Tim McGraw

Two Lanes of Freedom |

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COUNTRY

Tim McGraw's 12th studio album, Two Lanes of Freedom, marks his debut for Big Machine Records after a bitter exit from his previous label. One perk: The label's biggest star, Taylor Swift, lends her vocals on "Highway Don't Care," a smooth-cruising ride also featuring Keith Urban on guitar. (Swift's assist is an especially nice twist, given that her 2006 debut single was, yes, "Tim McGraw.") The rest of Two Lanes takes few unexpected turns on its consistently entertaining course. Since McGraw didn't write a lick of this, it's a testament to his strengths as a producer (alongside longtime collaborator Byron Gallimore) and as a performer who makes you believe he's lived each of these tunes, inhabiting them with his own personality. Highlights include the prison tale "Number 37405," the soulful "Let Me Love It Out of You" (only on the deluxe version) and "Nashville Without You," a tender ballad that shows that Music City without McGraw just wouldn't be the same.

COMMENTS? WRITE TO CHUCK: chucksreviews@peoplemag.com

VALENTINE'S DAY SPECIALS!

Looking for the perfect mood music for V-Day? Check out these Cupid-sent compilations from Destiny's Child and Billy Joel. DC's Love Songs packs harmony-kissed slow jams (including the new track "Nuclear") that will have your honey saying your name. Even better is She's Got a Way: Love Songs, on which a balladeering Joel shows that the surest way to someone's heart just might go through his piano.

BILLY JOEL:

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DESTINY'S CHILD:

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JOSH GROBAN

All That Echoes

Despite working with Green Day producer Rob Cavallo, Groban doesn't exactly rock out. Alas, none of this is as fun as his singing Kanye West's tweets on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

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ANDREA BOCELLI

Passione

The latest from another popera singer lacks real heat-and gets an automatic deduction for one of the most mismatched duets ever: "Quizas, Quizas, Quizas" with Jennifer Lopez.

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HOLLY WILLIAMS

The Highway

It may still be early in 2013, but this-another finely crafted and calibrated collection from Hank Jr.'s daughter-is sure to go down as one of the year's best country albums.

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JIM JAMES

Regions of Light and Sound of God

On his solo debut, the My Morning Jacket frontman takes you into some trippy territory. Close your eyes and let yourself float through these dreamscapes.

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SO WHAT'S THE STORY BEHIND NO FAIRY TALE?

I worked with [New Found Glory's] Chad Gilbert and collaborated with Tegan and Sara, which was great because I'm a huge fan of theirs. They inspire me to write.

"STAY (I MISSED YOU)" WAS A NO. 1 HIT ON THE REALITY BITES SOUNDTRACK IN 1994. WHAT'S IT LIKE PERFORMING IT AFTER ALL THESE YEARS?

I think I enjoy it more. There's an excitement about that time, and it brings back memories. I even remember what I had for lunch.

WHAT DO YOUR TWO DAUGHTERS LISTEN TO?

My oldest is 3, and she loves the Foo Fighters and Led Zeppelin. She's learning to get the Led out!

-CARLOS GREER

1. STEVIE WONDER

Songs in the Key of Life (1976)

He'd already won Album of the Year twice ('73's Innervisions, '74's Fulfillingness' First Finale), but Wonder's double disc was a life-changer.

KEY TRACKS

"Love's in Need of Love Today," "I Wish"

2. U2

The Joshua Tree (1987)

The Irish rockers, who also triumphed for 2004's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, found spiritual transcendence.

KEY TRACKS

"With or Without You," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"

3. MICHAEL JACKSON

Thriller (1982)

Although I'm partial toward 1979's Off the Wall, this is the undisputed champ of all pop blockbusters.

KEY TRACKS

"Billie Jean," "Beat It"

4. LAURYN HILL

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)

The '90s weren't great for Album of the Year winners, but in brilliantly fusing R&B and hip-hop, Hill schooled 'em.

KEY TRACKS

"Doo Wop (That Thing)"

5. ADELE

21 (2011)

With soul beyond her years on a cathartic breakup album, she achieved something timeless.

KEY TRACKS

"Rolling in the Deep," "Someone Like You"

IT'S YOUR TURN!

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CATCH THE 55TH ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARDS

SUNDAY, FEB. 10, 8 P.M. EST ON CBS

RECORD OF THE YEAR

• The Black Keys, "Lonely Boy"

• Kelly Clarkson, "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)"

• Fun featuring Janelle Monae, "We Are Young"

• Gotye featuring Kimbra, "Somebody That I Used to Know"

• Frank Ocean, "Thinkin Bout You"

• Taylor Swift, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together"

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

• The Black Keys, El Camino

• Fun, Some Nights

• Mumford & Sons, Babel

• Frank Ocean, Channel Orange

• Jack White, Blunderbuss

SONG OF THE YEAR

• Kelly Clarkson, "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)"

• Fun featuring Janelle Monae, "We Are Young"

• Carly Rae Jepsen, "Call Me Maybe"

• Miguel, "Adorn"

• Ed Sheeran, "The A Team"

BEST NEW ARTIST

• Alabama Shakes

• Fun

• Hunter Hayes

• The Lumineers

• Frank Ocean

BEST ROCK PERFORMANCE

• Alabama Shakes, "Hold On"

• The Black Keys, "Lonely Boy"

• Coldplay, "Charlie Brown"

• Mumford & Sons, "I Will Wait"

• Bruce Springsteen, "We Take Care of Our Own"

BEST POP VOCAL ALBUM

• Kelly Clarkson, Stronger

• Florence + the Machine, Ceremonials

• Fun, Some Nights

• Maroon 5, Overexposed

• Pink, The Truth About Love

BEST COUNTRY ALBUM

• Zac Brown Band, Uncaged

• Hunter Hayes, Hunter Hayes

• Jamey Johnson, Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran

• Miranda Lambert, Four the Record

• The Time Jumpers, The Time Jumpers

BEST R&B SONG

• Anthony Hamilton, "Pray for Me"

• Miguel, "Adorn"

• Trey Songz, "Heart Attack"

• Tamia, "Beautiful Surprise"

• Elle Varner, "Refill"

BEST RAP ALBUM

• Drake, Take Care

• Lupe Fiasco, Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1

• Nas, Life Is Good

• The Roots, Undun

• Rick Ross, God Forgives, I Don't

• 2 Chainz, Based on a T.R.U. Story