By John Hill
The holiday shopping season is in full swing, and that means sales galore. Among those bargains are a lot of new releases begging to be wrapped up and given to the ones you love (including yourself). Here are a few of the more high-profile releases to either consider or think twice about.
Kelly Clarkson – Greatest Hits
How is it even possible that Kelly Clarkson won American Idol over ten years ago? Time flies when you are releasing hit after hit. This Greatest Hits collection spans the entire timeframe, from her coronation song “A Moment Like This” to her current single “Catch My Breath.” Besides “Catch,” there are two other new songs: “People Like Us,” a danceable track that speaks to the outsiders (and is screaming for an epic remix); and “Don’t Rush,” a lush 80s-style country-pop ballad with the legendary Vince Gill playing guitar and singing harmonies. If you have any Kelly Clarkson gaps in your musical collection, this set is a must-buy.
Christina Aguilera – Lotus
Christina Aguilera recently said in an interview that her last album Bionic was a disc only appreciated by those who really love music. While I will be glad to argue that point with her, it was clear either way that she needed to come back a little closer to the masses if she wanted to sell more copies. If that was Christina’s goal for her new release, then it is mission accomplished. Lotus couldn’t be more of-the-moment unless PSY started rapping on a track. From the autotuned first single “Your Body” to the Cobra Starship-sounding “Let There Be Love,” Aguilera brings her potent pipes into the mainstream, making a case for her continued viability. Standout tracks include both of her duets with fellow coaches on The Voice: Cee-Lo Green on the bangin’ “Make the World Move;” and Blake Shelton on the power ballad “Just a Fool.” After a couple of listens, you (and the recipient of your gift) will have multiple songs lodged in your heads.
Rihanna – Unapologetic
Reviewing Unapologetic is a difficult task for me, as I have multiple issues with it before I even listen to it. Besides the fact that Rihanna should just take a vacation and let the public miss her for a minute, there is the inevitable discussion about why on Earth she recorded a duet with former boyfriend/pugilist Chris Brown. This fact is complicated by the simple truth that the duet “Nobody’s Business” is one of the best songs on a mostly decent album. If you can make it through a few throwaway tracks, including the abysmal “Numb” with Eminem, as well as your disgust with Chris Brown, there are several songs that will justify the purchase. “Stay” is a stripped-down ballad that lets Rihanna’s vocals shine through, “Right Now” hops on the David Guetta Express for a future floor-filler, and “No Love Allowed” is a genuine reggae-flavored track that goes to show that Rih can take on just about any sound with the right production and make it work. Whether that’s enough to justify buying the album is a judgment call.