Lorraine Ali

Stories by Lorraine Ali

  • Viva La Franz

    This year's Grammys were full of outsize superstar moments--Marc Anthony and J. Lo's soap-operatic duet, Usher's flashy dance number, that star-studded tribute to Southern rock. And then there were Franz Ferdinand. Dressed in drab colors and playing a jerky, lopsided dance tune, this strange little Scottish band looked as though they'd crashed the stage. "I looked out at the audience, and there was Janet Jackson and Usher and Dolly Parton," says Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos, sitting poolside with his bandmates at Hollywood's Roosevelt Hotel. "It was like a wax museum where all the figures came to life. Backstage was even stranger, but at least Nick [McCarthy, the guitarist] got a picture with Ricky Martin." "Yeah," says McCarthy, beaming. "He put his arm around me. I look very, very small."Franz Ferdinand doesn't mesh with the fit-and-tan crowd around the pool, either. They're six shades paler than everyone else and speak in a Scottish brogue so heavy it sounds like another...
  • They Did It Their Way

    They're named after Marlon Brando's roustabout gang in "The Wild One," and their new record, "Howl," takes its title from the indelible Allen Ginsberg poem. Their hair is a mess and they look as if their jeans and wrinkled shirts serve as stage wear, street clothes and pajamas. Their first two CDs featured dense walls of reverb. But two years ago the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club made their most rebellious gesture: they decided the hell with it all--and went acoustic. Their label dropped them, they broke up, and reunited to make "Howl": an emphatically nonrock record that's not only gotten them a new record deal (with RCA) but new respect from both fans and critics. So much for calculating your next move."Howl" is all about Americana--folk, gospel, soul, you name it--and the band's transition from their earlier dense, narcotized noise to this harmonious, almost spiritual music is surprisingly graceful. The CD is largely acoustic, with layers of mandolin, trombone, piano, tambourine...
  • Snap Judgment: Music

    It's one of the only girl bands to play the dude-infested Warped Tour two years in a row, so Go Betty Go deserves your undivided attention. This L.A. pop-punk quartet (two are sisters) probably hate being called cute or sassy, so let's just say they bang out the snappiest three-chord tunes around. A sample from their full-length debut: "They say I'm lazy/I'm always late/Full of excuses...I'm from L.A." They sing in Spanish, too, over caffeinated beats, driving guitar and the odd sample or two. Fun with an attitude. What more could a girl ask for?
  • THE RAP ON KANYE

    Some men tattoo their girlfriends' names on their arms. Others prefer a skull and crossbones. But rapper Kanye West always has to be different. The faded blue ink on his forearm is a list of his favorite songs: "You Made Me" (by Kanye West). "My Life" (by Kanye West). "Izzo" (by... Kanye West). "Yes, all songs by me," he says, taking a puff of his cigar and adjusting his sunglasses. "My grandfather told me shy is next to stupid. He said stand up and celebrate when you're having a good time and don't ever overcompensate for those who are intimidated by you. So here I am, celebrating."Kanye West certainly has reason to pop a champagne cork. At 28, he's produced stellar records for figures ranging from Jay-Z to Alicia Keys, founded his own label, broke artists like John Legend and dropped his own Grammy-winning debut, 2004's "College Dropout." His single "Jesus Walks" blew holes in the notion that rap and religion just don't mix. He rhymed about his faith over music that felt more like...
  • Satisfaction Guaranteed

    THEY'RE NOT EXACTLY A BOY BAND, BUT THERE'S NO DENYING THE BAD-BOY APPEAL OF THE ROLLING STONES. NOW THEY'RE BACK--AGAIN--WITH A NEW CD AND TOUR.
  • DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH

    At least half a dozen framed works of needlepoint cover the office and bathroom walls of Neil Diamond's Los Angeles studio. Some are portraits of the singer sewn by fans, others are their homespun renditions of album covers; above the sink are the lyrics to "I Am, I Said," painstakingly stitched in black yarn above a frog who's perched atop a bar stool, guitar on knee, crooning into a microphone. Cute--and the absolute antithesis of the man himself, who rarely smiles and has probably never uttered the word "cute." But in his four-decade career, Diamond has been many things to many people: for his fans, a deep, reflective songwriter and powerhouse performer; for hipsters, a kitsch icon. So why not a happy guitar-playing frog--except that he thinks his guitar playing sucks?Diamond's newest role, at 64, is that of comeback kid. A new, yet-to-be-titled album, produced by Rick Rubin--who did the "American Recordings" that revitalized Johnny Cash's career late in life--is due out in...
  • DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH

    At least half a dozen framed works of needlepoint cover the office and bathroom walls of Neil Diamond's Los Angeles studio. Some are portraits of the singer sewn by fans, others are their homespun renditions of album covers; above the sink are the lyrics to "I Am, I Said," painstakingly stitched in black yarn above a frog who's perched atop a bar stool, guitar on knee, crooning into a microphone. Cute--and the absolute antithesis of the man himself, who rarely smiles and has probably never, ever uttered the word "cute." But in his four-decade career, Diamond has been many things to many people: for his fans, a deep, reflective songwriter and powerhouse performer; for hipsters, a kitsch icon; for Will Ferrell on "Saturday Night Live," a big fat target. So why not a happy guitar-playing frog--except that he thinks his guitar playing sucks?Diamond's newest role, at 64, is that of comeback kid. A new, yet-to-be-titled album, produced by Rick Rubin--who did the "American Recordings" that...
  • THE 'BOOMERANG' EFFECT

    It's 1:30 a.m. inside a small, humid club in Austin, Texas, on the last day of the South by Southwest music festival. The scraggly crowd of indie rockers should be at the bar, desperately sucking down their last drinks. Instead, they've formed orderly lines on the dance floor and they're stepping in time to the band onstage: five paces to the right, jump, five to the left, jump, now quake maniacally in place. This stuff happens only in John Hughes movies--except when Daara J plays. This Senegalese trio's rapid-fire multilingual raps, savvy street beats and gravity-defying acrobatics have made them one of the few acts to break out of the world-music ghetto and into the American hip-hop scene--and the hipster scene as well.Daara J (i.e., School of Life) just kicked off its first U.S. tour, opening for Fugee Wyclef Jean at Manhattan's Lincoln Center; it'll end it with Mos Def at the Hollywood Bowl late this month. Its American debut album is called "Boomerang"--and there's a story...
  • DEAR MOM, SEND MOISTURIZER

    It's opening day of summer camp and the manicures have just begun. New Age music and the trickle of a plug-in rock fountain fill the trailer as Vallarey Kingston, 15, throws a plush robe over her T shirt and jeans and Annie Norris, 12, tosses her dusty Converse sneakers next to the foot spas.They'll spend a week with four other girls practicing yoga, getting facials and arguing over who's cuter--Johnny Depp or Orlando Bloom. As fellow campers at Pali Overnight Adventures start their programs--secret-agent camp, rock-star school--the spa-and-well-being group get a lesson in hand scrub. "Who knows why it's important to moisturize after we exfoliate?" asks the counselor. "Um, 'cause the skin's all open and stuff?" says Hannah Vandeventer, 12. "Right. Girls, rub in the cream.""Downward facing dog" is not a regular part of camp vernacular yet, but programs like Pali's in southern California are starting to spring up at specialty and fitness camps around the country. The adult resort...
  • WHITE HOT STRIPES

    Jack White won't hit the stage for another six hours, but he's already worked himself into a sweat just talking about his music. It doesn't help that it's a humid 85 degrees outside the Sports Palace concert hall in Mexico City and the singer-guitarist is dressed in his Detroit duds--long-sleeved black shirt, three-piece black pinstripe suit and black felt bowler. The soggy heat wilts his jacket and causes his hat to slide slowly down his forehead, but he seems not to notice as he goes on about the things he knows and loves: Detroit blues, touring in a seatless van, making dense, minimalist music. Drummer Meg White, his bandmate and--well, more about their relationship later--hardly gets a word in. But that's cool. The pale, demure brunette simply lights another cigarette and waits until Jack runs out of air, then interjects a sentence or two before he starts up again. Jack is not rude. Meg knows this. He's just a fritzing live wire in an era of plastic-insulated cords.The White...
  • SNAP JUDGMENT: MUSIC

    Shakira 'Fijacion Oral 1'She was the Alanis Morissette of Colombia before she became America's crossover babe. Despite the bleached hair and faux belly-dance moves, Shakira actually writes her own songs and really sings them. This Spanish-language CD is the first of two releases this year, and though we applaud her for branching out creatively, it's a choppy ride at best. Charming, cinematic moments give way to messy, cathartic rock ballads and even a jerky new-wave number that smacks of "Rock Lobster."Common 'Be'The best thing about this veteran Chicago MC's sixth album, produced by hometown pal Kanye West, is what's not on it: no self-indulgent skits, no chest-thumping ego trips. Common has spent a decade building up a tiny artists' colony inside the hip-hop empire by swimming against the commercial tide, hence this lean, 11-track CD that's over, done, see ya in 40 minutes. If only the music was as tight. Common's cerebral, jazzy vibe connects on the title track and the soulful ...
  • OOOH, YEAH. OOOH-OOH, YEAH.

    When it comes to classic rockers, the rule is as follows: the larger the legend, the more ridiculous the sound (and hair) becomes. Lean, edgy artists return as sappy balladeers desecrating other people's songs (Rod Stewart), shill cell phones (Steven Tyler) or launch megatours that no one but the queen can afford to see (the Stones).Robert Plant could have easily phoned it in at this point. He was, after all, the premier rock god of the '70s. That image of him in the open kimono and dangerously low hip-huggers graced more black-light posters than the "Keep On Truckin' " guy. But on his first solo album of original material since 1993, Plant forgoes an orchestra or a duo with Puffy to offer up an unassuming, intimate, eccentric rock album. "Mighty Rearranger" was made in the 57-year-old singer's garage in England with members of the sublime trip-hop collective Portishead (whom he dubs the Strange Sensation). It is a mystical, arty CD, filled with the North African melodies Plant...
  • LIKE PEAS IN A POD

    It's unlikely that the Peruvian singer Yma Sumac, '80s sensations Lisa Lisa & The Cult Jam or Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitar, ever planned to make a big splash in the hip-hop world. But then neither did the Black Eyed Peas. For years, the eccentric interracial L.A. crew just did what they do best: sampled unusual music, rapped about anything but guns and ho's, and danced like Crouching Tiger meets Bojangles Robinson. "We really aren't smart enough to be pretentious," says rapper will.i.am. Still, the music business considered them... maybe a little weird.But it turns out that a lot of thug-weary rap fans and funk-deprived club kids were ready for a little weirdness--and in 2003, the Black Eyed Peas captured the moment. "Elephunk," the fourth album in their 10-year career, sold more than 7-1/2 million copies. It transformed the band--a favorite act in L.A.'s cool, eclectic crossover clubs--into big-time players competing with the likes of Usher for chart space. So what was...
  • Latin Hip-hop

    Forget about those salsa lessons you've been meaning to take since J. Lo first shimmied her way onto MTV. And if you're still waiting for that hyped "Latin invasion," when rock en espanol bands finally hit it off with guitar loving rockers here in the States, don't hold your breath. The newest and most promising export from Latin America is reggaeton (pronounced reggae-tone). And fortunately, you don't have to take dance lessons or grit your teeth through cheesy approximations of American rock to partake.Reggaeton is a mix of salsa, hip-hop and dancehall with rapid fire MC's dropping freestyle lyrics about urban and club life in Spanish. It started in the ghettos of Puerto Rico in the early '90s when street kids cobbled together the disparate forms of music around them and rapped about life in the 'hood. The pumping beats made their way outside the projects via amateur mix tapes, and began circulating through Puerto Rico and then the Dominican Republic. It took almost a decade for...
  • LIKE PEAS IN A POD

    It's unlikely that the Peruvian singer Yma Sumac, '80s sensations Lisa Lisa & The Cult Jam or Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitar, ever planned to make a big splash in the hip-hop world. But then neither did the Black Eyed Peas. For years, the eccentric interracial L.A. crew just did what they do best: sampled unusual music, rapped about anything but guns and ho's, and danced like Crouching Tiger meets Bojangles Robinson. "We really aren't smart enough to be pretentious," says rapper will.i.am. Still, the music business considered them... maybe a little weird.But it turns out that a lot of thug-weary rap fans and funk-deprived club kids were ready for a little weirdness--and in 2003, the Black Eyed Peas captured the moment. "Elephunk," the fourth album in their 10-year career, sold more than 7-1/2 million copies. It transformed the band--a favorite act in L.A.'s cool, eclectic crossover clubs--into big-time players competing with the likes of Usher for chart space. So what was...
  • Hayder Daffar

    Hayder Daffar may still be a night clerk at Baghdad's Palestine Hotel, but he's also the director behind the first Iraqi-made documentary out of post-Saddam Iraq. In "The Dreams of Sparrows," which is currently making the rounds at U.S. film festivals, the 33-year-old Daffar asks cabbies, elementary-school girls and even inhabitants of a local insane asylum the all-important question: are they better off under foreign occupation than they were with Saddam? NEWSWEEK's Lorraine Ali spoke with Daffar about the difficulties he had to overcome to make his moving film. Excerpts: ...
  • SNAP JUDGMENT: BOOKS

    You Can't Get There From HereBy Gayle FormanIt's clear from Forman's travelogue that globalization isn't just about Starbucks' spreading from Boulder to Bangkok. It's also about the unexpected subcultures that form when worlds collide: Tanzanians who rap like Vanilla Ice, Tongan transvestites who take their cues from the Miss America pageant, an Anglo family in India competing for spots in Bollywood films. While Forman, a self-proclaimed "weird girl," discovers a common bond among outcasts worldwide, she also finds that her relationship with her globe-hopping companion--husband Nick--is falling apart. This is travel through a secret side door; lucky us, we get to go along.The PortraitBy Iain PearsOnly an author as clever and confident as Pears could pull off this trick: dust off as many creaky literary conceits as possible, from the revenge tale to the book-length monologue, and then cram them into one brief, creepily enthralling story full of villains. The setup: an artist paints a...
  • L.A.'S ARMENIAN IDOLS

    The biggest coup in rock since Nirvana crept past Poison on the charts more than a decade ago is probably the mainstream success of System of a Down. Their name is weird; their lead vocalist, Serj Tankian, sings like Freddie Mercury channeling Slayer, and their music is nearly impossible to classify. (You might call it prog-rock-metal-politico-pop with an operatic twist.) And it's flat-out impossible to imagine MTV's spring breakers grinding to songs about the Armenian genocide.But System's 2001 CD "Toxicity" turned out to be well timed: it dropped just as rock fans were growing tired of bands such as Limp Bizkit doing it "all for the nookie," and it sold more than 3 million copies. Suddenly, this unlikely band of Armenian Angelenos had become the new face of hard rock. Now their pair of new albums, "Mezmerize" (which will be out in two weeks) and "Hypnotize" (which will appear sometime in the fall), are two of the most anticipated releases of 2005."I have to say that it still kind...
  • SNAP JUDGMENT: BOOKS

    All Those Mornings at the Post By Shirley PovichPovich spent three quarters of a century chronicling sports for The Washington Post (whose parent company also owns NEWSWEEK). This posthumous collection is a history of 20th-century American sports. Povich was there for Gehrig's farewell and Ripken's record, the Ali-Frazier bout at the Garden, the Seabiscuit-War Admiral match race and Secretariat's Triple Crown. Even his final column, in 1998, proved prescient. Writing the day before he died at 92, Povich cautioned against putting the latest home-run king, Mark McGwire, in the same class as Babe Ruth.You Can't Get There From Here By Gayle FormanIt's clear from Forman's travelogue that globalization isn't just about Starbucks' spreading from Boulder to Bangkok. It's also about the unexpected subcultures that form when worlds collide: Tanzanians who rap like Vanilla Ice, Tongan transvestites who take their cues from the Miss America pageant, an Anglo family in India competing for spots...
  • FILM: AN IRAQI'S 'DREAMS'

    Hayder Daffar may still be a night clerk at Baghdad's Palestine Hotel, but he's also the director behind the first Iraqi-made documentary to come out of post-Saddam Baghdad. In "The Dreams of Sparrows," out on DVD in May, Daffar, 33, asks fellow Iraqis the question: are we better off under American occupation than we were living under Saddam? He spoke with NEWSWEEK's Lorraine Ali.You dedicated this film to Saad Fakher, a crew member who was killed in cross-fire while filming. The scene of his bullet-riddled car is so painful.This scene is not for Iraqis, because we all know what's happening here. I put this scene in of Saad for other people to see what we are going through--what we are losing every day.What surprised you the most when making this film?When people made me laugh, because everything in Iraq is so hard and so sad right now. I interviewed a drunk in the street. He had a bottle in his hand and he said, "In the past, I couldn't drink in street. Now I can. I am free, thanks...
  • EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION

    Mariah Carey has a nickname, Mimi, and a new theme--freedom. The singer's eighth album, "The Emancipation of Mimi," is an attempt to leave behind all her baggage (i.e., an oppressive marriage and some commercial failures) and head for the nearest party. The 35-year-old now sings more club-savvy numbers and does it with rap heavyweights like Snoop Dogg, Nelly and Twista. Multitalented producers including Jermaine Dupri, the Neptunes and Kanye West keep spirits high.MARIAH CAREY: Is this one of those things where you attack me, and I have to defend why I made the album the way I did?LORRAINE ALI: It won't be that vicious. I'll talk about your new album--what I like and what I don't like--and you'll get a chance to talk back to a critic.This could get very abusive.Look at it this way: all we have to talk about is music. No tabloid stuff.Ohhh, we like that.Overall, this album is really vibrant and free. The emancipation theme works right from the first track, "It's Like That."That's...
  • CHASING FIONA'S TRACKS ALL OVER THE INTERNET

    We might as well admit right up front that we haven't solved the mystery behind Fiona Apple's new album, "Extraordinary Machines," but the story being passed from fan to fan on blogs and Web sites goes something like this. The avant-pop singer, whose first two CDs went multiplatinum, had been contemplating retirement at the age of 25 because the record industry was so mean and sharky; producer Jon Brion convinced her she needed to make another record. They started recording around July 2002; by May 2003, the album was supposedly done. A month passed. A year passed. No album. Sony, rumor had it, shelved the project because it didn't hear a commercial single.Fans began picketing--"Free Fiona!"--and sending Sony president Andrew Lack an apple a day. In June 2004, the title track mysteriously popped up on the Internet. Apple's supporters on various message boards felt sure she had leaked it. In July, another song appeared. Then, two months ago, a DJ at the Seattle FM station The End got...
  • SNAP JUDGMENT: MUSIC

    Beck 'Guero'Far more vibrant than the mostly acoustic 'Sea Change' and far less affected than the awkwardly experimental 'Midnight Vultures,' 'Guero' is Beck at his best. (Except for that one ballad where he sounds like Sting--weird, even for him). He mixes bent melodies with in-the-pocket grooves, then drops in the pop ephemera: turntable scratching, roboto vocals, hand claps and finger snaps. His cool, deadpan voice is oddly hypnotic and his lyrics packed full of colorful imagery: In 'Que Onda Guero,' you're transported to a street in Mexico/Texas/L.A. where a horn is 'honking like a mariachi band.' It's good to have him back in all his freakish glory.Faith Evans 'The First Lady'She was a pawn in a cruel musical feud between her late husband, the Notorious B.I.G., and Tupac, then widowed at 23. Still, Faith Evans has managed to make the most hopeful R&B records around. The songs on 'First Lady' live somewhere between hip-hop and R&B, with a funky '70s bump, and her vocals...
  • MUSIC: A REFUGEE GONE M.I.A.

    She has the voice of a Jamaican dancehall singer and the looks of a Bollywood star, but the music M.I.A. (a.k.a. Maya Arulpragasam) makes is all her own. The 28-year-old's dance-savvy blend of bass-laden hip-hop, Caribbean raga and cut-and-paste politicism is so unique, it's made her new CD, "Arular," one of the most talked-about debuts this year.But it hasn't been an easy road for M.I.A.: she grew up poor during Sri Lanka's civil war, and her father abandoned the family to found a militant Tamal group. Her family relocated to London when she was 11. "I was too embarrassed to say I was a refugee," says Arulpragasam. "For 10 years I told everyone I was Trinidadian." She attended art school in London and became known for her guerrilla-style collages and fashion sense. Images of tanks, machine guns and grenades are pitted against bright tribal colors on the sleeve of "Arular"; onstage last week M.I.A. wore a sequined track suit with a camouflage-graffiti T shirt.Her music is equal mix...
  • The Films of SXSW

    Before the fast-food documentary "Super Size Me" hit theaters last year and proved that man cannot exist on McDonald's alone, the South By Southwest (SXSW) festivals and conferences in Austin, Texas, screened the film for hundreds of industry folk and reviewers. It garnered a ton of praise on the streets of Austin, greasing its entry into the national press and, eventually, theaters nationwide. That buzz helped make it one of the most popular documentaries of 2004. The odd part of it all: music, not movies, was and still is the big draw at SXSW.Record industry folk, artists and critics all came late this week to SXSW to discover new acts, and hundreds of unsigned bands came to be discovered. It's where musicians like Beck, The Fugees and Los Lonely Boys showcased their talent early on and impressed rock critics and major record labels. But slowly SXSW has become a new platform for launching independent film. It's still a much smaller film festival than Sundance or even the Toronto...
  • The True Believers

    Why would anyone still be devoted to Michael Jackson? He's on trial for child molestation. He hasn't had a no. 1 hit for a decade. Look at the face. Look at the life. These hard-core fans people call Jacko's Wackos--what are they ? They told us.
  • BARRY HOT

    The first time Barry Manilow played Carnegie Hall was in 1972, as pianist for the burgeoning cabaret star Bette Midler. It was quite a step up from the gay bathhouses they'd been playing to pay the rent. "I remember standing behind the curtain and hearing the audience roar," recalls Manilow, sitting in a bistro near his home in Palm Springs, Calif. "Bette and I just looked at each other, like, 'What is that?' It was so..." He stops, and laughs. "Wait a minute. Here I am telling you the story of my life, like anybody gives a s---. If they do, I'm amazed. Really, I am. I shouldn't be talking to NEWSWEEK right now, I should be playing a Chuck E. Cheese in Covina."You'd have trouble finding an American over the age of 20 who hasn't cracked a Barry Manilow joke--and that includes Barry Manilow. The operatic pop ballads. The questionable hairdos. The flouncy-sleeved jumpsuit. Manilow was the '70s. But he still sells 1.5 million records a year, just had a No. 1 single on the dance-club...
  • The Grammys Get a Clue

    Last year one of my favorite artists actually won album of the year. Outkast's "Speakerboxx/The Love Below" reigned supreme and for a few days, I was really happy. Then it dawned on me. The Recording Academy, the most clueless panel of judges until "American Idol" reared its empty head, liked what I liked. In fact, they loved it. Something was clearly wrong. Either I had totally lost my critical edge or the Recording Academy had finally found some taste (I know, I'm a snob). My one saving grace? I did not think "Speakerboxx/The Love Below" was Outkast's best album. 2000's "Stankonia" was nominated in the same category four years prior and it should have won, but Outkast's 2004 victory was like a make-up Grammy--kind of like "The Aviator" being nominated for best picture at this year's Oscars. Yes, Martin Scorsese was a great director and no, "The Aviator" is not even close to his best work or the year's best film. It's what I call the Sorry-We-Missed-You-The-First-Time-Around Award...
  • First Person: Voting in Iraq's Election

    As the daughter of an Iraqi, NEWSWEEK'S Lorraine Ali was able to vote in Sunday's election. Why she did--and why she hopes her relatives inside Iraq did not.
  • GIRLS DON'T CRY

    Years before Clint Eastwood chose Hilary Swank to star in his new film, "Million Dollar Baby"--years before she won the 2000 Oscar for playing the struggling Brandon Teena in "Boys Don't Cry"--she was a small-town kid living in a trailer park. Swank wanted to be an actor and took every opportunity to hone her skills. "I remember sitting at McDonald's and watching this man eat," says Swank, 30. "I counted how many times he chewed his burger, watched the way he sipped his Coke and copied how he dipped his french fries in the ketchup. My mom had to elbow me: 'Hilary! Stop staring.' She repeated that demand a lot throughout my childhood. It was pretty much her mantra."Swank learned long ago what Hollywood's been slow to figure out: that there's more to working-class America than trailer and Twinkies jokes. She brought a great complexity and humanity to her role as Brandon Teena, sweeping even mainstream audiences up in the story of a poor cross-dresser's struggle to survive in a redneck...
  • THE MOUTHS THAT ROARED

    There's been a wealth of music to celebrate this year, though we had to scour albums from San Francisco to Senegal to find it. Here's a list of contenders who should find their way to your heart, or at least your CD player.1 Kanye West, 'College Dropout' West's phenomenal "Jesus Walks" is '04's best single, and "College Dropout" its most original hip-hop CD. The mega-successful producer raps about everything but the usual BET/MTV fare. Yes, he's an egomaniac--for good reason.2 Bill Cosby and Quincy Jones, 'The Original Jam Sessions 1969' and 'The New Mixes Vol. 1' Outkast's most bizarre efforts seem tame compared with these vintage jams. The instrumentals, which Cosby helped produce for his shows, are funky, experimental and at times hilarious. The new mixes are by varied producers, including Cornershop.3 Green Day, 'American Idiot' Forget ironic indie throwbacks like Franz Ferdinand--former MTV sellouts Green Day made the most daring rock album of the year. This punk-rock opera is...