January roars to a close with a ferocious cross-section of great new music to choose from, including what may stand as the two most-anticipated sophomore outings of the new year. Take a look:


Even though it has sold well over one million copies (largely on the strength of her name and of residual goodwill toward her), and even though it’s loaded with drive-time-friendly fare (most prominently, the shockingly frisky “Million Dollar Bill”), pop radio has largely failed to take the bait on the divine Whitney Houston‘s underrated latest album I Look to You. But this week brings a reminder that once upon a magical time, she was the queen of pop music, as Arista marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of her sterling thirteen-times-platinum debut with a deluxe edition re-release. Newly added to the record are a trio of dance remixes, a remarkable a capella take on Houston’s classic “How Will I Know,” and a live version of “Greatest Love of All.” Also included: a DVD featuring the album’s four music videos, new interviews with Houston and Arista’s founder Clive Davis, and a rare clip of Houston’s national debut on The Merv Griffin Show.

For a record which so boldly dares to name itself Now That’s What I Call Love, who can help but quibble with some its tracklist’s entries? Like, its immense quality notwithstanding, how on earth does OneRepublic’s “Apologize” — with the wrenching tale of betrayal it tells — qualify as a love song? And Hinder’s “Lips of an Angel” — you know the story: man loves wife, but cheats on her anyway because the illicit sex he gets from his mistress is just too smashing to send on its way — probably doesn’t hit your sweet spot if you’re a woman who has ever been wronged. Still, you’ll find plenty of fare here — selections from Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Lifehouse, Howie Day, need I go on? — that does fit the bill.

Four years ago, a dreamy little piffle called “Put Your Records On” lifted a charming chanteuse name of Corinne Bailey Rae toward global fame and Grammy glory. In the midst of recording her follow-up effort, Rae’s beloved young husband Jason died of an accidental drug overdose, plunging her into a period of deep mourning. But if it’s true that the most profound art springs forth from the greatest pain, then Rae had quite a wellspring from which to work when it came to completing The Sea, and while, reportedly, the resulting record doesn’t dwell or even center on the aforementioned event, you can bet Jason’s passing haunts even the album’s lightest corners.

Barry, Barry, Barry: my sexual orientation practically requires that I love you, and lord love a duck, I do, wholly in spite of your very best efforts to repel me. (That duet with Reba McEntire on your last album was so bad it was ferociously brilliant, Barry, but honey, we have so got to talk about your flaccid, horrendously ill-advised attempts at covering all-time classics from George Michael and Cyndi Lauper and Christopher Cross and Steve Perry! Lord have mercy, boy! Didn’t your mama ever teach you to know thy strengths?!) But notwithstanding your painful trip through the ’80s pop catalog (and because I always love a good trainwreck, natch!), I was very much looking forward to seeing you continue your enormously successful “decades” series into the ’90s. If I’m lying, I’m dying, Barry: I honestly couldn’t wait to hear how you and Clive planned to transmogrify such classics as “MMMBop,” or “Semi-Charmed Life,” or “No Rain,” or even “Genie in a Bottle”!


Instead, Barry, you’ve taken a sudden swerve from the plan and, just in time for Valentine’s Day — you’re a sly little devil, Manilow! — you have decided instead to switch gears and offer up your unique, inimitable take on
The Greatest Love Songs of All Time. And don’t get me wrong, sir: that’s all well and good, but speaking just for myself here, I’d much rather hear you stretch your wings and dive into “Lightning Crashes” or “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” than such hoary old chestnuts as “The Look of Love” or “We’ve Only Just Begun.” Of course I’m going to buy this regardless, because curiosity always gets the better of me, but I’ll tell you, sir — the only thing I can say at this juncture is, “Barry, Barry, Barry.”

The terrific title track is already a smash at country radio, and is currently working its way up the pop charts, and now those fabulous country upstarts Lady Antebellum have a golden chance to capitalize on the incredible momentum created by their chart-topping debut with the release of their second effort, Need You Now. Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott’s effortless ways with wrapping their vibrant voices around a great harmony is just one of the traits that makes Lady A one of the hottest things going right now, and I for one can’t wait to hear what they’ve conjured up for a second act.

Since, most days, allowing the extraordinary
Patty Griffin‘s utterly angelic voice to wash over your soul is at least somewhat akin to a religious experience, the news that she has decided to record a gospel-tinged album would seem to be a no-brainer. And so arrives Downtown Church, Griffin’s sixth studio effort, which contains a fascinating mixture of traditional hymns and spirituals and a handful of peerless Griffin originals, and features cameos by the likes of Emmylou Harris, Buddy & Julie Miller, Shawn Colvin, and Sherry Ann’s old favorite Raul Malo. Even if gospel doesn’t typically land in your wheelhouse, I say you’re a fool if you don’t give this woman a chance to change your mind.

Also noteworthy this week:


  • Grammy-winning superstar Beck teams up with Charlotte Gainsbourg to produce her latest album, Irm.

  • New remixes from Madonna, Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Jordin Sparks, and many others highlight Ultra Dance 11.

  • Now that “Fireflies” has become the left-field smash of the year,
    Ocean Eyes, the breakthrough disc from that trippy one-man-band
    Owl City, gets the unwarranted deluxe edition treatment.

  • And finally, a new wave of entries in Sony Legacy’s fantastic Playlist series rolls out this week, with new hits collections from, among others, Mariah Carey, Backstreet Boys, 311, and those ’80s relics
    Air Supply.


9 responses to “oh wake me i’m shaking wish i had you near me now
(or: january 26 — a thumbnail sketch)”

  1. the buzz from Blake Boldt:

    My comment at The 9513 edited and reprinted below:

    ****I’m sticking by my Twitter assessment of this album: ‘One Tree Hill’ with twang.

    When I first heard “Love Don’t Live Here” on the radio, I was impressed by how vital and fresh Lady A’s sound was, owing a great deal to Charles Kelley’s raspy growl. “Need You Now” rang with that same immediacy and proved Hillary Scott as a worthy vocalist in her right. The rest of this new album seems tame in comparison, with plodding melodies and off-handed, wistful cliches.

    The thing that bugged me is how bloody serious it is. It’s a 40-minute midlife crisis set to anthem rock arrangements. I wish Lady A would’ve had a little more fun with this one. Even “American Honey,” with its light production and naive visions of the past is, at its core, pretty somber.****

    The Patty Griffin album is my favorite so far this year. It’s almost inspiring enough to stir up some church-goin’ in me.

  2. the buzz from Blake Boldt:

    By the way, Lady A is looking at a 350-400k first week, which would put them well ahead of Sugarland’s 322k for their last album. And poor Whitney barely beat 300k. (Underrated album—heard “Million Dollar Bill” today and was reminded once again.)

  3. the buzz from brandon:

    I’ll take a pass at some of this after I’ve listened to the album and have a firmer opinion, but Sherry Ann, I double dog DARE you to weigh in on that OTH remark! You’re treadin’ on some thin ice there, Blake my friend. 🙂

  4. the buzz from Blake Boldt:

    Ha. It’s not meant as a slam. Before her song “White Horse” was featured in Grey’s Anatomy, I told folks that Taylor Swift was best at moody power pop destined for a Grey’s soundtrack. And though I’m only a passive observer of Grey’s, her music does fit the mold.

    The same holds true with Lady A; OTH is not inherently bad (I remember many a college night in the dorm lobby watching it, btw), but Lady A’s music is right along those lines. It’s a “pretty white people have problems, too” album that’s a delicious, overdramatic guilty pleasure *when it goes right*, but it spoils quickly if the listener isn’t open to its possibilities or if the music flies off the rails (as Lady A has done in a few spots here). So basically, my short comment on the album changes definitions based on who’s reading it (the comment) or listening to it (the album).

  5. the buzz from Blake Boldt:

    That being said, the comment is a trap. Most people are going to draw negative connotations to it. I think people—not you, mind you, but others in online communities I frequent—need to strip away any preconceived notions or definitions in order to really explore a piece of music. Gosh, I’ve written a lot here today.

  6. the buzz from brandon:

    Blake, I fear that Sherry Ann — the world’s biggest “One Tree Hill” fan, bar none — is currently plotting ways to kill you in your sleep. Stay away from the Texas Panhandle. (If only you had said “Gossip Girl” or “Melrose Place”!)

  7. the buzz from Blake Boldt:

    “Gossip Girl” has no nutritional value; the current incarnation of “Melrose Place” doesn’t either, so the comparison wouldn’t make sense! “One Tree Hill” gave us substance—it had all the hallmarks of a good soap, though it didn’t always form the best stories to fill that niche. Lady A’s album is the same. It’s pretty good pop-country that’s nice and catchy, but it doesn’t always hit the target it’s shooting for. I had a One Tree Hill superfan at work who totally agreed with my statement and knew no harm was meant. That being said, I’m not going to bed tonight.

  8. the buzz from Blake Boldt:

    As if I haven’t said enough—Going back to the actual album, it’s missing a little bit of the humor and levity that a show like “One Tree Hill” offers with its drama.

  9. the buzz from Blake Boldt:

    I’ve dissed three entertaining shows and a semi-decent country music album and haven’t meant to, and now I’m pissed that I can’t make my point clearly. Time to break out the booze.