Most Valuable Player: Justin time and 10 more music things to look forward to

September 10, 2006


  • Music fans have barely recovered from Chicago's extraordinary summer -- having indulged in more than our fair share of diverse sounds at Lollapalooza, Intonation, Pitchfork and other festivals -- and now the fall is upon us, and with it the major labels' biggest album releases of the year and a return to a packed schedule of indoor theater and arena concerts.

    Pop music's MVP (most valuable performer) comes in the surprising form of an ex-boy band stud. "FutureSex/LoveSounds" (Jive) ***1/2, the second solo album from former 'N Sync heartthrob Justin Timberlake, arrives in record stores on Tuesday, and while some fans didn't seem to know what to make of the dark, moody and heavily electronic single, "SexyBack," JT was just warming up. The much-anticipated follow-up to 2002's solo debut "Justified" shows more range -- in fact, it's a veritable sampler of cutting-edge pop, dance and R&B sounds -- as well as being every bit as much of a guilty pleasure.

    Largely produced by Timberlake himself in collaboration with the fabulously inventive Timbaland -- and with other tracks credited to the artist and Rick Rubin or of the Black Eyed Peas -- the disc also features the now-obligatory slew of star cameos, including Three 6 Mafia, T.I., Snoop Dogg and two noteworthy duets, with Nelly Furtado on "Crowd Control" and India.Arie on "Nocturne." But the 25-year-old Memphis-bred singer is definitely the star of the show as every track but one -- "Losing My Way," which tells the sad story of a life ruined by crystal meth -- fits into the concept indicated by the title, exploring the dichotomy between sex and love.

    Trying even harder than he did on "Justified" to show his range as a performer -- even if it's his charisma and ambition rather than his voice that makes him a star -- Timberlake gives us sensual slow jams ("My Love" and "(Another Song) All Over Again"), indelible pop tunes ("What Goes Around Comes Around" (which isn't about ex-paramour Britney Spears, he swears), pumping club jams ("Chop Me Up" and "LoveStoned/I Think She Knows") and hip-hop-tinged R&B ("Damn Girl," "Pose"). Yeah, sure, the cooler-than-cool loverman act can be a bit much at times -- at one point, JT boasts of going "from Casanova to supernova" -- but it's hard not to admire anybody who tries so hard to please, and who succeeds so often.

    Dedicated dance, pop and R&B fans have already started the debate about who's the more significant artist: Timberlake or Usher. There's no question that the latter is making the more original recordings, but having seen them both in concert, I have to say that Timberlake put on a much better show during his intimate club performance at the House of Blues last month, fronting a kicking 11-piece band, than Usher did at the Allstate Arena in 2004, where much of the rather stilted show was pre-programmed. Unfortunately, most fans will have to wait until early 2007 for JT's own arena tour.

  • Yo La Tengo
  • The long-running indie-rockers from Hoboken, N.J., deliver more of their familiar mix of noise-rock and lulling pop tunes with the added twist of a groovy horn section on their new album, "I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass," which arrives from Matador Records on Tuesday. And while the group was great in concert last summer at the Pitchfork Music Festival, it should be even better in the confines of a theater.

    Oct. 5 at the Vic Theatre. Tickets are $23.50 through Ticketmaster, (312) 559-1212.

    Tom Petty

    Touring in support of the musically and emotionally powerful solo album "Highway Companion" -- and hinting that he may be retiring from the road -- Petty and his veteran backing band the Heartbreakers come to Chicago in an inspired pairing with the Strokes.

    Thursday and Friday at Charter One Pavilion on Northerly Island. Tickets are $49.50-$89.50, through Ticketmaster.

    Lupe Fiasco

    After years of wrangling for a major-label deal -- and months of delays once he found one with Atlantic Records -- Chicago's next potential hip-hop superstar will finally drop his debut album "Food and Liquor" on Sept. 19, building on the success of his unforgettable single, "Kick, Push."


    Taking stock of a much-acclaimed career pushing the boundaries of art- (please don't call it "post-") rock, the Chicago instrumental combo celebrates the recent release of its three-disc box set "A Lazarus Taxon" (Thrill Jockey) with what is sure to be a steamy performance sure to sell out fast.

    Sept. 29 at the Empty Bottle. Tickets are $15; call (773) 276-3600 or visit

    Roger Waters

    Yeah, I know: He will never be as good without his old mate David Gilmour, and there are disquieting rumors that many of the former Pink Floyd songwriter's vocals are now on tape. But, hey, the rock legend tours only rarely, and after a set of his solo material, he'll play all of "The Dark Side of the Moon." What self-respecting Floyd fan could even think of missing that?

    Sept. 29 at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheater in Tinley Park. Tickets are $20 -$132, through Ticketmaster.


    The more I listen to this idiosyncratic pop-R&B star's recent fourth album "Kelis Was Here," the more I love it, and the chance to spend a Saturday night with her in the intimate setting of Metro should be something really special.

    Oct. 7 at Metro. Tickets are $26 in advance, $29.50 at the door; visit

    The Secret Machines

    Last spring's release of their second major-label album "Ten Silver Drops" found the now Brooklyn-based psychedelic rockers expanding their sound in intriguing ways, and they were a highlight at Lollapalooza last month.

    Oct. 9 at Park West. Tickets are $20, through Ticketmaster.

    The Rolling Stones

    The fact that they're coming back to Soldier Field -- when they'll no doubt have heaters onstage but we'll be breaking out our winter coats -- is not a good sign: The Stones always pander to the lowest common denominator with the most tired hits when they play the stadiums, as opposed to the arenas or (we can only hope we live to see this again) really cool venues such as the Aragon or the Double Door. But since this is the second time through town on the current tour, we can at least hope they'll flex their creative muscles and dig deeper than "Honky Tonk Woman" and "Brown Sugar."

    Oct. 11 at Soldier Field. Tickets are $60-$165, through Ticketmaster.

    Paul Simon

    Speaking of cranky old legends who don't tour much, the singer-songwriter delivered a real "Surprise" indeed last May, working with Brian Eno to craft an inventive album with a sound all its own. Will it translate in concert?

    Oct. 16 at the Rosemont Theatre. Tickets are $65-$85, through Ticketmaster.

    John Legend

    "It's not dramatically different, but I think people will see it as a growth and an extension for me," the R&B singer and songwriter said of his new album, "Once Again" (Sony), in an interview with the Associated Press. Among the promised treats: a duet with the queen of hip-hop/soul, Mary J. Blige. The album arrives in stores on Oct. 24.