A full eight weeks in (!), 2011’s new music slate finally gets cleared for takeoff, courtesy of the white-hot sophomore effort from a staggeringly talented young woman whose bracing debut three years ago won her the Grammy Award for Best New Artist and the immediate respect of her shell-shocked peers. Without further ado:


But first, a new wave of compilation discs under the Icon umbrella arrives this week, and the most prominent among the latest batch of titles comes from rock queen Melissa Etheridge, whose eleven-track collection isn’t nearly as comprehensive as her 2005 greatest hits set, but which is nonetheless remarkably up-to-date, as it includes her fabulous 2010 smash “Fearless Love” holding court alongside such expected classics as “Come to My Window” and “I’m the Only One.” In other words, Icon stands as a perfectly serviceable Etheridge primer. (Other new entries in the Icon series include Buddy Holly, The Four Tops, Peter Frampton, Joe Walsh, Salt-n-Pepa, Tony! Toni! Tone!, Billy Ray Cyrus, Aaron Neville,
Kool and the Gang, .38 Special, The Mavericks, and the legendary Loretta Lynn.)

Although it’s a bona-fide smash in a good two dozen countries around the world, I’m not sure even the most optimistic among us chart watchers had the temerity to foresee 21 — the startling second record from brilliantly brassy British songstress Adele — becoming an outta-the-box bottle rocket, blasting off with over 350,000 first-week copies moved stateside. (Witness, if you will, the plight of Adele’s soul sister Duffy, who burst on the scene alongside Adele three years ago, and whose graceless, godawful sophomore album Endlessly flopped on impact late last year.) Credit the rapturous response to 21 to the set’s sizzling first single, the wonderful, wickedly soulful kiss-off jam “Rolling in the Deep” (already a clear front-runner for Record of the Year), and to Target’s exclusive — and, apparently, very hard to find, as the fact that I had to schlep to six Austin-area stores last week before finally tracking it down will support — deluxe edition, which contains four bonus tracks, among them Adele’s cover — done as a dazzling duet with Darius Rucker — of Lady Antebellum’s Grammy-winning classic “Need You Now,” which the two performed last December for CMT’s Artists of the Year special concert event.

Also noteworthy this week:


  • ’80s rocker John Waite returns with Rough and Tumble,
    his first studio album in four years.

  • The magnificent Linda Eder reunites — professionally, at least — with composer (and former husband) Frank Wildhorn, the man responsible for so many of Eder’s early triumphs, for her twelfth album, Now.

  • Singer/songwriter Josh Ritter offers up To the Yet Unknowing World, an EP of b-sides to accompany last year’s So Runs the World Away.

  • The brilliant Susan Werner is back with her latest project,
    Kicking the Beehive.

  • Recent favorites from Leona Lewis, Plain White T’s, and The Temper Trap punctuate the motion picture soundtrack for Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher’s hit romantic comedy No Strings Attached.

  • So far, it’s only available in this country as an import, but don’t let that stop you from checking out my beloved Roxette‘s latest release,
    Charm School. (Having apparently defeated a debilitating brain tumor, lead singer Marie Fredriksson sounds as great as she ever did,
    and the album’s lead single “She’s Got Nothing On (But the Radio)”
    is a start-to-finish hoot.)

  • Rising artist Ari Hest continues his climb with his latest album,
    Sunset Over Hope Street.

  • Blessed, studio album number ten from that inimitable iconoclast Lucinda Williams.

  • Famed record producer David Foster follows up his enormously successful original special from 2008 with a brand new all-star concert Hit Man Returns, available on CD and DVD and featuring the likes of Martina McBride, Donna Summer, Seal, and Natalie Cole.

  • Former Staind frontman Aaron Lewis steps out on his own
    with a solo EP, the country-leaning Town Line.

  • Troubadours: The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter — a new documentary documenting the rise of an incredible, painfully intimate new style of music which was born in southern California in the early 1970s — arrives on DVD, accompanied by a bonus CD quasi-soundtrack featuring classics by James Taylor, Carole King, Tom Waits, Linda Ronstadt, and Elton John.

  • Cher and Christina Aguilera’s instant (camp) classic musical Burlesque hits DVD and Blu-Ray with a host of extras and deleted scenes — if you missed my take on this film late last fall, you can get caught up here — and if you pick it up at your local Best Buy store this week, you get a free corset for your troubles. (I swear I’m not making that up!)

  • Finally, Amazon’s mp3 store has a one-month exclusive retail window on Original Sin, the fascinating latest project from Australian icons INXS, a band whose commercial path has been terribly rocky in the decade-plus since their peerless lead singer Michael Hutchence committed suicide. Sin finds the band’s remaining members inviting their favorite musicians — including Rob Thomas, Nikka Costa, John Mayer, and Train’s deviously gifted Pat Monahan — to help reinterpret a handful of INXS classics. Smartly, they stay away from most of the band’s biggest chart hits (“Devil Inside” and “Need You Tonight” — tunes on which Hutchence lay his indelible brand — are nowhere to be found here), but just wait until you hear Monahan’s deliciously delicate reinvention of “Beautiful Girl.” As riveting as Hutchence’s original take was, Pat’ll make you think you’ve died and ridden the bullet train straight to heaven.
    (The physical CD of Sin arrives in stores on April 5.)

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