NELLIE McKAY
Pretty Littleead (Columbia)

Since the release of her 2004 debut, Get Away from Me, Nellie McKayas been cast in a Broadway musical, performed at the Great Wall of China and has been outed as being two years older than originally reported, makinger 23, not 21. An ingenue cooing faux-nauf cabaret hop, she's music's Scarlett Johansson. Building on the hypermelodic sound of her first album, Pretty Little Head is a thrilling disappointment. McKay tends to do both too much (16 tracks!) and too little (the Eastern-tinged "Pink Chandelier" cuts off after a minute and a half). She seems more at home on the traditional cuts, such as the slinky "Long and Lazy River." Sometimes her stabs at relevance fail, like on the overreaching (mock?) political number "The Big One." Duets with Cyndi Lauper and k.d. lang sound better on paper, but the propulsive opener "Cupcake" is a sugar rush of harmony, complete with a lyric supporting gay marriage. While name-checking everyone from J.Lo to Baudelaire, McKay has what it takes to seduce any 21st-century boy. But on this uneven album, she's not a girl but not yet a woman. Paul L. Underwood

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