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Pop reviews — week of March 23


Jo Dee Messina

Jo Dee Messina opens her new album, Me, with a song title that declares she’s Not Dead Yet. The veteran country singer proved just that when fans rallied behind her Kickstarter campaign, helping her raise more than $100,000 for the recording of this 12-song collection.

Messina’s declaration that she’s still alive and well comes across clearly on this playfully vibrant album. Me repeatedly speaks of second stages in life — and, by proxy, in careers, too. Messina, 43, continually addresses the value of experience in her songs, as well as in co-writing seven songs and in co-producing the album with Julian King.

The songs Love on a Maybe and Breakin’ It Down confront a partner about commitment, making it clear she needs more from him, and A Woman’s Rant wittily rips at the fast pace of modern-day life for a working mother. Similarly, Peace Sign uses clever, biting humor to tell a lover to kiss off.

The album’s ballads slow things down — not just in tempo, but in quality, too. However, whenever the beat kicks in, so does Messina’s entertaining style. Me proves that Messina’s fans are right to think she still has plenty to offer.

— Michael McCall

Associated Press

Bark: Stories

Lorrie Moore

If you view the human condition through a dark lens — as opposed to those rose-colored glasses happier people prefer — you might feel that we’re all a bit like the doomed baby sea turtles in Lorrie Moore’s story “Paper Losses.” Plucked from the night beach by hotel personnel and held for the tourists’ pleasure, they’re released to make their way to the ocean far too late the next morning, their “wee webbed feet already edged in desiccating brown. … [O]ne by one, a frigate bird swooped in, plucked them from the silver waves, and ate them for breakfast.”

This isn’t to say that the fiction in Bark, Moore’s first collection of short stories since 1998’s Birds of America, is entirely gloomy and desperate. Her sharp sense of humor and pointed wit are evident throughout. “Paper Losses,” about an estranged couple’s last family vacation, begins: “Although Kit and Rafe had met in the peace movement, marching, organizing, making no nukes signs, now they wanted to kill each other.”

Such fractured relationships — between men and women, parents and children, friends — fill Bark. Also the author of the collections Like Life and Self-Help and the novels Who Will Run the Frog Hospital, Anagrams and A Gate at the Stairs, Moore measures our weaknesses against the absurdity of contemporary America and delivers an uncompromising, amusing yet disturbingly authentic account of modern life.

— Connie Ogle

Miami Herald

Kiss Me Once

Kylie Minogue

The latest offering from pop goddess Kylie Minogue is like a narcotic disco dream, slightly confused about the time-space continuum, yet very delightful. With her 12th studio album — her first after signing with Jay Z’s Roc Nation management — Minogue attempts to keep her crown in the dance kingdom, and succeeds, when she’s not trying too hard to upgrade to today’s trends.

Australian wunderkind Sia, who has written for Rihanna, Beyonce and Britney Spears, co-executive produced this tiny gem of dance floor anthems and sex-crazed tunes. When three out of 11 tracks have the word “sex” in their titles, you know what the album is going for — the antechamber to the bedroom of music.

Minogue excels on songs that are pure bubblegum fun. The Pharrell-penned spring-in-one’s-step I Was Gonna Cancel, the vaguely familiar Sexy Love, the casually dance-inducing Feels So Good and the beguilingly ’80s throwback title track bring back a rash of dance memories from Minogue’s golden days circa 2001 with the addictive hits Can’t Get You Out of My Head and Love at First Sight.

Sia’s writing contribution to the fun is the aggressively erotic Sexercize, a bass-heavy song that slithers all over your ears and proves that Minogue can deftly rap. Another laid-back come-on is the enjoyable Les Sex.

The bug in this sextra intoxicating party cocktail is the misguided attempt at a ballad: an irritating duet with Enrique Iglesias’ computer-flavored vocals on Beautiful. Just stick to what you do best, kids, separately. You can’t force love on a player of an album.

— Cristina Jaleru

Associated Press


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