With less than two weeks left until Christmas day, it's a sure thing that this week's new releases are either albums that just slipped in under the wire, were much-delayed, or were simply released because consumer demand for them was so high!
Or perhaps they were released despite their sales potential--issued purely because today's well-wishing, philanthropic record labels felt they should be issued regardless of their commercial reception!
And of course, it does none of us any good to envision a darkened room on the East Coast in which a smoking, sweaty accountant wearing a sun visor nervously mutters, "Aw, why bother--let's put everything we've got out there so we at least we can last through Q2 or so!"
That would imply record companies were out to make a buck rather than to serve man!
And where's your holiday spirit?
Crystal Bowersox: Farmer's Daughter (19 Recordings) Depicted at right on her album cover--well, hold on a minute, to be truly accurate, second-from-left--Ms. Bowersox is a former American Idol contestant, meaning her commercial lifespan may run anywhere from 20 to 20,000 milliseconds, and now's the time to check her out before her album is deleted and we realize we just spent 10 years watching an idiotic TV show when we could have been discovering a cure for cancer! Like many, I think the world has been waiting for a definitive version of the Buffalo Springfield's 1967 hit "For What It's Worth," and now--43 long years later--this album proves the definitive version was recorded 43 years ago and...hey, wait a minute--who stole my pants? No one named Bowersox has made a better album!
Michael Jackson: MICHAEL (Epic) While it's certainly a drag this young man was taken before his time, let's face the facts: Ever since he became world famous--say around Thriller or so--his music became so sappy, so unlistenable, so performed so as not to offend as opposed to not challenge or be creative, that it's been almost laughably boring and pablumesque! Now that he's dead, we can look forward to years and years of "unreleased" projects like this, each less and less inspiring than the last, each containing only a fraction of what once made the man so appealing and so unique, and each solely focused on bringing more and more dollars into an estate that has seen its meal ticket and is intent on milking it bone dry! Nice cover, though!
Diddy Dirty Money: Last Train To Paris (Bad Boy/Atlantic) Few would've suspected that the ever-competitive Sean "Puff Daddy" "Diddy" "Duddly" "Arugala" "Binky" Combs viewed his central competition in the world of pop music to be '60s pop group the Monkees, but Combs--born in 1969--clearly sees one-upping the middle-American destination of "Clarksville" as a socio-cultural imperative! And well he should! Proving his value as an incredibly versatile musician, Diddy brings in a host of talent including Grace Jones, Swizz Beatz, Usher, Chris Brown, Justin Timberlake, Bilal, James Fautelroy, Notorious B.I.G. (?), Rick Ross, Trey Songz, Lil Wayne, T.I., Wiz Khalifa and Drake among others, all of whom take up so much time, Diddy himself is barely audible, only offering up scattered lines like "Do you like my new jet?" and "I need a new assistant! Look at these pants!" I'm completely enamored by his lifestyle and wonder how on earth I can hope to measure up to him! What is it that he does exactly?
Ciara: Basic Instinct (LaFace) Let's do a little math! According to this album's product description, "multi-platinum" Ciara's debut album Goodies sold 3.5 million albums worldwide, and its follow-up The Evolution sold 1.8 million! It's true! "Ciara has sold over 5 million albums worldwide in her career thus far," boasts the label! But wait--those two alone have sold over five million! And Basic Instinct is her fourth album! Well, let's be generous--would it really be in the spirit of good salesmanship to note, "Oddly, her third album seemed to miss the mark entirely in terms of sales and thus isn't even being mentioned here at all. Still, even a fraction of those sales would've raised the total to six million, but, er...let's just be conspicuously silent!" As a result, idiot rock critics the world over are now mentioning that this album cover seems vaguely reminiscent of prior albums by both Styx and the Alan Parsons Project! Still, she is quite attractive!
Leona Lewis: The Labyrinth Tour: Live From The O2 (J Records) Speaking of attractive, here's the latest from admittedly skilled singer Lewis, whose rise in her homeland due to UK TV show The X-Factor hasn't really been on our radar--meaning we can watch her, listen to her, and accept her purely on the basis of her singing talent, which isn't small by any means! This latest package includes both a DVD and CD spotlighting the singer live at a famous London arena, and she most certainly rises to the occasion throughout! That said, her skills drive home the point that hit songs are what make careers last more than the span of a few TV seasons--and if her label wants to make her the superstar they intend, she'll need to do more than cover "The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face" and "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)." I'd be happy to explain it to her in person!
Popa Chubby: The Essential (Blind Pig) I have often explored the thin line between madness and reality by focusing my attention on a world of fictional creations and characters such as Smiley The Potato Chip, Rollo The Pig, Bobo, Binky, Beppo, and the phrase "I speak of winged villagers"! I mention this only because there is a part of me deep inside--deep, deep inside--that consistently brays that there is no such person as Popa Chubby, that he is a malevolent creation concocted by me in my darkest hours purely to distract me from a world filled with ugliness, bitterness, and random occurrences that can make orphans and widows of the sweetest, most undeserving people in the world! But time rolls on, and I cannot help but believe that he in fact exists, that this is a collection of his best work, and like Ovaltine and Remco toys and Bizzy Buzz Buzz, he and his contributions will fade over time but his actual presence will never truly be eradicated! Plus, he rocks!
R. Kelly: Love Letter (Jive) Every once in a while I wonder how I'd feel if I were R. Kelly and I decided to go over to Amazon and see what that world famous retailer had to say about me in my bio! Then I'd read: "R. Kelly is one of the biggest-selling R&B artists in the world. He has earned a reputation as a truly idiosyncratic artist with the recent Trapped in the Closet series. Unfortunately, his name has also been sullied by unsavoury criminal allegations." I imagine I'd then spend a considerable amount of time wondering if that bio writer were from Canada or the UK--after all, we here in the States don't spell "unsavory" with two U's--and then I'd buy two expensive cars and pay someone to repeatedly hit them with sledgehammers! Then maybe I'd take in a Jennifer Aniston movie!
Greyson Chance: Waiting Outside The Lines (Eleven Eleven) Three songs here by much-spotlighted, piano-playing youth Greyson Chance, who rose to fame with a sixth-grade performance of Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi"--but sadly, according to some insiders, seems to have already peaked! Several point to his stunning fourth grade performance of the Velvet Underground's "I'm Waiting For The Man" and Roxy Music's "In Every Dream Home A Heartache," others note the next year's tribute to John Cage's "4'33"" was dazzling in both its earnestness and its prescience! Still others wonder if Greyson took their lunch money to buy some Red Hots!
Kandi: Kandi Koated (Asylum) "The album is about love, relationships. It's meeting someone. Falling for them. Falling out with them. Breaking up with them. Thinking about them. Getting back together. Moving on. It's all there," says Kandi of her great new second album! "But it's not about resenting them more and more, on a daily basis, until you are driven to relentlessly stalking them, taking on a deeply personal vow to eventually release an album cover that will feature you with a 14-inch waist--an image that will surely remain with them for the rest of their lives, make them old, bitter and resentful of all they've missed until they die, alone and impoverished...hey, wait a minute, are you taping this?" Just made that last part up, but wouldn't it be cool?