Marketed and distributed by EMI Music SA

I like Lily Allen. While I may not agree with some of her controversial statements and opinions, she’s straightforward and to the point. There are no airs and graces or vocal theatrics in her music, just clever and witty lyrics that call a spade a spade (made evident by the fact that she was expelled from most of the 13 schools she attended…). Her debut single from 2006, Smile, shot straight to number one in the UK and spent several weeks at the top. Her debut album (2.6 million copies sold and counting) ultimately crossed the Atlantic to score a Grammy nod. It’s Not Me, It’s You is Lily’s sophomore album and is set to continue her international success, debuting at number 1 in the UK and number 5 in the USA. First single, The Fear, is a melodic up-yours at political correctness and has struck a chord across the globe, spending four weeks at the top of the UK singles charts. Not Fair is a charming track about the perfect guy and his imperfections in bed, sung to a beat you simply can’t ignore. Three songs on the album relate to family members (like He Wasn’t There and Chinese, respectively referencing her father and mother), while Him is a jaded opinion on what God would do or think. While I prefer singers not to venture into religion, it’s a good example of Lily’s candid opinions (another is the melodic Fuck You about George Bush). Who’d Have Known is a lovely pastiche of Take That’s song, Shine (used with permission, of course). It’s Not Me, It’s You is an eclectic body of work that generally impresses. Lily Allen may not make you scream for more, but she’ll put a grin on your face that’ll last for days.


Marketed and distributed by Sony Music

With an evangelist preacher as a father and a childhood spent on the roads of the USA’s Deep South, it’s not surprising that Kings of Leon, consisting of three brothers and a cousin, sounds different to the rock bands that have had chart success in recent years. Elements of country and blues are scattered throughout their alternative rock and Caleb Followill’s Bruce Springsteen-like vocals add a special individuality to an already exciting sound. Riding high on the success of their fourth (and breakthrough) album, Only By The Night, there’s really nothing hotter out there at the moment than Kings of Leon. The first single off the album, Sex on Fire, remains a definite highlight, as does second single, Use Somebody. But thankfully the commercial appeal ends there, opening the door to a body of work that is brilliant in is difference. Opening track, Closer, showcases immense atmosphere and conveys a feeling of desolation, while Crawl stirs everything from your head to your toes with its throbbing beat and guitar riffs. Other highlights include Notion, I Want You and the emotionally intense Cold Desert. Stunning melodies, ringing guitars, razor-sharp grooves and emotive vocals make Only By The Night an intriguing collection of songs that defies pure rock classification, without becoming diluted by its mainstream appeal. It resonates in your heart and soul, and that says something.


Marketed and distributed by Sony Music

The winner of the first season of American Idol, Kelly Clarkson quickly shrugged off the limits of that title in 2004 with the release of Breakaway, the rock-infused album that shattered the mould the Idols franchise sets out to create. It worked a charm and has been Clarkson’s most successful album to date. Her third album, My December, was a much heavier body of work that, while critically brilliant, didn’t come close to Breakaway’s sales. All I Ever Wanted is therefore a very important album for her as it needs to show growth as an artist, appeal to a wide audience and notch up better sales than My December. If the success of first single, My Life Would Suck Without You, is anything to go by, I’d say Kelly Clarkson has struck gold. The song entered the Billboard Hot 100 at 97, the following week shattering records by leaping straight to number one. No surprise really, as it’s a catchy pop track with the necessary rock sounds cleverly incorporated. The rest of the album has platinum written all over it, including songs co-written with certified hit makers like Max Martin and Ryan Tedder (of One Republic-fame). The second single, I Do Not Hook Up, is another killer track (co-written by Katy Perry), while the title track brilliantly blends pop sensibility and a rock attitude. The ballads aren’t left behind, with Cry and When No-one Will Listen showing of Clarkson’s amazing vocal abilities. Other highlights include Don’t Let Me Stop You, If I Can’t Have You and Long Shot. With All I Ever Wanted, Kelly Clarkson has produced a clever, catchy and cohesive collection of top-notch pop songs. It is one of 2009’s best albums.


Marketed and distributed by Universal Music SA

I must admit that I was skeptical when Take That announced a reunion in 2007. Surely they couldn’t be successful all over again? Yet Beautiful World, their first album in more than a decade, was a hit, proving many of the skeptics, myself included, wrong. Can they do it again with The Circus? Surprisingly enough, yes, and then some! The album opens with The Garden, a slow love song with glorious instrumentation that surprises as opening choice. It’s followed by the equally remarkable first single, Greatest Day, and the up-beat, feel-good Hello. There’s a slower, more mature feel to the bulk of the album, showcasing Gary Barlow’s vocal and lyrical skills (even though all songs are credited to the band). I’m a sucker for sad love songs, which adds to my enjoyment of the album, with the title track and Said It All being prime examples. However, if you’re not into the soppy stuff, you’d probably not be as impressed. How Did It Come To This is probably the highlight of the album, with lovely sing-along verses and a gorgeously harmonised chorus that effortlessly fuses with lush instrumentation. While I am uncertain about the album’s commercial popularity, the songs are of exceptional quality, the music remarkable and the general package magnificent. Take That has progressed from their commercial, throw-away pop beginnings into a mature pop group of note.


Marketed and distributed by Universal Music SA

Raising Sand sees two living legends in the world of music joining forces for a magical, masterful collection of songs that haunt you long after you’ve stopped listening to them. Robert Plant needs no introduction as the former lead vocalist of Led Zeppelin. Alison Krauss might be an unknown to those who do not follow country music, but she is one of the USA’s most popular and best-selling bluegrass artists; with a whopping 26 Grammy Awards on her mantelpiece. She’s the mos

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