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The Neptunes

Clones (Star Trak/Arista)

With Clones, the Neptunes have made another world of glitter and glamour, love as lust, and lust as an end in itself. The album cover illustrates this with a photo superimposing Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo over planet Earth as it rotates in space, a none-too-subtle nod to their years-long dominance of urban radio. In fact, one of the album's singles, "Frontin'," already hit No. 1 on the Billboard singles chart.

Then there's the music itself: raw and minimalist, often cranked out with nothing but a keyboard and a drum machine. "Good Girl" has a precocious blend of airy melodies and Vanessa Marquez's thin yet sincere vocals, while Busta Rhymes's "Light Your Ass on Fire" sounds like the insides of an echo chamber that he fills with oversexed incantations of body parts. Unfortunately, most of the guests who appear over the Neptunes' beats deliver performances that feel halfhearted and bored. All that Ludacris can come up with on "It Wasn't Us" is a reprise of his now-famous cadence from "What's Your Fantasy." To his credit, Ol' Dirty Bastard (rechristened Dirt McGirt) gets suitably brolic on the knotty, RZA-like "Pop Shit."

All this adds up to a bumpy hour of genuine hits and irritating filler. With no continuity from track to track, there's little momentum to sustain the listener between the album's many low points and its few admittedly great highlights, giving it the feel of an uneven compilation album.

 
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