairing man who needs "your heart" to survive "This Depression." Then there's the Celtic stomp of "Death to My Hometown"-like "My Hometown" 28 years later.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE" DESCRIBING YOU AS THE BEST SINGER IN THE WORLD?
He said that about a year ago. So there is probably someone better now! To me the best singer in the world is [gospel vocalist] Kim Burrell.
IF YOU WERE A CONTESTANT ON THE VOICE, WHOSE TEAM WOULD YOU WANT TO BE ON?
Actually I am a coach on the U.K. [version of The Voice]. Christina's team. She's someone I grew up listening to, and she's a strong independent woman.
YOU HAVE BEEN CALLED THE LADY GAGA OF THE U.K. ARE YOU A FAN?
Gaga's amazing. There are only so many people who can arrive at an awards ceremony in an egg. I couldn't pull that off. But for me, it's about the vocals.
DO YOU HAVE A PET NAME FOR YOUR FANS TOO?
I call them Heartbeats. Heartbeats keep you alive, and I wouldn't be here as a musician without my fans.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO SING AT CLIVE DAVIS'S PRE-GRAMMY GALA HOURS AFTER WHITNEY HOUSTON DIED?
It was the weirdest but most wonderful thing. It did feel very, very soon, but it was an honor to celebrate her life. She is one of my idols.
YOUR BIG HIT IS "DOMINO." WHEN DID YOU LAST PLAY DOMINOES?
I don't know, but I do have some in my home someplace. But it's about knocking someone down with love-not the actual game!
USHER gets you ready for a little spring loving on "Climax," a sexy, synth-infused slow jam from his upcoming seventh studio album. $1.29 at rhapsody.com.
RASCAL FLATTS returns with "Banjo," a boot-scootin' boogie that puts the titular instrument to good use. It's from the trio's eighth studio album, Changed, due April 3. $1.29 at iTunes.com.
B.O.B splices hip-hop and pop-rock on "So Good," the sunny new single from Strange Clouds, the "Nothin' on You" rapper's second album, which drops May 1. $0.99 at amazon.com.
SHINEDOWN unleashes the pensive and potent hard rock of "Bully," from Amaryllis, the band's fourth studio album, due March 27. $0.99 at amazon.com.
CARRIE UNDERWOOD dispenses some down-home advice on "Good Girl," a country-rocker previewing the singer's as-yet-untitled fourth studio album, which arrives May 1. $1.29 at zune.net.
Spinning since: "People asked me to do Fall Out Boy show afterparties."
Musical mix: "I like to spin remixes of Top 40 [songs] and a cappellas over different music."
Best gig: "Lollapalooza last year was just bananas!"
GUESS WHO'S SPINNING!
Musical mix: "I must cover 80 years of music in the first 20 records, or the night is a failure."
Best gig: "Jimmy Fallon's  Emmy afterparty."
Sample cuts: "Michael Jackson's 'Rock with You,' the Cure's 'Close to Me.'"
Spinning since: "My sister [Beyonce] and brother got me turntables for Christmas."
Musical mix: "Lots of '90s R&B and hip-hop, '70s soul, disco."
Fave deejay spot: "Brooklyn Bowl"
Deejay name: "Lo Down Loretta Brown. It's from the movie Cooley High."
Musical mix: "Hip-hop, rock, old soul, funk, funk and more funk!"
Sample cuts: "'Encore' by Cheryl Lynn and 'Lovely Day' by Bill Withers."
ALSO SPINNING ...
Elijah Wood (left), Nick Cannon, Connor Cruise (Tom's 17-year-old son), Macaulay Culkin and Efren Ramirez (Napoleon Dynamite)
Serving catchy beats and clever rhymes on their delicious debut album, this black-white duo display shades of other alternative hip-hop acts like Kid Cudi, N.E.R.D. and B.o.B. Songs like the sly, soulful "Ray Charles" deliver plenty of bang for your buck.
ROBERT GLASPER EXPERIMENT
An impressive array of R&B and rap stars-from Erykah Badu to Lupe Fiasco-sit in with the jazz keyboardist's combo for originals and covers. On the lush "Ah Yeah," Musiq Soulchild and Chrisette Michele make sweet love.
On his first album since '05, the country singer gets the blessing of both Blake Shelton and his wife, Miranda Lambert, behind the boards. The results are solid but unspectacular, with the twangy "Mouth" providing a humorous highlight.
SCHOOL OF SEVEN BELLS
With ethereal vocals by Alejandra Deheza and dreamy atmospherics courtesy of guitarist-producer Benjamin Curtis, this duo create an alluring otherworld on Ghostory. Somebody sign them up for the next Twilight soundtrack!
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