Chuck Arnold
November 18, 2013 12:00 PM

Eminem

The Marshall Mathers LP 2 |

RAP

Jay Z has three Blueprint albums and Lil Wayne has four Carter ones, and now Eminem makes his first sequel with the follow-up installment to his 2000 blockbuster. “Here’s a sequel to my Mathers LP just to try to get people to buy,” spits the rapper born Marshall Mathers, conceding the commercial benefits in the opening minutes. Like most sequels, though, this one can’t beat the original. It’s an uneven effort, sometimes wildly so, hitting its low with Em singing on the cringeworthy ballad “Stronger Than I Was.” But proving he’s still a “Rap God” in his 40s, the highs are high enough to make you stick out—or just skip over—the forgettable moments. Among the top tracks are three collaborations: “Love Game” with Kendrick Lamar, “Headlights” featuring Fun’s Nate Ruess and the Rihanna-assisted “The Monster,” which recaptures some of their “Love the Way You Lie” magic.

Avril Lavigne

Avril Lavigne |

POP-ROCK

Avril Lavigne may have found marital bliss this year with Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger, but she sets out to let you know she hasn’t lost her rebel edge on her latest. First there’s all that black eyeliner she’s rocking goth-style on the album cover. Then there’s the opening track, “Rock N Roll,” a stomping, guitar-crunching anthem on which she does her rowdy best to prove she’s still punk: “What if you and I/ Just put up a middle finger to the sky.” On the equally catchy next cut, “Here’s to Never Growing Up,” Lavigne lets her inner brat come out and play: “They say ‘just grow up’/ But they don’t know us/ We don’t give a f—.” Later she ventures over to the dark side with Marilyn Manson on “Bad Girl,” a flirtation with death metal. But Lavigne feels lost at times on her fifth album: She makes a lame attempt to pull a Ke$ha with the pseudo-rapping and electro-dance of “Hello Kitty,” while offering a tepid try at torchy sultriness on “Give You What You Like.” She fares better on “Let Me Go,” a power ballad featuring new hubby Kroeger, who cowrote this and seven other tunes. She may not be in the market for a “Sk8er Boi” anymore, but Lavigne can still deliver good pop-rock songs.

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