Aerosmith, "Music From Another Dimension" (Columbia)
If Aerosmith's definition of the sound of "another dimension" is indeed true, the world is a much less mystical place than we would like to believe. Rather than offering previously unimaginable tones and visions, "Music From Another Dimension" delivers riffs, clichés, solos, yowls and a virtual banquet of the same one-dimensional tropes Aerosmith has been offering for years. Mixed in, however, are a few gems that might be considered worthy additions to the band's catalog were they offered without such grand promises.
It's not that Aerosmith's first studio album of all-new material in 11 years doesn't rock. It's loud, brash and proves that vocalist Steven Tyler can still yelp (and occasionally sing), the dueling guitars of Joe Perry and Brad Whitford can still find big blues-based riffs and drummer Joey Kramer still hits hard.
But there are only so many original combinations of blues riffs and sexual boasts one can deliver in a single lifetime. "Out Go the Lights" features Tyler referencing the tired novelty shirt joke about "liquor in the front." And "Another Last Goodbye" sounds like a "Weird Al" Yankovic parody of the power ballad "Dream On." Whatever dimension Aerosmith has claimed to visit, it certainly wasn't a new one.
RANDALL ROBERTS, LOS ANGELES TIMES
Ne-Yo, "R.E.D." (Motown)
Ne-Yo begins his fifth studio album with a twinkling soul ballad called "Cracks in Mr. Perfect." It's a load of boastful self-incrimination, outlining an unexpected pattern of behavior for him: infidelity, dishonesty, reckless irresponsibility.
In flipping expectations, Ne-Yo mingles protective self-awareness with an empowerment message. He isn't the injudicious type, nor the sort of R&B star to ignore the ethical implications of pleasure. He called this album "R.E.D.," for Realizing Every Dream.
The album's lead single, "Lazy Love" paints a vivid picture of bedroom languor. "Be the One" makes the case for dumping an inattentive partner for a better alternative. "Don't Make 'Em Like You" sounds just like you'd expect, unless you weren't expecting a complacently vacant verse by Wiz Khalifa.
Ne-Yo has a tenor as sleek as a harbor seal, and a fondness for harmonic twists that reframe his melodies as he's singing them. What's striking about "R.E.D." are Ne-Yo's subtle but notable stylistic departures. "She Is" is an unexpectedly appealing duet with Tim McGraw, with a beat and an acoustic guitar. "Carry On (Her Letter to Him)" suggests a hint of soft rock. And "Let Me Love You (Until You Learn to Love Yourself)," produced by Stargate and written with Sia, is one of several convincing Euro dance tracks.
NATE CHINEN, NEW YORK TIMES