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Picks and Pans Main: Music

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Music from Another Dimension |


Steven Tyler knew what he was doing leaving American Idol when he did. Turns out he had a badass Aerosmith album-their first of all new material since 2001’s Just Push Play-which deserved all his focus and energy (much the better to conserve at 64). Forget that solo single he put out last year-the utterly forgettable “(It) Feels So Good”-which seemed to hint that Idol might have killed his rock-star mojo. “I’m a caching lover, I’m the cat’s meow/ I ain’t gonna stop, not never no how,” he sings on “Luv XXX,” the sledgehammer opener that suggests this old-timer can still “love three times a day.” (You stud, Steven.) There are more hot sleaze rockers on Music from Another Dimension-a play on the old sci-fi shows, down to the spooky spoken intro-including the funky-strutting “Out Go the Lights” and the blistering, metallic “Lover Alot.” The latter is one of many tracks that give Joe Perry a chance to play guitar hero (which helps make up for his two songs singing lead). Even on ballads like the blues-streaked “Closer” and the country-tinged “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You”-a duet with Carrie Underwood!-these dudes don’t show any signs of slowing down.


R.E.D. |


Ne-Yo’s fifth album, R.E.D. (not to be confused with Taylor Swift’s Red, this stands for Realizing Every Dream), is his first for the legendary Motown label where he is now a senior VP. While his sound isn’t especially reminiscent of the heyday of Hitsville U.S.A.-he’s more Michael Jackson: the solo years-his crossover spirit is. On R.E.D. he smoothly breaks music and, indeed, color boundaries without disturbing his perfectly cocked fedora. He goes from sexy slow jams (“Lazy Love”) and hip-hop bouncers (“Don’t Make Em Like You” with Wiz Khalifa) to country-pop ballads (“She Is,” a surprisingly well-matched duet with Tim McGraw). The heart of it, though, consists of soulful, sumptuous midtempos like “Cracks in Mr. Perfect” and such Euro-dance tracks as the euphoric hit “Let Me Love You (Until You Learn to Love Yourself).” Because of his strengths as a songwriter—lyrically and melodically—there’s a cohesiveness that still makes it all sound like Ne-Yo.