Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
Kelly Clarkson, ‘Stronger’
If Kelly Clarkson wasn’t making music, you have to wonder: Where would she take out her wronged-woman rage? It’s a scary thought, considering how much the reigning “American Idol” – it’s been nearly 10 years since she was crowned as the inaugural winner – uses power-pop beats as a punching bag for her vehement venting. Miss Independent meets “Mr. Know It All” on the first single, a scorching kiss-off that has her spewing lines like “you don’t know a thing ’bout me” in glorious fury. It’s the kind of no-BS cut we’ve come to know from Clarkson, an expert at turning done-me-wrongs into club anthems. Look no further than the second song, and single, “What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger),” just about the danciest, balls-to-the-wall song she’s recorded; “I Forgive You,” a could-be sequel to “Since U Been Gone,” follows similarly with wonky synths. Vocally, she rocks “The War is Over” and “Honestly,” her breathy tones building to a full belt; it’s a voice that can make even lowest-common-denominator lyrics, like on “Einstein,” rise about the material. But Clarkson’s music on her fifth album, though much less hooky than her last, “All I Ever Wanted,” has an advantage: It’s easy to feel her pain. She hurts, she gets angry, and she can’t please everyone. “You Can’t Win,” for all the outcasts, is how she addresses that problem, with a line that we can all relate to: “If you’re straight, why aren’t you married yet? If you’re gay, why aren’t you waving a flag?” It’s a win-win for everyone. Grade: B
Miranda Lambert, ‘Four the Record’
Usually the one to set things ablaze, Miranda Lambert’s on fire this time ’round. Her best album, and easily atop the year’s finest, is everything the country outlaw’s done so extraordinarily well on the three before it – just better. Having already told the gender-rigid conservativeness of the country genre to shove it with her girl-power, whiskey-guzzling ways, she doesn’t waste time to do so again with a pro-everyone anthem that’s wonderfully endearing: “All Kinds of Kinds,” unfolding like a storybook, with a character that’s a cross-dressing congressman and a moral often unheard in country. “Some point the finger, let ignorance linger,” she sings, reminding people to look at themselves before passing judgment. If only for standing out among her play-it-safe contemporaries, being different is obviously something Lambert understands. Her vocals are smeared into fuzzed-out obscurity on country-blues “Fine Tune,” by far her most radical, and possibly sexiest, move. What might seem traditional, “Mama’s Broken Heart” turns out to be anything but – it’s an aggressive you-don’t-know-my-pain song, playing to her bad-girl persona. Lambert, though, has vengeance and vulnerability: she understands the narrator’s frustration of being unsure of herself on Gillian Welch’s “Look at Miss Ohio,” another great cover of hers; the simplistic pain in “Over You” means more coming out of Lambert’s mouth; and the ethereal “Oklahoma Sky” mesmerizes. Vocal nuances, broken boundaries and supreme songwriting: there are all kinds of kinds, but only one Miranda Lambert. Grade: A
Washington, ‘I Believe You Liar’
Megan Washington toys around with lots of sounds on her respectable debut, from the ’60s girl-group sounds of “Cement” to the Sara Bareilles bounce of “The Hardest Part.” The Australian hipster, who rocks the specs like a hot librarian, balances her jaunty, offbeat pop for people who don’t like pop (come on, hipster, check out “1997”; it’s all cryptic) with old-school reheats and ballads that try for a Tori feel (see: title track). Washington’s not reinventing the wheel, or even turning it very much, but how many people can say they’ve made their own funeral arrangements in a song?
Vince Gill, ‘Guitar Slinger’
A line about fingering isn’t one you’d expect from a Vince Gill album – of course, he’s talking about sliding his digit up and down that… guitar! The country legend knows exactly what he’s doing with that instrument on his latest, and very personal, album. His writing is sly, poignant and even risque – you know, for the hubby of a contemporary Christian singer, Amy Grant (who sings with him on “True Love”). Best bets: “The Old Lucky Diamond Motel,” a visual snapshot of an old hangout that puts you dead-center in the joint, and bittersweet tearjerker “Threaten Me with Heaven.”
Mayer Hawthorne, ‘How Do You Do’
For a while there, the ladies – Adele, Amy, Duffy – were just about the only ones doing old-school soul: then came Cee-Lo, and now Mayer Hawthorne. The singer, with his pillow-talk falsetto, is so straight-up Motown that songs like optimistic groove “A Long Time,” an ode to native Detroit, and the adorably infectious “You Called Me” sound like they’re right out of the ’60s. The only clue that they’re not: cussing out a hot but difficult woman on “The Walk” and, as Snoop sings on “Can’t Stop,” hitting it from behind. Tempting, but not the Temptations.