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Picks and Pans Main: Music

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CRITIC’S CHOICE

Kanye West

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy |

HIP-HOP

Whether or not you want to invite him over for dinner, there will be no denying the brilliance of Kanye West after listening to his fifth album. An instant classic, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is mind-blowing stuff. Building upon the sampledelic sound of his earlier work after the electronica departure of 2008’s 808s & Heartbreak, it’s a dense, deep vision probing his psyche-and those demons-with thrilling twists and turns. From the tribal thump of “Power” to the sinister subversion of “Monster,” there is one highlight after another. But the album reaches Olympian heights on “All of the Lights,” with a pantheon including Rihanna, Alicia Keys, John Legend and Elton John adding to its orchestral grandeur.

Ke$ha

Cannibal |

DANCE-POP

Less of a proper album and more of an addendum to Ke$ha’s 2010 debut Animal, Cannibal will feed fans hungry for more of her electro-infused dance-pop. She’s at her best on dirty-fun tracks like “Sleazy,” the “Hollaback Girl”-esque highlight. But there is a sameness to some of these tunes, and “The Harold Song” shows she can’t rock a ballad.

Kid Rock

Born Free |

COUNTRY-ROCK

He may be known as Kid Rock, but on Born Free he can sound more like Kid Country. The erstwhile rap-rocker, who scored a Top 5 country hit with 2008’s “All Summer Long,” finds mixed results invading Nashville territory. “Collide” is a smooth merger with “Picture” partner Sheryl Crow, but “Flyin’ High,” on which Zac Brown actually talk-raps, fails to take off. Even odder is when Martina McBride and T.I. show up on “Care.” Elsewhere, on heartland rockers such as the title cut, he’s like the poor man’s John Mellencamp.

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