Bangerz isn’t all red-hot bangers as Cyrus clearly intended, but when it works it’s as good as contemporary pop gets. When Cyrus sings on Adore, “I just started living,” she offers a tantalizing tease for future albums we can’t wait to hear.
Download: Wrecking Ball, FU, Rooting for My Baby.
Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience - 2 of 2 (RCA) * * *
Justin Timberlake is so hip he’s managed to have the year’s best-selling album with The 20/20 Experience despite upending the current fixation on the four-minute, hook-filled pop single. The 20/20 Experience was a beautifully recorded, yet largely hookless, indulgent sprawl of an album with songs that peaked at the three- or four-minute mark and yet stretched onward to interminable eight- and nine-minute lengths.
This fast-arriving sequel, featuring 11 more songs cut during the same sessions, repeats the formula, retaining the glorious, enveloping plush fidelity (download the “Mastered for iTunes” version or import at the higher 256 bit rate) but the songs this time, though similarly structured (read: long) have tempos and hooks. As a whole, the far funkier 20/20 Experience - 2 of 2 has a cohesion and focus — mostly on the carnal — that the first part lacked.
Timberlake’s also been taking cues from Robin Thicke, because 20/20 redux is considerably raunchier than its predecessor. Where 1 of 2 hinted at oral sex on Strawberry Bubblegum, the follow-up gets downright nasty on Murder — a Michael Jackson-equivalent, sexy woman-as-murderess motif — in which guest Jay Z raps about Yoko Ono’s special hold on the late Beatle John Lennon (don’t ask). Timberlake boasts of his loverman skills on Cabaret, a track featuring Drake. “I got you saying Jesus so much it’s like we’re laying in the manger.”
JT purists might yearn for the more refined man who brought Sexy Back in less obvious manner seven years ago, but 20/20 - 2 of 2 is suitably sexy, equally at home on the dance floor, in the bedroom or in the car on the way to a late-night hookup.
Download: Drink You Away, Murder, Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want).
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Kenny Rogers, You Can’t Make Old Friends (Warner Nashville) * * * . The selling-point is the sweet title track, an ode to friendship the country veteran sings with old friend Dolly Parton on the 30th anniversary of their pairing on Islands in the Stream. But Rogers, 75, in fine, distinctive raspy voice, gathers a number of varied songs together for an uncharacteristically strong album highlighted by the rock edge of Turn This World Around and the lively Don’t Leave Me in the Night Time, featuring Buckwheat Zydeco. The gambler scores a winning hand with his best album in decades.
Randy Travis, Influence Vol. 1: The Man I Am (Warner Nashville) * * 1/2. The country veteran’s 21st studio album, recorded in November before his life-threatening illnesses, pays homage to songs from the 1920s onward by Lefty Frizzell, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings and others. Travis’ voice isn’t at peak but his intentions are honorable and the music is true country.
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