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After exploring old-school sounds on 2006’s Back to Basics, Christina Aguilera rockets into the future on Bionic. Rebuilding herself as an electro dance diva, she takes cues from Lady Gaga, but also M.I.A. and Santigold. The title-track blastoff and the rubbery-grooved “Elastic Love” were produced by Santigold collaborators John Hill & Switch, and while it’s a bit jarring at first to hear this natural-born belter making like a cyborg, the result is some of the most adventurous stuff she’s done. But the lyrics don’t always keep up with the beats, as evident on ego-driven cuts like “Vanity.” And the most affecting moment comes when she reteams with “Beautiful” writer Linda Perry on “Lift Me Up,” a flesh-and-blood ballad that brings out the real Xtina.
Up on the Ridge |
You know Dierks Bentley is serious about going bluegrass when he enlists the queen of the genre, Alison Krauss, to sing harmony on the title-track opener and then ropes her in again for the gracefully sketched ballad “Draw Me a Map.” But Krauss is not the only one lending real authenticity to this acoustic, rootsy love-in. The McCoury family is represented by Ronnie on mandola and mandolin, Rob on banjo and their father, Del, singing on a cover of U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love)” that also features the Punch Brothers. Meanwhile Vince Gill sits in on the plucky “Fiddlin’ Around.”
Some artists seem destined to go solo (see: Beyonce). Others, like Gym Class Heroes frontman Travie (ne Travis) McCoy, are better off in a group setting. So his solo debut piles on collaborators like T-Pain, Bruno Mars and Cee-Lo Green (on the cheery highlight “Dr. Feel Good”). Still, dude should keep his day job.
Shout It Out |
They’re still in their 20s, but damn if it doesn’t seem like the brothers Hanson-Taylor, Isaac and Zac-have been around forever. That perception can make some of the sugary pop on their fifth studio disc hard to swallow. Some of these songs seem better suited to the Jonas Brothers. Still, Shout It Out gives fans reason to scream again. Thirteen years after “MMMBop,” these boys still pack plenty of pep and melodic punch, and they get a fresh injection of soul from Funk Brothers bassist Bob Babbitt and horn arranger Jerry Hey (Earth, Wind & Fire).
DOWNLOAD THIS: “Give a Little,” a bouncy, hand-clapping ditty
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