Previewing new releases such as the "8 Mile" soundtrack and albums from Shaggy, Christina Aguilera, Tori Amos, Sixpence None The Richer, and more.
Eminem has recruited some of the biggest names in hip-hop to contribute to the soundtrack for his film debut, "8 Mile." The album is due this week from Shady/Interscope; the Universal Pictures film, directed by Curtis Hanson ("Wonder Boys," "L.A. Confidential") and also starring Kim Basinger, Mekhi Phifer, and Brittany Murphy, arrives Nov. 8 in U.S. theaters. Eminem leads the album with three new solo tracks including "Lose Yourself," which has rocketed to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
"8 Mile" sports exclusive songs from Jay-Z, Rakim, Xzibit, Gang Starr, and Nas, while Eminem proteges D-12, Obie Trice, and 50 Cent also contribute tracks. Eminem teams up with the latter two acts for "Love Me." Other artists featured on the album include Macy Gray, Boomkat, and Young Zee.
"The '8 Mile' soundtrack was different because it forced me to step into Rabbit, the character I play in the film, and write from his point of view," Eminem says. "It was a challenge. Also, the project afforded me the opportunity to not only make an album with a wishlist of some of my favorite artists, but to showcase what we have coming on Shady Records." Initial copies of the set will feature a limited-edition CD sampler featuring tracks from artists signed to Shady Records and Dr. Dre's Aftermath imprint.
The title and accompanying artwork of Christina Aguilera's new RCA set "Stripped" leaves little to the imagination. The racy video for first single "Dirrty" has already been banned in Thailand, and Aguilera recently posed nude for the cover of Rolling Stone. Says Aguilera, "This music is who I am. You can take it or leave it, but I'm not going to change, not for anyone."
The set features production assistance from Glen Ballard, Redman and Rockwilder, and Linda Perry. Throughout Aguilera explores a variety of styles, from the Alicia Keys-penned ballad "Impossible" to the raunchy funk-tinged "Dirrty," which is No. 31 on Billboard's Top 40 Tracks tally this week. "I loved 'Let's Get Dirty,'" Aguilera says of the track from Redman's "Malpractice" album. "So I asked Rockwilder to put something together kind of like that for me. What I got was a little too close, but then I figured, 'Why not?' The track is like an answer song to the original, only from a female point of view."
In the downtime since 1999's seven-times-platinum "Genie in a Bottle," Aguilera was part of the one-off quartet along with Lil' Kim, Mya, and Pink that took a cover of LaBelle's "Lady Marmalade" to the top of the Billboard Hot 100. The artist also issued the albums "My Kind of Christmas" and the Spanish-language collection "Mi Reflejo."
You Got 'Lucky'
Despite multi-platinum sales for his previous album, reggae star Shaggy expects an uphill battle for his new MCA release, "Lucky Day," due this week. "Any success is great -- especially of that magnitude -- but I didn't feel like I was on cloud nine because there were still obstacles there," says Shaggy, who scored two No. 1 hits last year on the Billboard Hot 100, "It Wasn't Me" (featuring Ricardo "RikRok" Ducent) and "Angel" (featuring Rayvon). Both are tracks from his 2000 release, "Hotshot," which sold more than 6.4 million units in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan.
"I thought life was supposed to be easier when I got to that level, but I was still having issues with sponsorship and merchandising," he says. "Why is it that difficult for me, when everyone else is on milk cartons?" But sponsorship is the least of Shaggy's concerns right now: first single "Hey Sexy Lady" fizzled at radio and failed to reach any Billboard singles charts.
Still, the artist seems unfazed. "I want to sell more than 10 million, and I think I've just written the album to do it," he boasts. "My propelling single will be 'Strength of a Woman' -- that will be my pension record. That's what will move numbers.
'Walk' This Way
Tori Amos says her new Epic album "Scarlet's Walk" is about searching for the true roots of America alongside a journey of self-discovery. It's about the nation's reaction to Sept. 11, 2001. But perhaps most intriguingly, it's about a "soul map," as the singer/songwriter calls it, that is imprinted on each one of us and shows the route of the most defining moments of our lives.
A college tour Amos did after Sept. 11 last year played a prominent role in the creation of the set. "I went on the road last year with different eyes and when the masks were down," she offers. "That means people were telling me things in letters, at the stage door; things that you don't say when tomorrow's coming. Secrets that people were holding were coming out."
With the deep emotional pull of such songs as "Your Cloud," "I Can't See New York," the title track, and "Gold Dust," "Scarlet's Walk" is Amos' most cohesive and emotionally moving since her debut album, "Little Earthquakes." As a bonus to fans, the disc will utilize Epic parent Sony's proprietary ConnecteD technology as a key to unlock an area on Amos' official Web site that will host everything from unreleased music to photos, contests, and commentary by the artist.
Sixpence None The Richer this week releases its first album in four years, "Divine Discontent," via Reprise/Word. It's the Grammy-nominated act's follow-up to its 1998 self-titled debut (Squint), which reached No. 1 on Billboard's Heatseekers and Top Contemporary Christian charts. That set was powered by the single "Kiss Me," which hit No. 1 on Billboard's Top 40 Mainstream chart and No. 2 on the Hot 100.
So what took so long? For starters, the Nashville-based sextet was thrown into recording limbo as its original Squint deal got tangled in the label's financial problems and subsequent sale. The band landed on Reprise via the $84.1 million sale of Squint parent Word Entertainment to Warner Music Group last fall by Gaylord Entertainment. "I was scared we weren't going to be able to put out a record again," singer Leigh Nash says. "It was depressing and kind of painful not knowing what was going to happen. The fear of the unknown really got ahold of me."
Nash is trying to look on the bright side of being away for so long. "I don't know if I would have wanted to be in the scene the last few years; it was so [teen]-pop-driven," she offers. "I don't know if there was room for us," she says, before adding, "I don't know if there's room for us now. But maybe the break will help people not get sick of us anymore, if they got tired of hearing 'Kiss Me.'" First single "Breathe Your Name" is No. 20 on Billboard's Adult Top 40 chart.
Additional titles hitting stores this week include:
-- A self-titled greatest hits package from Seattle rock trio Nirvana (Universal Music Group), featuring the previously unreleased track "You Know You're Right."
-- Backstreet Boy Nick Carter's solo debut, "Now or Never" (Jive).
-- Veteran rap act Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's "Thug World Order" (Ruthless).
-- The sophomore album from Icelandic rock outfit Sigur Ros, "( )" (MCA).
-- The next four titles in Phish's ongoing "Live Phish" series, including thematic Halloween performances from 1994-96 and 1998.
-- R&B vocalist Tank's "One Man" (Blackground).
-- Seasonal collections from Jo Dee Messina ("A Joyful Noise," Curb) and Patty Loveless, "Bluegrass and White Snow" (Epic Nashville).
-- A six-CD boxed set from seminal heavy metal band Iron Maiden, "Eddie's Archive" (Columbia).
-- Rap combo Lil Jon & the Eastside Boyz' "Kings of Crunk" (TVT).
-- Inspirational vocalist Kirk Whalum's "The Gospel According to Jazz: Chapter 2" (Squint/Curb).
-- A collection of alternate versions of hip-hop favorites from producer Irv Gotti, "Presents: The Remixes" (Def Jam).
-- An expanded reissue of jazz legend John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" (Impulse).