Marketed and distributed by SonyBMG

I’ve been a Shakira admirer since before she released Laundry Service, the English-language album that shot her into international superstardom. Then she just about disappeared from the face of the earth, until now. Fijacion Oral Volume 1 came out recently, and I am mightily impressed! Besides La Tortura (that features the vocals of Spanish-heartthrob Alejandro Sanz), songs like La Pared (the original and version Acustica), the vocal-focused En Tus Pupilas, the retro-pop Oblener Un Si, the slow and melodic No, and La Imprescindible stand out. But in essence, every single track on the album is brilliant. Even if you’re not Spanish-speaking, all you need to enjoy this album is your heart. Like all things Spanish, this collection of melodic songs is infused with passion and emotion. And if Fijacion Oral Volume 1 is anything to go by, I can’t wait for Oral Fixation Volume 2 (due later this year).


Marketed and distributed by Gallo Record Company

The first thought that ran through my mind upon receiving Beautiful Soul was “Twink Alert”! But Jesse McCartney is not just another gorgeous blonde boy trying to make it in the world of music – he can actually sing! It’s a mixed bag of songs and genres that manage to flow into each other effortlessly, making it not only highly enjoyable to listen to, but magnificent in its own right. The album has many highlights, like the straight-forward pop love songs She’s No You (the current single off the album) and Beautiful Soul, the more ballad-like Come To Me, to the funky, sexy Without You, the super-catchy What’s Your Name, and Because You Live. Beautiful Soul is an album you can pop in anywhere and any time without wanting to skip a track here and there – it’s easy on the ear and has a great feel-good factor.


Marketed and distributed by Gallo Record Company

DJ Timo Maas recently released his new album Pictures to critical acclaim. It captures the essence of what made his debut production album, Loud, so important while still evolving and pushing the boundaries of what dance music could be or become, incorporating more rock, alternative and even hip-hop influences. Strong music needs strong vocals, and Pictures features some of the best available, like Placebo’s Brian Molko. He lends his unique vocals to the first single (and my favourite track), First Day, as well as to the title-track and Like Siamese. Also lending vocals is Kelis on 4 Ur Ears (she collaborated with him on Help Me from the Loud album as well), and Neneh Cherry on the brilliant High Drama. It’s an album that is powerful in music and vocals – experimental at times, yet fresh and danceable throughout. If electronic dance music is your thing, Pictures certainly won’t disappoint.


Marketed and distributed by Gallo Record Company

Hillary Duff isn’t blessed with one of the best singing voices in the world, and I think she knows it. The teen-actress turned singer recently released her self-titled sophomore album, and while it sounds weak and strained at times, it remains fairly pleasant on the ear. Song choice is a vital ingredient in any successful album, and out of the 18 tracks on the album I would honestly skip a handful immediately – mostly songs where she tries on the angry rock-chick hat. What does however come through clearly on the album is that Hillary is actually trying to find the kind of songs that really suit her voice. Her saving grace is therefore songs like Fly, Hide Away, Underneath This Smile, Who’s That Girl, Shine and I Am – tracks that combine pop with rock to create a convincing sound. She’s no Ashlee Simpson or Kelly Clarkson, but she puts in a good effort.


Marketed and distributed by Gallo Record Company

James Blunt is without a doubt one of the most delightful voices to come to my attention this year. Currently flying high with the stunning You’re Beautiful, each and every song on his debut album, Back To Bedlam, is so unique that it literally gave me shivers the further it progressed. Every song is brilliant in my opinion, and if I have to highlight some of my favourites, they would include Wisemen, Goodbye My Lover, Tears and Rain, Billy, Cry and No Bravery. Think of a Will Young without the jazz and swing-genre showiness. Think of a Rob Thomas without the quasi-aggression in his mellower tracks. Honest, emotional, and deeply soulful, James Blunt is a male vocal genius creating music that is as stripped down as Tracy Chapman. A remarkable debut and a must-have; James is probably the closest we’ll ever come to a male Linda Perry.


Marketed and distributed by Universal Records

Not many groups can come close to the Black Eyes Peas when it comes to deliciously catchy, addictive, funk-infused hip-hop tracks. Elephunk elevated them to global superstardom, and the new album Monkey Business will undoubtedly take them even higher. In fact, you know that from the opening notes of Pump It Already – incorporating their trademark rapping with Misirlou, this is a future classic. The massive first single, Don’t phunk with my Heart, follows, as does the catchy My Style featuring Justin Timberlake, and the sexy second single, Don’t Lie. Also worth a mention are Dum Diddly (featuring a sample of Pass the Dutchie), Gone Going, the funkified They Don’t Want Music (featuring James Brown), Disco Club, and Union (based on Sting’s Englishman in New York and featuring the man himself).


Marketed and distributed by Gallo Record Company

In the world of hip-hop there are many artists I admire. But amongst them all, you will probably not find another Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot. A rapper, songwriter and producer of note, Missy has not only gotten us up and on the dance-floor countless times, but has also had a hand in the careers of some of R&B and hip-hop’s brightest stars, whilst being most R&B artists’ remixer of choice. On Missy Elliot’s latest album, The Cookbook, she is literally cooking…and more so than ever. From the album’s first single, Lose Control (that features Ciara and Fatman Scoop), to My Struggles (featuring Mary J Blige) and 4 My Man (featuring America’s latest Idol, Fantasia), the album is another Missy masterpiece with many other highlights, like On & On, We Run This and Remember When, to boot. A superstar of note and musical force to be reckoned with, Missy Elliot is well worth adoring.

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