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Maroon 5 (A&M/Octone Records)
Maroon 5's new album pokes fun at the band's ubiquity, which is mainly a result of the massive (and at times annoying) hit "Moves Like Jagger," as well as frontman Adam Levine's popularity as a judge on NBC's The Voice.
While the band is to be congratulated on all that exposure, its members seem as if they've lost sight of how to make a good album in the process.
Their fourth release has some highlights, but it's mainly boring and safe, with the group taking a more pop approach and stepping away from its rock foundation. The result sounds like the boys are purposely playing to the Top 40-crowd and iTunes singles buyers. The songs lack edge and oomph: First single "Payphone" is one of the year's worst songs; "Fortune Teller" and "Tickets" are just as bad.
"Overexposed" was produced by hit-makers like Max Martin and "Jagger" producers Benny Blanco and Shellback; all three men have crafted monster smashes for Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Ke$ha, and many others. "Daylight," co-written by Martin and Levine, sounds like a bad Coldplay cover and "The Man Who Never Lied," produced by Noah "Mailbox" Passovoy, echoes Irish rockers The Script.
"Overexposed" is miles away from the band's debut, 2002's "Songs About Jane;" that album was flawless with its raw lyrics. Maroon 5's other releases were also good, and at moments, great. But their new effort is an attempt to stay on the charts, and that's unfortunate for a group that has artistic depth and credibility.
-- MESFIN FEKADU, Associated Press
Cassandra Wilson (eOne Music)
Cassandra Wilson's a deferential diva on "Another Country." In fact, she lets her guitarist steal the show.
Fabrizio Sotti co-produced the album with Wilson, and he gives the set its sizzle with lyrical, inventive playing on acoustic and electric guitar. Sotti's jazzy solos are filled with fanciful flight a la Pat Metheny, and when he backs Wilson's singing, his radiant tone beautifully complements her smoky alto.
Sotti also played on Wilson's 2003 album, "Glamoured," which he produced, but he enjoys a more prominent performing role here. Credit Wilson for her generosity: Two of the album's 10 cuts even feature Sotti playing solo instrumentals.
Wilson's at her best on "Almost Twelve" and the title cut, both delivered over a bouncy Latin beat, and on the slow "No More Blues." But she's no Three Degrees singing "When Will I See You Again," which is undermined by her shaky intonation. The same issue plagues the languid "O Sole Mio," and her lead vocal merely detracts from the charming children's choir on the closing "Olomuroro."
-- STEVEN WINE, Associated Press
MEN IN BLACK 3 (Soundtrack)
Danny Elfman (Sony)
This mostly instrumental score, written by Hollywood superstar composer Danny Elfman (Planet of the Apes, Desperate Housewives, The Simpsons, Alice in Wonderland, Batman) begins with dark musical overtones -- not dreary, but dark all the same.
It lightens up along the way with its mix of orchestration and electronic sounds, providing a little tension and intrigue with an uptempo beat embodied by some bold brass and percussion over thumping bass. But it never really gets it legs or that defining moment that grabs the listener. It's fine as such projects go, but Elfman has done better.
-- TOM HENRY