Tuesday, June 19, 2007



T-Pain may sound like another rapper/singer on a mindless sex-and-booze bender. But really, he's just drowning his sorrows. The women on his songs are so fickle and reluctant, it takes a ton of loin-quivering beats and "drank"-buying to get them to lie down with him.

Luckily for him, he's got the skills to pay the bills. He raps. He sings. He writes his own lyrics and produces all of his own tracks -- a distinction in a time when most solo hip-hop albums are actually highly collaborative efforts.

His complete artistic control makes for a startlingly cohesive vision -- a uniquely Floridian electronic sound with roots in Miami Bass, an offshoot of hip-hop. "Epiphany," T-Pain's second album, skyrocketed to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 on the strength of the ubiquitous lead single, "Buy U a Drank."

Like his forebears, Quad City DJ's and KP & Envyi, he employs sorghum-sweet melodies, warp-speed 808 rhythms and tinny high-hats that sound as if they sprang from a Casio keyboard.

But unlike the Miami Bass dance-floor workouts of the '90s, T-Pain brings a new level of emotional complexity to the genre and explores a range of moods: rambunctious ("Church"), cautionary ("I Got It") and nostalgic ("Time Machine").

On "Sounds Bad," T-Pain awakes to sobering realities. "Got my whole house runnin' on a generator / No good food in my fridgedator / and I'm late for work," he intones. Forget horndog, T-pain reps for the underdog.

DOWNLOAD THESE: "Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin')," "Bartender"

-- Serena Kim


Bon Jovi

Bon Jovi is the latest in a recent line of acts -- Sheryl Crow, Kid Rock and Jewel among them -- to find modest success in Nashville after aging out of or growing bored with their mainstream careers.

Plainly inspired by the success of "Who Says You Can't Go Home," the band's 2005 collaboration with Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles, "Lost Highway" isn't so much a country album as a pop-rock album with country stars on it. Jon Bon Jovi and Co. leave the heavy lifting to guest artists such as Big & Rich and LeAnn Rimes, while personally contributing nothing twangier than the occasional pedal steel riff.

"Lost Highway" suffers from this excess of caution and from the band's unfortunate tendency to do whatever it was doing on its last record over again, only worse. With the exception of the lovely "Stranger," a duet with Rimes, the album appears to be entirely devoid of an original thought, lacking even the derivative-but-memorable arena pop tracks that until recently were the band's stock in trade.

Because country music fans tend to like their rock stars cheesy and their bombast dialed to 11, and because they may be less familiar with the band's ever-increasing fondness for chewed-over "Bobby Jean"-era Springsteenian cliches, they might not even notice. Rock fans, or anyone even remotely familiar with Bon Jovi's recent canon, will listen to phoned-in tracks such as "We Got It Going On" and wonder if they're even bothering to try anymore.

DOWNLOAD THESE: "Everybody's Broken," "Stranger"

-- Allison Stewart

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