There's a war being fought for your music player this week. Divas are looking for mainstream redemption, rappers are searching for street cred, a Swedish indie band is hoping to invade U.S. radio waves, and a Texan trio wants to break out of the Lone Star State. Play on, brothers and sisters. Play on.
MUST-PLAY PICK OF THE WEEK:
SKIP: Britney Spears, "Femme Fatale"
Do we really need to ride the Britney crazy train again? You know how I feel about albums like "Femme Fatale": They are made in board rooms, exist only to fatten corporate bank accounts, are produced by committees, and are designed to entice through overwhelming force. Undoubtedly, Britney will be on every screen, in every magazine, and in every nightmare you see this spring. There will be no escape. But stay strong, people. You can skip this. Repeat. You CAN skip this. Declare your freedom. I'm declaring a No-Britney Zone.
SKIP: Snoop Dogg, "Doggumentary"
Snoop Dogg wants to have it both ways. He wants to be the family friendly rapper who can hang on Nick Jr. and bake brownies with Martha Stewart. But Snoop also wants his street cred, dropping XXX raps for the gangstas and homies in his Long Beach 'hood. His guest list on "Doggumentary" is a sure sign that something's wrong. Any album that relies on this many guest artists is trying to hide something. Snoop covers all the bases: he's got his stoner pals Willie Nelson and Wiz Khalifa, his UK arty buddies the Gorillaz, the requisite hip-hop Tiffany circle of Kanye West and T-Pain, plus old school funk legend Bootsy Collins. All of this is evidence of Snoop's marquee power, but it still feels like everybody's dressed up for the house party that never arrives. "Doggumentary" keeps Brand Snoop front and center, but it does little to move his music forward.
PLAY: Peter, Bjorn and John, "Gimme Some"
When we last saw our Swedish heroes, Peter, Bjorn and John were in a deconstructionist mood. Perhaps (justifiably) burned out by their whistle anthem "Young Folks," PB&J steered their 2009 follow up, "Living Thing," to more experimental territory. For those of you who like your PB&J with the sunny side up, "Gimme Some" is the album you've been waiting for. It's bouncy, bearded, and slightly goofy, with lots of big power-pop hooks. I'm not sure why they've got all of the big reverb, but that's quibbling. "Gimme Some" is good, clean Swedish fun.
PLAY: Wiz Khalifa, "Rolling Papers"
The major label debut of rap wunderkind Wiz Khalifa (Wiz was voted MTV's "Hottest Breakthrough Hip Hop Artist of 2010") is short on lyrical ideas — unless songs about chicks and weed are the only ones you need. Still, "Rolling Papers" is packed with smokin', nasty raps and rhymes. Try to not pay attention to what you're singing and just let the good times roll.
PLAY: Los Lonely Boys, "Rockpango"
It's not easy when you're #1 right out of the gate. Los Lonely Boys' 2004 major label debut shot them to the top of the charts with "Heaven." Two albums later, the Texas brothers fell down to earth. They parted ways with Epic Records and returned to the indie world. "Rockpango" (a Spanglish word meaning "rock party") is full of Texas blues-based boogie that isn't likely to place Los Lonely Boys any closer to their former chart heights, but it may just make them the kings of Texas rock. There's no shame in being Texas-sized local heroes.