• Jessie J, 'Who You Are' (Lava/Universal/Republic)

    Jessie J, 'Who You Are' (Lava/Universal/Republic)

    The U.K. is well-stocked with twentysomething female pop singers, but chameleonic firecracker Jesse Cornish bears little resemblance to Amy, Lily, Adele, Duffy, Florence, or Katy B. On her debut full-length, the 22-year-old songwriter (see Miley Cyrus' "Party in the U.S.A.") nails a variety of roles: crotch-grabbing punker, '70s soul diva, Kelly Clarkson–style bellower. Her voice can rival Christina Aguilera's for sheer force, but she keeps it on a tighter leash. And "Who's Laughing Now," her update of X-tina's "Beautiful," is such a tart kiss-off, you can almost hear Jessie's neck swiveling.

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    Breaking Out: Telekinesis

    Twenty-four years ago, Stevie Wonder put a hand on the pregnant belly of Michael Benjamin Lerner's mother and said, "I bless this child." "My parents like to tell me that's why I play music," says Lerner, whose father spent three decades as a radio DJ (and often brought his wife backstage). But Lerner, a Seattle native who records chipper indie rock under the name Telekinesis, traces his songwriting roots to the night his dad took him to see Radiohead on the Kid A tour. "After that show, I quit every sport I was playing and started focusing on drums," he says.

  • Britney Spears, 'Femme Fatale'

    Britney Spears, 'Femme Fatale'

    Britney Spears' seventh album starts with the Ke$ha-cowritten disco banger "Till the World Ends," her first truly synapse-sizzling single since "Toxic." And producers Dr. Luke, Max Martin, and Bloodshy & Avant keep their synth patches set on stun for a barrage of club jams about wild nights (that the singer apparently can't enjoy anymore). A few adventurous loops and gauzy midtempo moments stand out -- the dubstep meltdown on "Hold It Against Me," will.i.am's wackadoo beatfest "Big Fat Bass." But ignore the lyrics, Spears sounds even more like a programmed Britbot than on 2007's Blackout.

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    Breaking Out: The Vaccines

    In late January, U.K. fuzz-pop quartet the Vaccines played their debut U.S. show at the 550-capacity Bowery Ballroom in Manhattan. It was also their biggest live audience, longest set (a tidy 36 minutes), and the first time drawing Amanda Norgaard -- the Danish model who inspired the puppy love anthem "Norgaard," one of 11 instantly charming tracks on the band's debut album, What Did You Expect From the Vaccines? (Columbia)."It wasn't like I fancied [Norgaard]," sheepishly explains singer-guitarist Justin Young. "I thought, 'She's quite sexy, I'm going to write about her.' And then my friend fucking told her about the song, so I had to e-mail her," he says, in hopes of dispelling any ickiness.Prior to forming the band, supermodels weren't much of an issue for the 23-year-old Young.

  • Ellie Goulding, 'Lights' (Cherrytree/Interscope)

    Ellie Goulding, 'Lights' (Cherrytree/Interscope)

    When Ellie Goulding emerged two years ago, few would've compared the strummy singer- songwriter to currentU.K. pop wild child Jessie J. But producer Starsmith -- who's remixed Katy Perry and Lady Gaga -- nudged Goulding onto the dance floor, where she's nowJessie's good-girl counterpart, blending folky melodies with amped-up '80s-style synths and beats. On this debut full-length, already a U.K. No. 1, she glides through blippy anthems ("Starry Eyed"), pumping disco ("Animal"), and delicate grooves ("Lights") with a pixie-ish voice that's one notch sweeter than Metric's Emily Haines. Her closer, a cover of Elton John's "Your Song," is everything Gaga's Grammy version wasn't -- a tender, vulnerable gift.

  • Those Dancing Days, 'Daydreams and Nightmares' (Wichita)

    Those Dancing Days, 'Daydreams and Nightmares' (Wichita)

    This formerly twee Swedish girl group boast a soulfully swaggering frontwoman, Linnea Jönsson, and a fairly significant identity crisis.On their second album, the quintet of school chums make synth rock that swings from Paramore's perky punch ("Reaching Forward") to Franz Ferdinand's post-punk bounce (sweet first single "I'll Be Yours"). Hook-machine songwriter-producer Max Martin ensures that "Can't Find Entrance" is explosively catchy, but Jönsson seems to have more fun stiff-arming her way through the riot grrrl throwdown "Fuckarias": "I'm dizzy, you're sobbing," she sings as the band falls into chaos behind her.

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    Next Big Things 2011: MNDR

    Home sweet home: New York CityExpect: Dance-pop multihyphenate; another Mark Ronson discovery made goodMust hear: still-untitled debut, due this spring At the moment when Amanda Warner was getting her big break from the guy who helped turn Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen into superstars, she couldn't stand up straight.

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    Robyn Takes the Party to New York City

    Fans wonder what the set for Lady Gaga's final leg of the Monster Ball will look like, and what the air at Katy Perry's California Dreams Tour will smell like. For the 6,000 folks (including a handful of artfully dressed drag queens) packed into New York's Radio City Music Hall to see Robyn Saturday night, there was only one concern: What was she going to play? Robyn's live show is traditionally light on theatrics and heavy on hits, and as she's leapt from the 550-person capacity Music Hall of Williamsburg to the city's second-largest venue in just seven months, she hasn't changed the formula a bit.

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    Breaking Out: Warpaint

    When most kids in their Oregon middle school were playing truth or dare at parties, Warpaint singer-guitarists Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman were at home, writing songs. "We were kind of late bloomers," Wayman says shyly. "We had that innocence. There was a lot of playing games and just having fun. We've held on to that. It's a special thing between us." The tight bond between twentysomethings Kokal and Wayman has been essential to the dream-pop group's survival. Warpaint was born at a 2004 Valentine's Day jam session in L.A. (where the two moved after a post-high-school sojourn spent kicking aimlessly around New York City) with another close-knit duo they'd befriended, bassist-singer Jenny Lee Lindberg and her drum-playing sister, actress Shannyn Sossamon.

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    Dance Queen Robyn Revs Up 'Gossip Girl'

    A decade after she walked away from pop stardom, Swedish dance-floor diva Robyn is on the cusp of... pop stardom. But this time, she's not bending over backward to please anybody. [Magazine Excerpt] For several bizarre hours on a Tuesday afternoon in September, Swedish pop star Robyn attends a cocktail party for Manhattan socialite Blair Waldorf. The event, of course, is as fake as the plastic strawberries stacked next to the chocolate fountain--they're shooting a scene for an episode of Gossip Girl--and the 31-year-old singer born Robin Carlsson lip-synchs to a stripped-down version of her latest single, "Hang With Me," as extras grip champagne glasses inside Silvercup Studios in Queens and try to look posh. "Do you have artists here a lot?" Robyn asks a trio of staffers who have gravitated to her dressing room.

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