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Picks and Pans Main: Music

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Miley Cyrus

Can’t Be Tamed |


Newly liberated from her Hannah Montana character after wrapping the final season of her Disney Channel series last month, Miley Cyrus brings a fresh defiance to Can’t Be Tamed. “Stop telling me I’m part of the big machine/ I’m breaking free, can’t you see,” she sings on “Robot,” while on another key track, “Liberty Walk,” she celebrates “saying goodbye to the people who tied you up.” Take that, Mickey Mouse. Musically, Cyrus moves away from the pop-rock of 2008’s Breakout toward the electro-infused dance-pop of Lady Gaga (the title-track single) and Ke$ha (the “TiK ToK” rewrite “Permanent December”). The result should keep the party rocking in the U.S.A.

Macy Gray

The Sellout |


You can always count on Macy Gray to bring a certain weirdness quotient to whatever she does. Her mix of strangeness and soulfulness keeps things interesting on the fifth studio album from the raspy-voiced Grammy winner last seen on Dancing with the Stars. The freak and the funk are in full effect on “Stalker,” on which Gray sounds perilously on the edge as she professes, “I am your desperate b—-” over a slinky, vaguely sinister groove. Even her taste in collaborators can be absurd, as when Bobby Brown turns up for the duet “Real Love” and is affectionately dubbed “Sexual Chocolate.”

• DOWNLOAD THIS: “Beauty in the World,” a fetching, folky ditty


Sweet and Wild |


Jewel’s defection to country on 2008’s Perfectly Clear wasn’t much of a stretch. She continues to be right at home in Nashville on her latest. Indeed, she comes off as the grown-up’s answer to Taylor Swift on such tasty country-pop confections as “I Love You Forever,” which are much more sweet than wild.

• DOWNLOAD THIS: “No Good in Goodbye,” an anti-breakup song