PHOTO COURTESY DEF JAM
There’s a time and a place to drag your -ss off off uTorrent and buy one of those round shiny things called a CD, and it’s this Friday, when Black Friday sales will surely render them wallet friendly. It’s also a time to shop for moms and sisters, which means you might even need to stop pretending you don’t know who Adam Lambert is. Here are a few suggestions:
Mom-friendly releases: I’m going out on a limb here and assuming your mom might be something like mine. If so, that means she records "Glee" on Wednesdays and spends plenty of evenings in front of "American Idol." "Glee," if you’ve never seen it, is an ingenious cash cow of a show that takes America’s love of watching a melee of misfits and pretty people belt out fairly unoriginal covers and mixes it with those almost obsolete storytelling devices called a plot and a script. Naturally, moms tend to find these covers addictive, and a copy of the "Glee" soundtrack will surely make her glad she you bought you a (insert present here … iPhone?). Adam Lambert didn’t win "American Idol" last season (instead it was Freddie Prinze Jr. look-alike Chris Allen), but he earned plenty of fans with his transgender pride and glitzy performances. His album, "For Your Entertainment," features an almost unbelievable set of contributing songwriters, from Lady Gaga to Pink to Rivers Cuomo to The Darkness’ Justin Hawkins to Linda Perry (plus "Idol’s" own Kara DioGuardi – yawn). It’s definitely going to end up in my mom’s stocking, if she doesn’t buy it for herself first.
CDs that everyone who tolerates KDWB will care about:
Lady Gaga’s "The Fame Monster" was originally going to be a reissue of her first album with an additional eight tracks, but her label decided to release the set as a stand-alone as well. While John Sand plans to write a full review of the album, I can report that singles "Bad Romance" and "Telephone (feat. Beyonce)" are top-notch, but the real standout is the closer "Teeth," with a repeating tribal loop that provides a background that Gaga’s fairly standard voice cannot camouflage against, making her synthetic pop sound ultra-confident.
Shakira’s "She Wolf" (or "Loba" in Spanish) is one of the better Shakira releases since the once barefoot Columbian songstress dyed her hair blonde and started showing up in the form of a cardboard life-size Pepsi ad in the United States. The lines between selling out and expanding creatively are just as muddled for Shakira as the line between feminism and sexual exploitation, and both are rampant on "She Wolf." In an interview with Rolling Stone, she pointed out that she didn’t exercise many traditional Spanish or Arabic sound influences until playing in the U.S. (an attempt to show cultural heritage, or a marketing ploy to rationalize her to American audiences, or maybe both?) and that she saw her "She Wolf" video as an attempt to show feminine sexual power until she showed it to her mom, who was fairly disgusted by it. However you see it, tracks like "Años Luz" and "Gypsy" feature her voice in control of her somewhat nasal range while telling characteristic tales over backgrounds that managed to avoid being overproduced. A disappointment on the album is her collaboration with Wyclef Jean, with a strange vocal funk beat that never picks up the catchiness of their former collaboration, "Hips Don’t Lie."
Rihanna’s "Rated R" will inevitably captivate audiences in the wake of her shocking violent relationship with Chris Brown. This peek into her personal life made songs like "S.O.S." seem urgently sincere rather than fabricated in the line of command of any other pop record. "Rated R," is an album with men all over it, from the frequent presence of Ne-Yo’s production and songwriting to a Justin Timberlake contribution and a track produced by Will.i.am. So far, The New York Times and Rolling Stone have both reviewed the album favorably, although I have to confess I’m more interested in her public story than her singing voice.