[ON] USHER ''Yeah!'' Just what this smoothy needed: a shrieking synth riff, an alluring, minimalist groove, and Ludacris and Lil Jon riding shotgun. Usher still plays it safe by not going home with the possibly underage dance-club temptress. But this time, you forgive his caution.
[ON] N.E.R.D. ''She Wants to Move'' If anyone else were to sing ''Her ass is a spaceship I want to ride,'' you'd switch stations. But no one else would set silly lines like that to an off-the-wall mix of flamenco guitar, jazz piano, and big-band drums. A fine mess.
[OFF] SHERYL CROW ''The First Cut Is the Deepest'' Cat Stevens wrote it, Rod Stewart caressed it (in the '70s), and Crow wrecks it, thanks to a bombastic arrangement that robs the song of its delicacy and pathos. Far less deep than it ever was.
[OFF] WAYNE WONDER ''Hold Me Now'' Or, how the Thompson Twins oldie would have sounded had it been crooned by a singer with an actual voice, rather than an irritating monotone. Alas, that distinction (and a wan reggae beat) doesn't make this cover any better.