By Kevin O'Donnell and Jessica Herndon
Updated May 13, 2013 12:00 PM

Kenny Chesney

Life on a Rock |


Just 10 minutes into his latest album, Kenny Chesney teams with reggae royalty the Wailers and singer-songwriter Elan for a feel-good island groove titled “Spread the Love.” This fusion shouldn’t come as a surprise—the country star spends much of his time in the Caribbean—but his attempt to channel Bob Marley comes off as silly. That track aside, Chesney’s 14th studio album is his quietest and most introspective one yet. While there are a few up-tempo, stadium rockers (“Pirate Flag,” “When I See This Bar”), it’s the softer tunes that are most captivating. “Must Be Something I Missed” is a jazzy groove with steel pan drums. And on the breezy ballad “Coconut Tree,” a duet with Willie Nelson, he muses, “If I had my way, hey, I’d always be way up high in a coconut tree.” Escape is a big lyrical theme on Life on a Rock, but based on this charming album, let’s hope it’s not something he’s contemplating in real life.

LL Cool J



Since becoming one of rap’s pioneering voices in the ’80s, LL Cool J has proven to be a triple threat: He acts, he writes, he thwarts robberies! But his best role is as a rhyme slayer. On his 14th album, he mixes old-school hip-hop (“New Love”) with rave-ready beats (“Not Leaving You Tonight”). Though his collab with Brad Paisley (“Live for You”) is a misstep, guest spots by Seal, Chuck D and Eddie Van Halen make the rest of Authentic feel like a rowdy A-List house party.