Chuck Arnold and Carlos Greer
October 18, 2010 12:00 PM

Bruno Mars

Doo-Wops & Hooligans |

BREAKOUT ARTIST

POP

Before his debut album, Bruno Mars was already a major part of two big hits this year, cowriting and crooning on “Nothin’ on You” (with B.o.B) and “Billionaire” (with Travie McCoy). Then last month he took his solo single “Just the Way You Are” all the way to No. 1. The song (no, not a remake of the Billy Joel ballad) is pure pop bliss, a swoonworthy sequel to “Nothin’ on You.” Mars also displays a knack for old-fashioned romance on the charming, chiming “Marry You,” on which he comes off as the modern-day answer to a ’50s doo-wop idol. However, his sweet but limited voice can’t always keep up with the range of styles here, from R&B and reggae to surf rock and psychedelic pop.

Seal

Seal 6: Commitment |

POP

If there’s anyone who should be happy about Seal’s sixth album of original material, it’s Heidi Klum. Songs like “All for Love,” “You Get Me” and the hip-swaying highlight “Best of Me” are practically dripping with devotion to his wife of five years. “I belong to you, and you belong to me,” he sings on the intimate ballad “Secret,” which plays like an open love letter set to strings and acoustic guitar. Yes, things can get a little too mushy at times-and David Foster’s lush production certainly turns up the schmaltz factor-but Seal invests it all with such soulful earnestness that you can’t really begrudge him.

KT Tunstall

Tiger Suit |

CRITIC’S CHOICE

FOLK-POP

“Still a weirdo after all these years,” sings KT Tunstall on her third studio album. But it’s her quirkiness that made 2006’s “Black Horse & the Cherry Tree” a Grammy-nominated hit for the Scottish singer-songwriter. She continues to embrace her inner freak here, whether with the Bjork-like background vocals of “Uummannaq Song,” the whistling whimsy of “Glamour Puss” or the glockenspiel giddiness of “Fade Like a Shadow.” Elsewhere she comes closest to matching the funky folk-pop of “Black Horse” on “Come On, Get In,” while the tortured ballad “Lost” shows that this tiger can purr as well as bite.

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