This week marks the release of new music from four pop heavyweights: Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Shakira, and that lover of eyeliner and PDF, Adam Lambert. Because we know that listening to too much bubblegum sweetness can be hazardous to your valuable indie cred, we’ve graciously previewed all four albums for you. Find out which ones are surprisingly worth your time, and which ones actually merit an eye roll.
Adam Lambert- For Your Entertainment
It would be so easy to hate Adam Lambert’s debut album. After all, he’s a product of American Idol which makes him pretty much uncool by default. It didn’t help matters when his album art was leaked and we all thought he resembled the lost Kardashian sister. But our laughter has ceased with the release of For Your Entertainment. The album’s larger-than-life glam-rock songs pay homage to acts like Scissor Sisters and Queen. Out of all the successful artists who have been popped out of American Idol, Lambert seems to have the most interesting musical references and personality. Although the album is not pitch-perfect, its glossy pop production and insanely catchy choruses never fail to entertain. Judging by the title, that seems to be Lambert’s goal anyway.
Lady Gaga- The Fame Monster
Lady Gaga’s latest offering is merely an appetizer, designed to tide fans over until she records a proper follow-up. And it unfortunately feels that way too. The songs sound like the same dance-pop confections Gaga sang the first time around. Instead of providing an exhilarating disco ride, however, these new tracks feel half-baked and rushed. Even her duet with fellow diva powerhouse, Beyonce, falls flat. The one shining star is the Ace of Base-inspired track, “Alejandro” in which Gaga yearns for one of her presumably many Latin lovers.
Rihanna- Rated R
The last time Rihanna released an album, she was one half of a music power couple with Chris Brown. Oh, how the times have changed. With Rated R, Rihanna reflects those changes by shunning lightweight pop fare in favor of edgier and grittier sounds. Boasting an all-star team of producers, including Justin Timberlake, Ne-Yo, Will.i.am, and The Dream, Rated R delves into darker territory with the lush lead single, “Russian Roulette” and angry tracks like “Rockstar 101” and “Hard.” If you’re looking for something as hook-filled as “Umbrella,” you’ll be disappointed. But what you’ll find instead is a pop star successfully finding her depth and range.
Shakira- She Wolf
At 32, Shakira has been around the block. She released her first album in 1990 and followed it up with countless more, in both Spanish and English. At this stage in her career, she’s an international superstar. She even manages to stay out of the public eye, only re-emerging when she records a new album. For her latest record, She Wolf, Shakira perfects her brand of pop, an interesting marriage of world music with hip-hop and dance. Shakira is perhaps the only artist who can effortlessly transition between a duet with Lil Wayne and an Argentinian folk singer that no one has heard of. Her appreciation of all genres of music seeps into tracks like “Why Wait” and “Gypsy.” Although her vocals can be grating, the songs on She Wolf are always innovative and refreshing.