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Lisa Loeb knows ‘The Way It Really Is’

Singer's blend of pop, folk a clever mix of lyrics, emotion, plus other reviews
/ Source: The Associated Press

Lisa Loeb tells us "The Way It Really Is", a mix-up in the mix from Mobb Deep and Ms. Thing's bottom-line mantra wears thin on "Ms. Jamaica" in this week's reviews.

“The Way It Really Is,” Lisa LoebLisa Loeb’s latest CD, “The Way It Really Is,” is filled with catchy pop tunes — upbeat and simple, yes. But the lyrics are smarter than anything a teen queen could conjure up. When Loeb sings about love gained and love lost, it’s believable.

“There’s miles and miles of strip mall smiles/Waiting to check you out,” Loeb chants on the metaphorically savvy opening track, “Window Shopping.” Loeb makes shopping and dating sound fun albeit strikingly similar.

Dig a little deeper, and there’s a dark side to “The Way It Really Is.” Loeb’s voice is keenly adept, traveling from a sugary song about green grass and blue sky (“Probably”) to a haunting song about death and human nature (“Accident”). The most intimate is the acoustic “Hand Me Down,” in which Loeb’s voice exudes pain about the ending of a relationship. “You speak to the weak and old picture of me,” Loeb sings.

Loeb ventures into new territory to comment on bling-bling during “Diamonds.” “Diamonds are just rocks that shine so I’m not the diamond kind,” she croons. Unlike many of the minimal tracks, “Diamonds” is filled with electric guitars and heavy percussion. It’s original for Loeb, but it’s been heard elsewhere.

“The Way It Really Is” is a successful blend of folk and pop with clever lyrics and an emotional tone. Unfortunately, the only thing truly unique about Loeb continues to be her quirky glasses.— Derrik J. Lang

“Amerikaz Nightmare,” Mobb DeepHavoc and Prodigy don’t do crunk, and they definitely don’t do melody. Ever since the 1995 classic “The Infamous,” Mobb Deep’s most compelling music has been full of bleak rhymes, dreadful imagery and looming, atmospheric beats.

So who had the terrible idea to team them with Lil Jon and Nate Dogg? Both efforts, “Real Gangstaz” and “Dump,” sound like either smirking parodies or failed amateur “mash ups” combining clashing artists.

Fortunately, there’s still plenty of space among the 16 songs of “Amerikaz Nightmare” for the New York City rappers to do what they do best. Mixed among the radio-targeted failures is some of Mobb Deep’s best work in years.

“Got It Twisted,” and the remix with Twista, are dark but accessible hits. The title track and “When U Hear The” perfectly reintroduce the group’s trademark sound and rhymes, conjuring emotional and visual depictions of their Queensbridge neighborhood with just a few menacing words.

Choruses have always been Mobb Deep’s stumbling block, and remain a problem on their sixth album.

They range from the minimalist “We Up” to the incomprehensible “Get Me,” but mostly falter for being simply too repetitive. Though the back-in-the-day lyrics of “Neva Change” catch your attention, it’s maddening to hear Havoc droning “Some things’ll never change” 24 times on the chorus.— Ryan Pearson

“Ms. Jamaica,” Ms. ThingFor a 17-year-old, Ms. Thing has a healthy sense of entitlement. On “Dude,” Beenie Man’s infectious dancehall hit, she proclaims in its chorus her need for a “one, two, three hour man” who will “tie her to a fan.”

Over the “Fiesta” riddim — an uptempo groove of electro-steel pan pings, double-time handclaps and bass thuds — her nasal coo and Beenie’s love doctor come-ons make for great, sexually charged pop.

Unfortunately, the strength of that breakout single has proven difficult to match. The diva rarely comes close to such sonic heights on her debut disc, “Miss Jamaica.” Even though the “Fiesta” riddim is reprised on the disc opening, “Regular,” the bulk of the other tracks are middling patios-laced, synth-driven workouts with Middle Eastern accents and R&B sound effects.

Ms. Thing’s limited appeal lies in her blunt lyrical approach. Whether she chats about sexual exercises (“Muscle Tight”) or shopping sprees in Italy, stretch limousines and Victoria’s Secret (“Rich & Famous”), the rude gal’s focused on the bottom line.

On “I Want It All” she even warns: “If fi mi yard you wan call/ make sure ya bank account tall.” Though the sentiment wears thin over 14 tracks, she bolsters the mix with choice guests and catchy hooks. The flirtatious “It Haffi Good” with Vybez Kartel and “Sweet Soca Music” with Sugar Daddy — using the same Rolling Stones string sample made popular by the Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” — may not have “Dude”-like crossover appeal but they’re proof that Ms. Thing needs a male foil to temper her material demands.— Brett Johnson