CHUCK'S PLAYLIST

WHAT I'M ROCKING NOW!

WHITNEY HOUSTON

"How Will I Know" (a cappella version)

Stripped down to her soulful essence on this take-featured on the deluxe edition of her self-titled debut-you can feel Houston reaching for heaven. Now it's truly as if that voice, resplendent in power and purity, is coming from above.

MADONNA

"Over and Over"

Whitney's death makes me want to appreciate this other '80s icon even more, but frankly, I'm underwhelmed by "Give Me All Your Luvin'." While awaiting the rest of MDNA, due March 26, I've rediscovered this giddy 1984 gem.

LANA DEL REY

"Video Games"

Before you pass judgment on this polarizing newcomer, listen to this haunting highlight from Born to Die. You may rethink that whole SNL controversy.

RUMER

"Aretha"

A '70s-soaked standout from this Brit's debut, Seasons of My Soul, that does Miss Franklin proud.

GRAFFITI6

"Free"

More irresistibly charming retro pop from the U.K. It's on Colours, the vivid debut album by this duo.

CRAIG FINN

"No Future"

Going solo on Clear Heart Full Eyes, the Hold Steady singer makes this garage rocker stomp.

FOO FIGHTERS

"These Days"

The second-biggest winners at the Grammys (after Adele) bring muscle and melancholy to their latest hit off Wasting Light.

TIM MCGRAW

"Better Than I Used to Be"

From Emotional Traffic, this reflective ballad is one of the best songs McGraw has ever done.

LEONARD COHEN

"Crazy to Love You"

Hard truths are dispensed via the 77-year-old's unflinchingly tough delivery on this country-style ballad from Old Ideas.

WHITNEY HOUSTON

"Greatest Love of All"

(1990 live version) Also on her debut's deluxe edition, this performance at Manhattan's Radio City Music Hall is simply majestic. Brava.

CAMPAIGN FIGHT SONGS

PRESIDENT OBAMA

The incumbent's 2012 Campaign Playlist, posted on Spotify, includes No Doubt's "Different People," Jennifer Hudson's "Love You I Do" and Al Green's "Let's Stay Together."

MITT ROMNEY

The GOP frontrunner has been pumping Kid Rock's "Born Free" but was asked to stop using K'Naan's "Wavin' Flag" and Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" by the artists.

NEWT GINGRICH

Gingrich was also forced to drop "Eye of the Tiger," but he can still rock Martina McBride's "Independence Day" and Brooks & Dunn's "Only in America."

RON PAUL

The Texas Congressman has struck up "The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme)" from Star Wars. Now that's what we call thinking out of the (ballot) box!

WHAT ABOUT RICK SANTORUM?

The former Pennsylvania senator hasn't been playing any notable music during his campaign, preferring the sounds of silence.

ARETHA FRANKLIN

Knew You Were Waiting

This compilation, subtitled The Best of Aretha Franklin 1980-1998, finds writer-producers like Luther Vandross and Lauryn Hill and duet partners like George Michael and Eurythmics joining for a regal ride along the freeway of soul.

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SINEAD O'CONNOR

How About I Be Me (and You Be You)?

It's nice to hear O'Connor back, doing what she does best, and that's not tweeting. At times-like on the upbeat single "The Wolf Is Getting Married"-she even sounds like she just might get her happily ever after.

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SLEIGH BELLS

Reign of Terror

Ever wonder what Toni Basil would sound like fronting Motley Crue? On their second set, Brooklyn's Alexis Krauss and Derek E. Miller give a thrilling simulation, spiking '80s-metal guitars with pep-rally chants and bubblegum coos. Crank it up!

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ESCORT

Escort

On their terrific debut, this 17-piece crew delivers booty-shaking, block-rocking dance music that recalls the golden age of Studio 54. Disco sucks? Not in Escort's hands.

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GAVIN DEGRAW

NOTHING IS SWEETER THAN ...

Sour-cream apple-walnut pie. It's my favorite dessert. You've got to heat it up and then go à la mode.

MY CAN'T-MISS TV SHOW IS ...

American Pickers. And I love Top Gear, the U.K. version. I'm a car junkie. I like old muscle cars. I've got this 1967 Fastback.

I LOVE WEARING HATS BECAUSE ...

It's a lot easier than trying to get your hair to look right! It might take 20 minutes to make my hair look presentable. I'll travel with a few hats at a time.

MY BIGGEST PET PEEVE IS ...

Gossip. Any gossip-it doesn't just have to be celebrity gossip.

MY FAVE HOLLYWOOD COUPLE IS ...

I still like Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith. But you know my favorite couple? Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick (inset). They're stars without acting like it.

I NEVER LEAVE HOME WITHOUT ...

The keys to my house. I have to lock the door because the world is a dangerous place, my friend.

THE LAST THING I DO AT NIGHT IS ...

I'm closing doors in my mind, thinking of things that I shouldn't say!

  • Contributors:
  • ALSO REVIEWED BY KEVIN O'DONNELL.