Rapper Wyclef Jean and British rockers Elastica top the list of new pop releases for the week with highly anticipated second albums.
R&B acts Ruff Endz and Jessica, meanwhile, both debut with albums toting popular singles.
Wyclef, after recording the critically acclaimed The Score with the Fugees in 1995, returned with a much-lauded solo album in 1997, The Carnival.
His latest LP, The Ecleftic: 2 Sides II a Book, features the singles "Thug Angels" and "It Doesn't Matter" (RealAudio excerpt), with professional wrestler The Rock and Melky Sedeck.
Like his previous albums, on which he reworked popular songs such as Bob Marley's "No Woman, No Cry" and the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive," the new album includes Wyclef's interpretation of a classic in this case, Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" (RealAudio excerpt of Pink Floyd's version).
"If you [could] play that on guitar, you were officially on your way to being a good guitar player, as far as rock was concerned," Wyclef said earlier this summer. "And it was one of my favorite songs growing up, so I wanted to throw that twang into [the album]."
Other guests on the album include Mary J. Blige, Whitney Houston, Kenny Rogers, Youssou N'Dour and Earth, Wind & Fire.
The Menace is Elastica's first album since their 1995 self-titled debut, which was certified gold for shipping half a million copies in the United States.
"Obviously, I've been through quite a lot in my life in the last four years," said singer/guitarist Justine Frischmann, who has seen her quartet lose and regain members in the past four years, before ending up as a sextet. "I think you can hear that on this record. There are a lot of mood swings. The new album embraces a much wider musical landscape and takes in a lot of the music that I've heard in the last few years. It embraces technology as well, because I've learned to program and use a computer and use DAT players."
Songs such as "Image Change" and "My Sex" (RealAudio excerpt) highlight their newer sound, with use of keyboards and dark, ambient elements. With "Mad Dog" they exhibit the UK punk-pop that made 1995's "Connection" a radio hit.
R&B duo Ruff Endz will release their album No More, after a summer where they saw their single "No More" climb to the upper reaches of the Billboard Hot 100, reaching #10 this week.
Ruff Endz, two 23-year-old men, take their name from their experiences growing up in a tough neighborhood of west Baltimore. They said that many of their songs such as "Apologize" and "Where Does Our Love Go From Here" (RealAudio excerpt) incorporate their experiences into their music.
Another R&B act, 19-year-old Jessica, makes a debut with You Can't Resist, whose lead single, "Get Up" (RealAudio excerpt), also appears on the soundtrack to "Big Momma's House."
"We sang gospel music every day," the singer (born Jessica Betts) said of her childhood with her grandmother. "And I got my start writing when my sisters and I would write spiritual songs for church on Sunday."
The religious roots show through on the gospel-influenced track, "Thank You My Lord," and the positive, upbeat outlook of the album.
Kid Rock, Cypress Hill's DJ Muggs, Girls Against Boys' Eli Janey and funk master George Clinton team with a lineup of adult-film stars to create the unique dance-pop collection Deep Porn. Songs such as Lordz of Brooklyn's "Titty Bar" and Black Mob Group's "Flick" feature tape-looped moaning of various porn stars melded with rapping and a musical collage.
Pop-rockers Zebrahead capitalize on pornography in a milder way to promote their second album, Playmate of the Year. The title track, also the lead single, will be distributed with a fall issue of Playboy, according to Columbia Records, and various models from the magazine will appear with the group at concerts and in-store shows.
Also releasing an album is Canadian trio soulDecision, whose No One Does It Better will hit U.S. stores. The album, already a hit in Canada, features the romantic single "Faded."