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Kutless: Hearts of the Innocent

By Tanya Vazquez, 17, Downtown Magnets HS

I went to a concert featuring the Christian band Kutless a couple months ago and I was amazed by how hardcore the music sounded. I’m really not into Christian music, but since the show was really good, I wanted to see if the CD would sound the same. Well, Kutless’s Hearts of the Innocent is a great CD. You can have fun rocking out with friends or it also works if you’re sitting in your bedroom feeling down. They sound something like Creed except that the lead singer, Jon Micah Sumrall, has a deeper, more reassuring voice than Scott Stapp.

My favorite song is the heartbreaking “Million Dollar Man.” “He’s a million dollar man/ He’s got everything he wanted/ But now what he wants is what he had/ But he threw it all away/ For a life filled with cars and rings/ And everything that money can bring.” I could relate because I know someone who switched jobs for the money, but then this person neglected his family and now regrets it, even if he won’t admit it. I didn’t expect such a hardcore song to hit me so hard.

The rest of the album doesn’t even sound like it’s about God. The lyrics deal with what we go through every day, such as death, life and money. I actually couldn’t tell that the album had strong Christian symbolism or messages.

This CD shows that Christian music isn’t always what we think it is and that even two seeming opposites such as “Christian” and “rock” can fit well together.

Justing Timberlake: FutureSex/LoveSounds

By Eryne Lagman, 17, Notre Dame Academy

In 2002, he “justified” himself as a bona fide solo artist, minus the bleached-tip Jeri Curl and *NSYNC. Now Justin Timberlake solidifies his status as a pop culture megastar with his sophomore album FutureSex/LoveSounds.

The first time I heard “SexyBack”—the all-up-in-your-ear first single off JT’s second album—I thought it was another techno beat that I would hate forever, sung by a woman with a digitized voice. I only began to appreciate its funky feel after a couple more listens. But I fell in love with the rest of the album instantly. And that says a lot, considering I am a former loyal fangirl of *NSYNC’s rival, the Backstreet Boys.

Justin takes chances with this innovative album. There are incredible dance tracks, but also some essential ballads—including a song with an orchestral arrangement (“Until the End of Time” featuring the Benjamin Wright Orchestra). The Timbaland-produced “LoveStoned” is one of my favorites off this album. The Tim Man works his magic on this track as the song effortlessly transitions from a catchy, unstoppable dance beat into a semi-acoustic, slowed-down ending; I literally got chills the first time I heard the changeover.

One of the only downsides to FutureSex/LoveSounds is that Justin channels his *NSYNC persona, with conventional pop lyrics and predictable beats, on the upbeat “Summer Love” and the ballad “All Over Again.” Aside from that, the incredible Mr. Timberlake scores an A++ with FutureSex/LoveSounds—a definite two thumbs up in my book. Can my big toes be counted, too?

Evanescence: The Open Door

By Tanya Vazquez, 17, Downtown Magnets HS

If you’re an Evanescence fan, then you probably want to know if the band’s sound changed now that composer and founding member Ben Moody left. With the release of The Open Door, I think you’ll still like Evanescence, just not as much as before.

Fans say that lead singer Amy Lee’s amazing vocal range creates a melody that can be heard in the high heavens. But I feel that Lee’s voice is inconsistent. It’s powerful but when she tries to reach high notes, it sounds like someone scratched a chalkboard. I’ve since fallen in love with Within Temptation’s Sharon Den Adel’s voice because her voice is more consistent, softer and sweeter.

The songs on The Open Door jump from hard rock songs like “Sweet Sacrifice” and “Call Me When You’re Sober” to soft songs like “Lithium” and “Snow White Queen.” While most of the songs are too repetitive, I did like “Sweet Sacrifice.” The haunting minor chords are great but Lee’s voice breaks way too much, making it less than the great song it could have been.

I wouldn’t recommend this album to new Evanescence fans. I strongly believe that a band’s best music usually comes from its earlier work and this is one of those cases. If you want to listen to Evanescence’s best work, check out Fallen.

+44: When Your Heart Stops Beating

By Charlene Lee, 14, Walnut HS

The debut album by +44, When Your Heart Stops Beating, isn’t a life-altering musical experience, nor is it a Blink-182 replacement, even though half of +44 is made up of former Blink members Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker. It’s a balanced mix of rock and punk music with introspective lyrics.

Because +44 has former members of other bands, I expected to hear songs similar to their previous work. The first song, “Lycanthrope,” was disappointing because it didn’t make me want to press “repeat” immediately, like a good opener should. But my faith in Blink’s work kept me listening. While “Little Death” seemed like a poor imitation of Blink’s “I Miss You,” I was especially captivated by the soft piano ballad “Make You Smile,” where Hoppus does a heartfelt duet with Carol Heller, who was part of the band in its early stages.

“No, It Isn’t” seems to refer to the break-up of Blink, but any listener can relate to breaking up. “This desperation leaves me overjoyed/ With fading lights that lead us past the lives that we destroy.”

The band’s amazing guitar work definitely compensated for Hoppus’s still less than mediocre voice. With nearly every track on the album dedicated to the topic of love and heartbreak, this album still has the old Blink-182 sound but without the frat-boy behavior.