Required Listening, November 15 Releases. Each week we’re gathering five (if we can find five) new releases that we think are worth a listen. This week’s features a boybander, that omnipresent glee club and a British import.
Howie D, Back To Me – Howie D is better known as Howie Dorough, and even better known as “that guy in the Backstreet Boys.” The album is a mix of classic boyband style ballads and upbeat dance tracks. The first single “Lie To Me” could be a b-side off Millennium that they forgot to layer the other guys voices over. Which isn’t a bad thing, the Backstreet Boys still tour and fill a very important void in our popular culture. We need these songs to survive people, so just embrace it.
Various Artists, Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album Volume 2 – It’s basically Thanksgiving already and Glee has been beating the Internet over the head with these holiday tracks for weeks, so now it’s time to buckle down and support the behemoth that is Glee. Think of it as your gay tax for the Kurt/Blaine and Satanta/Brittany storylines. The album is 80 percent good holiday fare and only 20 percent whacked-out Glee original holiday weirdness, so it’s worthwhile.
Gym Class Heroes, The Papercut Chronicles II – The pop-punk-rap outfit has been adept at climbing the charts over their past two albums, and the the newest outing is no exception. “Stereo Hearts,” which features Adam Levine on the hook, has been solidly entrenched on the charts since it’s release this summer, and the plethora of guest appearances (Ryan Tedder, Oh Land, Neon Hitch) promise to keep the album solid into 2012. But even when the Heroes go it alone their mix of pop sensibilities and rap tendencies sets them apart.
Cher Lloyd, Sticks + Stones – The British X-Factor finalist who gained viral fame with her audition performance of (Keri Hilson’s cover of) Soulja Boy’s “Turn My Swag On” is making her American debut with Sticks + Stones, a decidedly young album (she’s only 18, after all) that layers electro-pop with dubstep influences and, of course, Lloyd’s own brand of swag-pop. How well that translates across the pond is yet to be seen, but in the UK she already has two charting hits and her youthful bossy bragging might hit a sweet spot here as well.
Drake, Take Care – Two albums in (not counting any mix tapes) and it’s finally (almost) possible not to think of Degrassi when you think of the Toronto rapper. He’s been a pop and critical darling since stepping onto the hip-hop scene in 2006, but where is 2010 release “Thank Me Later” fell somewhat flat after hyped mix tapes, “Take Care” learns from that and ultimately shines. When you get down to it, Drake has a lot of feelings and shares them, the same formula as “Thank Me Later” but now his cocksure nature becomes relatable instead of grating. We’re not sure what magic he employed to make the transformation, but we’re liking it.