Mary J. Blige
My Life II
(Geffen Records)
To be honest, at first listen, this CD didn’t impress me. I gave it a day, listened to it again and fell in love with it. Mary J. Blige is making a comeback, and it sounds good. She has matured. It is still her, but a little evolved. She retains that soulful lyrical brilliance that she has always exhibited. She even speaks briefly during the introduction of the CD about her evolution from the Mary of then to the Mary of now, appropriately stating, “I’m not saying pain doesn’t exist no more in my life, but now we understand how to navigate.” This statement is a good one to describe the tone of this new music. Featuring all-star musicians like Busta Rhymes, Drake, and Beyoncé, this album is definitely worthwhile. Notable tracks are “Feel Inside,” “Ain’t Nobody,” “25/8,” and “Why” (featuring Rick Ross).
Live at the Royal Albert Hall
(XL Recordings/Columbia)
Adele, who is quite possibly the most cried-to artist of 2011, has released a live album, including a DVD, of her performance at the Royal Albert Hall. The album is amazing, which makes it no surprise that the DVD is even better. Not only is the music well-performed live, but the DVD presentation is well-cut and and edited, making the performance a delight to watch. Adele is the obvious focus of the concert, but the performance is accentuated by her high-energy background musicians. Throughout most of the show, Adele is beautifully silhouetted against a militia of women armed with violins, violas and cellos. The entire performance is breathtaking and emotional. What do you expect out of this rising young diva but sheer brilliance? She is at the top of her world and looking higher. Her best performances here are “Turning Tables,” “Set Fire to the Rain,” “Someone Like You.”
Welcome Reality
Fans of electronica instrumental music — and specifically dubstep — will love this. I wouldn’t recommend it, though, for people who have yet to succumb to a thorough introduction to electronica music — it may all sound the same. But listeners with a well-trained ear in this genre won’t be disappointed. The best way to put it is that this CD is a mix between dubstep and synth-pop. I know that sometimes trying to describe techno is like attempting to speak a language used most prominently on the Death Star. In the simplest electronica terminology, the whole CD sounds like techno went back in time to several different decades and tried to introduce the dubstep we understand today. It is an interesting and entertaining mix of styles, but for this very reason, the CD is hit-or-miss. My favorites include “Doomsday,” “Fugue State,” and “Promises.”

Penguin Prison
Penguin Prison
(Downtown Records)
If you want an upbeat CD with low-key melodies you can groove to, then look no further. Penguin Prison is a mix of feel-good music with unpredictable lyrics and great rhythms. Disco isn’t dead to Penguin Prison. It’s hard to think that a song called “Don’t Fuck With My Money” can sound so uplifting, but it does. This CD is perfect for driving. Go ahead and try not to move your shoulders to “Golden Train,” which is done in the Queen style of “Another One Bites the Dust.” You can even hear Michael Jackson influences in many of the songs. The whole CD is littered with catchy tunes and addictive bass beats. Check out Penguin Prison if you want a relaxing break away from all of the overplayed pop radio favorites. Other notable tracks include “Fair Warning” and “Pinocchio.”

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