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The Listening Room: Chris Brown, Flo Rida and more...
Much to the chagrin of those who still hate him (with some justification), Chris Brown is back. Last year's "F.A.M.E.," coming in the wake of his conviction for assaulting ex-girlfriend Rihanna, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and won a bunch of awards -- including a Grammy. It also made his case for peace, love, understanding and repentance, which means the new "Fortune" can get busy with...getting busy. OK, sex isn't the only thing Brown has on his mind on these 14 tracks, but it doesn't take long before he and his desired are shedding clothes in "2012," "Sweet Love" and "Strip" and sharing explicit nuggets in "2012." But elsewhere we find Brown turning an innocent cheek on songs such as "Stuck on Stupid," the breezy "4 Years Old" and the thumping club track "Don't Wake Me Up," while he sticks a tough jaw out on "Bassline," declaring that "you heard about my image, but I don't give a...who's offended." "Turn Up the Music," meanwhile, is a buoyant and infectious four-on-the-floor dance track and "Mirage" boasts a unique, vibey ambience cut by Nas' guest rap. "Fortune" missing the mark in a few spots, however; "Till I Die," with Wiz Khalifa and Detroit MC Big Sean, is mired in layers of vocal production, while "Bassline" and "Trumpet Lights" are ponderous, bottom-heavy clunkers. Brown is still a mostly successful (new) jack of all trades, but his "Fortune" is bit less consistent than his "F.A.M.E."
Flo Rida, "Wild Ones" (Poe Boy/Atlantic) **1/2
Flo Rida doesn't get too deep on his fourth full-length album -- just deep onto the dance floor. A nine-song "snack" at just 35 minutes, "Wild Ones" is full of bouncy energy, sexual double entendres and extremely musical arrangements that sound as comfortable blasting over pop radio as they do thumping in the club. The gator state MC's flow is fast and assured throughout, whipping syllables out at lightning speed on "Let It Roll" and the Sia-featuring title track. Avicii brings guitar drive to the synthy dynamics of "Good Feeling," while LMFAO's Redfoo brings some of his group's electro-pop flavor to the album-closing "Run," which cops its chorus from Bryan Adams' "Run To You." "Wild Ones" is Flo Rida's most slickly crafted work yet and settles him into a solid niche in the hip-hop/dance music crossover.
New & Noteworthy:
Abandon All Ships, "Infamous" (Universal): The sophomore album from the Toronto metalcore band features a pair of members who have joined since its 2020 debut.
Asia, "XXX" (Frontiers): The prog rock all-star group celebrates its 30th anniversary with a set of nine new songs composed mostly by frontman John Wetton and keyboardist Geoff Downes.
The Blasters, "Fun on Saturday Night" (Rip Cat): These roots rockers are fun most any night, and the group's first new release since 2005 also features X's Exene Cervenka guesting on the Johnny Cash/June Carter Cash staple "Jackson."
James Luther Dickinson & North Mississippi, "I'm Just Dead Not Gone" (Memphis International): The legendary producer-artist's sons in the North Mississippi All-Stars and others raid Dickinson's vaults for this first posthumous collection.
Rick Estrin & the Nightcats, "One Wrong Turn" (Alligator): Singer-harmonicaist Estrin leads his quartet through a ninth album of hot, energetic blues.
Hillsong, "Cornerstone Live" (Hillsong): The spirit is strong on this concert collection from the Hillstone Church's international worship team.
Joshua Hyslop, "Where the Mountain Meets the Valley" (Nettwerk): Two near-death experiences comprise potent source material for this Vancouver singer-songwriter's debut album.
Icarus Witch, "Rise" (Cleopatra): The Pittsburgh heavy metal band's fifth album introduces new frontman Christopher Shaner.
Krewella, "Play Hard" (Beatport): The Chicago trio mixes dubstep and other electronic styles on its six-track debut EP.
Marillion, "Best Live" (Madfish): The prog-styled British band continues without wavering some 14 years after the departure of original frontman Fish.
Nile, "At the Gate of Sethu" (Nuclear Blast): The ninth album from the South Carolina death metal quartet comes three years after "Those Whom the Gods Detest."
Prodigy, "H.N.I.C. 3" (Infamous): The third full solo album by the Mobb Deep rapper features guest appearances by Wiz Khalifa, the Alchemist, Havoc and others.
Noah Stewart, "Noah" (Decca): The Julliard-trained tenor's debut mixes arias and spirituals with an ABBA cover and even "The Star Spangled Banner."
Various Artists, "American Idol Season 11 Top 10 Highlights" (19/Interscope): Each of the reality series' Top 10 finishers, from winner Phillip Phillips on down, get a track on this compilation, which advances the annual American Idols Live! tour.
Russell Watson, "Anthems: Music to Inspire a Nation" (Masterworks): The British tenor takes on standards such as "Danny Boy," "White Cliffs of Dover" and "Jerusalem," as well as Queen's "We Are the Champions."
Keller Williams with the Travelin' McCourys, "Pick" (Sci Fidelity): The guitar virtuoso and the bluegrass heroes join forces for a selection of originals and covers of songs by Steve Earle, My Morning Jacket and Jessie J.
Wolves at the Gate, "Captors" (Solid State): The Ohio hard rock quintet follows its well-received 2011 EP with its first full-length album.
The World Alive, "Life Cycles" (Fearless): The sophomore album from the Arizona headbangers features a pair of new band members as well as a fresh producer (Joey Sturgis).
From The Vaults: Jellyfish, "Live at Bogart's 1981" (Omnivore); Petra, "More Power to Ya: 30th Anniversary Edition" (Starsong), "This Means War: 25th Anniversary Edition" (Starsong)
Soundtracks: James Horner, "The Amazing Spider Man" (Sony Classical); Various Artists, "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" (Sony Masterworks); Various Artists, "Savages" (Varese Sarabande)
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