It's a sure thing that the albums released this week--the week of Thanksgiving and its accompanying sales bonanza "Black Friday"--are probably intended to sell by the boatload!
And just take a look at these names! Guns N' Roses, Kanye West, the Killers, Paul McCartney--these are all artists used to massive commercial success!
Luckily, because the music business is better than ever--and because today's hot artists are only concerned with making art instead of money--all these new records are great!
But just for fun, and to keep things from getting too boring, let's pretend they're not!
Guns N' Roses: Chinese Democracy (Geffen) It would probably be rude of me to mention that I've never been a fan of Guns N' Roses and always considered them horrendously derivative, howlingly obnoxious, and frightfully more famous than God ever intended them to be! Likewise, this much-discussed album has been as "long awaited" at my house as my 2010 tax bill! Upon finally hearing it, I have decided that Chinese Democracy is about as good as any of Guns N' Roses' other albums: bloated, screechy, aimless, reminiscent of concept albums released by the Scorpions and Lucifer's Friend in the mid-'70s, and way, way, way, too long! In short, I am completely taken with Axl Rose's current hairstyle and would like to emulate him at every opportunity! Kanye West: 808s & Heartbreak (Def Jam) Holy smokes! Isn't this the voice of this generation? How come he sounds like a robot? And doesn't he want to be Elvis Presley or something? Elvis Presley never sounded like a robot! All I know is, I've been forced to watch this nuthead on TV way too many times lately, and 1) He's trying to sing, 2) He can't sing, 3) None of his friends want to upset the gravy train and tell him he can't sing, 4) His album cover looks like it's got a picture of a great big, deflated birth-control-related item on its cover, 5) And the absolute worst track, "It's Amazing," features the dude proclaiming "my reign is as far as your eyes can see!" No offense, Kanye, but at the moment I'm staring at my jam-packed garbage can, wondering whether I can toss an empty can of Diet Coke in it without it bouncing out! It's your best album ever, babe! The Killers: Day & Age (Island) Considering how low my expectations were for this once mildly interesting band--they lost me with that bogus Springsteen stuff last time out--I'm inclined to say this actually isn't too bad! Unfortunately for them, by mere chance I was watching TV a few weeks ago and saw them playing their new song "Human" and decided that I've never ever seen a lead singer who looked more self-conscious singing onstage! To ease my discomfort, I focused on the song's lyrics, and heard the following passage, repeated frequently: "Are we human or are we dancer?" Well, if we're allowed to vote, I'm human, your bandmates are Donner, Dasher and Blitzen, and your nose is looking pretty red, hot stuff! In short: A total return to glory! Ludacris: Theater Of The Mind (Disturbing Tha Peace/Def Jam) As rap dudes go, I'm inclined to like Ludacris--mostly because he's got a sense of humor! Plus, it must've been weird growing up with that name! A fervent follower of President Bush's Mandatory Guest Star Act, the man's brought on a wealth of visiting talent here, including The Game, T-Pain, Chris Brown, T.I., and--according to the expert testimony of Wikipedia--has also collaborated with Good Charlotte, my personal dream! Ever the helpful artist, Ludacris designed his first single--"What Them Girls Like"--as a superb primer for young teen males aching to ask their dream dates to the prom! In the words of my mother: This album is like heaven in a pair of wooden shoes! Barry Manilow: The Greatest Songs Of The Eighties (Arista) Probably the best album seeing release this week, superstar Manilow's latest effort "Manilowizes" an awesome array of hits by the likes of Journey, Rick Astley, Wham!, Phil Collins, Stevie Wonder, Kenny Rogers and other similar artists, and it's fantastic! Not to get too technical, but if you accept Manilow's vocalizing as a sort of mathematical function, and apply it to almost anything you've heard before, overall song quality is geometrically increased by virtue of the song being sung! And between you and me, when I hear him singing Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up," I get goose bumps! David Byrne & Brian Eno: Everything That Happens Will Happen Today (Todo Mundo) Ever the wiseguys, old pals Byrne and Eno have put together a fascinating album that, due to its independent distribution model, may actually make them more money than that garnered many of today's better-known artists--who remain tethered to the remaining major record labels and are suffering accordingly! The downside? This record is, in the tradition of their past work, complex, thoughtful, mature and actually good! So where's the market for that, clownheads? Tom Jones: 24 Hours (S-Curve) Any week I can write about new records by both Barry Manilow and Tom Jones is a great one! The legendary Welsh vocalist returns with his first new album in 15 years, and it's thoroughly contemporary sounding despite featuring songs by Bruce Springsteen and Tommy James...and a guest appearance by Bono and The Edge! Jones' voice remains a powerful instrument, and most refreshingly, of the many virtues here, "camp value" is very low on the list! The only thing missing? Kanye West chanting "it's amazing" via auto-tune on every track! Maybe next time! Tommy James: 40th Anniversary Singles Collection (Collector's Choice) While we're on the subject of artists deemed hip enough for Tom Jones to cover: Though Jones' choice "I'm Alive" isn't represented on this completely fab 2-CD set, the song's original flipside, "Crystal Blue Persuasion," is here among 47 other great pop tunes! Containing music spanning the years 1962 through 2006, this collection makes the definitive case that James' output through the years has been both substantial and, for the most part, overlooked by authoritative rock critics worldwide! Sort of like Fall Out Boy, but even better! The Fireman: Electric Arguments (MPL/ATO) The best thing about being a world-famous international moneymaker--well, OK, maybe the second-best thing--is that you can do anything you want and it's OK! Luckily, former Beatle Paul McCartney has never lost interest in making music, and with the resurfacing of this "side project"--his third studio album with former Killing Joke dude Youth--the sense of informal experimentalism that made his first two, long-ago solo albums so interesting is back and more accessible than ever! Critics agree: Noticeably better than his last "real" album, Electric Arguments is arguably a shocker! Buy it today! Scott Weiland: Happy In Galoshes (Softdrive) This album title puzzled me until I saw him introduce Pink on the American Music Awards! See, he didn't really step in anything!
- Kanye West