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Picks and Pans Main: Music

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One Direction

Take Me Home |


If the history of boy bands tells us anything, it’s that you’ve got to capitalize on your window of opportunity because your popularity will crash as surely as those screaming girls will grow up-and move on to Mumford & Sons. So it’s a no-brainer for One Direction to quickly turn around the follow-up to Up All Night, their hysteria-causing debut, just eight months later (longer if you go by its U.K. release). While Take Me Home works more of the guitar-pop charms that made “What Makes You Beautiful” a massive hit, the lads attempt to show some growth by putting a greater emphasis on ballads. (Hey, nothing says “serious artist” like a slow song.) There are some good ones here, including “Little Things,” a folkie beauty cowritten by Ed Sheeran, and the swaying, swoonworthy “Last First Kiss.” But ultimately all the ballads-not to mention the plodding stomper “Rock Me”-burst the bubble of tracks like the hyper-bouncy “Kiss You” and “Live While We’re Young,” the Green Day-lite single whose seize-the-moment sentiment they well should remember.

Christina Aguilera

Lotus |


There’s one track on Christina Aguilera’s new album that you should immediately and permanently skip. It’s Track 11, “Circles,” on which Xtina invites you to “spin around in circles on my middle, middle finger.” If that’s not enough to swear you off this song, I don’t know what is. Fortunately you can make your own playlist from Lotus excluding “Circles” and a few other tracks-1, 4 and 13 (the latter two feature her fellow Voice mentors Cee Lo Green and Blake Shelton, respectively)-that don’t really blossom. That still leaves a pretty good amount to enjoy from an artist whose albums have always been uneven. Ultimately the lows are redeemed by the highs, such as the defiant “Army of Me,” a sequel of sorts to “Fighter,” and the Euro-dance anthem “Let There Be Love.” Then there are two major ballads-“Sing for Me” and the even better “Blank Page”-that showcase a voice that can rise above its owner’s bouts of bad taste.

Green Day

¡Dos! |


Sadly, the launch of Green Day’s album trilogy in September was completely overshadowed by frontman Billie Joe Armstrong’s onstage meltdown and subsequent trip to rehab (where he remains, with all the band’s appearances canceled through February). Hopefully ¡Dos! will get more of the attention that ¡Uno! deserved. If anything, ¡Dos! is even better. More melodic than its predecessor, it picks up where ¡Uno! left off: the power pop of “Oh Love.” The trio’s tunefulness extends from the breezy harmonies of “Wild One” to the Motown bounce of “Stray Heart.” Bring on ¡Tré! Dec. 11!