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Underrated/Overrated

June 03, 2012

UNDERRATED

Dessa's 'Castor the Twin': An unconventional hip-hop artist who rose out of the Minneapolis poetry slam scene into the city's underground rap community, the artist born Margaret Wander came into her own with this 2011 album. With a novelist's ear for lyrical detail, Dessa's mix of spoken and sung rhymes casts a riveting spell backed by a full band. When she sings, she sounds a little like Ani DiFranco, but more often than not she sounds like nobody else.

'The Real World' at 20: If you've ever cursed the unscripted psychodramas that rule television, thank this enduring MTV franchise, which is entering its 27th season since it debuted in 1992. It would be nice if the show still carried an idealistic vision of mixing up ambitious twentysomethings in a stylish house to learn about themselves and the world instead of the contents of various bottles and bedrooms, but at least its heart began in the right place.

OVERRATED

Jack White's 'Blunderbuss': Dare anyone speak ill of this heir to the classic rock throne? While it's great to hear White playing with a drummer capable of more than the caveman beats of the White Stripes, it's difficult to figure why such an avalanche of praise follows his every move. Yes, he's got an ear for history, a sharp eye for visuals, and plays a killer guitar, but before we induct him into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, can't he make one truly surprising record?

James Franco, artiste: The ongoing performance piece that is James Franco's career took another left turn recently with "Rebel," a Franco-curated art show inspired by the film "Rebel Without a Cause." While it's been entertaining to watch this actor tweak audience expectations since his post-"Freaks and Geeks" rise (notably in playing a pretentious artist named Franco on a daytime soap), being unpredictable isn't the same thing as being interesting.

— Chris Barton

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