The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (Disney) **
God save the soundtrack to The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, the follow-up to Disney's sleeper swan hit about an awkward teen (Anne Hathaway) transformed into a princess thanks to a wise and regal figurehead (Julie Andrews).
The only engaging tracks worthy of the king's ear come from teen acting queen Lindsay Lohan and American Idol matriarch Kelly Clarkson. Save a few original songs, most of the material on Princess Diaries 2 has been heard elsewhere.
The first track, "Breakaway," is an elegant display of Clarkson's vocal range, complete with a catchy chorus. It was co-written by Avril Lavigne, who also provides her "I Always Get What I Want" for the soundtrack, previously only a bonus track on the import of her latest album.
Lohan's "I Decide" starts with a simple guitar riff that sounds similar to Natalie Imbruglia's 1990s hit "Torn" but transforms into a rocking declaration of independence. According to the lyrics, little Miss Lohan decides how she lives, who she loves and where she goes. But her vocal cords don't go near Clarkson's crowning heights.
The second half of the CD descends into Kids Incorporated territory, marrying cliched lyrics with uninteresting beats. Disney Channel star Christy Carlson Romano's "Let's Bounce" is particularly dreadful. "Everybody's ready to play," she cheers on the track. "Let's bounce."
Let's not and say we did, Christy.
The hallmark of Princess Diaries 2 is a charming duet titled "Your Crowning Glory" with another Disney star, Raven, and Julie Andrews royally rapping about prince love.
But despite a few jewels, Princess Diaries 2 isn't fit for a queen unless she's a die-hard Clarkson, Lohan or Andrews fan.
Carencro (Island Records) ***1/2
Southern singer-songwriter Marc Broussard, who's in his 20s, sings with a heavy heart and a volume of life experiences beyond his years on his debut disc, Carencro.
It's immediately apparent on the opening track, "Home," that Broussard has much to tell, and the depth and soulful sincerity to convey it. In fact, Broussard's vocal chops are so gut-wrenching one might think that the wrong CD mistakenly found its way into the case, for Broussard sounds more like a wailing Mississippi blues singer than Nick Carter's beefed-up cousin, whom he favors on the cover of his album.
On the upbeat, keyboard-heavy, 1970s-inflected track "Rocksteady," Broussard's vocal stylings recall Stevie Wonder. Yet, while Broussard reminds one of Wonder, Ray Charles and even Donny Hathaway, Broussard sings with a presence and personality all his own, most notably when he turns the lights down low on the laid-back ballad, "The Beauty of Who You Are" and the piano-centric barroom confessional, "Lonely Night in Georgia."
Scissor Sisters (Universal) ***
Grab a feather boa. Put on a pair of sparkly sunglasses and platform shoes. Turn up the music and dance. This much-anticipated, self-titled debut from the New York coed quintet Scissor Sisters requires it.
The Sisters manage a complete throwback to 1970s glam pop without sounding tired. They channel Elton John at his most flamboyant ("Take Your Mama"), a Ziggy Stardust-esqe David Bowie ("Lovers in the Backseat") and the Bee Gees.
The disc's first single, "Take Your Mama," begs to be played over and over again with its catchy, "did-I-hear-him-right?" chorus: "Do it. Take your momma out all night. ... We'll get her jacked up on some cheap champagne. And we'll show her what it's all about."
But the most daring track is "Uncomfortably Numb." Yes, a Pink Floyd cover. Purists will be shocked at the nearly unrecognizable classic techno-pop track, complete with "Space Invaders" sound effects and Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" feel. It must be heard to be believed.
The only down side is when the Sisters slow it down. The sleepy ballad "Mary" is just plain boring.