Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2012-04-24

2012-04-24

Macy Gray: Covered (429, 2012) Ten non-Gray songs, three comedy skits, and three brief cameos for her kids and their high school pals. The songs are all post-1980, meaning post-song--from the era when bands began distinguishing themselves by sound. Credit producer Hal Wilner with isolating the melodically verbal in Metallica, Radiohead, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sublime, My Chemical Romance, and lesser lights. But 1) the high point is the opening "Here Comes the Rain Again," an anthem on the face of it that Gray wrests from Annie Lennox forever; 2) a low point is the closer from the anthemic-on-the-face-of-it Arcade Fire, a major structural mishap; and 3) an even lower point is the Metallica centerpiece, which could be my problem but I bet isn't. Casting directors should note that the comedy skits are genuinely funny; Gray should note that I'm omitting the cameos when I put this in iTunes. But both are distractions. Fun as it is to hear her do "Creep," "Teenagers," and "Smoke Two Joints," this is a bigger mess than it had to be. B+

Nicki Minaj: Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded: Deluxe Edition (Cash Money/Universal Republic, 2012) Since the positive and negative reviews say pretty much the same thing, we can agree that this is an overstuffed, musically manipulative, thematically directionless bid to put the pink-haired alien on the singles charts until Katy Perry absconds to rehab. She isn't "the female Weezy" or some ill-defined male alter ego. She's an aspiring and most likely inevitable pop queen who raps exceptionally well, sings quite well, rhymes inconsistently but sometimes superbly, and will do anything to be rich and famous. This obviously doesn't make her a heroine. But if you enjoy contemporary pop whose market-tested blare offends both rockist philistines and IDM aesthetes, her second album is a worthwhile investment. It begins strong and, counting the three bonus tracks, ends strong. In between it tends mawkish and loud, neither of which precludes fun, especially with the right cameos. There is, however, a Chris Brown track. (Hey--I said anything.) A-

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