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Black Eyed Peas - Monkey Business (3 stars)

For 2003's multiplatinum Elephunk, the Black Eyed Peas recruited sexy crooner Fergie and ditched ponderous rhymes in favor of smooth hooks, transforming themselves from the world's most boring rap group to hip-hop's brightest popsters. Monkey Business is just as bright if not quite as fun as Elephunk, calling in Justin Timberlake, James Brown and Sting for a series of party-starters and hijacking Dick Dale's "Miserlou" for the opening "Pump It." Some cuts are dragged down by soul-pop cliches, but "Don't Lie" is a breezy, grooving romantic apology starring MC Will.i.am, and "My Humps" is an irresistible, butt-stupid ode to Fergie's ass. If anything, Business is too breezy -- but from a group that once burdened us with rhymes about how its "technicalities die hard like battery," that's not such a bad thing.

The Wallflowers - Rebel, Sweetheart (3.5 stars)

Jakob Dylan's songwriting benefits from his time out of the limelight after the Wallflowers went quadruple-platinum with 1996's Bringing Down the Horse, Jakob Dylan evidently decided to focus on growing as a songwriter rather than as a celebrity. Rebel, Sweetheart is proof that this was a smart move. He's still developing new moves after many of his contemporaries have faded. Dylan sings these adult tales of disillusionment and perseverance with the gritty timbre of a young Warren Zevon, juiced by his fellow Wallflowers -- keyboardist Rami Jaffee, bassist Greg Richling and ace new drummer Fred Eltringham. "Rebel" in the title is a verb, not a noun, and even the love songs are full of conflict. The pick is "Here He Comes (Confessions of a Drunken Marionette)," a boozy saloon ballad based on a question: "Who will ignore me when you're gone?"



White Stripes - Get Behind Me Satan (4.5 stars)

Bad news for satan: Jack White's mama said knock you out. Get Behind Me Satan is a Biblical reference, plus a possible invitation to back-door action with the Prince of Darkness. But the music is so wild, it could make you weep over how pitilessly the Stripes keep crushing the other bands out there. Having clocked all rivals, the Stripes have to settle for topping their 2003 masterpiece, Elephant, the way Elephant topped White Blood Cells. If you happen to be a rock band, and you don't happen to be either of the White Stripes, it so sucks to be you right now. The Stripes twist a variety of American music styles to their own emotional purpose, figuring out new ways to howl about their romantic torments. For Jack, this means seething, stripped-down ballads full of piano and marimba. For Meg White, it mostly means beating the crap out of her cymbals. They stretch out in heavy guitar stomps ("Instinct Blues," "Red Rain"), bluegrass ("Little Ghost") and falsetto disco that resembles Foreigner ("Blue Orchid"). "Forever for Her (Is Over for Me)" builds a fabulously seductive groove out of the simplest elements -- acoustic guitar, marimba, an egg-shaker -- as Jack begs, "Let's do it/Let's just get on a plane and do it."

Is he singing to Meg? To Renee Zellweger? You might not want to find out, given the demented "As Ugly as I Seem," where Jack broods over Buffalo Springfield-style folkie guitar and a melodic nod to Bob Dylan's "I Believe in You." Meg sings the brief yet chilling ditty "Passive Manipulation." For the grand finale, "I'm Lonely (But I Ain't That Lonely Yet)," Jack sits down at the piano, heists one of the oldest country melodies in the book, wails about missing his mama and mulls over his romantic options: "She's homely and she's cranky and her hair's in a net/I'm lonely, but I ain't that lonely yet."

Jack sings about 1940s film goddess Rita Hayworth in two of his sultriest songs, "Take, Take, Take" and "White Moon." She makes a perfect love idol for him, since he's an avowed fan of Orson Welles, who was married to Hayworth long enough to direct her in the 1947 film-noir nightmare The Lady From Shanghai, one of the creepiest movies about marriage ever made. Get Behind Me Satan could be a rock & roll remake, starring Jack and Meg as the doomed lovers. Satan, you got served.

Common - Be (5 stars)

For years, Common has struggled with the mantle of Rapper You're Most Likely to Take Home to Your Mama. He's so genuinely positive that when he rhymes about witches, he's sometimes actually referring to female dogs ("Reality's a witch/And I heard that she bites"). When Common is on, he's a fearless MC who can rhyme about anything from abortion (1997's "Retrospect for Life") to the sorry state of hip-hop (1994's "I Used to Love H.E.R.") and still make your head nod. When he's off, he's dull and heavy-handed. All of this has won him both admiration and a smirk from Jay-Z, who once said that "truthfully, I wanna rhyme like Common" but who also said that he wanted to sell some records. Common may be able to do both, finally, with his sixth and best disc, Be. The not-so-secret weapon here is Kanye West, who produced nine of the tracks and appears on four. West is the producer Common has been waiting for all of his career: He makes Common both catchier and edgier at the same time. The straight-ahead hip-hop songs -- "The Corner," "The Food" -- are the hardest-rocking tracks of Common's career. On the ballad "Faithful," the rapper pledges fidelity to both his lady and his maker without descending into corn, as singers John Legend and Bilal reach for gospel heights. "They Say" is the triumphant battle track: As Legend sings the satiny hook, Common and Kanye celebrate a hip-hop world that has finally come to them. Let's hope it stays here.

Def Leppard - Rock of Ages:The Definitive Collection (4.5 stars)

The greatness of Def Leppard can be summed up in four words, and not gunter glieben glauten globen. The four words are: Girls totally liked them. This was such a formal breakthrough in metal terms, it can hardly be overstated. Def Leppard delivered pop thrills for girls: They sang harmonies, they pumped up the beat to near-disco levels, they wrote songs as tight as their Union Jack shorts, they pranced in videos. Who can forget Phil Collen's spandex-clad ass shaking back and forth to the beat in the "Rock of Ages" video? They took as much from David Bowie and T. Rex as they took from Led Zeppelin. As a result, Lep became arguably the first metal band to enjoy a sexually integrated audience, inventing a template that so many lesser bands spent the Eighties trying to imitate. Lep had it both ways -- the boys wanted to be them and the girls wanted to rock them. Usually, when an Eighties metal band puts out a two-disc anthology, the second CD is just there for you to laugh at, but Lep really did crank up enough hits to fill this sucker out. Nobody remembers their 1990s tunes, but "Stand Up (Kick Love Into Motion)" is one of those phenomenally sad and moody ballads Def Leppard specialized in. "Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad" was great; "Let's Get Rocked" was garbage, featuring the infamously ass lyric "I suppose a rock's out of the question." "Make Love Like a Man" is somehow left off the album, but only about twelve fans will even notice.

Which leaves their Eighties hits, the real reason anybody will crave this collection. "Hysteria" holds up as one of the most chillingly morose pop hits of the decade, with Joe Elliott yelping, "Say you will, ooh babe, say you will" over a sleek six-note techno-metal riff. It's an immaculate distillation of the Eighties synth-pop aesthetic that compares with the best of New Order or OMD. Lep hit similar peaks with "Photograph," "Animal" and "Love Bites," which oddly became their only Number One single, even though everybody liked "Pour Some Sugar on Me" a lot better. "Foolin' " is an intriguing attempt to write a Seventies-style sword-and-sorcery acoustic epic, the kind of old-fashioned metal trudge Leppard made obsolete. All in all, it makes "Let's Get Rocked" easy to forgive.

Daddy Yankee - Barrio Fino (4.5 stars)

Daddy Yankee is reggaeton's biggest crossover contender: He has already rhymed alongside Nas, Lil Jon and Terror Squad, and his brassy, slogan-strewn flow suggests both a quick-tongued thug and a Latin crunkster. This 2004 release, which has hovered in the U.S. Top Forty for several months, doesn't always use reggaeton's dancehall-reggae-style clave rhythm to great effect -- when it isn't done right, it can sound skittery and samey. But Fino is certainly the blingiest and most modern disc in current reggaeton, thanks to the slinky hooks of hits such as "Gasolina." Start here for an action-packed entree to the genre's rougher pleasures.

 
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Is that the one with the longer hair? I really like BEP. Their last CD is in constant rotation in my iPod.

 
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Originally Posted by Charmaine Thanks for posting this, Marisol! I think I might look into BEP's latest CD. Did you know that one of the guys in there is Filipino? It's apl.de.ap. yea this cd is awesome, especially their song in tagalog called "bebot".

the white stripes album is pretty awesome too.

thanks for posting these!

 
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Fergie is such a hottie , i think with her in the group now,they are alot hotter than back in day.I love dont phunk with my heart,my daughter does a booty dance to it.


 
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I think they are dating. I read an interview with him and he just talked wonders about her. They do make a cute couple and BEP is awesome.

 
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Just wanted to let you know that I got the BEP CD and I really like it. "My Humps" is on right now. I also got Finally Woken by Jem.

 

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