Music: Utada, Green Day, Grant, Madonna

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imageProfessional fraternity man by day and roving entertainment reporter by night, Buck Cooke moved to Atlanta in 2000. Armed with a passion for pop culture and rabid appetite for music, Buck scours the entertainment landscape for treasures in music, TV and cinema.

Rockers Green Day and Japanese pop star Utada deliver new music while Kylie Minogue prepares for her first North American tour, Amy Grant released an EP for Mother’s Day, and the web is buzzing about new Madonna tracks.

imageARTIST: Utada
TITLE: “This is the One”

Hikaru Utada is a pop phenomenon in Japan. Her U.S. debut album, 2004’s “Exodus,” did not really catch on, so she’s trying again. She co-wrote nine of the album’s 10 tracks and produced an uneven collection of tunes this time around.

Some of them don’t really work, but there are notable exceptions: “Come Back to Me” is a solid ballad with nice beats (and some great remixes available on iTunes), “This One (Crying Like a Child)” is beautiful, and “On and On” is a club banger with solid hip-hop beats backing Utada’s clear vocals. Some tracks (“Poppin’,” “Dirty Desire,” “Automatic – Part II”) sound good in terms of the music, but come across as Utada trying too hard. And some just don’t work at all – “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence – FYI,” “Apples and Cinnamon.”

imageARTIST: Green Day
TITLE: “21st Century Breakdown”

Always looking for a way to buck the system, Green Day releases its eighth album (ninth if you count 2005’s live “Bullet in a Bible” live CD/DVD combo) on Friday. Their last album of new material, 2004’s “American Idiot,” became a must-have album for anyone dissatisfied with Dubya’s administration and all of the right-wing crackpots that came along with it. “Breakdown” is a worthy sequel.

“Breakdown” follows the rock opera format that worked so well for “Idiot” and contains plenty of energized rock with a message. For example, “Know Your Enemy” reminds us that just because Bush is gone, there are still powers at work that would happily make off with our freedoms and rights. This may be one of the most anticipated albums of the year and the band is offering several formats to please fans (and make some extra money). Target offers an exclusive in-store version with a bonus CD with live tracks, while iTunes offers a deluxe version with several bonus tracks.

imageARTIST: Amy Grant
TITLE: “She Colors My Day” EP

Contemporary Christian artist Amy Grant released a four-song EP for Mother’s Day last week that includes two new tracks. The title track, about a mother’s love for her daughter, comes complete with healthy orchestration. Grant’s vocals sound amazing and will no doubt become a fan-favorite over the years.

“Unafraid” is a tender, quiet song that was inspired by Grant’s grandmother. “Baby Baby” (from 1991’s “Heart in Motion”) and “Oh, How the Years Go By” (from 1994’s “House of Love”) are also included. Fans, don’t worry, Grant is in the studio working on an album of new material, so just sit tight. She hits the Fred Amphitheater in Peachtree City on Sept. 11.

imageARTIST: Madonna
TITLE: New tracks?

Earlier this week, the web lit up with talk of new tracks from Madonna, reportedly for inclusion on her third greatest hits album. That’s supposed to be the pop star’s final release with Warner Music Group. One site posted a demo of an alleged new song “Revolver” (which sounds similar a demo that made the rounds in 2002, but I could be wrong). Another posted information about Madge collaborating in the studio with super-producer and mega-DJ Paul Oakenfold on other new material. A new Madonna greatest hits album (hopefully one that picks up where 2001’s “GHV2” left off) is long overdue and the promise of new tracks is definitely exciting for fans.

imageARTIST: Kylie Minogue
TITLE: North American Tour

Minogue announced her first tour of the U.S. and Canada last week and while some venues sold out just through presales, a few seats still exist. Originally scheduled to just perform six shows — San Francisco, Toronto, Las Vegas, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York — Minogue added two more New York dates. Unlike some pop stars, Minogue actually sings in concert and sounds just as good live as she does on her albums. And the shows are packed with spectacles, fans lucky enough to nab tickets could be in for the show of their lives.

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