Lindsay Lohan, "A Little More Personal (Raw)"
Of the current crop of singing/acting/dieting Renaissance teens, Lindsay Lohan is the one guaranteed to make my female friends roll their eyes and mutter words like "talentless" and "skinny." (For some reason, Hilary Duff always gets off more lightly.) This seems a little unfair, considering that, in the 12 months since releasing her debut album, "Speak," Long Island's finest has starred in a groundbreaking update of a classic film series ("Herbie: Fully Loaded"), kept company with a number of the entertainment industry's most eligible bachelors, and been photographed falling out of enough nightclubs to provide Gawker with near-daily gossip items about her. And now, just in time for Christmas, the hardest-working 19-year-old in show business presents another collection of her musical stylings: the dynamically named "A Little More Personal (Raw)."
In a tribute to truth in advertising, Lohan's second album apparently does get a little (only a little?) more personal, or "raw" as the parentheses helpfully clarify. Rolling Stone (two stars out of five) considers itself duly forewarned: "As the title suggests, Lindsay Lohan makes a fatal mistake on her second album: She tries to, like, express herself." Newsday (grade D) explains that this expression is Lohan's "way to tell her side of the story, a way to remind people that the much-publicized family drama with her father has made her life less than a fairy tale," before cattily concluding: "If Lohan really wants to get that message across, she'd be better off talking about it. The singing thing isn't really working out." Newsday also makes a gratuitous, and thinly veiled, reference to the teenager's none-too-impressive driving record: "Lindsay Lohan once again squanders all the high-priced support that label head Tommy Mottola has lavished on her. It's the sonic equivalent of borrowing a Mercedes to crash it into a wall. Actually, that would be more entertaining and not as big a waste."
A similarly disparaging Orlando Sentinel (one star out of five), meanwhile, devotes most of its review to lampooning the security measures that came with the pre-release copy of "A Little More Personal (Raw)" - "I can't be sure, but I think that someone on Lohan's street team has been following me" - but finds space to conclude, simply, that the record is "horrible." Leave it to the New York Times to defend Lindsay Lohan against the haters: "Now comes the louder, better follow-up [to 'Speak'], a petulant rock album with flashes of dance-pop," it announces portentously. Elaborating on its "Lindsay rocks" standpoint, the Times notes, "Ms. Lohan murmurs and wails as if she were in an emo band," and comments that "if she were" in such a group, "it probably would be pretty good." For now, though, Lohan has apparently "staked out a patch of musical ground between Kelly Clarkson and the Foo Fighters, and she can snarl a little without laying it on too thick."
Eminem, "Curtain Call: The Hits"
In the age of 50 Cent, sex scenes in Grand Theft Auto, and Lindsay Lohan, is there anyone who still thinks of Eminem as "the greatest threat to American children since Polio," as George W. Bush (allegedly) once did? One person has taken it upon himself to uphold the myth of Mr. Mathers as Public Enemy No. 1: the spectacularly creepy Christopher Duncan, a self-styled "Eminem impersonator," jailed in Britain this week for murdering a woman and stuffing her body in a suitcase, a crime reportedly inspired by Em's "Stan" video. With his one-time cultural notoriety thus grimly recalled, Eminem returns with a "Greatest Hits plus a couple of new tracks" package.
The big question surrounding "Curtain Call" appears to be: Is Eminem following Jay-Z into rapping retirement? At the very least, following from "The Eminem Show" and "Encore," it suggests a natural conclusion to his theatrically themed series of album titles. With this in mind, Newsday (grade C+) comes over all cynical, suggesting that "since every ad campaign needs a theme song, Eminem created the ambiguously titled single 'When I'm Gone' to help feed the will-he-or-won't-he-retire frenzy," and predicting that the primary purpose of "Curtain Call" is as "a hefty package designed to keep customers satisfied until he has some new product to release."
Other reviewers, it seems, are not taking any chances, and are rushing to ascribe Eminem his proper place within the pop pantheon. The San Francisco Chronicle (five out of five) aims highest, contending, "The 33-year-old rapper is the most lyrically inventive, self-revealing, scorchingly intelligent artist in pop music today, the closest thing to John Lennon since John Lennon. He has a similar capacity to be misunderstood, to press buttons and to be enormously funny to those in the know." NME (eight out of ten), on the other hand, attempts a more contemporaneous assessment: "Eminem's best work is angrier than Fred Durst, articulated with rhyming skills that could make Jay-Z sound tongue-tied his videos were as glossy as 'N Sync's, his choruses hookier than anything created for Christina Aguilera."
This "of his time" vs. "for the ages" divide is mirrored in the respective choice of prime cuts from "Curtain Call" -- while the Chronicle "could have done without the juvenilia" from the "Slim Shady LP," NME argues that the earlier fun stuff is the best: "The highlights are nearly all from Eminem's first two albums. 'My Name Is' 's cultural references may have dated ('I can't figure out which Spice Girl I wanna impregnate'), but its mix of fizzing humour and menace still sound startling. There's the clanging 'The Way I Am' ('I am whatever you say I am,' being the killer line), and the single version of 'Stan,' a narrative of amazing perceptiveness and power, even if it did inflict Dido on the world."
Em's hometown paper, the Detroit News (grade B-), agrees with the NME about the older tracks -- but finds the anthology as a whole presents "the argument that worldwide fame and fortune has spoiled Shady." Furthermore, it comments, "the new material doesn't add up to much. Two of the three new tracks are misogynistic garbage, the vulgar 'Fack' being the more egregious of the two (though the Nate Dogg-assisted 'Shake That" doesn't fare much better)," before concluding, "Mathers, Eminem and Shady all deserve a better send off."
Korn, "See You on the Other Side"
Having unleashed nu-metal on the world in the mid-'90s, Korn probably had some rock karma heading their way. But to lose their guitarist to born-again Christianity -- citing "extreme moral objections" to the band's music, no less was a bit much. Has the enforced lineup change inspired a radical overhaul of the band's rap-rock sound? Billboard hears few hints of a reinvention: "By choosing to work with songwriting outfit the Matrix and Nine Inch Nails collaborator Atticus Ross, the band could have alienated core fans. But for the most part, the producers simply add audio garnish to Korns signature sound."
The New York Times is more convinced: "'See You on the Other Side' grows ambitious again. (Lead singer) Mr. Davis shared production with the Matrix, the team that made teen-punk hits with Avril Lavigne. Surprisingly, it works; with Korn, the Matrix apparently added depth and dynamics rather than blatant hooks." If Korn's seventh album represents a growing musical maturity, has the lyrical concern that soundtracked so much teenage angst similarly evolved? No worries here, says the Times: "Korn's worldview is still two-thirds victimization and one-third fury."
Now magazine (Toronto), in contrast, sees only a band heading "down the slippery slope to irrelevance by trying to duplicate past glories," and notes, "While the anger is still there for singer Jonathan Davis, he seems incapable of harnessing the old venom, relying on an annoying, nasal falsetto." Of course, the adolescent bedroom is only one of the appropriate venues for listening to Korn -- the other being the sweaty, mosh-pit-filled arena. Newsday has a review of the band's Dec. 2 album preview concert in New York and approvingly observes, "with its new single 'Twisted Transistor,' Korn showed that it can still can roll out the best stripper-metal around, with leering vocals and grinding guitars, while keeping the sound fresh."
-- Matt Glazebrook