Katy Perry: Believe the hype

One of the boys, plus new CDs by Katy Perry, N.E.R.D. and Jamie Davis

One of the Boys



Believe the hype swirling around pop "It Girl" Katy Perry, whose debut album is one of the best-written, performed, produced and radio-ready releases this side of Kelly Clarkson. The titular opener sets the tone with Perry's hot and sweet lyrics, in which she boasts she can belch with the best of them while dreaming of being "pretty in pearls." Perry flirtatiously toys with gender and sex, from the coy taunt "Ur So Gay," with its doo-wop-tinged refrain, to the new-wave throwback hit "I Kissed a Girl." A strong vocal presence with sultry, playful phrasing, Perry is no less talented a songwriter; even on anthemic ballads ("I'm Still Breathing," "Lost"), she nails come-ons, confessions and pissed-off attitude all at once. There's not a dud on this pop record — smart, sexy and fun. 4 stars —Amanda Schurr

Seeing Sounds


On the third album by the Neptunes' more rock-oriented side project N.E.R.D. — think Parliament vs. Funkadelic — Pharell Williams, Chad Hugo and Shay serve up a sonic spread that's groove-rich in an old-school funk way, yet frenzied enough to appeal to the ADHD set. Fuzz guitar, deep space synths, booty bass, found sounds and computer creations form an intoxicating party vibe. Problem is, as on previous N.E.R.D. discs, lowest-common-denominator lyrics delivered in flat raps and pedestrian singing are all over the place — making you wish this outing had been instrumental only. 2.5 stars —Wade Tatangelo

Vibe Over Perfection

(Dig Music)

The male jazz vocalist may seem on the verge of extinction, but if you look and listen hard enough, you can turn up a few worthy, if obscure, names. On the unfortunately titled Vibe Over Perfection, Jamie Davis, a veteran of the San Francisco scene, tackles a set of standards while backed by the mammoth Count Basie Orchestra. He has a rich, supple baritone in the Joe Williams/Lou Rawls mode, and can really swing without grandstanding. Overall, the music skews a bit too much toward effervescence over emotional depth: His version of Sly Stone's "If You Want Me To Stay" is a fun, swinging romp (and an interesting song choice), while his take on "Round Midnight" lacks pathos, in large part because of the band's strident arrangements. (digmusic.com) 3 stars —Eric Snider

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