Hear Me Out
Erika Jayne, ‘Pretty Mess’
Who is Erika Jayne? On the siren’s listless debut, she’s everyone but herself. A little Britney, a little Kylie, and a lotta bad. The sultry singer’s dance nuggets, produced by some heavy hit-makers, feel much like a paint-by-numbers book, lacking a singular sound, any defying complexity and overexposing cliches about dance, cosmos and sex. “Stars” is all Kylie, opening the 14-song disc with a dreamlike aura draped in Jayne’s ethereal coo and a chorus that beats itself into you like a dominant top – one of the better, though borrowed, hand-flailing bumpers.
When the Logo fave goes for slinky and sultry balladeer, like on the unintentionally ha-ha-hilarious “I Lose Myself,” she risks losing more than herself. Like an audience. “One More Time” is fresh air, a dreamy drift-off closer. When the tracks aren’t blah and electro-mangled, annoying idiosyncrasies – like the “rawr” and “ooh-la-la” intones on “Everybody Wants Some” – ruin any might-be revelation. So do the avalanche of passe lyrics – “dance the night away,” seriously? It gets better: Sex is an amusement park ride on “Roller Coaster,” and “z” is used as a stand-in for “s” on “Just a Phaze.” Let’s hope thiz iz.
Colton Ford, ‘Under the Covers’
Colton Ford has balls – and maybe you’ve seen them. But that’s besides the point, because this pair is the kind needed to ambitiously take on newer pop songs like Alicia Key’s “No One” and Mariah Carey’s “It’s Like That” with the bravado of, say, someone who used to screw for money. Ford, a former porn star who released his debut in 2008, is that hairy-chested man, and he gives us an even hairier dance disc of cover songs that flaunt his iTunes most-played list, from Sade to Nirvana and Babyface.
It doesn’t do much else, and how could it? These songs are current or classic – and every bit an “American Idol” judge’s worst nightmare, making it hard to see this as more than a self-serving project. Britney Spears might be his biggest asset, as he manages to tackle her B-side club song “Trouble” with the least bit of camp and the most success. Still, most of “Covers” is an amateur hack-job, cut with the corniest and funniest of a cappella interludes. None of it does justice to anyone involved – least of all Ford, a pretty decent singer. But even with a voice, the hodge-podgy bunch of untouchables on “Under the Covers” probably should’ve stayed there.
Brad Paisley, ‘American Saturday Night’
One of country music’s DILF-iest dudes is also one of its ballsiest: His second single, “Welcome to the Future,” is about progress – from Pac-Man to politics. The hee-haw hottie balances the bittersweet tracks on his best album yet, like faith-based “No” and “Anything Like Me,” with his wry sense of humor. He’s plastered on a boating trip (“Catch All the Fish”) and strikes down his own gender’s egotism (“The Pants”) – both funny. With him in it, country’s future looks bright.
Catie Curtis, ‘Hello, Stranger’
This Boston folkie’s no stranger to the folk-pop scene, dropping nine LPs over her 15-year career. Now the achy-voiced musician’s fulfilling fans’ request with a bluegrass/country disc of old songs and covers, dressing them in mandolin, fiddle and banjo to echo the vibe of her live shows. This organic approach pays off, especially on the Curtis tale “Dad’s Yard,” part of the lighter, less honky-tonk closing half – and the better one. Say hello to Country Curtis.
Cute goes far, and this Canadian chanteuse – think Nelly Furtado – probably knows that, framing her lovely candied voice in ’60s soul sounds. Blending world rhythms and hip-hop makes for an entrancing listen on “The Heat,” while single “Boom” is nifty dance-floor fun. Seismic jolts take a backseat to happy-go-lucky lulls at the tail-end, but Anjulie still mostly has what it takes to make the earth shake.