** TIM McGRAW
"A Place in the Sun"
Sting may be the King of Pain, but McGraw is doing whatever it takes to be contemporary country's King of Schmaltz.
Since breaking through in 1994 with "Don't Take the Girl," McGraw has dipped repeatedly into the well of unabashed emotional manipulation. On his fifth album (due in stores Tuesday), "Carry On" and "Somebody Must Be Praying for Me" lead the parade of several numbers that should supply fixes for anyone needing more of the same.
If a song is to provide a real payoff, there needs to be a credible setup, but McGraw picks songs that too often sidestep credibility altogether.
The one really meaty song here is Rodney Crowell and Will Jennings' "Please Remember Me," a plea for post-breakup forgiveness and acceptance that displays real maturity.
Otherwise, the bright spots tend to be the up-tempo tunes. "The Trouble With Never" turns the word "never" back on itself enough to sustain its guilty-pleasure quotient. "Seventeen" looks back fondly at a first love, but with none of the wistfulness over bygone innocence that Van Morrison captured in "Brown Eyed Girl."
Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.