"When the World Comes Down"
"When the World Comes Down"
The best thing about the All-American Rejects is how unambitious the pop-emo quartet is. The Rejects' supremely bratty yet relentlessly hooky singles have each seemed destined to score teenage rom-com dance party sequences for time immortal, and it hasn't hurt that their emo-Adonis frontman Tyson Ritter has cheekbones that could slice bread.
The band's new record, "When the World Comes Down," broadens the palette a bit, leavening typically cocky choruses like "I want to touch you / you want to touch me too" with synthesizer pricks and jaunty string arrangements befitting Ritter's avowed love of musicals. Ponderous and overproduced moments like "Damn Girl" and "Back to Me" suggest soaring earnestness and slower tempos are a drag on the band's sense of spunk. But the kick-start rockers like "Fallin' Apart" and the gleeful kiss-off "Gives You Hell" benefit from the new breathing room.
Modern emo bands tend to treat breakups with a severity worthy of Wagner. Ritter's penchant for hummable nastiness is a vast improvement, and lines like "Truth be told I miss you / truth be told I'm lying" are a better representation of actual teenage-dom: snide, vindictive and rarely unentertaining.
The Rejects are best at small ideas with a long shelf life. "World" forgets that at points, but pretty people always get away with everything, don't they?
-- August Brown
Fall Out Boy
"Folie a Deux"
Fall Out Boy isn't one to thwart its fans or the fame machine. The band's fifth album, "Folie a Deux," is a pleasure bot of right-now pop, adroitly programmed with crunchy '80s melodies, emo's dark prowess and symphonies a la "Sgt. Pepper's." A little something for everyone, all of it played to the max.
"Folie a Deux" imagines itself in the stadium. "(Coffee's for Closers)" marches in, tattered but resplendent, and closes with a playful bounty of horns and a suite of strings. "Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes" soars and struts with a newfound love for vocal harmonies and club bathroom graffiti such as "detox just to retox."
But for all the steps forward, "Folie a Deux" also seems to contain a microchip for its own destruction. Friends drop in, Debbie Harry, Elvis Costello, Lil Wayne, but they barely surface above the album's aesthetic gluttony. Pete Wentz's lyrics flit from celebrity snark -- "throw your cameras in the air and wave them like you just don't care" -- to inane lines possibly cribbed from a soap opera script: "Does your husband know how the sunshine gleams from your wedding band?" Some songs, like "Tiffany Blews," are meant to be vampy but suffocate instead. There are moments when the oxygen floods in -- like the Pharrell-assisted "w.a.m.s." which unexpectedly ends in stripped-down a cappella blues -- but they are all too rare.
It's not that FOB can't have grandiosity, but every stadium needs open air.
-- Margaret Wappler
Jamie Foxx would be justified in continuing his efforts as a singer if for no other reason than as fodder for more videos as charming and lightly humorous as the one for "Just Like Me," the first single from his sophomore album.
The track itself is one of five on the album co-written and produced by Terius "The-Dream" Nash and Christopher "Tricky" Stewart, the team behind, among their other recent successes, Rihanna's "Umbrella" and Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)." It's rooted in a nicely syncopated bass-and-drum rhythm track dusted with celestial keyboards and percolating acoustic guitar accents, Foxx and guest rapper T.I. trading lines that detail his worries about the girl who's doing him wrong.
"Intuition" presents a sampler of contemporary R&B styles from producers including Timbaland, Just Blaze, Butter Beats and Calvo Da Gr8, giving the collection a disjointed air. Foxx's identity as a musician isn't any clearer than it was on his double platinum debut album, "Unpredictable."
Foxx briefly resurrects his ability to channel Ray Charles in "I Don't Need It," while "Digital Girl," another from The-Dream and Tricky, takes him into the world of dreamy dance pop and gets an assist from Kanye West. "Blame It" (featuring T-Pain) goes more deeply into techno with heavily processed and staccato vocal edits over a metal-shop clanking beat track from producer Christopher "Deep" Henderson.
You'd have a hard time telling who's at the center of most of these state-of-the-art but undistinctive concoctions. Unless, of course, Foxx turns them into videos.
-- Randy Lewis