Justin Timberlake, Nelly and Lorde Lead This Week's New Releases
Album Of The Week: Lorde Pure Heroine (Universal) - While it's tempting to peg the smartest woman in pop as the positive role-model version of the death-obsessed Lana Del Rey, there's so much more going on with "internet-raised" Ella Yelich-O'Connor, aka Lorde. With Lorde, it's lots of Regina Spektor, Joni Mitchell, even tUnE-yArDs. Her lyrics need polishI thought she was singing "It's a new iPhone" not "it's a new art form" because both would've fit "Tennis Court"'s weird general revolution, though "we're so happy/ even when we're smiling out of fear" nails it. The smash "Royals" has so much melody that the drums and minimal basso orchestral synth stabs underneath barely even register. It's also the best piece of class-conscious pop since Ke$ha threw back the half-finished drinks you left behind at the bar. What you'll notice in the best-in-show "Ribs" isn't the Broken Social Scene reference or the fear of getting old (she's goddamn 16) but the sawing melody that pokes up through the pin-drop house beat. Later she distances herself from "white teeth teens." All over she chooses minimal, surprising music that never goes wanting.
Nelly M.O. (Republic) - Nelly remains the nicest, sweetest, most melodic guy in rap, with a flow so assured that he can sell a line about Google Music without making you reach for your clothes. You have to love how the man with the slow-drawling singsong takes his time; how many years ago was the "My Chick Bad" that "My Chick Better" responds to? Retro isn't a concept here, not with Pharrell topping the charts ten years after "Hot in Herre" and helping out the lead "Get Like Me" with a classic Neptunes clackety-percussion beat updated and fit for Queen Minaj. Rare thing, a 2013 rap album whose biggest disappointment is pronouncing "Idgaf" non-phonetically. Don't miss the deluxe edition, which includes first single "Hey Porsche," a country-teenpop love song to his car.
Justin Timberlake The 20/20 Experience (2 of 2) (RCA) - Hard to tell if this will send the message that Justin's act is stale. He already owns the best-selling album of the year whether "Mirrors" singlehandedly carried it on the radio or not. And Robin Thicke sure took most of the rap for that "Take Back the Night" gaffe. But The 20/20 Experience remains the safest "experimental" franchise of recent pop vintage. The songs are long, which doesn't make them groove, or make him D'Angelo. The peaks are lower and the valleys are shallower than the first volume, which means there's nothing as insulting as "Suit & Tie" either. Tough choice; I might prefer it to Vol. 1 if it didn't leave such a bad taste in my mouth. There's nothing more for this incarnation of Justin to prove, except that "Take Back the Night" could be the best track on something. See who else made the list