Top Albums

Testimony (Deluxe)

August Alsina

The Best Of Depeche Mode Volume 1

Depeche Mode

Slippery When Wet

Bon Jovi
Slippery When Wet wasn't just a breakthrough album for Bon Jovi; it was a breakthrough for hair metal in general, marking the point where the genre officially entered the mainstream. Released in 1986, it presented a streamlined combination of pop, hard rock, and metal that appealed to everyone -- especially girls, whom traditional heavy metal often ignored. Slippery When Wet was more indebted to pop than metal, though, and the band made no attempt to hide its commercial ambition, even hiring an outside songwriter to co-write two of the album's biggest singles. The trick paid off as Slippery When Wet became the best-selling album of 1987, beating out contenders like Appetite for Destruction, The Joshua Tree, and Michael Jackson's Bad.

Part of the album's success could be attributed to Desmond Child, a behind-the-scenes songwriter who went on to write hits for Aerosmith, Michael Bolton, and Ricky Martin. With Child's help, Bon Jovi penned a pair of songs that would eventually define their career -- “Living on a Prayer” and “You Give Love a Bad Name” -- two teenage anthems that mixed Springsteen's blue-collar narratives with straightforward, guitar-driven hooks. The band's characters may have been down on their luck -- they worked dead-end jobs, pined for dangerous women, and occasionally rode steel horses -- but Bon Jovi never presented a problem that couldn’t be cured by a good chorus, every one of which seemed to celebrate a glass-half-full mentality. Elsewhere, the group turned to nostalgia, using songs like “Never Say Goodbye” and “Wild in the Streets” to re-create (or fabricate) an untamed, sex-filled youth that undoubtedly appealed to the band’s teen audience. Bon Jovi wasn't nearly as hard-edged as Mötley Crüe or technically proficient as Van Halen, but the guys smartly played to their strengths, shunning the extremes for an accessible, middle-of-the-road approach that wound up appealing to more fans than most of their peers. “It’s alright if you have a good time,” Jon Bon Jovi sang on Slippery When Wet’s first track, “Let It Rock,” and those words essentially served as a mantra for the entire hair metal genre, whose carefree, party-heavy attitude became the soundtrack for the rest of the ‘80s.

Andrew Leahey, Rovi

21 Totally 80s Hits

Various

NOW That's What I Call 80s Hits

Various Artists
Traveling back in time to the decade that the whole series started in, the "Now" series tackles the '80s with Now That’s What I Call the 80’s Hits. Featuring songs like Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax” and Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time,” the compilation pulls together some of the hits that would go on to become iconic of the era. For anyone looking to sum up '80s pop radio in one easy disc, Now That’s What I Call the 80’s Hits won’t disappoint.

Gregory Heaney, Rovi

Madonna

Madonna

Comin Home

Jessie James Decker

The Marshall Mathers LP2 (Deluxe)

Eminem

Whitesnake's Greatest Hits

Whitesnake
Whitesnake's Greatest Hits collects the cream of the band's later '80s efforts, gathering most of its material from Slide It In, Whitesnake, and Slip of the Tongue. Bigger fans will find worthwhile album tracks on the former two efforts, but this collection of Zeppelin-ish rock anthems and hooky power ballads are all most fans will need.

Steve Huey, Rovi

Best Of Volume 1

Van Halen

Thriller

Michael Jackson
Off the Wall was a massive success, spawning four Top Ten hits (two of them number ones), but nothing could have prepared Michael Jackson for Thriller. Nobody could have prepared anybody for the success of Thriller, since the magnitude of its success was simply unimaginable -- an album that sold 40 million copies in its initial chart run, with "seven" of its nine tracks reaching the Top Ten (for the record, the terrific "Baby Be Mine" and the pretty good ballad "The Lady in My Life" are not like the others). This was a record that had something for everybody, building on the basic blueprint of Off the Wall by adding harder funk, hard rock, softer ballads, and smoother soul -- expanding the approach to have something for every audience. That alone would have given the album a good shot at a huge audience, but it also arrived precisely when MTV was reaching its ascendancy, and Jackson helped the network by being not just its first superstar, but first black star as much as the network helped him. This all would have made it a success (and its success, in turn, served as a new standard for success), but it stayed on the charts, turning out singles, for nearly two years because it was really, really good. True, it wasn't as tight as Off the Wall -- and the ridiculous, late-night house-of-horrors title track is the prime culprit, arriving in the middle of the record and sucking out its momentum -- but those one or two cuts don't detract from a phenomenal set of music. It's calculated, to be sure, but the chutzpah of those calculations (before this, nobody would even have thought to bring in metal virtuoso Eddie Van Halen to play on a disco cut) is outdone by their success. This is where a song as gentle and lovely as "Human Nature" coexists comfortably with the tough, scared "Beat It," the sweet schmaltz of the Paul McCartney duet "The Girl Is Mine," and the frizzy funk of "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)." And, although this is an undeniably fun record, the paranoia is already creeping in, manifesting itself in the record's two best songs: "Billie Jean," where a woman claims Michael is the father of her child, and the delirious "Wanna Be Startin' Something," the freshest funk on the album, but the most claustrophobic, scariest track Jackson ever recorded. These give the record its anchor and are part of the reason why the record is more than just a phenomenon. The other reason, of course, is that much of this is just simply great music.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Street Songs

Rick James
Disappointed because Garden of Love wasn't as well-received as it should have been, Rick James made a triumphant return to defiant, in-your-face funk with the triple-platinum Street Songs. This was not only his best-selling album ever, it was also his best period, and certainly the most exciting album released in 1981. The gloves came all the way off this time, and James is as loud and proud as ever on such arresting hits as "Super Freak," "Give It to Me, Baby," and "Ghetto Life." Ballads aren't a high priority, but those he does offer (including his stunning duet with Teena Marie, "Fire and Desire,") are first-rate. One song that's questionable (to say the least) is the inflammatory "Mr. Policeman," a commentary on police misconduct that condemns law enforcement in general instead of simply indicting those who abuse their authority. But then, the thing that makes this hot-headed diatribe extreme is what makes the album on the whole so arresting -- honest, gut-level emotion. James simply follows what's in his gut and lets it rip. Even the world's most casual funksters shouldn't be without this pearl of an album. [The reissue of Street Songs adds 12" mixes of "Give It to Me Baby" and "Super Freak" as bonus tracks.]

Alex Henderson, Rovi

Eliminator

ZZ Top
ZZ Top had reached the top of the charts before, but that didn't make their sudden popularity in 1983 any more predictable. It wasn't that they were just popular -- they were "hip", for God's sake, since they were one of the only AOR favorites to figure out to harness the stylish, synthesized grooves of new wave, and then figure out how to sell it on MTV. Of course, it helped that they had songs that deserved to be hits. With "Gimme All Your Lovin'," "Sharp Dressed Man," and "Legs," they had their greatest set of singles since the heady days of Tres Hombres, and the songs that surrounded them weren't bad either -- they would have been singles on El Loco, as a matter of fact. The songs alone would have made Eliminator one of ZZ Top's three greatest albums, but their embrace of synths and sequencers made it a blockbuster hit, since it was the sound of the times. Years later, the sound of the times winds up sounding a bit stiff. It's still an excellent ZZ Top album, one of their best, yet it sounds like a mechanized ZZ Top thanks to the unflaggingly accurate grooves. Then again, that's part of the album's charm -- this is new wave blues-rock, glossed up for the video, looking as good as the omnipresent convertible on the cover and sounding as irresistible as Reaganomics. Not the sort the old-school fans or blues-rock purists will love, but ZZ Top never sounded as much like a band of its time as they did here. [Based on Rhino's 2008 Deluxe reissue of ZZ Top's classic 1983 LP Eliminator, the trio didn't have much in the way of unreleased songs left in the vaults, but that doesn't mean this double-disc set isn't useful. This set has a DVD devoted to the album's landmark videos -- "Gimme All Your Lovin'," "Sharp Dressed Man," "Legs," and "TV Dinners," all staples of early MTV -- adding a couple of live performances for good measure. Live performances are also the key to the expansion of the CD, as the seven bonus tracks contain two mixes of "Legs" -- a 7" edit and a 12" mix -- and five live cuts from the Eliminator tour. These live performances aren't as good as the sleek, gleaming finished album, as the group had neither learned to expertly play with a drum machine on-stage or figure out how to do these songs without electronics, but that just winds up highlighting what an exceptionally well-crafted, imaginative production the original Eliminator was and for that, this deluxe edition is worth exploring.]

Rapture

Anita Baker
Though Anita Baker got some airplay out of The Songstress, that promising solo debut didn't bring her financial security. In fact, Baker was earning her living as a legal secretary in her native Detroit when she signed with Elektra in the mid-'80s. Elektra gave her a strong promotional push, and the equally superb Rapture became the megahit that The Songstress should have been. To its credit, Elektra made her a major star by focusing on Baker's strong point -- romantic but gospel-influenced R&B/pop ballads and "slow jams," sometimes with jazz overtones -- and letting her be true to herself. Rapture gave Baker one moving hit after another, including "Sweet Love," "Caught up in the Rapture," "Same Ole Love," and "No One in This World." Praising Baker in a 1986 interview, veteran R&B critic Steve Ivory asserted, "To me, singers like Anita Baker and Frankie Beverly define what R&B or soul music is all about." Indeed, Rapture's tremendous success made it clear that there was still a sizeable market for adult-oriented, more traditional R&B singing.

Alex Henderson, Rovi

Greatest Hits

Huey Lewis
There have been many Huey Lewis & the News hits compilations released overseas, but 2006's simply named Greatest Hits is only the second U.S. comp, following Time Flies, which appeared a decade earlier. At a generous 21 tracks, Greatest Hits is not only five songs longer than Time Flies, but it's a better-chosen collection, too. It may be missing "Bad Is Bad," but it has a stronger selection of early songs, like the wonderful "Hope You Love Me Like You Say You Do," plus a better selection of latter-day songs, including Huey's duet with Gwyneth Paltrow on Smokey Robinson's "Cruisin'." That doesn't mean the disc is perfect, however; although this does have stronger representation of their earlier material, it could use just a little bit more, and the non-chronological sequencing is a bit of a headache. That said, this has all the hits and no weak songs, making it the best Huey Lewis & the News compilation yet.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

good kid, m.A.A.d city

Kendrick Lamar
Hip-hop debuts don't come much more "highly anticipated" than Kendrick Lamar's. A series of killer mixtapes displayed his talent for thought-provoking street lyrics delivered with an attention-grabbing flow, and then there was his membership in the Black Hippy crew with his brethren Ab-Soul, Schoolboy Q, and Jay Rock all issuing solo releases that pleased the "true hip-hop" set, setting the stage for a massive fourth and final. Top it off with a pre-release "XXL Magazine" cover that he shared with his label boss and all-around legend Dr. Dre, and the "biggest debut since Illmatic" stuff starts to flow, but Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City would be a milestone even without the back-story, offering cool and compelling lyrics, great guests (Drake, Dr. Dre, and MC Eiht) and attractive production (from Pharrell, Just Blaze, Tabu, and others). Here, Kendrick is living his life like status and cash were extra credit. It is what makes this kid so "good" as he navigates his "mad" city (Compton) with experience and wisdom beyond his years (25). He's shamelessly bold about the allure of the trap, contrasting the sickness of his city with the universal feeling of getting homesick, and carrying a Springsteen-sized love for the home team. Course, in his gang-ruled city, N.W.A. "was" the home team, but as the truly beautiful, steeped-in-soul, biographic key track "The Art of Peer Pressure" finds a reluctant young Kendrick and his friends feeding off the life-force of Young Jeezy's debut album, it's something Clash, Public Enemy, and all other rebel music fans can relate to. Still, when he realizes that hero Jeezy must have risen above the game -- because the real playas are damned and never show their faces -- it spawns a kind of elevated gangsta rap that's as pimp-connectable as the most vicious Eazy-E, and yet poignant enough to blow the dust off any cracked soul. Equally heavy is the cautionary tale of drank dubbed "Swimming Pools," yet that highlight is as hooky and hallucinatory as most Houston drank anthems, and breaks off into one of the chilling, cassette-quality interludes that connect the album, adding to the documentary or eavesdropping quality of it all. Soul children will experience déjà vu when "Poetic Justice" slides by with its Janet Jackson sample -- sounding like it came off his Aunt's VHS copy of the movie it's named after -- while the closing "Compton" is an anthem sure to make the Game jealous, featuring Dre in beast mode, acting pre-Chronic and pre-Death Row. This journey through the concrete jungle of Compton is worth taking because of the artistic richness within, plus the attraction of a whip-smart rapper flying high during his rookie season. Any hesitation about the horror of it all is quickly wiped away by Kendrick's mix of true talk, open heart, open mind, and extended hand. Add it all up and even without the hype, this one is still potent and smart enough to rise to the top of the pile.

Synchronicity

The Police
Simultaneously more pop-oriented and experimental than either Ghost in the Machine or Zenyatta Mondatta, Synchronicity made the Police superstars, generating no less than five hit singles. With the exception of "Synchronicity II," which sounds disarmingly like a crappy Billy Idol song, every one of those singles is a classic. "Every Breath You Take" has a seductive, rolling beat masking its maliciousness, "King of Pain" and "Wrapped Around Your Finger" are devilishly infectious new wave singles, and "Tea in the Sahara" is hypnotic in its measured, melancholy choruses. But, like so many other Police albums, these songs are surrounded by utterly inconsequential filler. This time, the group relies heavily on jazzy textures for Sting's songs, which only work on the jumping, marimba-driven "Synchronicity I." Then, as if to prove that the Police were still a band, there's one song apiece from Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers, both of which are awful, as if they're trying to sabotage the album. Since they arrive on the first side, which is devoid of singles, they do, making the album sound like two EPs: one filled with first-rate pop, and one an exercise in self-indulgence. While the hits are among Sting's best, they also illustrate that he was ready to leave the Police behind for a solo career, which is exactly what he did.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

My Krazy Life (Deluxe)

YG

Number One Hits

Tim McGraw
Two years after releasing Greatest Hits, Vol. 3, Tim McGraw put out Number One Hits -- a double-disc distillation of 24 of his biggest hits. Naturally, not every one of his charting singles fit under this rubric, but Number One Hits sticks to the parameters of its title more faithfully than most discs of this nature, including only chart-toppers along with the requisite new cut “Feels Good on My Lips.” Although the sequencing is bewilderingly non-chronological, hop-scotching from one decade to another, Number One Hits does serve up all the high points from McGraw's career, and hints at his range, making this the best overview of his work yet assembled.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Disintegration

The Cure

Talk Dirty

Jason Derulo

The Best Of Sade

Sade
It's easy to dismiss Sade as makeout music for Calvin Klein Obsession models, but she created an impressive body of work over the course of a decade, a series of moody singles with cool jazz passion and the kick of good R&B. All the hits are here, of course, from "Smooth Operator" to "No Ordinary Love."

Eddie Huffman, Rovi

It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back

Public Enemy
Yo! Bum Rush the Show was an invigorating record, but it looks like child's play compared to its monumental sequel, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, a record that rewrote the rules of what hip-hop could do. That's not to say the album is without precedent, since what's particularly ingenious about the album is how it reconfigures things that came before into a startling, fresh, modern sound. Public Enemy used the template Run-D.M.C. created of a rap crew as a rock band, then brought in elements of free jazz, hard funk, even musique concrète, via their producing team, the Bomb Squad, creating a dense, ferocious sound unlike anything that came before. This coincided with a breakthrough in Chuck D's writing, both in his themes and lyrics. It's not that Chuck D was smarter or more ambitious than his contemporaries -- certainly, KRS-One tackled many similar sociopolitical tracts, while Rakim had a greater flow -- but he marshaled considerable revolutionary force, clear vision, and a boundless vocabulary to create galvanizing, logical arguments that were undeniable in their strength. They only gained strength from Flavor Flav's frenzied jokes, which provided a needed contrast. What's amazing is how the words and music become intertwined, gaining strength from each other. Though this music is certainly a representation of its time, it hasn't dated at all. It set a standard that few could touch then, and even fewer have attempted to meet since.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Crash My Party

Luke Bryan

Rivers In The Wasteland

NEEDTOBREATHE

Illmatic XX

Nas

Mastermind (Deluxe)

Rick Ross

The Best That I Could Do 1978-1988

John Mellencamp
The Best That I Could Do is an appropriately self-deprecating title for John Mellencamp's greatest-hits collection, considering that the heartland rocker never seemed too convinced of his own worth. Of course, he had to struggle to get any respect after he was saddled with the stage name Johnny Cougar early in his career, but this 14-track collection proves that he was one of the best, unabashed straight-ahead rockers of the '80s. The 14 tracks here actually turn out to be a little too short to contain all of his great singles -- songs like "Rain on the Scarecrow," "Rumbleseat," "Pop Singer," "Again Tonight," and "What If I Came Knocking" are left off the collection (there's nothing from 1988's Big Daddy at all) -- but it's hard to argue with what's here. Over the course of the collection, such classic rock hits as "I Need a Lover," "Hurts So Good," "Jack and Diane," "Crumblin' Down," "Pink Houses," "Lonely Ol' Night," "Small Town," "Paper in Fire," "Cherry Bomb," and "Check It Out" are chronicled, with a new cover of Terry Reid's "Without Expression" added for good measure. It may fall short of being definitive, but only by a small margin, and it remains an excellent overview and introduction to Mellencamp's remarkably consistent body of work.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Sail Out

Jhené Aiko

Greatest Hits

RUN-DMC
Supplanting the 1991 collection Together Forever, BMG Heritage's 2002 Greatest Hits also runs 18 tracks and shares ten of the same songs -- namely, all the big hits and usual suspects. Of the eight tracks left behind, there are some big ones -- no "Peter Piper" or "My Adidas" -- and the sequencing, while flowing much better than its predecessor, is still non-chronological, which robs the narrative of some power even if the music retains all of it. So, that means we're still waiting for the perfect Run-D.M.C. collection, but until that arrives, this is still an excellent listen and works well as both a summary and introduction to one of the greatest bands of the '80s.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

La Gárgola

Chevelle

The Outsiders

Eric Church

State of Mind

Dizzy Wright

Smoke Stack

The Lacs

Here's To The Good Times...This Is How We Roll

Florida Georgia Line
True to its name, country duo Florida Georgia Line comprises a Floridian (Brian Kelley) and a Georgia boy (Tyler Hubbard), who first took Nashville (and the rest of the nation) by storm with their 2012 EP, It'z Just What We Do. The pair's full-length debut, Here's to the Good Times, is cut from the same stylistic cloth as the EP, furthering the seamless incorporation of R&B production techniques into a modern country format. You could consider Here's to the Good Times the big brother to Taylor Swift's contemporaneous, dance pop-tinged Red, with a fair share of power balladry ("Stay," "Hell Raisin' Heat of the Summer") and crunching, country-rock guitar riffs ("It'z Just What We Do," "Tip It Back") added in to ensure things never get monochromatic.

Nothing Was The Same (Deluxe)

Drake

Heartbeat

Da' T.R.U.T.H.

Greatest Hits

Pat Benatar
The liner notes to Capitol's 20-track retrospective of rock goddess Pat Benatar's golden years are filled with testimonials from some of the genre's queens, both reigning (Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos) and retired (Jane Wiedlin, Martha Davis). It's a fitting tribute to the artist, as her four-and-a-half-octave vocal range spewing arena-sized anthems has yet to be matched by anyone with as much rock & roll panache. "We Belong," "Shadows of the Night," "Promises in the Dark," and "Love Is a Battlefield" are all certifiable '80s classics -- not just guilty pleasures -- and even later semi-hits like "Sex as a Weapon" and "All Fired Up" don't sound as overwrought as one would imagine, having not heard them in some time. Greatest Hits is just five songs longer than 1989's Best Shots -- reissued in 2003 with an accompanying DVD -- but the inclusion of fan favorites such as "Little Too Late" and "Le Bel Age" make this collection the most effective to date. Fair is fair.

James Christopher Monger, Rovi

By Any Means

Kevin Gates

Recess

Skrillex

G I R L

Pharrell Williams

Greatest Hits

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

Love In The Future (Deluxe Edition)

John Legend

Night Visions

Imagine Dragons
Even though Night Visions has several repackaged tunes from Imagine Dragons' previous EPs, including the instantly appealing breakthrough hit "It's Time," the band's debut LP is a confident, commercially savvy collection of energetic hooks, crunchy electro beats and glossy synthesizers. With sweeping choruses and booming bass, it's big-sounding party rock, but the savvy, kitchen-sink production of Alex da Kid makes other would-be singles like "Bleeding Out" and "Tiptoe" as interesting as they are overwhelming. Even though under all the layers there are occasionally pockets of pure cheese ("With the beast inside, there's nowhere we can hide," Dan Reynolds sings on "Demons"), the scope of the band's full-length debut leaves a big impression.

Nate Cavalieri, Google Play

Oxymoron (Deluxe)

ScHoolboy Q

Vessel

twenty one pilots
Columbus, Ohio-based pop duo Twenty One Pilots spent the few short years leading up to Vessel, their debut recording for Atlantic Records subsidiary Fueled by Ramen, touring ceaselessly and reaching out to their growing fan base on a grassroots level. The emphatic pop stylings with more-than-occasional rap interjections made by Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun -- two Midwestern high-school friends who worked hard enough to build up something some people took notice of, still young and full of enough energy to keep up with the twists and turns once the major labels came knocking -- sound custom-made for the trajectory of their career up to this point. The move from rough demo versions on self-released recordings like 2011's Regional at Best to the glossy, radio-ready production of Vessel (handled by Greg Wells, who's also responsible for hits by Adele, Kid Cudi, Katy Perry, and others) seems like an entirely natural progression for the band's dorky rhymes that always run out just in time for an epically hooky chorus. Vessel is front-loaded with three relentlessly catchy single-ready standouts: the schizo-frenetic hip-hop via indie bounce of "Ode to Sleep," the silky groove of "Holding on to You," and the vocoder radio pop of "Migraine." These three songs encapsulate the band's unique calling card, offering up the best examples of what makes their approach different from any number of bands working in similar territory, with enormous beats and full-force electro-pop running through hooks modeled for Top 40 radio, each element punctuated by Joseph's down-to-earth sentiments coming through in the form of caffeinated rap codas. The continuity of the album isn't as strong after those first three songs. The influence of dour emo-pop like Bright Eyes shows up in some of the vocal stylings, as on "Semi-Automatic" and the uncharacteristically folky "House of Gold." The entire ride is more of a party than an emo-fest, though, and a decidedly more commercial take on the parts of indie rock that appeal to a mass market, with banging tunes like "Fake You Out" leaning closer to Coldplay or Fun. than they do to MGMT, but with an eye toward both sides of the coin. Twenty One Pilots definitely have a formula for both songwriting and production that renders some of the songs here slightly redundant, but even that doesn't take away from the overall value of the album. Vessel is a lively, energetic, pulsing collection of candy-coated big-budget pop with just enough personality to make it more engaging than a large percentage of other groups out there at the moment doing something similar.

Fred Thomas, Rovi

PRISM (Deluxe)

Katy Perry

Brothers In Arms

Dire Straits
Brothers in Arms brought the atmospheric, jazz-rock inclinations of Love Over Gold into a pop setting, resulting in a surprise international best-seller. Of course, the success of Brothers in Arms was helped considerably by the clever computer-animated video for "Money for Nothing," a sardonic attack on MTV. But what kept the record selling was Mark Knopfler's increased sense of pop songcraft -- "Money for Nothing" had an indelible guitar riff, "Walk of Life" is a catchy up-tempo boogie variation on "Sultans of Swing," and the melodies of the bluesy "So Far Away" and the down-tempo, Everly Brothers-style "Why Worry" were wistful and lovely. Dire Straits had never been so concise or pop-oriented, and it wore well on them. Though they couldn't maintain that consistency through the rest of the album -- only the jazzy "Your Latest Trick" and the flinty "Ride Across the River" make an impact -- Brothers in Arms remains one of their most focused and accomplished albums, and in its succinct pop sense, it's distinctive within their catalog. [In 2005 Mercury released a 20th anniversary limited edition version of Brothers in Arms in the Hybrid/SACD format.]

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Born In The U.S.A.

Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen had become increasingly downcast as a songwriter during his recording career, and his pessimism bottomed out with Nebraska. But Born in the U.S.A., his popular triumph, which threw off seven Top Ten hits and became one of the best-selling albums of all time, trafficked in much the same struggle, albeit set to galloping rhythms and set off by chiming guitars. That the witless wonders of the Reagan regime attempted to co-opt the title track as an election-year campaign song wasn't so surprising: the verses described the disenfranchisement of a lower-class Vietnam vet, and the chorus was intended to be angry, but it came off as anthemic. Then, too, Springsteen had softened his message with nostalgia and sentimentality, and those are always crowd-pleasers. "Glory Days" may have employed Springsteen's trademark disaffection, yet it came across as a couch potato's drunken lament. But more than anything else, Born in the U.S.A. marked the first time that Springsteen's characters really seemed to relish the fight and to have something to fight for. They were not defeated ("No Surrender"), and they had friendship ("Bobby Jean") and family ("My Hometown") to defend. The restless hero of "Dancing in the Dark" even pledged himself in the face of futility, and for Springsteen, that was a step. The "romantic young boys" of his first two albums, chastened by "the working life" encountered on his third, fourth, and fifth albums and having faced the despair of his sixth, were still alive on this, his seventh, with their sense of humor and their determination intact. Born in the U.S.A. was their apotheosis, the place where they renewed their commitment and where Springsteen remembered that he was a rock & roll star, which is how a vastly increased public was happy to treat him.

William Ruhlmann, Rovi

So Far So Good

Bryan Adams

The Very Best Of Billy Idol: Idolize Yourself

Billy Idol
Hard to believe, but Capitol's 2008 collection Idolize Yourself: The Very Best of Billy Idol is only the second Billy Idol hits album to be released in America, following the first -- 2001's Greatest Hits -- by just seven years. Greatest Hits weighed in at 16 tracks and Idolize Yourself spans 18, adding two OK new songs to the mix (the moody "John Wayne" and the ham-fisted "New Future Weapon"), swapping out a live acoustic "Rebel Yell" and a cover of Simple Minds' "Don't You (Forget About Me)" for the latter-day cuts "Speed" and "World Comin' Down," but otherwise this is built upon the same core 14 hits as Greatest Hits. This means that either compilation would serve the needs of most Idol fans well, but Idolize Yourself gets the edge, as the latter-day songs are just a bit better and it's also available in a deluxe edition with a DVD containing almost all of Billy Idol's music videos (two, "Hot in the City" and "Cradle of Love," are present in previously unreleased alternate cuts), which are essential to truly appreciating an artist whose fame was built in large part on his videos.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

True

Avicii

Because The Internet

Childish Gambino

The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell (Volume 2)

Five Finger Death Punch
The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell, Volume 2 is the fifth studio album by American heavy metal band Five Finger Death Punch and the second of two albums released by the band in 2013, with Volume 1 having been released on July 30. It was released on November 19, 2013. Preorders for the album went up on iTunes on August 10, 2013.

~ Provided by Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wrong_Side_of_Heaven_and_the_Righteous_Side_of_Hell,_Volume_2) under Creative Commons Attribution CC-BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcode)

SoMo

SoMo

Lindsey Stirling

Lindsey Stirling
The eponymous debut album from YouTube sensation and "America's Got Talent" quarterfinalist Lindsey Stirling -- the colorful and uncommonly spirited classical, hip-hop, rock, country, modern dance, and Legend of Zelda/Elder Scrolls-loving violinist -- features ten original tracks that dutifully reflect all of those aforementioned styles and influences with moxie to spare. Propelled by the engaging electronic and dubstep-infused single "Crystallize," which yielded 11 million views in less than two months when it was released in its video form in early 2012, Stirling's debut carves out a unique new niche in the classical crossover genre., Rovi