Surfing the Web for new music, video and MP3 downloads can be a serious time investment. Picks from Times staff and contributors will help take the drag out of click-and-drag music choices. Some downloads may contain explicit lyrics. All are free, except as noted.
This video for their second single from "St. Elsewhere" is the cinematic equivalent of Danger Mouse's mash-ups, placing Cee-Lo and Mr. Mouse in various "Zelig" historical moments. Dennis Hopper and Dean Stockwell are the talking heads in this faux documentary that ponders the meaning of Gnarls Barkley and whether "he" ever existed. It's a comic conceit taken to the limit, including footage of Duke Ellington, Lou Reed, the Clash, Smokey Robinson. The music is straight-up 1965 Motown, and Cee-Lo gives it his usual soulful flair, but Hopper falls into his predictably auto-parodistic persona, the kind of "Hey, man" repartee that makes the listener wonder about brain cell counts.
"Too Little, Too Late"
This could be another video of young love, deception and heartbreak set against a timely soccer background, but the surprising element is JoJo herself. In real life, she is 15 years old and looks her age, but she sounds nothing like it. Among a tidal wave of teen performers in the last decade, only a select few have demonstrated true singing chops -- among them Christina Aguilera, Chris Brown (our next Download) and Joss Stone. JoJo, a true mezzo (like Aguilera) but with an ability to go stratospheric, is poised to join that company. There have been numerous cautionary tales about building careers around young artists (Michael Jackson, anyone?), as the principal danger may be in the adult expectations placed upon them. However, genuinely undeniable talent demands attention, and you can hear it in JoJo's phrasing alone. One hopes this is not a case of "Too Much, Too Early."
Chris Brown is 17, and it is clear that he knows every note from Michael Jackson's oeuvre, particularly the pre-"Thriller" Jackson, and every dance move too. But his earliest musical experience was in hip-hop. That's audible in how he sculpts a line and not an unusual facet of recent R&B and neo-soul. The scansion of hip-hop has become pervasive. This beautifully understated production is centered around the same themes as JoJo's video, with a dance studio as the backdrop and Brown as the transgressor (always the man). Brown may achieve vocal wonders, but the big props must go to David Cabrerra for a bass track musicians would kill for.
Clifford Brown's death was a half-century ago, and jazz fans might be hard-pressed to name a trumpeter who contained such early promise. He was a bridge between the bop of Dizzy and Fats Navarro and the cool style that Miles and Chet Baker ushered in at the top of the '50s. Killed in a car accident at age 26 and with few recordings to his name and almost no film or video footage, his life has since taken on the aspect of myth. In the relaxed pace of "Joy Spring," Brown's solo follows none other than the great Harold Land (whose solo is equally astonishing) and playfully mixes short syncopated figures with staggered triplets, bursts and lyricism. You get it all here. Following Brown's death, an army of hard boppers blew their horns, but it can be said that Clifford Brown blazed the trail.