One Direction, "Take Me Home" (Syco/Columbia Records)
One Direction's sophomore album, "Take Me Home," comes one year after the group released its debut, "Up All Night," in the United Kingdom. The latter came out in America just eight months ago, has already sold 1.3 million units and is still in the Top 25.
The wholesome-looking quintet has joined Justin Bieber in the affections of girls everywhere, with their puppy eyes, trendy haircuts and rather good voices. And the boy band's new album delivers on the brief, vaguely catchy songs that appeal to both the romantic and the wild side of teenage girls.
The record relies heavily on perky and melancholic guitars, and on romantic invitations like "I want to be your last first kiss" on "Last First Kiss," which then veer into the leery "Tonight let's get some" on the very honest and upbeat first single, "Live While We're Young." It's full of riffs that haven't been heard since the 1990s boy bands took their final bows.
"Take Me Home" is mainly produced by the same folks behind the group's debut, including Rami Yacoub, Carl Falk and Savan Kotecha. English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran returns, too, co-writing two ballads ("Little Things," ''Over Again") that break up the overall upbeat preppiness of the disc with memorable choruses.
The album feels relentless in rhythm, sometimes even during the ballads, with a homogenous sound and message - like a teenage boy who says all the right words in a rush to get what he wants. But this time they're only singing the right words to get to your wallets and adoration. And they're most likely going to get it.
CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: "Over Again" will be played over and over again by the lovelorn.
Christina Jaleru, Associated Press
Review: Aguilera's 'Lotus' is good, but not great
Christina Aguilera, "Lotus" (RCA Records)
Christina Aguilera is easily one of contemporary music's best voices. She's got pipes that music-lovers need to hear at a time when Top 40 radio features studio-enhanced vocals and award shows are full of lip syncing. That's why her fifth album, "Lotus," is somewhat disappointing - not because it isn't good, but because it isn't great.
Sure, it's an improvement from 2010's "Bionic," a chaotic album that is Aguilera's only one not to reach platinum status. "Lotus" is more focused, thankfully, but not as satisfying as her first three releases.
The new 13-track album is the singer's first music offering since she filed for divorce two years ago. And when she's emotional, she sounds best.
The title track kicks off the album nicely as Aguilera sings about starting over. On "Best of Me," she sings: "Words cut through my skin, tears roll down my chin, my walls crumble within." And later in the song she sings in a beautiful belt: "I will rise undefeated, I will not let you bring me down." You just want to cheer her on. Sing it, girl.
Another standout is the piano tune "Blank Page," co-written by Sia, whose work with Aguilera on "Bionic" is that album's highlight. "Sing for Me," too, is great and sounds like a personal anthem for Aguilera, who has gotten a boost recently as a coach on NBC's "The Voice."
Where the singer falls short is on what are supposed to be the "fun" songs, like "Red Hot Kinda Love," ''Around the World" and "Make the World Move," which features a barely heard CeeLo Green. The first single, the Max Martin-produced "Your Body," is also a miss. Martin is a little better on his other contribution, the dance-heavy "Let There Be Love," which sounds typical of what's out there, but still feels like a radio hit.
It's almost like Aguilera isn't getting the best material from the songwriters and producers on "Lotus," which includes Alex da Kid (Eminem's "Love the Way You Lie," B.o.B's "Airplanes"), Lucas Secon, Supa Dups, Claude Kelly, Bonnie McKee, Tracklacers, Steve Robson and others. Her excellent voice deserves excellent songs.
CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: "Circles," with its punk rock hook, screams to be remixed by Nicki Minaj and Rihanna.
Mesfin Fekadu, Associated Press
Review: 'Twilight' breaks out mourners for last CD
Various Artists, "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" (Summit Entertainment/Chop Shop/Atlantic Records)
It's a sad goodbye from "The Twilight Saga," which sees its last installment, "Breaking Dawn - Part 2," hit the big screen this week. The soundtrack reflects a chocked up melancholia that lingers over the sound like dust over old boxes of family photos.
This final film steps away from the romantic dilemmas of previous outings into a tense confrontation between vampire factions. Yet the album is more focused on delivering a soulful sound that is neither too arcane, nor too mainstream. It's just quirky enough to be embraced by the hordes of teenagers who've grown up alongside Bella and Edward.
Nikki Reed, who plays Rosalie Hale in the film, makes an appearance on the instrument-stripped piano ballad "All I've Ever Needed," alongside her husband and former "American Idol" contestant Paul McDonald. Green Day, the biggest act on the soundtrack, is bland on "Forgotten."
And the rest of the songs alternate between diaphanous guitars like POP ETC's "Speak Up" or dreamy tunes like Feist's "Fire in the Water" and James Vincent McMorrow's "Ghosts." There's also haunting strings, like on "New for You" by Reeve Carney, best known for playing the lead in Broadway's "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark."
It's all a bit wailing, like a highly enjoyable mourning parade that performs at its own death.
CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: Ellie Goulding gives the album a touch of playfulness with her energetic "Bittersweet."
Cristina Jaleru, Associated Press