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Picks and Pans Main: Music

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Unapologetic |


The song that is sure to cause the most controversy on Unapologetic-Rihanna’s seventh(!) studio album in just eight years-is “Nobody’s Business,” her duet with one-time love (and current, um, close pal) Chris Brown. “Ain’t nobody’s business but mine and my baby,” she defiantly sings as they channel Michael Jackson while mixing in a bit of “The Way You Make Me Feel.” Surely some will cringe at the line “Let’s make out in this Lexus” after the beating she suffered in a car at his hands in 2009. Still, Rihanna’s “Navy” of fans should remain loyal: Although Unapologetic doesn’t offer the immediate pop pleasures of 2011’s Talk That Talk-which could have been mined for more singles before releasing this-or 2010’s Loud, it’s her deepest, most ambitious effort since 2009’s Rated R. The first single, “Diamonds,” a softly shimmering hit, sets the slower, moodier tone of the album. “Numb,” which reteams her with “Love the Way You Lie” partner Eminem, is downright dark. There’s some edgier electronica too, along with ballads that, like the nude photo on the cover, leave Rihanna more exposed.

Keyshia Cole

Woman to Woman |


Yes, she went back to being a BET reality star this fall, but that doesn’t mean Keyshia Cole has given up her day job as a recording artist. Her fifth album again finds the R&B diva speaking to the ladies on tracks like the title tune, a sister-to-sister confab with Ashanti. It beats collaborations with rappers Lil Wayne (“Enough of No Love”) and Meek Mill (“Zero”). On standout ballad “I Choose You,” though, Cole is woman enough all on her own.

Phillip Phillips

The World from the Side of the Moon |


Forget Mariah and Nicki: What the American Idol franchise really needs is for Phillip Phillips to succeed. It would provide a huge boost to the show’s credibility and relevance in launching a real artist’s career going into its 12th season. The 2012 champ’s debut largely lives up to the promise that he demonstrated while winning over the judges and voters alike. It’s led by the heartfelt “Home,” his coronation song from the finale that has become a deserved hit. Other folkified tunes, such as “Gone, Gone, Gone,” also suggest a poppier Mumford & Sons. Elsewhere, soulful, horn-infused numbers like “Get Up Get Down”-one of nine songs Phillips had a hand in writing-bring out his Dave Matthews side.