OUR TOP PICK
Legendary soul singer Bobby Womack joins a long line of older musicians rediscovered by the younger generation, including Bettye LaVette, Candi Staton and the late Gil-Scott Heron. Womack’s endlessly thrilling comeback album The Bravest Man in the Universe (XL) is especially poignant in light of the news at the beginning of 2013 that he may be “in the early stages of Alzherimer’s.” An unquestionably modern recording, full of beats and synths, all put to good use on the title cut, “Please Forgive My Heart,” the Lana Del Rey duet “Dayglo Reflection,” the breathtaking “Stupid,” and the club-ready “Love Is Gonna Lift You Up.” The recording also respects Womack’s roots, a mark of bravery.
YOUR NEW FAVORITE ALBUM
Bruno Mars had his work cut out for him when it came to creating the follow-up to his insanely popular debut album Doo-Wops & Hooligans. On the surface, Unorthodox Jukebox (Atlantic) pushes the right buttons. “Locked Out of Heaven,” for example is a foot-stomping, fist-thrusting piece of pop-soul. If you skip the “sexy MF” intro to “Treasure,” you get to hear Mars do his best vintage Prince impression. Mars wails in repentance on the romantic ballad “When I Was Your Man,” blows in on a seductive island breeze on “Show Me” and pulls out the stops on the retro soul song “If I Knew.”
Miguel is igniting his fanbase with his stellar second album Kaleidoscope Dream (RCA), made even more remarkable by the fact that there is no trace of ubiquitous producer names such as Pharrell Williams or Kanye West. Miguel is his own man, but he’s not too proud to tip his hat to his influences as he does on “Adorn” (the incomparable Gaye) and “Candles In The Sun” (both the political voice of Gaye and the words of William DeVaughn), or borrow from the classics for his samples.
For an album called Love In the Future (G.O.O.D. Music/Columbia), John Legend sounds stuck in the past. Spouting the same seductive spiel that singers have been recycling for years, Legend sounds like he’s running out of ways to say the same thing. “Made To Love” is an exception, but the rest is cliché.
Raheem DeVaughn could be Miguel’s biggest competition, if only his lyrics were better or more interesting on A Place Called Love Land (Mass Appeal). Both DeVaughn and Legend would be wise to spend some time listening to Womack and Miguel.
Ciara is showing her growth as an artist with her newest self-titled album. The catchy, melodic album is backed by sultry and assertive lyrics, making Ciara (Epic Records) her most mature and polished album yet.