Christina Aguilera, DMX, N.O.R.E., Jeannie Ortega, Young Dro

Christina Aguilera
Back To Basics

The powerfully exuberant voice of Christina Aguilera berated the ears of pop listeners with youthful energy on her self-titled debut album. Bubblegum blasts bursting with pink crush grooves introduced Christina as she stretched her arms and vocal cords toward her coming womanhood. Yet slightly immature in lyrics, her voice suggested puberty had long passed. On Stripped, her sophomore follow up, Christina grew considerably; simple Pop vocal schedules were replaced with complex R&B, Soul and hip-hop classes – all of which she aced.

On this, her third offering, Christina’s voice has graduated, awarded with a diploma of artistry she proudly displays through tight vocal arrangement, writing and delivery. With Pop numbers taking the back seat, Christina shows her matured pro prowess as a seasoned R&B singer. Songs "F. U. S. S.," "Oh Mother" and "Without You" are great examples of this. And no longer dabbling in hip-hop, she now embraces that culture with open arms which is evident on the scratch and sample-laced "Slow Down Baby" and the DJ Premier-produced "Still Dirrty."   Christina does get a tad bit experimental on the second half of Back To Basics, but tests like "Hurt" and the bluesy "Save Me
From Myself" will have ones curving the grading system

Year of the Dog Again

Dogs age faster than humans, so that makes DMX really old. On his sixth album, X is backed by great production, rapping with lots of energy. He makes the most of the bumping bass and drum patterns. This mature DMX brings subjects of relationship turmoil ("Baby Motha") and hip-hop-gone-wrong ("It’s Personal") to the future, remaining rooted with fundamentals of times past. Problem is X sounds the same this year as he did years ago. Barking up the same old trees, DMX may need to raise the puppies behind the scenes and put his rhymes to sleep.

Y Lafamilia… Ya Tu Sabe

The increase in popularity of Reggaeton music has been good for Noreaga. One half of hip-hop duo C-N-N, Nore has fully embraced the new sound of his Hispanic culture. Here ones familiar with his vocals finds many similarities to his rap days in terms of style, pace and sound, yet every word is in Spanish. The production doesn’t offer much variety, which wears thin on the ears by the fourth ("Y Voy") or fifth ("Bailar Conmigo") track. Despite several creative flaws, Nore sounds right at home.

Jeannie Ortega
No Place Like BKLYN

Jeanie Ortega adopts psuedo-hip-hop, psuedo-pop styles made popular by Ashanti and Jennifer Lopez; her debut album offers ones nothing new. The tough good-girl image is used to death, and Jennie’s so-so singing talent less then carries this LP. The production, which is mostly hip-hop tracks, often overshadows Jennie’s soft writing and vocals on such lackluster numbers as "Bling," "Let It Go" and "Green I’Z."



Young Dro
Best Thang Smokin’

The "Dro" in Young Dro’s name should be short for Drone; the first worker bee from T.I.’s Atlanta-based Grand Hustle kingdom packs no sting. Dro has charisma – no one can take that from him – but his songs are, well, stupid. "U Don’t See Me," "100 Yard Dash," and even his hit "Shoulder Lean" are mostly goof-ball club bouncers fed to ones as supposedly serious content. Often the hooks and the verse have nothing to do with each other. He may be the best thing smoking while standing in T.I. current flame, but alone his fireworks are just smoked-out duds.