Kenny Chesney

Life on a Rock |

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COUNTRY

Just 10 minutes into his latest album, Kenny Chesney teams with reggae royalty the Wailers and singer-songwriter Elan for a feel-good island groove titled "Spread the Love." This fusion shouldn't come as a surprise—the country star spends much of his time in the Caribbean—but his attempt to channel Bob Marley comes off as silly. That track aside, Chesney's 14th studio album is his quietest and most introspective one yet. While there are a few up-tempo, stadium rockers ("Pirate Flag," "When I See This Bar"), it's the softer tunes that are most captivating. "Must Be Something I Missed" is a jazzy groove with steel pan drums. And on the breezy ballad "Coconut Tree," a duet with Willie Nelson, he muses, "If I had my way, hey, I'd always be way up high in a coconut tree." Escape is a big lyrical theme on Life on a Rock, but based on this charming album, let's hope it's not something he's contemplating in real life.

LL Cool J

Authentic

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RAP

Since becoming one of rap's pioneering voices in the '80s, LL Cool J has proven to be a triple threat: He acts, he writes, he thwarts robberies! But his best role is as a rhyme slayer. On his 14th album, he mixes old-school hip-hop ("New Love") with rave-ready beats ("Not Leaving You Tonight"). Though his collab with Brad Paisley ("Live for You") is a misstep, guest spots by Seal, Chuck D and Eddie Van Halen make the rest of Authentic feel like a rowdy A-List house party.

—K.O.

COMMENTS? WRITE TO CHUCK: chucksreviews@peoplemag.com

JANELLE MONAE & ERYKAH BADU "Q.U.E.E.N."

On the first single from Monáe's forthcoming album, these dynamic divas free associate over a funked-out, Prince-lite jam.

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DAFT PUNK

"Get Lucky" Believe the hype: On their comeback single, the French duo deliver a dizzying disco odyssey featuring Pharrell and Chic's Nile Rodgers. Easily one of the hottest dance tracks of 2013.

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LANA DEL REY

"Young and Beautiful" The singer gets borderline hysterical about a lover's waning affection in this overblown track from the Great Gatsby soundtrack. Rolling timpanis and sappy strings add to the cheesy melodrama.

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JASON DERULO

"The Other Side" The R&B singer bounces back from his scary neck injury with a life-affirming electro anthem to good times.

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—K.O.

You performed at the 2012 Olympics. Highlights?

I was so nervous before I went on that I forgot the words and had to look them up. Somehow it came back to me when I reached the mic. I was euphoric!

You studied neuroscience. Ever miss medical school?

When I watch House, memories will come back to me, and I'll be like, "I want to go back."

Your first name is actually Adele. Does anyone still call you that?

My mom and dad. After my single was released in the U.K., I got a tweet from Adele. That was a massive deal for me. She's amazing.

Who's offered the best advice?

I performed at Elton John's Oscar party, and he said, "Tour, hustle and write." He was so supportive. I was completely starstruck!

SNOOP LION

Reincarnation

The rapper— who dropped the Dogg—crafts groovy, heavy-horn reggae songs about his third eye and birds in the sky. Miley Cyrus, who guests on the smooth, emotional standout "Ashtrays & Heartbreaks," reinforces the lovefest.

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JESSICA SANCHEZ

Me, You & the Music

From club-ready jams to fervid ballads, American Idol's season 11 runner-up makes prime use of her serious pipes. She's sauciest on "Don't Come Around," which she delivers with Rihanna-esque swagger.

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JOHN MEDESKI

A Different Time

This New Yorker is best known as a member of the jam band Medeski, Martin and Wood. But on this solo outing, the keyboard virtuoso crafts stunning jazz and classical piano odes—with a sweet, lyrical style that evokes George Gershwin.

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KURT VILE

Wakin on a Pretty Daze

This freewheeling singer-songwriter creates '60s-influenced rock reveries, which he croons in a loose Neil Young-style drawl. Sprawling cuts like "Was All Talk" and "Too Hard" offer a blissed-out trip down the rabbit hole.

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—REVIEWED BY J.H. & K.O

STEVE MARTIN & EDIE BRICKELL

You've teamed up on a new album. How did you become pals?

BRICKELL: We met through Paul [Simon, Edie's husband] years ago. I was super shy around Steve because I've always loved him.

Did you both grow up listening to folk and bluegrass music?

BRICKELL: No, but it reminds me of growing up in Texas, listening to relatives sitting on the porch sharing stories. They're long gone, so it's a thrill to have that sense of home again.

MARTIN: I was 16 when folk music started happening, so I learned the banjo by listening to Earl Scruggs records. I'd sit in a car because it's awful to hear someone practicing the banjo!

Are fans of your comedy surprised to know you're a banjo pro, Steve?

MARTIN: They strangely know, and I don't know why!

BRICKELL: Steve doesn't realize how many people like him, I think.

You start a tour in May.

MARTIN: Edie has brought a little class to the tour bus. Before, my band and I used to drink at night and play music. Now we're illustrating Dante's Inferno with gold leaf.

BRICKELL: My kids think this is the most exciting thing I've ever done!

Any chance Paul Simon will join?

MARTIN: He'd have to prove himself [musically] first.

BRICKELL: Exactly.

—K.O.