Albums From Vanessa Hudgens, My Chemical Romance

Blender magazine's Lizzy Goodman takes us through some of the week's new releases, including Vanessa Hudgens and My Chemical Romance.

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MIKE PESCA, host:

It's Tuesday, not just any Tuesday. It's New Music Tuesday. Not with just anyone, with Lizzie Goodman of Blender Magazine. Not just any magazine. She's here to tell us what's good, but she has to pass our musical quiz first. So here we go, Lizzie, multiple choice.

Ms. LIZZIE GOODMAN (Blender Magazine): No.

PESCA: Which recording artist with a new record out today got their start in Disney's "High School Musical"?

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: 50 Cent of G-Unit, Vanessa Hudgens, who has a single about sneakers, Chemical Romance, whose new record is available in a limited edition coffin?

Ms. GOODMAN: Obviously, 50 Cent. I mean, he's so Disney.

PESCA: I should have given you the hint that the correct answer was "never shot nine times."

Ms. GOODMAN: Oh, well, in that case, I'm going to have to go with Vanessa, because she - definitely the difference between Vanessa and 50 Cent is that she hasn't been shot.

PESCA: And her candy shop isn't actually a double entendre. She's actually selling very sweet candy.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yes.

PESCA: All right, so Lizzie, where do you want to start? Or can I make the call?

Ms. GOODMAN: I'm going to let you just go right ahead.

PESCA: G-Unit.

Ms. GOODMAN: G-Unit. Well, G-Unit, I love G-Unit because it's sort of like, it's 50 and all his pals from home, sort of hanging out. That's like the feel of all their music, and I think it's a nice change at least, for me from the sort of more serious, more I'm out to dominate the charts sound of 50 Cent. He just seems kind of charming and a good host for a barbecue or something on these albums.

PESCA: Well, yes. It's a very inviting title, "Terminate on Sight." I think that welcomes you in.

Ms. GOODMAN: Warms you right up, exactly.

PESCA: It says please, have a kielbasa, or perhaps, duck. This recording has a lot of songs that share titles with other songs, but don't have anything to do with those other songs. A song called "Ready or Not," which is not like the Fugees' track. There's "Close to Me," not like the Cure track. And then there's "Piano Man."

Ms. GOODMAN: Yes.

PESCA: Which, I don't think, owes a debt at all to Billy Joel.

Ms. GOODMAN: Well, no, not obviously. Maybe there's an undercurrent of similarity there that 50 understands.

PESCA: If 50 works with anything, it's subtlety and undercurrent.

Ms. GOODMAN: There you go.

PESCA: All right, sing us a song, piano man.

(Soundbite of song "Piano Man")

50 CENT: (Singing) Just call me the piano man. Call me the piano man. Just call me the piano man. Just call me the piano man.

Cardigan glasses, Cardigan belt, Cardigan watch tell me time Somewhere else like Germany, Sweden or Serbia, The one, two, To them serving y'all.

I'm a ball like Julius Irving, Iverson and Manning. I got the keys to that two-door phantom. A hundred suicide dollars get a top of low fade, Not a body looking hard.

These snakes, this is reptiles, Until I fill them up, shoot them up. You ain't got the best styles. You ain't got the best clothes. You ain't got the best, You ain't got the best, yeah.

They call me the piano man.

PESCA: OK. Just to be clear, no one calls him the piano man.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GOODMAN: That's what you think.

PESCA: And while 50 may be quick with a joke or to light up my smoke, it's a different kind of smoke. You like the album now?

Ms. GOODMAN: Nice, nice. I do and I think, I mean, again, for me, he's - I just find him really charming. He's really compelling, and I know that in sort of - let's just say that in the world of gangster rap, he's like a warm, fuzzy, teddy bear by comparison to the rest of them. And again, we're talking about a context that it itself is not particularly warm and fuzzy. But there is something - like I bet he and Billy Joel would totally get along.

PESCA: Yeah.

Ms. GOODMAN: He's like a - he's this sort of affable...

PESCA: Although...

Ms. GOODMAN: Charmer, and it comes across in the music.

PESCA: If I gave advice, I'd let 50 drive.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah. Note to you guys. If you're out there listening, which, of course, you are, please let 50 drive next time you're hanging out in your Connecticut compounds together.

PESCA: That is our plea, let 50 drive. Let's go onto Vanessa Hudgens. We've seen a lot of her lately, perhaps too much for her publicist's sake. She's of "High School Musical" fame. She's, you know, wholesome, but then there was that scandal. There were some nude pictures of her online. It happens a lot these days. What do you think of Vanessa Hudgens' new album, "Identified"?

Ms. GOODMAN: Well, I think she's getting there. You know, I actually don't think she's that wholesome. And I wasn't - you know, I mean, it's not - as you point out, it's not like the nude-photo scandal is particularly rare these days, what with the Internet and all that, but I didn't - you know, I wasn't totally surprised by that. I think she's got sort of a, again, speaking in the context of Disney, a darker side than, you know, her boyfriend, for example, Zach Efron.

I think she's sort of - I think she's got some substance there, and I think you see it in fits and starts on this album. There's a couple of really good sort of sassy pop songs on here. And that's what she should be doing at 19, as a Disney star, is sort of exploring being slightly less bubble-gum than the next girl.

PESCA: So, you'll hear all about Vanessa's dark side on the next episode of "Behind the Mouse Ears," but let's hear a little bit from the album. This - I don't think is - like, the first single is, like, this sneaker thing. What is this?

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah. It's "Sneaker Ride," I think it's called. Something sneaker related

PESCA: "Sneakernight"? What goes on, on sneaker night?

Ms. GOODMAN: Well, apparently lots of dancing and lots of enjoying of the wearing of sneakers. And it's basically like a cute sort of - too cute, jazzy, like, pop song about going and partying with your girlfriends and dancing a lot in sneakers.

PESCA: Won't play in England. It'll have to be re-titled, "Trainereve." All right, let's hear another song. This is "First Bad Habit." What is Vanessa Hudgens' first bad habit? Who knows? Let's hear it.

(Soundbite of song "First Bad Habit")

Ms. VANESSA HUDGENS: (Singing) Turn it off, turn it on, Left the vibrate on your phone. Call me up, want to talk, Then you freeze me.

It's the same when you're gone, Keep me guessing what you want. But my heart says it's you who can please me.

I get pushed to extremes, And I should know what it means, But I can't bear the game to be over...

PESCA: Vanessa Hudgens, obviously wanting to go from Mousketeer to Pussycat Doll.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah. She's on her way.

PESCA: Yeah. So overall, though, kind of what, a mix of hit and misses for you?

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah, well, I mean, well, again, if you like - if you want something to add to your sort of mix tape for the gym, there's a couple of really good songs on here. And to me, this album just sort of shows that she has the potential to breakout and become a genuine pop star, sort of outside of the Disney realm, if she wants to. She hasn't done it yet, but the potential is there. Of course, as long as they're making "High School Musicals," editions of this never-ending series, then I think she's going to stay there.

PESCA: Well, let's go to a band who literally is - let's say bye-bye, Vanessa, bye-bye. Let's go to a band who literally is on my gym mix tape, My Chemical Romance. Love the "Black Parade." This is "The Black Parade is Dead: Live."

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah. It's a live-album-and-DVD combo, and they - it's really fantastic. I mean, I think one of the things that gets missed about this band is how powerful their live show is. I mean, they're very sort of melodramatic and unapologetic about that. And it can be difficult, if you're not 16 and hate yourself, to sort of understand why anyone cares.

PESCA: Right. The hierarchy of the My Chemical Romance fans is like, people who hate me, dad, everyone, myself, everyone except My Chemical Romance. They so get me.

Ms. GOODMAN: Exactly. Exactly.

PESCA: Yeah.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah, you know, and if you're not - if you're sort of not in that frame of mind, it can come across as a little bombastic, and that can be an instant turnoff. But I think hearing the live - the live tone of these songs, it makes it easier to kind of get into what's so powerful about them.

PESCA: All right, let's hear "Famous Last Words" from "The Black Parade is Dead: Live."

(Soundbite of song "Famous Last Words")

MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE: (Singing) So many, Bright lights they cast a shadow, But can I speak? Well, is it hard understanding I'm incomplete? A life that's so demanding, I get so weak. A love that's so demanding, I can't speak.

I am not afraid to keep on living, I am not afraid to walk this world alone...

PESCA: That's their sound. What's the name, Gerard Way?

Ms. GOODMAN: Yes.

PESCA: He's a good songwriter. He knows how to hold the stage. The girls love him. The boys identify with him.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah. I mean, I think, again, that's what comes after. It's not - like, I'm just arguing that appreciating My Chemical Romance is about getting why teenagers love them. Once you sort of get in past the melodrama, really, then you realize that there are really good songs under here. They are. They're a real band. This isn't sort of just emotion with a guitar.

PESCA: Dirty Pretty Things is the last band that we will consider. Their new album is called "Romance at Short Notice." It was supposed to be called, "This is Where the Truth Begins," but truth be told, it's now called "Romance at Short Notice." Let's talk Dirty Pretty Things. Tell us about these guys.

Ms. GOODMAN: Well, they are of the two bands that formed with the lead members of the Libertines when that iconic British band broke up. They are the one that people hear less of because their front person is slightly less crazy than Pete Doherty, so...

PESCA: A lot of drug problems for Pete.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah. I mean, Pete is - Pete is a tabloid sensation at this point, and he does have a band, Baby Shambles, which is an interesting act, but I think Dirty Pretty Things are much better, and they're fantastic. So it's really intense sort of Clash-y punk rock.

PESCA: Let's hear it, "Tired of England."

(Soundbite of song "Tired of England")

DIRTY PRETTY THINGS: (Singing) How can they be tired of England? They'll never know the England that we know. Never know where the ones with the dreams go, no. Never notice the skies with their eyes down low.

We'll never be tired of England...

PESCA: And they clearly are English. You like this album. You like Dirty Pretty Things.

Ms. GOODMAN: I really like this album, and I liked the last album. And it's worth pointing out that, you know, by comparison, only is Carl mild. I mean, these are wild people, and this is mild music. So you're not getting anything toned down here.

PESCA: Yeah. Let's hope, when compared to Pete Doherty, you wind up on the mild side. And Lizzie Goodman of Blender Magazine, thank you very much, Lizzie.

Ms. GOODMAN: Thank you so much for having me.

PESCA: Next on the show, the new movie, "The Wackness." This is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News.

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