On her 2000 debut, Can't Take Me Home, Pink was an R&B-pop diva who came off as a white member of TLC. On her quadruple-platinum sophomore CD, 2001's excellent M!ssundaztood, she transformed herself into an introspective pop-rocker, the anti-Britney. Her third disc, Try This, reveals yet another shade of Pink: the rowdy head-banger. (Think of a cross between Courtney Love and Pat Benatar.) Teaming up with Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong, who produced, cowrote and plays guitar on nine of 14 tracks, Pink convincingly cranks out uptempo rockers that are made for moshing, like the ripping first single, "Trouble." On cuts such as "Tonight's the Night," one of several songs with a poppy retro-'60s feel, Pink displays a bluesy rasp that adds a rock rawness to her voice. She also shows off her gutsier vocals on the R&B ballad "Catch Me While I'm Sleeping," which sounds like an old Teena Marie slow jam. A few routine numbers and less insightful lyrics make this disc fall short of M!ssundaztood. But you've got to give Pink credit for once again trying something new.
Rock N Roll
He used to be a little bit country, but now he is a lot more rock and roll. On his fourth solo effort, the former front-man of Whiskeytown trades brooding alt-country for bracing garage rock that out-Strokes the Strokes. Indeed, the melancholy title track is, ironically, the disc's only real ballad. "Everybody's cool playing rock and roll/ I don't feel cool at all," intones Adams. But cool he is, bringing to mind a younger Paul Westerberg on rough-edged rockers like "Note to Self: Don't Die," which Adams cowrote with his girlfriend, actress Parker Posey, who also supplies background vocals. Although it lacks the melodic luster of his 2001 gem Gold (there's nothing here that the Corrs could cover as they did with "When the Stars Go Blue"), the CD shows that the singer-songwriter has the biting guitar riffs to match his cutting lyrics: "I used to be sad/ Now I'm just bored with you," he sings on the bitter breakup song "Burning Photographs." Adams hasn't completely forgotten his country-rock roots, though. The yearning "Anybody Wanna Take Me Home" shows that he still remembers exactly where he came from.
The Preacher's Son
"Sometimes when I dream, that's when I wake up/ I kinda hope that the Fugees didn't break-up," raps Jean on "Industry." The Fugees may be no more, but Jean clearly still thrives in groups. On his fourth disc, the singer-rapper-guitarist, who grew up the son of a minister, brings in guest artists for 12 of 15 songs. Jean's all-star posse includes Missy Elliott, Monica, Patti LaBelle, Carlos Santana and U2's the Edge, among others, and the results are just as eclectic, incorporating hip-hop, pop-soul, Latin, Middle Eastern and old-school R&B sounds. But it is on reggae numbers like the sexy-smooth "I Am Your Doctor," featuring dance-hall star Wayne Wonder, that the Haitian-born Jean is at his Caribbean-flavored best.
And the Crowd Goes Wild
On his ingratiating sixth disc Wills for the most part kisses his trademark romantic ballads goodbye and picks up the great Nashville tradition of story songs. The singer even recruits that master of narrative Ronnie Milsap for a duet on the memorable truck-driving number "Prisoner of the Highway," on which their voices blend perfectly. The gently rocking "Suntan," though, demonstrates that Wills can still be a country Casanova.
Too Hot for T.V.
Bad Boy's Da Band
The good news is that this disc easily beats either album by that other Making the Band group, O-Town. The bad news is that this sextet, handpicked by Sean "P. Diddy" Combs on the MTV reality show, still makes a lukewarm debut. While the idea of a coed collective featuring five rappers and one singer (the Beyoncé wannabe Sara Stokes) has promise, none of them stands out enough to make things truly interesting without the behind-the-scenes drama. At least P. Diddy contributes some funky beats on "Bad Boy This Bad Boy That."