Rob Harvilla

Collapse Into Now

R.E.M., Michael Stipe | FALLING TO PIECES R.E.M.'s latest, Collapse Into Now

”It’s just like me to overstay my welcome,” barks Michael Stipe, daring listeners to agree. Late-period R.E.M. often lacks the fire and finesse of their college-rock classics, but Collapse Into Now’s sharp power-pop blasts get it half right. Stipe’s cornball lyrics still rankle, but when the acoustic lilt of ”It Happened Today” melts into a sweet, wordless coda powered by Mike Mills’ epic harmonies, it’s a welcome reminder, and a pleasant surprise. B

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Andrea Bocelli fares well with Amore, his grab bag of reworked classic love songs (from ”Besame Mucho” to ”Can’t Help Falling in Love”). The blind Italian tenor has sold nearly 50 million records worldwide since his 1997 debut, Romanza, so he’s more experienced at varying the tempo, volume, and intensity, rendering rarer overblown anthems, like ”Because We Believe,” more forgivable.

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The demand for an operatic rendition of Eric Carmen’s ”All by Myself” is finally answered with Il Divo’s Ancora, the multiplatinum multiculti quartet’s third platter of classical classics, treacly originals, and pop covers. Formed by American Idol’s Simon Cowell, Il Divo specialize in watered-down, pop-addled opera gallantry, a highly suspect genre we dub ”Oprah.” Here, at their best, they graft opera’s technical elegance to pop’s catchy melodrama, but more often they get carried away with the show-offy stuff.

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