Get details about new discs from Coldplay, a regrouped Backstreet Boys, a solo Billy Corgan, and others
Credit: Coldplay: Kevin Westenberg

Image credit: Coldplay: Kevin Westenberg



THE LOWDOWN Getting a handle on the personality of their third album, X&Y, wasn’t easy for Coldplay. Producers were changed. Multiple variations on the same songs were recorded. And the tone went, says frontman Chris Martin, from initially ”sounding like we were driving a Bland Rover” to something that was too experimental and electronic, before settling in on a formula that just sounds like good old Coldplay, albeit with more exciting dynamics. But, says guitarist Jonny Buckland, ”there’s probably darker material on this than on previous albums.” That might come as a surprise for anyone who was expecting 13 odes to the joys of fatherhood (Martin, after all, now has a 1-year-old daughter with wife Gwyneth Paltrow).

Though some tracks deal with frustration and lack of communication, the group has elected the album’s most gloriously upbeat track, ”Speed of Sound,” as the first single. It recently debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 8 — the first top 10 bow for a Brit band’s single since the Beatles. Another tune, the unusually jangly ”The Hardest Part,” is ”kind of a tribute to R.E.M. In fact, our whole record is basically a tribute album to certain people,” Martin says.

Indeed, there’s one track that’s a little Beatlesque; one or two others that vaguely recall Lennon, the solo years; and another that’s a little bit Echo & the Bunnymen. ”We’ve stolen from [Echo] already. That’s a hangover from the last record,” says Martin. ”We also have allowed influences to come through from Kraftwerk, of course, and Bowie — even the Cult. I wish we had time to rip off that song by the Killers, but it’s too late.”

And Martin won’t bristle if you compare X&Y to U2’s anthem-packed The Unforgettable Fire. ”I love the idea of lots of people in a big place singing the same thing,” he says. ”U2 are the best band of all time at that. That’s what we’re striving for in 50 percent of our songs, and the other 50 percent are more introspective.”

MOST LIKELY TO… See X&Y become the all-out blockbuster that U2’s newest album was supposed to be, but wasn’t quite.

Release date June 7

(This is an online-only excerpt from Entertainment Weekly’s May 27, 2005, issue.)

Black Eyed Peas

Monkey Business

THE LOWDOWN While the Black Eyed Peas’ music had always been entertaining, their last disc, Elephunk, was a huge shift: an overt pop-crossover album that juiced their earthy hip-hop vibe with Hummer-size choruses (sung by new group member Fergie) and radio-ready beats. Unlike their previous two albums, which had sold around 500,000 copies between them, Elephunk became a monster hit: It moved 8 million copies worldwide (2.6 million of them in the U.S.) and transformed the Peas from a second-tier rap act into the biggest multiculti, family-friendly pop-rap group in the world.

With the suburban-mom demo locked down, the Peas’ upcoming new album, Monkey Business, aims to expand their fan base even further. If anything, it’s more song-oriented and globe-spanning than its predecessor: The album was recorded — literally — around the world. Will Adams (a.k.a., the group’s founder, producer, and de facto leader) cooked up the ”Miserlou”-sampling ”Pump It” while riding on a bullet train in Japan; the Indian textures of the first single, ”Don’t Phunk With My Heart,” were inspired partly by nights out in London’s bhangra clubs. Monkey Business is a giddy, kitchen-sink mix of pretty much anything they can work into a three-minute tune. (Surf guitar? Check. Reggae? Check.) Guests include Sting, Justin Timberlake, and James Brown. ”It was one of those surreal days,” Fergie recalls of meeting Brown, ”where you just say, ‘Is this really happening right now?”’

MOST LIKELY TO… …convert new fans from Rhode Island to Romania to their brand of hyper-slick pop-rap.

Release date June 7

(This is an online-only excerpt from Entertainment Weekly’s May 27, 2005, issue.)

Image credit: The White Stripes: Patrick Keller

The White Stripes

Get Behind Me Satan

THE LOWDOWN The pasty-faced Detroit blues hounds have a new look (Jack’s creep-show ‘stache, Meg’s curls) to go along with some new sounds on their fifth album. There are two tunes accented by a Latin-flavored marimba, a piano stomper Elton John would sell his soul for, and the single, ”Blue Orchid,” on which Jack works out his AC/DC jones amid a seven-nation army of clipped power chords.

MOST LIKELY TO… Make you wonder why Meg still sounds like a beginner after years of slapping the skins

Release date June 7

Image credit: Backstreet Boys Photograph by Danielle Levitt

Backstreet Boys

Never Gone

THE LOWDOWN Recording on Never Gone, the Backstreet Boys’ first album since 2000, began early last year when the Boys — (from left) Howie Dorough, 31; Nick Carter, 25; Kevin Richardson, 33; Brian Littrell, 30; and AJ McLean, 27 — spent time in the studio with R&B producers the Underdogs (Tyrese). But early sessions — including one extraordinarily misguided attempt at Limp Bizkit-style rap — failed to galvanize the group, which had been on sabbatical since McLean entered alcohol rehab in 2001. Their thoughts turned to their old-time hitmaker Max Martin, the Swedish genius responsible for ”I Want It That Way” as well as career-making singles for ‘N Sync and Britney Spears. ”After all the other artists that he worked with,” explains Dorough, ”the whole pop sound that he created with us got so played out.” The reluctance was mutual: ”Sometimes you have to think about letting people move on,” says Martin, who co-wrote and produced Kelly Clarkson’s current smash ”Since U Been Gone.” ”I felt that at first: ‘Maybe they should try to work with someone else.”’

But when BMG chairman and CEO Clive Davis heard a Martin demo called ”Climbing the Walls” (which the songwriter initially intended for the Spider-Man 2 soundtrack), he pegged it as the perfect Backstreet song, and the relationship was renewed. In all, Martin ended up lending a hand on four of Never Gone‘s 12 tracks, including one of the late-breaking recordings, ”Just Want You to Know.” ”Basically, the idea is to do ‘I Want It That Way’ with a little distortion,” says Martin. ”And not try to be something that they’re not.”

The resulting sound, while instantly catchy, is quite different from Backstreet’s late-’90s synthesized pop. ”We’ve shifted into an alternative rock-pop-type sound,” says McLean. With the title track co-written by Richardson in honor of his late father and another tune (”Just Want You to Know”) about a dead girlfriend, McLean says, ”There’s some deep lyrical stuff on this album.”

But will the new direction be too much of a change for their old fans? And have the Boys been away too long? After all, the album’s kickoff single, ”Incomplete,” catapulted to No. 28 on the Billboard Hot 100 in its second week, but has risen no higher since. ”My worry for us when I fall asleep at night is failure,” says McLean, whose vice of choice these days is apple tobacco inhaled from a hookah pipe. ”We’re experimenting, and our fans that have grown with us hopefully haven’t grown apart from us.”

The guys are hopeful that they still have a place in their once-preteen fans’ hearts, if no longer on their bedroom walls. One of the group’s favorite songs on the new record is ”I Still?,” a straightforward midtempo love song that Littrell hopes will take on a special added meaning. ”I think it could be the fans saying it about us,” he says, offering an a cappella rendition of the song: ”’Who are you now?/Are you still the same or did you change somehow?… I still need you.’ The first time I heard it, I thought, If the fans all over the world could write a song and dedicate it to us, I feel like they would write something like that. I think they would.”

MOST LIKELY TO… Reconsider changing the ”Boys” half of their name to ”Men” — three of them are in their 30s, Richardson and Littrell are married, and Littrell has a 2-year-old son.

Release date June 14

(This is an online-only excerpt from Entertainment Weekly’s May 27, 2005, issue.)

Image credit: Kanye West: Nabil Elderkin/ Contour Photos

Kanye West

Late Registration

THE LOWDOWN Just a year after he stormed the charts with The College Dropout, Grammy-winning West returns with his playful hubris intact. This sophomore set features friends both new (Maroon 5’s Adam Levine on ”Heard ‘Em Say”) and old (Jamie Foxx, who introduces the comedic ”Gold Digger”). But don’t be fooled: West is still at the center of this hit parade.

MOST LIKELY TO… Stir your ongoing love-hate relationship with this shameless egoist

Release date July 12

Image credit: Billy Corgan: Paul Brown

Billy Corgan


THE LOWDOWN ”I went to a different place with songwriting and production,” says Billy Corgan, 38-year-old ex-Smashing Pumpkins singer-songwriter-guitarist, of his solo debut. ”I had to use my intuitive skills to figure out how to make them work.” The result: an album that forgoes the heavy guitar pomp of the Pumpkins in favor of more atmospheric synth-Goth soundscapes — and a Bee Gees cover featuring the Cure’s Robert Smith, oddly enough.

MOST LIKELY TO… Make us wonder if, in line with the disintegration of the Pumpkins and his later band Zwan, Corgan will eventually suffer another breakup. ”If anybody could break up with themselves, it would be me,” jokes Corgan. ”The next interview we have, I’ll be talking about how I divorced myself.”

Release date June 21

Faith Hill


THE LOWDOWN Hill’s last CD, Cry, sold 2.6 million, yet was perceived as a dud just because country radio balked at its pop sound. Advance word on this one is that it’s as country as the last one wasn’t. You could guess that from the new single, clearly designed to be her ”Jenny From the Block”: ”They might know me all around the world/But y’all/I’m just a Mississippi girl.”

MOST LIKELY TO… Get her a Wranglers endorsement along with her cosmetics deal

Release date August TBD

Image credit: Missy Elliott: Warwick Saint

Missy Elliott

The Cookbook

THE LOWDOWN After a year spent focusing on her clothing line and reality TV show, Misdemeanor is back with her trusty producing partner Timbaland. Also on board are first-time collaborators — and fellow Virginians — the Neptunes, who add Q*bert-esque F/X to ”On and On.” Gal pals return favors: Tweet sings on the Missy-produced ”Gotta Move On” and Ciara shows up on pumped-up single contender ”Lose Control.”

MOST LIKELY TO… Fuel your funky barbecue

Release date June TBD

Image credit: Foo Fighters: Dan Winters

Foo Fighters

In Your Honor

THE LOWDOWN Rock bands are like old couples: Things getting stale? Try experimenting. ”We took a left turn,” says Dave Grohl (far left) of the Foo’s fifth studio album. And this double CD is quite a ride: half head-pummeling metal, half candlelit acoustic session (with an odd cameo by Norah Jones). ”The rock side is foreplay,” says Grohl. ”The acoustic side is down-and-dirty action.”

MOST LIKELY TO… Be this summer’s surprise hookup disc

Release date June 14

Image credit: Fat Joe: James Patrick Cooper/ Retna

Fat Joe

All or Nothing

THE LOWDOWN While an entire nation leaned back last year, Fat Joe was already working on a proper solo disc to build on his large success. ”It usually takes me two months to make an album,” he says. ”[But] it took me a year to make this one.” The Scott Storch-produced new single ”Get It Poppin”’ (featuring Nelly) continues his club-friendly formula, but ”My Fo Fo” is a hard-smacking retaliatory shot at 50 Cent (who takes some swipes at Joe on his latest album). ”I wasn’t gonna [respond],” says Joe. ”But the fans wanted it. They wanted to see blood in the hip-hop coliseum.”

MOST LIKELY TO… Give Fiddy a run for radio supremacy this summer

Release date June 14