Marketed and distributed by EMI Music SA

Ohmigod! Does music get any better than this? There is something about this band that gets me a little obsessive. Their debut offering, A Beautiful Lie, proved that pretty boy lead singer Jared Leto was all-grown up and in spite of (or maybe because of) the guy-liner was a fully fledged rock star. The album was huge, the band became massive and they had at least three or four mega-tracks on the charts. This is War is no exception.

The first single, Kings and Queens, places the band front and centre with their hearts on their sleeves highlighting their desperate plea for us to get over ourselves and start saving everything we hold dear – starting with the planet. With lines like “The age of man is over” you can’t miss the message. But there’s more than just sincere lyrics and melodramatic pop-esque rock, Leto can sing (some say scream) with the best of them. There’s definitely an 80’s throw-back in there; the drums on Night of the Hunter remind me of Frieda (from Abba)’s Phil Collins-drummed and produced track, I Know There’s Something Going On. But, don’t let that put you off; the songs are strangely sing-a-long-ish and will speed up any cardio work-out. And, regardless of the obvious influences of the ubiquitous U2, Linkin Park, Depeche Mode and others, Thirty Seconds have a sound all their own. Buy it! Just cause I said so!

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Marketed and distributed by Universal Music SA

The producing musical monolith that is Timbaland is back with another chart-topping, single-spawning masterpiece album of collaborations with all his favourite muses; Justin Trousersnake, Nelly Furtado and One Republic (amongst others.) It’s a great example of how this guy single-handedly (courtesy of his signature ‘wicky-wicky’) saved pop music by effortlessly infusing radio-friendly pop, rock, 80’s, country and hip hop.

From the first single, Morning After Dark, with Nelly and SoShy, to Carry Out, with JT, to the Katy Perry ditty, If We Ever Meet Again, he delivers again. And again. And again. There are numerous interestingly unusual collaborations with the likes of Miley Cyrus, JoJo, The Fray and Chad Kroeger, but the man who twiddles the fiddly bits is very much in the foreground. Surprisingly the Daughtry and One Republic tracks are the weakest – but hey, two out of 17 ain’t bad. This is sing-a-long hip-pop at its best. Buy it; feel street-wise and remember you gotta get up to get down!

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Marketed and distributed by Sony Music

Well I don’t know where Westlife are now – probably Dublin. But I do know where they were last Friday night – at Sun City with Kelly Clarkson, The Parlotones and Freshlyground to launch the new VW Polo Vivo. And, although Ms. Clarkson rocked the party, Westlife were a little…. boring? Don’t get me wrong, with their backing tracks they are as slick as ever, but drinking on stage and looking as if they were coming off the back of a looong St. Patrick’s Day week, they lacked the pizzazz that I witnessed the first time they came to South Africa in the early Noughties. So, on the back of that, I ipod-readied their new CD, Where We Are. All the same Westlife deliverables are there; catchy choruses, over-production, soaring piano-heavy melodies and a guarantee to sell at least a bazillion copies – the majority of which will probably be in Asia. And Ireland.

The first track What About Now (a Daughtry cover) is a question that could pertain to the band members, who are in somewhat of a mid-life crisis after being together for a decade and selling over 10 million CDs worldwide. It is also the best track on the CD. Shadows, written by One Republic’s Ryan Tedder, is another goodie; as is The Difference. But these, and the other ten tracks, are all ballads. Where’s the Bop Bop Baby and World of Our Own-esque poppy numbers, boys? Definitely only for die-hard fans.

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Marketed and distributed by Sony Music

Finally some South African music to review – well done Ed! I met Louise Carver when she was just out of school and was hocking It Don’t Matter across the FM dial. The song was an instant hit, but was poppy without being poppy enough and lacked the substance I thought that would sustain her. But, with pure passion, natural talent and her ability to be a star, here we are years later with Louise’s latest offering, Look to the Edge. The lead single, Warrior, caught my attention the first time I heard it and I can’t get enough; like waking up in the middle of the night and having it on heavy rotation in my brain. Carver describes this album as her new personal direction “stepping out of my comfort zone and into my power” – she says. And boy, is she right.

The same powerful vocal range is there and the well-produced tracks all stand out in their own right, reflecting the growth of a singer-songwriter who has certainly come into her own. The piano-laden ballads that we have come to expect are still in evidence, however, so fans won’t be disappointed. The rest will have to fight hard to not be converted. I liked the inclusion of Del Amtri’s Driving With the Brakes On – a song that has certainly stood the test of time. With her own arrangement, it’s nothing like the Karaoke version I was expecting. Here is a CD that oozes local flavour with great international appeal. It certainly needs to be added to the collection.

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Marketed and distributed by Sony Music

The return of the ‘Smooth Operator’. If you ever wondered what Amarula Cream on ice drunk during a heavy love-making session next to a roaring fire in the midst of a midnight Cape Town winter storm would sound like (just in case), it would probably sound like Sade. Some 25 years since the Grammy-winning English band first made their appearance; it’s amazing to think that they are still very much around and back with a new album, Soldier of Love. And yes, Sade is a band – not just Helen Folasade Adu, the British-Nigerian solo singer.

It’s sultry, it’s sexy, it’s sensual. It’s simply Sade – with their mix of smooth R&B, soul, jazz, funk and soft rock that has sold over 50 millio

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