For the Record: Music releases for the coming week

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Records are rated on a scale of one (awful) to four (classic) stars:


Katy Perry ‘Prism’ (Capitol) 3.5stars

Pop queen Katy Perry may choose to split her career doing Smurfs movies and acting as the face of CoverGirl. That’s business: divide and conquer. But give her props for the thing she’s best at: She can sing her face off and knows when it’s time to switch the formula.

Rather than rework the electrically enhanced power-pop of 2010’s “Teenage Dream,” Ms. Perry has waltzed into the steely, spacious sound of Swedish dance-house with native producer Max Martin (Robyn, Britney) among her collaborators without losing her voice in their fussy mix.

The tech-tribal power-balladry of “Roar” makes for a perfect sweltering opener with its slick synths and faux-Burundi drums surrounding like a steel skin her tuneful holler and words of empowerment. A similar metallic taste affects “Dark Horse,” with its vicious, undulating bass line and chunky samples through which Ms. Perry’s voice (and its spooked-out lyrics) plows like a truck.

Calmer cuts like “By the Grace of God” and “Ghost” sound more familiar to the Perry oeuvre; the glorious Middle Eastern swirl of “Legendary Lovers,” the ’90s house vibe of “Walking on Air,” and the theatrical “Unconditionally,” with its woodblock-backed groove do not. At a time when radio-pop is so homogenous, Katy Perry is an avatar of change.

— A.D. Amorosi, Philadelphia Inquirer


Scotty McCreery ‘See You Tonight’ (Mercury Nashville/19/Interscope) 3stars

Scotty McCreery has a vision of his own. The 20-year-old North Carolina-born “American Idol” winner demonstrated his deep country roots and twangy vocal style on his 2011 debut album, “Clear as Day.”

“See You Tonight” reflects a change in producer. Mark Bright, who produced “Clear as Day” and Mr. McCreery’s Christmas album, handled just one track. Frank Rogers, known for his work with Brad Paisley, Josh Turner and Darius Rucker, produced the rest.

Nashville is overdosing on witless but radio-friendly ditties relating to beer, partying, hot girls in tight jeans and trucks. Music Row, it seems, almost requires male country singers under 40 to record this shallow, party-hearty dreck. Mr. McCreery is no exception. The title song, also the album’s first single, falls into that vein. “See You Tonight,” “Get Gone With You,” the wordplay-driven “Feeling It,” “Buzzin’ ” and the self-explanatory “Blue Jean Baby” all reflect those same hackneyed subjects.

After servicing that commercial demographic, however, Mr. Rogers and Mr. McCreery move beyond it to some vastly superior performances. “The Dash” somberly reflects on the funeral of a friend killed in war. “Feel Good Summer Song” uses that cliche to frame a melancholy ballad. “Something More” reminds that life’s ups and downs prevail beyond summer fun. “Carolina Moon” adds an even stronger traditional edge with guest fiddling and vocals from Alison Krauss.

Mr. McCreery remains one of country’s most vital new voices. But with only two of his previous singles reaching the Top 20, he wants a bigger hit, and who can blame him? Maybe one of the party songs will do that. Still, it would be great to see one of the meatier numbers in the Top Ten.

— Rich Kienzle, for the Post-Gazette

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