Trey Songz

Chapter V |

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R&B

While Usher, Ne-Yo and Chris Brown have been playing the field with pop and dance, Trey Songz has remained faithful to R&B-and the legion of female fans he has amassed from the genre. After the hit-making moves of 2009's Ready and 2010's Passion, Pain & Pleasure, he continues to demonstrate why he is one of the biggest soul studs today on Chapter V, his fifth album. The playbook is straight from the R. Kelly school: Salacious slow jams ("Panty Wetter") are balanced by sensitive ballads ("Heart Attack"), with slick hip-hop bouncers ("2 Reasons" featuring T.I.) keeping up the street cred. It's a familiar formula for Songz, but one that has staying power for most of 71 minutes. Back-to-back highlights "Pretty Girl's Lie" and "Bad Decisions" find him equally adept at playing the victim and the (rueful) wrongdoer, respectively. He only really falters toward the end, when he flirts with pop on two love songs that don't feel true to his heart.

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THE 5 BEST COUNTRY ARTISTS NOW!

1 MIRANDA LAMBERT

Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood are the glamour girls of country, but Lambert packs true grit-and real heat-in both solo work (like latest single "Fastest Girl in Town") and her side gig Pistol Annies.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS

"The House That Built Me," "Baggage Claim"

2 ERIC CHURCH

An old-school outlaw with a new-school swagger, Church proves that country singers can be rock stars too. On Chief, his excellent latest, he's a badass in full command.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS

"Springsteen," "I'm Gettin' Stoned"

3 JOSH TURNER

As if it weren't enough to have this summer's best country collection (Punching Bag), Turner-a traditional troubadour with a barrel-deep baritone-is now releasing a live album.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS

"Why Don't We Just Dance," "Pallbearer"

4 THE CIVIL WARS

While many Nashville acts straddle the fence between country and pop, this fresh duo make country and folk coexist in sweet harmony, winning Grammys in both genres this year.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS

"Barton Hollow," "I've Got This Friend"

5. DIERKS BENTLEY

He can do bluegrass (2010's Up on the Ridge) or more radio-friendly fare (this year's Home and a new EP, Country & Cold Cans) without missing a foot-stomping beat.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS

"Draw Me a Map," "5-1-5-0"

TAYLOR SWIFT

"We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together"

There's nothing country about this, another jab at a Swift ex. Instead, with producer Max Martin on a preview of this fall's Red, she unleashes her inner Avril with bratty glee.

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ELLIE GOULDING

"Anything Could Happen"

Hot off the success of "Lights," the Brit has every reason to be optimistic, skipping along this track like Bjork on happy pills.

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THE XX

"CHAINED"

This song may not immediately have you hooked, but the subtle pleasures of these dreamy atmospherics may just sneak up and put you in a trip-hop trance.

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OWL CITY

The Midsummer Station

Adam Young's outfit seemed bound to be a one-hit wonder with 2009's "Fireflies." But "Good Time" (with Carly Rae Jepsen) has prevented that fate, and there's more fizzy electro-pop here.

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PLAN B

ill Manors

After crooning on much of The Defamation of Strickland Banks, one of last year's best albums, this British b-boy relies on rapping here. Still, there is plenty of heart and soul in his hip-hop.

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BLOC PARTY

Four

At times on their fourth studio album, these alt-rockers muster up some head-banging bluster. They're better off, though, channeling the Cure on tracks that would make Robert Smith smile.

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JESSE HARRIS

Sub Rosa

The singer-songwriter expands his folk-pop scope to include the sounds of Brazil and its musicians. Also in the elegant mix: Conor Oberst and longtime collaborator Norah Jones.

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