Sound Bites

Posted: Thursday, December 18, 2008

Jamie Foxx, "Intuition" ★★ ½

Unfair as it may seem that Jamie Foxx gets to be a movie star AND a pop star, the guy can sing, with a buttery voice that can slide into a sweet falsetto. Not that you get to hear it too often on "Intuition," Foxx's follow-up to his hit 2005 debut "Unpredictable." Except for the vocals, this is pure electronic music, a dense swirl of beeps and beats and effects. And even the voices (whether Foxx or a who's-hot list of guests that includes Kanye West, Lil' Wayne and T-Pain) are so often altered by that auto-tune chipmunk drone they're practically interchangeable.

The production can be inventively deelish. The first single, "Just Like Me," featuring rapper T.I. and produced by C. 'Tricky" Stewart and Terius "The-Dream" Nash, is a catchy, comic song about a woman who one-ups Foxx at every turn. "I Don't Need," a bouncy electro funk with a New Jack Swing feel featuring and produced by Timbaland, is an irresistible dancefloor burner.

But there's a lot of almost identical syrupy slow jams, and one voice can't make all the squealing computer sounds in the world sound romantic.

When some actual instruments show up on the final track, "Love Brings Change," a slow R&B ballad produced by Foxx, it's startling - could that be a real piano? You can hear some emotion. It's the most old-fashioned, radical and intuitive thing on the whole album.

Stephen Marley, "Mind Control Acoustic" ★★★

It says a lot about musician and Bob Marley scion Stephen Marley's love of music that, after he debuted with a Grammy-winning hit album, 2007's "Mind Control," his next recording is a subtle acoustic version of the original. During a promotional tour Marley performed solo on acoustic guitar, and fell in love with the simplicity and direct contact it gave him - and listeners - to the songs.

The result is soulful and captivating. The sparse instrumentation lets the bones and emotion of the songs come through. Reggae tracks like "The Mission Acoustic" or "Traffic Jam Acoustic," both featuring brother Julian "Jr. Gong" Marley, have a gutsy, straightforward swing that gives powerful, understated punch to their rebellious message.

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