When Ke$ha went No. 1 with her debut single, 2009's "TiK ToK," I thought the clock would soon enough run out on her party. But her sing-rap shtick has shown surprising staying power while she has revealed more talent as a songwriter (Britney Spears's "Till the World Ends") and vocalist (a cred-boosting "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" on a Bob Dylan tribute). Warrior, Ke$ha's second full-lengther, proves that she's not a one-hit-album-plus-EP wonder. Led by the hit first single "Die Young," another party-all-night anthem, this is electro/dance-pop with a rebel-punk spirit. Letting her freak flag fly, she even rocks out with Iggy Pop on "Dirty Love." This wild child, though, also slows her roll for the sweetly affecting ballad "Wonderland," adding some real heart to the beats.
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5 FESTIVE CHRISTMAS ALBUMS!
1 CEE LO GREEN CEE LO'S MAGIC MOMENT
From "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" (featuring a cappella group Straight No Chaser) to Joni Mitchell's Christmas-themed "River," Green's sleigh ride casts a soulful, whimsical spell.
2 BLAKE SHELTON CHEERS, IT'S CHRISTMAS
Another Voice coach gets in the yuletide spirit (what, did the Grinch get to Adam and Christina?) with a stockingful of country-boy charm. Featuring four originals-including duets with Reba McEntire and his mom—this brings plenty of down-home cheer.
3 SCOTTY MCCREERY CHRISTMAS WITH SCOTTY McCREERY
It may seem a little too soon for McCreery to be doing a Christmas album, but then again he has always felt like an old soul who's been around. His traditional style plays well on classics and new tunes like "Christmas in Heaven."
4 CHRISTINA PERRI A VERY MERRY PERRI CHRISTMAS
The "Jar of Hearts" singer adds some much-needed estrogen to my holiday mix. The lovely "Something About December" is one of the season's best originals, while she also channels Karen Carpenter on "Merry Christmas Darling."
5 ROD STEWART MERRY CHRISTMAS, BABY
Given that a certain schmaltz is excused for the holidays, Stewart's crooner thing works better than usual here. But he'll never be as good at it as his "Winter Wonderland" partner Michael Buble.
1. LADY ANTEBELLUM
On This Winter's Night
Lady A sprinkles in a decent original (the fireplace-ready title tune) among this easy-listening fare, but they could still use a little something to spice up their eggnog.
2. HOLIDAYS RULE
From Paul McCartney to Fun and the Civil Wars, this eclectic set is a sparkler.
What Christmas Means
This smooth soul man jazzes up chestnuts like "Merry Christmas, Baby."
4. LAURIE BERKNER
A Laurie Berkner Christmas
Sure, everyone's a kid at Christmas, but Berkner will delight real tots.
5. A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS: 25 YEARS
The seasonal series, benefiting the Special Olympics, gets the gold for its silver-anniversary collection featuring dream-pop gems by Train and OneRepublic.
REVIEWED BY CHUCK ARNOLD, IVORY JEFF CLINTON AND JESSICA HERNDON
ON FOLLOWING HIS SOLO MUSE
Unlike Steely Dan records that I write with my partner [Walter Becker], the characters are much closer to myself on my own records. We have this pseudo-manly thing where we don't want to play our solo stuff for each other. We work together so much, it's embarrassing playing something you've done yourself. It's like, "Sorry I wrote this without you."
ON THE NEXT STEELY DAN ALBUM
We threw ideas around, but we have to come up with the perfect concept. But we're going on the road next summer, and we'll get into it again.
ON BEING LOW-TECH
I'm always writing, and I read a lot. I'm really not interested in Internet stuff. I don't have a Facebook account or an iPhone or a BlackBerry. I have a cell phone from 4,000 years ago!
"Rock N' Roll Love Affair"
Remember the days when Prince was dropping triple albums? If you miss those-like I do-it sure is good to hear him making new music. But you wish this breezy slice of soul-pop would, uh, rock more.
WILL.I.AM. & BRITNEY SPEARS
"Scream & Shout"
The Black Eyed Peas' ruler just can't seem to get that boom-boom-pow as a solo artist. "Britney, bitch" doesn't help much to bring the bang.
50 CENT FEATURING EMINEM & ADAM LEVINE
Fiddy loads up the heavy hitters for this comeback attempt. But its cool darkness is much more Em than Maroon 5.