Fall Music Preview 2005

From OutKast to the Darkness, a first look at fall’s 20 biggest CDs
Alicia Keys
Alicia keys Unplugged
Out October 11th
“I wanted to be able to bring it back to the essence of me as a performer: intimate and personal,” says Keys of her Unplugged disc, recorded live at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on July 14th. In addition to pared-down versions of songs from her two previous albums (“A Woman’s Worth,” “Fallin’ “), Keys duetted with Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine on a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses”; teamed with Common, Mos Def and Damian Marley for a fusion of Keys’ “Love It or Leave It Alone” and Marley’s “Welcome to Jam Rock”; and debuted two new songs: “Unbreakable,” which is already in heavy rotation on MTV, and “Stolen Moments,” co-written by Al Green.
Ashlee Simpson
I Am Me
Out October 18th
Simpson re-teams with hot producer John Shanks for a disc of chart-killing teen pop that takes its cues from grown-up rockers. The first single, “Boyfriend,” is as close to Franz Ferdinand as a pop tart may dare go, with a jittery dance-rock guitar hook. The piano ballad “Beautifully Broken” chronicles the aftermath of her SNL lip-sync fiasco in a way that almost elicits sympathy — and it doesn’t hurt that the intro sounds exactly like Oasis’ “Wonderwall.”
Depeche Mode
Playing the Angel
Out October 18th
“It’s rockier than our traditional stuff,” says Depeche Mode frontman Dave Gahan about his band’s eleventh studio album, on which Blur producer Ben Hillier added heavier guitar and drums to the band’s analog-synth-driven sound. Recorded after Gahan got sober following decades of struggling with addiction, the album provides clear evidence that the goth godfathers are still as into pain and suffering as ever. Says Gahan, “That’s kind of our MO.”
Rod Stewart
Thanks for the memory . . . The Great American Songbook: Volume IV
Out October 18th
For the fourth volume of his Great American Songbook series, Stewart tackles fourteen more classics, including “Long Ago and Far Away,” and “Makin’ Whoopee,” on which he duets with Elton John. “I bring a new emotion and a voice that people haven’t heard singing these kinds of songs,” says Stewart. Though Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me” doesn’t fit into Stewart’s loose rule of including only songs cut “between the two Great Wars,” he wanted to give props to the man who inspired his career. Says Stewart, “No Sam, no Rod.”
Burt Bacharach
At this Time
Out November 1st
In an awesomely weird pairing, seventy-seven-year-old swinger Bacharach recruited Dr. Dre to provide Snoop-worthy bass-and-drum loops for three songs on his new disc. Bacharach says he is “not necessarily” a big fan of rap. “I’m a big fan of Dre’s. The guy gets the most unbelievable sounds.” Elvis Costello and Rufus Wainwright also make appearances on the album, which pairs Bacharach’s lush orchestral arrangements with angry lyrics about the Bush administration. “I spent all this time writing love songs,” he says. “I never rocked the boat. If I lose some fans, that’s OK.”
Trey Anastasio
Out November 1st
For his first collection of songs since Phish broke up last year, Anastasio left the comfort of his converted-barn studio in Vermont to work with Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam producer Brendan O’Brien in Atlanta. “A lot of it was based on Brendan teaching me how to make a record,” says Anastasio. “We had two days with me, Brendan and [Bob Dylan and John Mellencamp drummer] Kenny Aronoff playing like a power trio. Brendan’s a motherfucker on the bass.” The resulting disc is surprisingly noodle-free, with twelve uptempo rockers that are more Beatles than Zappa.
All That I Am
Out November 1st
“The only thing I won’t do is something that is fake, superficial and shallow,” says Carlos Santana, who jams with musicians from Sean Paul to Kirk Hammett on his latest guest-laden album. Steven Tyler sings the power ballad “Just Feel Better”; American Idol rocker Bo Bice belts the “Smooth”-style “Brown Skin Girl”; and Mary J. Blige duets with Big Boi on the R&B tune “My Man.” “I don’t listen to the radio,” says Santana, crediting executive producer Clive Davis with picking many of the guests. More familiar faces were his tourmates Los Lonely Boys, who contributed the slinky “I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love,” and Michelle Branch, whose acoustic pop tune “I’m Feeling You” is her second Santana collaboration, following 2002’s “The Game of Love.” But Santana is determined to keep broadening his group’s sound. “A lot of musicians say, ‘I don’t do windows,’ ” Santana says. “But to me, life is a big window. So if I don’t want to do windows, I shouldn’t be on this planet.”
Neil Diamond
12 Songs
Out November 8th
Though Diamond is better known now for wearing sequined jumpsuits and making middle-aged women weak in the knees, in the 1960s he was a cool young New York singer-songwriter. On the new disc, Rick Rubin — who produced Johnny Cash’s American Recordings series — recaptures the spirit of awesome early recordings including “Cherry, Cherry” and “Kentucky Woman.” “Rick really pressured me to get back to those times,” says Diamond. “Those records were very minimalist — get a small rhythm group, add some hand claps, mix it up and send it out.”
50 Cent
Music From and Inspired by the Motion Picture “Get Rich or Die Tryin’ ”
Out November 8th
“Every song has something that ties it to the actual film,” says 50 Cent of the tracks he wrote to accompany his 8 Mile-style new movie, Get Rich or Die Tryin’. The first single, “Hustler’s Ambition,” defines 50’s alter ego, Marcus, a poor kid from the Bronx (not 50’s Queens) who goes from slinging drugs to spitting rhymes. The second, “Window Shopping,” backs a scene where Marcus longs for expensive sneakers. The album, with production from Dr. Dre and Hi-Tek, also includes a likely third single, “We Don’t Need No Help,” with Young Buck. Says 50, “It’s a new version of N.W.A’s ‘Fuck Tha Police’ with a Southern twist.”
Big and Rich
Comin’ To Your City
Out November 15th
On Comin’ to Your City, Nashville duo Big and Rich beef up the genre-crossing, party-starting stomp of their multiplatinum 2004 debut, Horse of a Different Color. Recorded with the duo’s five-piece touring band, City drops elegantly harmonized ballads (“Never Mind Me”), jokey honky-tonk (“20 Margaritas”) and disco-flavored rapping (“Caught Up in the Moment”) amid barnburners such as “Soul Shaker” and the AC/DC-gone-South title track.
In My Mind
Out November 15th
Perhaps only Pharrell Williams — half of the most sought-after production team in pop music, the Neptunes — could get Gwen Stefani to guest on a song where her entire contribution is five spoken words repeated ad nauseam: “You got it like that.” Stefani answers Williams’ titular question on “Can I Have It Like That,” the first single from Williams’ solo debut — which also features guest spots from Jay-Z and Slim Thug. The disc is divided into two halves: seven tracks of club-banging hip-hop, seven of smooth R&B grooves. “You have the personality with your girl, and you have your macho mannerisms,” Williams says. “You got all these characteristics that make up your personality. This is an album I’ve been working on all my life.”
Bruce Springsteen
Born to Run: 30th Anniversary Edition
Out November 15th
A newly remastered version of Springsteen’s 1975 masterpiece is just the beginning of this unique CD-plus-two-DVDs reissue package. One DVD showcases long-buried footage of a full E Street Band concert at London’s Hammersmith Odeon from 1975, including performances of “Backstreets,” “Lost in the Flood” and “Kitty’s Back.” The other contains Wings for Wheels: The Making of Born to Run, a ninety-minute documentary that includes new interviews with Springsteen and the E Streeters (including former drummer Ernest “Boom” Carter and pre-Roy Bittan pianist David Sancious).
Confessions on a Dancefloor
Out November 15th
After 2003’s underwhelming disc of electronic folk, American Life, the Material Girl returns to the dance floor with Confessions. The disco-friendly vibe is announced by the first single, “Hung Up,” which samples the opening keyboards from Abba’s “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” Madonna recruited Stuart Price — a London DJ and the keyboardist on her Re-Invention tour — to produce the disc, but don’t think she didn’t express herself during the recording process. “People always think that it’s just some guy behind her coming up with all the ideas,” says Price. “She’s very underrated as a producer.”
Fort Minor
The Rising Tied
Out November 22nd
Linkin Park rapper Mike Shinoda gets in touch with his hip-hop roots on his Fort Minor side project — which gets a boost from heavy-spitters Common, Black Thought of the Roots and Jay-Z. “I thoroughly enjoy what I do in Linkin Park,” says Shinoda. “But the first Fort Minor songs were recorded because I got frustrated that I hadn’t made a pure hip-hop song in a while.” Shinoda plays nearly every instrument on The Rising Tied, which also features new faces such as Styles of Beyond and Linkin Park’s nineteen-year-old protege, Holly Brook. Says Shinoda, “I’ve got some up-and-comers on there who are very hungry.”
Jamie Foxx
Out November 22nd
Foxx is cashing in on the musical cred he earned through his remarkable Ray performance with his new album, Unpredictable. “We wanted to stay young and up,” Foxx says, citing the feel of his first hit single, “Extravaganza,” a collaboration with Kanye West that’s currently burning up urban radio. “But the meat of the album is more musical, more piano — back to how I really get down.” Many of Foxx’s seductive new tunes, including “Can I Take You Home,” “DJ Play a Love Song” and “V.I.P.,” find middle ground between his gospel and soul roots and the laid-back beats and raps provided by guests Busta Rhymes, Pharrell Williams, Ludacris, and Twista. Foxx and his friends recorded the bulk of Unpredictable on the set of the actor’s next film, Miami Vice. “Timbaland allowed me to use his bus — it has a studio in it,” he says. “So I’d come right off the set, get on the bus and keep cutting and grinding.”
System of a Down
Out November 22nd
“I can’t say I sat down and tried to make a dark record,” says System of a Down guitarist and songwriter Daron Malakian. “I guess you could say it’s a reflection of the times.” System recorded Hypnotize at the same time as May’s Mezmerize and, like its predecessor, it’s full of apocalyptic anti-war lyrics paired with guided-missile guitar riffs and exotic melodies. And in the spirit of Mezmerize’s “B.Y.O.B.,” the band’s catchiest song ever, there are some surprisingly pop-friendly moments, including the heart-baring ballad “Lonely Day.” “I used to be more focused on ‘Let’s get it heavy,’ ” says Malakian. “Now I’m more focused on ‘Let’s get some emotion out.” Malakian adds that Hypnotize isn’t just a sequel to Mezmerize. “We don’t look at them as two records, we look at them as one record,” he says. “It feels like people haven’t heard the whole album yet.”
The Darkness
One Way Ticket to Hell . . . and Back
Out November 29th
It wasn’t enough to sound like Queen — for their second album, the Darkness teamed with Queen producer Roy Thomas Baker and even recorded some of the disc at Rockfield Studios in Wales, where Freddie Mercury and Co. cut “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The ten tracks continue in the anthemic head-banging vein of the fabulously trashy Permission to Land, recalling the Eighties hair-metal excesses of Def Leppard and Whitesnake. The album’s first single, “One Way Ticket,” features a pan-flute intro immediately followed by the distinct sound of someone cutting up and snorting a line of cocaine. “It’s a song of redemption, really,” says singer Justin Hawkins, who spent part of last year in rehab. “It talks about drugs, the inevitable downward slide into hell, and how it’s never too late to turn back.”
Oral fixation, Vol. 2
Out November 29th
After scoring a Top Ten hit earlier this year with the Spanish-language album Fijacion Oral, Vol. 1, Shakira is back with an English sequel. “The Spanish album is strictly romantic,” she says. “But the English album embraces more social-oriented topics.” Featuring a guest performance by Carlos Santana on “Illegal,” the disc, like its predecessor, was executive-produced by Rick Rubin. As for putting out so much material in one year, the Colombian singer says, “I just kept writing, and one day I found myself with sixty songs. It was a good problem to have, but it was still a problem.”
Notorious B.I.G.
Out November 29th
Biggie’s posthumous output has been limited compared with the steady stream of releases from fellow slain rapper Tupac Shakur — which makes this duets album a potentially notable event. The first single, “Hold Ya Head,” teams Biggie with another late legend, Bob Marley, and other songs will have him trading verses with various yet-to-be-announced artists. A companion DVD will include live footage and other bonuses.
Out December 6th
“It’s like an OutKast record on film,” says Big Boi of the soundtrack to the rap duo’s new musical film, tentatively titled Idlewild. Set in the Depression-era South, the movie, which will be released in theaters on January 6th, follows the story of a struggling musician (played by Andre 3000) and a lovable Lothario (Big Boi). “Since it’s in the Thirties, we didn’t want to use too many synthesizers and keys,” says Big, who adds that the duo mined its vault of unreleased and unfinished tracks for the album. The first single, “Idlewild Blues,” is a jazzy romp loaded with drum stomps, muffled trumpets and piano; Dre gives his best Cab Calloway impersonation, and Big flips his hallmark spitfire rhymes. “It’s a juke-joint jam,” says Big. “I don’t know if you can categorize it as a rap song.”