Hear Me Out
Norah Jones, “The Fall”
Norah Jones is a big tease. All that talk about a rock remodel, an added oomph to her dozy ditties that might fend off the Red Bull? With thin layers of guitar licks and less of a piano push, it’s here. But hardly. The electroshock-sound therapy does little to frame many of the characterless songs on her fourth album, produced by rock heavy-hitters who mostly maintain the nebulous and flowy sound from her pop-jazz predecessors. “The Fall” is off to a slick start with “Chasing Pirates,” a breezy, crunched-up cut with a refreshing verve. A few tunes in, though, Jones slips back into her old sleep-swaying, excite-less self: the dreary daydream-driving “Light as a Feather,” the paint-by-numbers sound of “Back to Manhattan” and the mellifluous “December.” She’s on the up-and-up when she strays from that riskless murmuring, like on “It’s Gonna Be” or “Young Blood.” Still, forget about getting much of a rise out of “The Fall.”
Pink, “Funhouse Tour”
Pop’s spunky snake doesn’t need umpteen costume changes. She’s got enough personality ones, switching from sassy kiss-offs like “U & Ur Hand” to fragile fits (“Family Portrait”) and vulnerable shakers – “Sober,” where she breaks free from punch-drunk love. That hits trio is part of the rabble-rouser’s live concert DVD, a razzle-dazzle circus set – with some “OMG, no she didn’t!” swooping acrobatics – that pulls from four of Pink’s albums, drawing most of the material from her bitchy, breakup latest, “Funhouse.” She throws in a handful of covers (you’ll really feel “I Touch Myself” with its self-satisfying sofa) that also land on the 12-track CD, a disc that includes the unreleased studio track “Push You Away,” but dumps Pink’s biggest and best hits. With those, this set would fly as high as she does.
Angie Stone, “Unexpected”
If only “Unexpected” was, indeed, that. But much of the neo-soul sister’s sound on her commercialized latest sells into the predictability of urban-pop with joints that fire up the Auto-Tune and feed low-cal lyrics. Even if the old-school “I Ain’t Hearin’ U” is guilty of that second offense, at least it’s a catchy boppin’-and-droppin’ ditty. Next to the egregiously phoned-in “Tell Me” – obvious rap spot included – and the boring slow-jam throwaways, like the sexed-up “Kiss Me All Over,” it’s like a diamond in a pile of garbage. Upgrading with a trendy twist isn’t always a bad thing, but when it sounds as expected as this, it is. Only life mantra “Think Sometimes” feels authentic, and “Free,” with its girlfriend-got-your-back boost, is easy to sing along to. But it’s shaped like a Rihanna rip-off. And we already have her umbrella.
Amerie, “In Love & War”
When this gravelly voiced vixen’s at war, like on the retro-rocker “Higher,” she wins. And had her third album’s second half cut some of the sappy slowies, overdoing it with the done-me-wrong woe, this mostly super-duper CD would be easier to fall in love with. Here’s what’s heart-able, though: the polished ballad “Swag Back,” an infectious radio-ready anthem, and Beyonce-sounding second single “Heard ‘Em All.” More sass, spunk and sizzle. Less sogginess.
Tina Turner, “Tina Live”
What’s legs got to do with it? Everything. Because during this 2008/2009 50th Anniversary Tour, the legendary rocker – nearly 70 – still struts them like a sexy runway model, defiantly and confidently. And for over two hours on DVD she shows us who’s boss with an age-defying run of hits, including her career-making “Proud Mary.” A hyper-aggressive 15-song CD drives all the attention toward her gruff growl, which rocks just as much as those glorious gams.
Carly Simon, “Never Been Gone”
Sets like these – making old hits new – are released with the intention of re-sparking a burned-out star’s glory days. Simon had plenty, but with a wobblier voice and some hokey acoustic-like song arrangements (“You’re So Vain” is no gain, all pain, as the chorus annoyingly builds to broken-record repetitiveness) nothing is improved upon. There are two decent unreleased songs, but all the needless do-overs on “Never Been Gone” should’ve never been.