Maroon 5 Hits No. 1

By Richard Cromelin

Los Angeles Times

Maroon 5’s “It Won’t Be Soon Before Long” might have a brow-furrowing title, but the numbers are clear.

With first-week sales of 429,000, the pop-R&B band’s second album entered the national sales chart at No. 1 on Wednesday May 30, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

It’s the second-highest debut week in 2007. Linkin Park posted the year’s highest debut figure last week with sales of 623,000, and even with a 68 percent drop, its 198,000 sales were enough to put “Minutes to Midnight” at No. 2.

Three more debuts crowded into the Top 5: Ozzy Osbourne’s “Black Rain,” No. 3 with sales of 152,000; rapper Young Jeezy’s trio U.S.D.A., No. 4 with 95,000, and rock band the Used, No. 5 with 92,000.

“American Idol” acts Daughtry and Carrie Underwood were among the few artists whose album sales increased last week (45 percent and 10 percent, respectively), spurred by their appearances on the “Idol” finale.

But the chart’s biggest surge came from emo band Dashboard Confessional, whose 12,000 sales moved “Dusk and Summer” from No. 167 to No. 53.

The reason?

A deluxe edition of the album came out last week.

Despite all those efforts, sales decreased 3.2 percent during the week and were 16.7 percent down from the same week in 2006.

R. Kelly flirts with parody onalbum ‘Double Up’


AP Music Writer

R. Kelly, “Double Up” (Jive)

In song, R. Kelly’s sexual shenanigans are so outrageous, they border on parody. Listen to tunes like “The Greatest Sex,” “Half on a Baby” or “Remote Control” – where he compares making love to operating a stereo – and it’s as if the writers of “Saturday Night Live” had decided to write an R&B comedy album. (Justin Timberlake and his “Box” have nothing on the self-proclaimed King of R&B when it comes to ridiculous raunch.)

But for some reason, as downright crazy as his lyrics have been, there was something about the overall production that made them seem strangely sane. Maybe it was the superior musical production or Kelly’s heartfelt delivery, but while “Feeling on Yo Booty” would have merited other singers a slap in the face, Kelly made it seem like a wholly romantic proposition.

That gift of turning smut into something magical is largely lost on Kelly’s latest effort, “Double Up.” Kelly makes monkey noises on “The Zoo” while rattling off lines like “It’s like Jurassic Park and I’m your sexasaurus.” On “Sex Planet” he croons “Girl I promise this will be painless, we’ll take a trip to planet…” You get the idea.

And his penchant for turning an argument into song material is getting stale, as evidenced in the tiresome “Real Talk,” which gets a little too real and ugly. If relationship blowouts were meant to be entertaining, your Uncle Rollo would have a multiplatinum album instead of being restrained from Aunt Tina at the family reunion.

“Real Talk” also reveals a thread of misogyny that’s way too prevalent in the first few tracks. Apparently not getting the memo from Russell Simmons after the whole Don Imus flap, Kelly throws the b-word and the n-word around with abandon, sounding more coarse than charming on tracks like “Get Dirty.”

But as foul, as crazy, as absurd as Kelly can get, there’s enough musicianship involved that even at his worst, Kelly is mildly entertaining. And when he’s able to strike the right balance, he’s amazing.

That happens just enough to make “Double Up” a worthy listen – just the remix to “I’m A Flirt,” a joyous ode to being a scamp featuring T.I. and T-Pain, is enough to invest in a disc. And surely, strippers around the country are already designing routines around the delightful and breezy “Freaky in the Club.”

Tragically, there are no more episodes of “Trapped in the Closet” on this disc. But if there’s a contender for another operetta, “Best Friend,” featuring Keyshia Cole and Polow Da Don, should be the first chapter: it features a jailed R. Kelly, in between complaints about tough toilet paper and requests for squares, confronting his best friend about bedding his girl. It’s over the top and ghetto-fabulous, but riveting, which sums up R. Kelly when he’s at his best.

CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: Though it’s been played to death on the radio, “I’m a Flirt” is so good, you’ll never tire of it, especially with the “remix” to the “remix” part toward the end, with Kelly singing the line: “She be calling me Daddy, I be calling her Mommy, she be calling you Kelly, when your name is Tommy.”

Jason Aldean’s “Relentless” lacks free-spiritedness of his debut


For The Associated Press

Jason Aldean, “Relentless” (Broken Bow Records)

Jason Aldean joined the front lines of the Nashville country-rock revolution when his single “Hicktown” became a fist-pumping anthem for those who like crashing guitar chords and fast fiddles while partying on rural backroads.

But Aldean’s second album, “Relentless,” sounds like a sluggish hangover. Maybe it was over-thought, or maybe it was rushed between Aldean’s busy concert schedule, but the new album never captures the reckless spirit of the Georgia native’s debut.

Working with producer Michael Knox, Aldean concentrates too much on mid-tempo songs about lost love. “Do You Wish It Was Me,” “Who’s Kissing You Tonight” and “Back in This Cigarette,” among others, deal with rejection but suffer from arrangements and a vocal delivery that lack tension and emotion.

Even the rockers never really come alive. The first single, “Johnny Cash,” is a likable enough song about a wage-worker fantasy of flipping off the boss and heading to Las Vegas for a wild weekend. But “I Break Everything I Touch,” despite its Rolling Stones-style guitars, never adopts the swagger and crisp beats it needs to sound dangerous.

Aldean made his mark with youthful energy, but that’s just what “Relentless” lacks.

CHECK THIS OUT: On “Laugh Until We Cried,” Aldean proves he can put across a sensitive lyric on this morality tale about family moments that start lighthearted but in the end remind us of the comfort of ties that bind.

Iraq war and more from Richard Thompson on superb new album


Associated Press Writer

Richard Thompson, “Sweet Warrior” (Shout! Factory)

Richard Thompson changed the way his audience thinks of death, divorce, motorcycles and Britney Spears, so it’s hardly surprising he has written a song about the Iraq war that jars the senses.

“Dad’s Gonna Kill Me” towers over other tunes lamenting the war and stands as the brilliant centerpiece of “Sweet Warrior,” the latest superb album in Thompson’s four-decade recording career.

“Dad” is Baghdad, and the song is sung from the point of view of a soldier who eloquently describes the desperation, dread and slaughter that surround him. He’s funny and angry but not sentimental or political (save one playful jab at Fox News), while two chilling guitar solos amplify the sense of bloody chaos.

“Sweet Warrior” also addresses domestic affairs. There are the post-marital recriminations of “Mr. Stupid,” the adulterous machinations of “Johnny’s Far Away” and the romantic flings of “Sunset Song” and “She Sang Angels to Rest.” This is Thompson in top form.

CHECK THIS OUT: “Dad” ranks with Thompson’s best compositions, which is saying a lot. The only knock on the song is that because of its topical nature, it may soon seem dated. We can only hope.