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By Korea Herald

Published : April 6, 2012 - 18:37

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Earle offers self-reflection on album

Justin Townes Earle

"Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now"

(Bloodshot)

Four albums ago, Justin Townes Earle introduced himself as good-time rake who warned women about his rambling ways with a wink and a pinch. His music -- a jaunty update on old-time acoustic music steeped in swing, blues and mountain hoedowns -- perfectly matched his playful persona.

Now 30 years old, Earle sounds as if he’s reckoning with his wayward ways. Even his lengthy album title, ``Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now," acknowledges that some burned bridges may never get repaired.

Always a gifted songwriter and guitarist, Earle deals with the consequences of his actions with an album of self-examining songs set to low-key yet lush arrangements featuring somber brass accents. His voice remains packed with emotion and personality, but it has more range and takes more risks, as he whispers, slurs and moans like a midnight caller.

His self-written songs, each as strong as the next, deal with family history, with the way loved ones shade the truth to each other, and with the downhill side of love and friendship. Somehow, through the confessionals and dark stories, a powerful light shines through.


Gray flips the script on ‘Covered’

Macy Gray

``Covered"

(429 Records)

Making an album of covers is always a tricky proposition. An artist tackling another act’s song has the challenge of making a well-known tune their own while keeping at least some of the DNA of the original version.

It’s a delicate task, but Macy Gray succeeds with ``Covered," as the raspy-sounding singer returns with an impressive collection of remakes.

The handpicked songs, some of which will be familiar to her fans as she‘s been performing them live over the years, include Radiohead’s ``Creep" and Metallica‘s ``Nothing Else Matters."

Gray leads off the album with a version of the Eurythmics’ ``Here Comes The Rain Again" followed by Radiohead’s ``Creep": It’s a clever choice on her part and she effortlessly introduces huge songs from artists of a different genre to a completely new fan base.

Gray continues to unleash her creativity with her take on ``Teenagers." The song by My Chemical Romance, where angry teens rage against a two-faced cruel world, is completely revamped and turned on its head as Gray switches the lyrics to take on the point of view of a parent.

Also included are short skits featuring Nicole Scherzinger and MC Lyte that show Gray’s witty side, a quirky collaboration with actor Idris Elba on Colbie Caillat’s ``Bubbly," and a flash of love to Kanye West with ``Love Lockdown/Buck."

Overall, this album is a further extension of Gray’s wild and random side. The album’s full-bodied, colorful and shows that she’s still willing and able to push the boundaries without compromising herself or her talent.

(AP)

Minaj feeds fans with 2nd album

Nicki Minaj

“Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded”

(Cash Money/Universal Republic)

Nicki Minaj is a bit schizophrenic. Or call her versatile. Either way, her success is unparalleled and stunning: She started on the scene as an oversexed female rapstress who stole the thunder from her male peers and anyone else who dared to share the spotlight. In just three years, she’s become arguably rap’s biggest name.

But she’s also proved she’s more than hip-hop; with the success of “Super Bass” from her 2010 debut “Pink Friday,” she’s also become a hit pop singer. Her sophomore album, “Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded,” showcases both sides of Minaj and may get her steps closer to world domination.

Songs like “Automatic,” “Whip It” and “Pound the Alarm” ― all produced by RedOne ― are catchy pop tunes that can go toe-to-toe with any recent hit from Britney Spears, Katy Perry or Ke$ha. They follow the similar formula for most songs on Top 40 radio, with a European-flavored beat and party vibe. “Starships,” another RedOne effort, is a huge hit on the charts and is Minaj’s best solo standing outside of “Super Bass.”

Still, Minaj isn’t the world’s greatest singer: When she croons, there always seems to be a hint of Auto-Tune, which is unfortunate. She’s best on “Right By My Side,” an R&B duet with Chris Brown that was co-written by Ester Dean.

The first half of “Roman Reloaded” ― which showcases Minaj as her male alter ego, Roman ― focuses on the entertainer’s rap side, featuring her boasting, boasting, and boasting some more. While there’s no denying she’s got it going on, cockiness can be a flaw. It was part of the problem with her first album.

When less focused with her standing in the rap world, Minaj is top-notch: “Champion,” with Nas, Drake and Young Jeezy, is great; “Marilyn Monroe” is touching and the Beenie Man-assisted “Gun Shot” is enjoyable. (AP)