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Lambert examines life at 30 50 Cent shows rust on ‘Animal Ambition’

NASHVILLE, Tennessee, June 3, (AP): Miranda Lambert has learned something about human nature since becoming one of country music’s most identifiable stars. “People are very, very mean,” she says of the tabloids that have made sport of her life, her looks and her marriage since her husband, Blake Shelton, joined NBC’s musical competition “The Voice” as a celebrity coach. Lambert’s wild ride over the last two years is all over her ambitious, sprawling new album, “Platinum.” The 30-year-old lays bare her life in many ways on songs that examine the darker aspects of celebrity, and she shows the tabloids have been getting everything wrong. “There are people who literally, their only job is to make other people miserable, and that’s a terrible way to live your life,” said Lambert, the top nominee at Wednesday’s CMT Music Awards (8 pm EDT). She also has a starring spot at the CMA Music Festival in Nashville, which begins Thursday.

Lambert’s multifaceted musical reaction to the gossip press helps make “Platinum,” out this week, her most diverse album yet. It heads in many directions musically, from the rock ‘n’ roll of “Priscilla,” ‘’Girls” and “Little Red Wagon” to the singer-songwriter self-reflection of “Bathroom Sink” and “Hard Staying Sober.” “Priscilla” takes on the tabloids directly. In the song, Lambert identifies with Priscilla Presley and the troubles she must have experienced in her life with Elvis. The song resulted from a catch-up session between Lambert and songwriter Natalie Hemby as Lambert gathered material for “Platinum.”

“When I get to write with her I think she just lets her hair down,” Hemby said. “She doesn’t have to be Miranda. I’ve known her before she was big and famous ... and I asked how she was doing. She said, ‘According to the press I’m pregnant or I’m fat or I’m getting divorced.’ It just went on and on and I just kind of laughed and said, ‘Well, then you must be really successful.’” Lambert says she’s learning to live with all the attention. Her new trim look is a result of getting control of her emotions, she says, and not some darker reason. She simply no longer turns to corn dogs for solace when she reads an upsetting headline. Tabloids aren’t the only topic on “Platinum.” There is plenty of joy and sass, just as there is in her life. She shows a beau the door in traditional country style on “All That’s Left,” featuring The Time Jumpers; examines her love of flea markets and her hatred of getting older on songs with titles that can’t be reprinted; and teams up with Carrie Underwood for the powerhouse anthem “Somethin’ Bad.” In the end, the album is as overstuffed as her life. “Loretta Lynn said you’ve got to live a life in order to sing about it,” Lambert said. “That’s what I’m doing. The good, the bad and the ugly is on this record. It’s who I am.”

Joe Henry, “Invisible Hour” (Work Song)
Joe Henry has produced artists ranging from Aaron Neville and Billy Bragg to Me’Shell Ndegeocello and Bonnie Raitt. Yet when he makes his own albums, they sound like no one else. “Invisible Hour” is an enchanting 60 minutes of music packaged in 11 songs that reveal their charms slowly. Henry opens with a seven-minute ballad, and a subsequent one runs even longer. Clearly Henry’s in no hurry as he expresses his thoughts on the risks and rewards of love. Hooks are few and the accompaniment is spare, with the thrum of guitar interrupted by occasional spasms of percussion and woodwinds from Henry’s son, Levon, who merges the sounds of klezmer, New Orleans and Stravinsky. Even amid trilling clarinets, the focus remains on Henry’s lyrics, which read like literature, with unpredictable rhythms and noun-verb combinations. Hearts wane. Shadows wait. Angels rumble. Days flee. He sings these words with the timbre of a soul man and scoops into them like a country artist. Henry is both, and neither, producing music beyond category. This is what makes “Invisible Hour” time well spent.

50 Cent, “Animal Ambition” (G-Unit/Caroline/Capitol Music Group)
50 Cent made a ginormous splash more than a decade ago with his multiplatinum platinum debut “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” pushing out early career hits from “In da Club” to “P.I.M.P.” But the rapper has been unable to live up to his first album’s success, which ultimately led to his departure from Interscope Records and Eminem’s Shady/Aftermath. He’s since found a new home with Caroline, the independent label at Capitol Music Group. Now, as an independent artist, 50 Cent releases his first album in five years with “Animal Ambition: An Untamed Desire to Win.” He often shows rust on his fifth studio offering, but the 11-track set is not a total disappointment.

50 Cent still possesses a high level of cockiness, effectively displaying his street mentality on “The Funeral,” ‘’Chase the Paper” and “Irregular Heartbeat,” with Jadakiss and Kidd Kidd. He raps about still keeping a gun under his pillow on “Hold On” and talks about his thirst to become more successful on “Hustler” and “Winners Circle,” featuring Guordan Banks. But while “Animal Ambition” shows some promise, there are some missteps. His rhymes are too simple and easily forgettable on the title track. He teams up with Trey Songz on the Dr. Dre-produced “Smoke,” but the track lacks the infectious spirit that lived in past club hits such as “Candy Shop” and “21 Questions.”

Lucy Hale’s fans may be clamoring to know whom she’s singing about in her upbeat “Kiss Me” or her breakup anthem “Goodbye Gone,” but the 24-year-old actress isn’t spilling all her secrets in her debut album. “I’ll never reveal what it’s about,” said Hale, who says she’s enjoying the speculation. “I mean some of it is a little bit obvious, at least obvious to the people that know me the best.” Hale is best known for playing Aria Montgomery on ABC Family’s popular teen drama “Pretty Little Liars.” (The show’s summer premiere is June 10 at 8 pm EDT.) The Memphis, Tennessee, native described her pop-country album, “Road Between,” out Tuesday, as “modernized Shania (Twain).” In a recent interview, she said singing feels more scary and vulnerable than acting, but in the end, she found the two-year recording process therapeutic.

“The biggest breakthrough you have to make is to be willing to go to those places and to be open about it,” she said. “Throughout the whole process I realized, ‘Wow I really bottle emotions. Like this is good to sing about it. Yeah, scream it!’” Hale wanted to be hands-on with the project, so she learned to play guitar and tried her hand at songwriting. She co-wrote one track, “Just Another Song,” and made sure she felt a personal connection to rest. “It’s all stuff that I’ve gone through. I knew that if I’m singing someone else’s words it has to be 100 percent something that I felt before.” Hale will fulfill another dream when she performs June 21 at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.

She had to cancel an earlier performance due to illness. Hale said her first love has always been music, and she hopes to continue juggling singing and acting like one of her idols, Tim McGraw. “I love what he’s done,” she said. “He’s still selling out arenas, but he’s doing great movies like ‘The Blindside’ and ‘Country Strong,’ and he’s got a beautiful wife and kids and has all these beautiful homes. So if I could like somehow find a small percentage of what he’s done that would be cool.”

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