Radiohead Bonus Disc Not So Crucial

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Lupe Fiasco

Lupe Fiasco's sophomore record is called The Cool. Courtesy of Lupe Fiasco hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Lupe Fiasco

On this edition of New Music Tuesday, Esquire music critic Andy Langer and former Rolling Stone contributing editor Toure review the latest music releases, including a sophomore album from Lupe Fiasco, a Rivers Cuomo solo record, a new one from Mary J. Blige and the Radiohead box set.

Lupe Fiasco raps about himself. He's a practicing Muslim who doesn't drink or smoke, and he avoids people who do, so... he talks about himself. Toure says Fiasco seems, on The Cool, as if he wants to be good and do new things, but the songs just make him miss Kanye. Langer takes exception to the track "Dumb It Down," saying "If you gotta tell people you're not dumbing it down, then you probably are." He does, however, recommend "Hello Goodbye."

The new one from Weezer's Rivers Cuomo isn't actually new, or really a record. Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo is a contractual obligation for the singer, and probably only of interest to superfans. There's a demo of "Buddy Holly" that isn't as good as the version that appeared on Weezer and a cover of Ice Cube's "The Bomb," which Langer says is just horrible.

Mary J. Blige's latest, Growing Pains, makes Toure miss the old Mary — the Mary who was in pain, singing for the downtrodden secretaries of the world. She sounds empowered by this new phase in her life: She's found a good man who loves her for her. But Toure asks, "Do you want to hear Billie Holiday sing happy songs?" In agreeing with Toure, Langer calls this album "the Latifah-cation of Mary J. Blige." Toure says it's like she switched aisles. Her constituency was one group of emotions, and now it's another. She's probably aiming for another eight Grammy nominations.

Also changing its stripes is Radiohead. In Rainbows is much brighter and less electronic than the band's earlier albums. It just put out the box set, but Langer's verdict is, "If you're looking for revelations, there's not much on there besides "Bangers and Mash" and the packaging."

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