By Chuck Arnold Lesley Messer Jessica Herndon
November 16, 2009 12:00 PM

Bon Jovi

The Circle |


On their last album, 2007’s Lost Highway, Bon Jovi veered off the Jersey-rock turnpike, taking a detour into country terrain. While they didn’t exactly shake up Nashville, it was nice to hear them shake up their style. The Circle, solid if unsurprising, returns the hair-metal survivors to well-teased territory. Indeed, there is a sense of déjà vu throughout, with tracks like the recession-ready “Work for the Working Man”—its bass line ripped straight from “Livin’ on a Prayer”—reminding you of a better earlier one from the band. But arena anthems like “We Weren’t Born to Follow” still pack fist-pumping punch. Best, though, is the nostalgic ballad “When We Were Beautiful,” on which Bon Jovi’s sound is as well-preserved as their leader’s looks.

Julian Casablancas

Phrazes for the Young |


Playing catch-up with Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond, Jr., frontman Julian Casablancas delivers his solo debut. He forgoes his band’s garage rock for pop charms from the ’60s (the psychedelic-tinged “11th Dimension”) to the ’80s (the synthy “Left & Right in the Dark”).

DOWNLOAD THIS: “Out of the Blue,” the shimmying opener

Robbie Williams

Reality Killed the Video Star |


Robbie Williams has always owed a debt to George Michael, another Brit pop star who got his start in a boy band. This more sophisticated follow-up to 2006’s Rudebox—a CD that was never released in the States—evokes Michael’s Older and Patience on lush, atmospheric ballads (“Deceptacon”) and midtempo grooves (“Starstruck”). Williams also nods to other Brits, from Pet Shop Boys and Elton John to the Beatles. But the cheekiness he brings to “Bodies,” the funky-strutting single, is all this bloke’s own.

Melanie Fiona

The Bridge |


It’s fitting that this newcomer is signed to Universal Motown. She channels the Supremes on “Monday Morning,” which recalls “My World Is Empty Without You,” and samples Martha & the Vandellas’ “Jimmy Mack” on “Please Don’t Go (Cry Baby).” Call her a one-woman girl group.

DOWNLOAD THIS: “It Kills Me,” a Jazmine Sullivan-esque ballad