Marketed and distributed by Universal Music

Gone are the almost casual, laid-back flower-child look and sing-along pop that made us first love Nelly Furtado. Instead, we have a very slick, very glam lady singing to us on what is essentially a much more urban, hip-hop influenced album. The first single, Maneater, features a retro-pop sound that is helluva catchy. Say It Right and Do It would take you straight back to the eighties sound of Madonna if it weren’t for the modern-day beat – think Gwen Stefani. Hip-hop producer extraordinaire Timbaland features on Promiscuous (which also reminds me of Gwen Stefani) while Wait For You’s beat is trademark Timbaland (think Aaliyah). Luckily the Portuguese roots haven’t disappeared completely: No Hay Igual is a funky infusion of latin and hip-hop, with All Good Things (Come To An End) being a fantastic pop song and Te Busque (featuring Latin superstar Juanes) the closest she comes to a ballad on the album (besides maybe for In God’s Hands). Open-minded fans will most likely enjoy Loose for what it is: a funky, very retro-pop album. I think it’s brilliant, but if you don’t appreciate hip-hop influences, rather stay away.


Marketed and distributed by Gallo Record Company

I vividly remember Toni Braxton’s self-titled debut album and how phenomenally well she did with her deep, almost husky voice. Songs like Breathe Again, Unbreak My Heart and Spanish Guitar put her solidly on the map. But like so many other artists, Miss Braxton got tired of record company formulas and followed her own head and heart. Her subsequent work certainly didn’t impress me much and it was with mixed feelings that I approached her new album, Libra. It’s not a bad album. (In fact, songs like Trippin (That’s The Way Love Works), Please, Midnite and Take This Ring are quite enjoyable.) The problem is that it’s all very average; many of the tracks start off with promise but soon fade into plain, average songs. I find that sad because Toni Braxton is capable of much, much more in terms of vocals and execution. Libra is another miss.


Marketed and distributed by SonyBMG

Not many celebrities are as openly ditsy as Jessica Simpson, and I’ve often wondered what exactly her gorgeous ex-husband Nick Lachey saw in her. Originally a member of the moderately successful 98 Degrees, Nick’s previous attempts at a solo career didn’t pay off and actually caused a bit of tension in the home of the newlyweds. However, 2006 saw Nick venturing onto the solo-market again with a brand new release entitled What’s Left Of Me. With only 4 of the 13 tracks on the album not co-written by Nick and also featuring talent such as Andreas Carlsson, Jamie Cullum and Kara Dioguardi, I found the album to be impressive. The subject matter (love, relationships) is fairly obvious, but the frequent changes in style and mood make for very enjoyable music. The title-track (and first single) is doing phenomenally well across the globe, and other songs like I Can’t Hate You Anymore, On Your Own, Shades Of Blue, Everywhere But Here, I Do It For You, Run To Me and Alone have “hit” written all over them. What’s Left Of Me is bound to finally put Nick Lachey on the map as a solo artist in own right.


Marketed and distributed by SonyBMG

Earlier this year 21-year old Carrie Underwood became America’s fourth Idol, following in the footsteps of Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard and Fantasia Barrino. Where Kelly Clarkson followed the pop route, Ruben Studdard failed miserably as an R&B crooner, with Fantasia achieving moderate success as an R&B singer. Unlike all the above, Carrie Underwood’s Oklahoma-roots should’ve given it away that she would take the (very popular) country route. The result? Carrie’s remarkable debut album, Some Hearts. Less funky than the Dixie Chicks but more country than Shania Twain, I would most compare Carrie Underwood’s voice and music with that of LeAnn Rimes – strong, solid and delightfully country! Her Idols-hit, Inside Your Heaven, remains one of the stand out tracks on the album, while Wasted, Some Hearts, Jesus Take The Wheel, and Starts With Goodbye are impressive in their own right. If you don’t like or understand country music, you will probably hate Some Hearts. However, if you do understand it and like strong female vocalists, Carrie Underwood will undoubtedly leave you impressed.


Marketed and distributed by Universal Music

I’ve never really taken a strong liking to Ronan Keating. As part of nineties-group Boyzone I didn’t mind him too much, but his solo efforts have never impressed me. It’s not that he’s a bad singer or makes terrible music, he’s just one of those artists that float comfortably in the average sector at the back of my mind. So here we have yet another album by him entitled Bring You Home. The recipe is similar to his previous offerings, maybe a little more mature – adult contemporary pop about love – but not number one material. Sure, some songs are likable (Friends In Time, Back In The Backseat, the Goo Goo Dolls’ Iris) but it feels as if the album doesn’t take off, once again hovering around as average. Fans will like it, but for me Bring You Home is just not exciting enough to motivate me to listen to it regularly.


Marketed and distributed by EMI

We interviewed Bryan Rice a few weeks ago, discussing a few of the songs on his debut album, Confessional. The better-known tracks on Confessional include the mammoth hit No Promises, the beautiful current single Homeless Heart as well as the title track that was originally reserved for Britney Spears. So, what about the rest of the album, you may ask? Confessional is a very straightforward pop album with the bulk of the subject matter being love and relationships. There’s the rather up-beat Can’t Say I’m Sorry about not regretting past relationships, the reassuring We Can about making a relationship work against all odds, the tender Fragile, and the catchy Not Enough – all songs that stand out as possible hits. Other songs like Where Do You Go and Last Two On Earth continue in the same vein, making Confessional an easy-listening pop album that should satisfy various tastes. Bryan Rice may still be a relatively unknown star, but I’m certain that won’t be the case for long. And believe me: he’s even better live!


Marketed and distributed by Universal Music

Rihanna scored big last year with her dancehall-hit

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