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Global Warming

RCA Records

File next to: Rihanna, Black Eyed Peas

Pitbull's seventh album, Global Warming, doesn't refer to environmental destruction, but rather to the international influences he brags about bringing to his music. After all, this is Pitbull, a rapper whose mission seems little more than being the life of the party. He does blend styles (though not in any innovative ways or with the global reach he might suggest), but Pitbull's really bringing is upbeat fun. So we get "Feel This Moment" — a big synth-pop dance tune that samples A-ha's "Take On Me" and features a powerhouse guest vocal from Christina Aguilera — and "Have Some Fun," which borrows lyrics from the Sheryl Crow hit and sets them to a pulsing EDM/dubstep sound. Add more guest vocals from Jennifer Lopez and Danny Mercer, and Global Warming is a frothy concoction guaranteed to head up radio charts and rock the dance floors. — Alan Sculley

Aaron Lewis

The Road

Blaster/Warner Nashville

File next to: Dierks Bentley, Waylon Jennings

It's pretty ironic that it took a guy from a hard rock band — Staind's Aaron Lewis, no less — to make one of this year's most old-school country albums. Songs like "75," "The Road" and "State Lines" take listeners back to the '70s when Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and George Jones were playing traditional country songs with a bit of edge and plenty of twang. Lewis isn't yet in a league with those greats, but he has more of a talent for country songwriting than his work in Staind would ever have suggested, and he probably won't want to quit his day job with Staind yet. But even when he moves closer to today's more pop-rock-inclined country, as on "Endless Summer" and "Forever," it works. So if the tensions that arose during the making of Staind's last album do bring that band to an end, at least Lewis has a viable plan B. — Alan Sculley

Habib Koité & Eric Bibb

Brothers in Bamako

Stony Plain Records

File next to: King Sunny Ade, Paul Simon

Brothers in Bamako brings together acoustic blues/folk/gospel artist Eric Bibb and African musician Habib Koité, who became friends a decade ago while playing on the album Mali to Memphis. Standout tracks include "On My Way to Bamako," in which Bibb describes his anticipation for traveling to Africa to make the album. Koité takes the lead on songs like "L.A." and "Foro Bana," sung in his native tongue with a beauty that's altogether universal. And then there are the truly collaborative efforts such as "Tombouctou" and "We Don't Care," with traded vocals and seamlessly blended guitar parts that sound like instruments having a conversation of their own. Add in an inspired version of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" (done starkly, with banjo, bass and sweet steel guitar) and this becomes one of the most intriguing albums of 2012. — Alan Sculley

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