Justin Bieber

Believe |

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POP

Sure, he's already got his Beliebers, but Justin Bieber is on a mission to convince the unconverted that he's the real deal on his new album. To that end, he takes a page from another Justin-Timberlake-who went from teen-pop heartthrob with 'N Sync to grown-up artist in his solo career by adding elements of R&B and hip-hop. While the transformation isn't complete for Bieber at just 18, he smoothly makes some similar strides into manhood. On "Boyfriend," the hypnotic hit first single, he's a rhyme-busting B-boy who is equal parts swagger and sweetness. He leaves the rapping to Nicki Minaj, Big Sean and "Baby" collaborator Ludacris on some electro-infused tracks, while Drake makes the perfect partner in croon on "Right Here," a hot summer slow jam. Before Believe loses steam in its final third, the newly pompadoured singer works his old-fashioned charms on a couple of cuts that nod to Michael Jackson, best of which is the MJ-sampling "Die in Your Arms." The deluxe edition also features the "Billie Jean"-esque "Maria," about the woman who falsely claimed to be Bieber's baby mama.

Fiona Apple

The Idler Wheel ... |

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ALT-POP

The full title of Fiona Apple's first album since 2005 is-take a deep breath-The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do. Of course, this isn't the first time the singer-pianist has tried our patience with a long-winded title. (Remember 1999's When the Pawn ... 90-word epic?) But Apple once again rewards the dedicated listener, as The Idler Wheel gets deeper under your skin with each spin. I mean, how many artists can go from a quiet lullaby to a warrior chant in one song ("Every Single Night") and then from sultry torch singing to a chorale in another tune ("Hot Knife")? Be glad she's idle no longer.

Kenny Chesney

Welcome to the Fishbowl

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COUNTRY-POP

You have to wait until track 8 of Kenny Chesney's new album for that defining moment that grips your heartstrings. It comes with "While He Still Knows Who I Am," a poignant ballad about a son reconnecting with a father who has Alzheimer's: "This time I'm gonna kiss him/ Instead of just shaking hands/ Gonna tell him that I love him/ While he still knows who I am." Handled with understated grace by Chesney, it's enough to make the toughest cowboy cry. You can't help but wish for more special stuff like this from the country star. The rest of Fishbowl, though, is solid but unspectacular. At least songs like the breezy "Time Flies" will freshen up his set list on tour this summer.

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BOBBY WOMACK

YOU WERE GIVEN THE ALL-CLEAR FOR COLON CANCER IN MAY.

I'm starting to recover. I've also had prostate cancer, collapsed lungs, two cases of walking pneumonia, and I'd already been a diabetic. And I was in a coma for 10 days. The doctor had gotten to a point that he thought I wasn't gonna make it. It's a miracle.

THAT GIVES SPECIAL MEANING TO THE NAME OF YOUR NEW ALBUM, THE BRAVEST MAN IN THE UNIVERSE.

I cut that [title] song with Isaac Hayes 30 years ago! But it didn't have that meaning then.

YOU'VE WORKED WITH THE LIKES OF ARETHA FRANKLIN, SAM COOKE AND SLY STONE. WHAT ARE YOUR FONDEST MEMORIES?

Seeing Janis Joplin perform was magical. She sat in a Mercedes I had just bought and came up with "Mercedes Benz." She had a straw hat with fruit in it. Real fruit!

WHITNEY'S LAST RECORDINGS

Setting the stage for Sparkle-the musical film that Whitney Houston wrapped three months before her death-the two soundtrack cuts featuring the pop diva have been released. "Celebrate"

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is an upbeat, uptempo duet with Jordin Sparks, who plays Houston's daughter and shares a vocal resemblance on the track. Produced by R. Kelly, it serves to rejoice in Houston's life. "His Eye Is on the Sparrow"

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, the gospel hymn, requires more of Houston as a solo number, and her diminished voice fails to truly soar. Still, as she bravely sings on, it's a moving farewell.