Album: Mariah Carey, Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel (Mercury)

Once upon a time, Mariah Carey's albums had infantile titles like Butterfly, Rainbow, Glitter and Charmbracelet – sickly-sweet enough to be some pre-teen cartoon superheroine line-up.

Album: Muse, The Resistance, (Helium/WEA)

A politicised Muse take the path of vague resistance

Muse, The Den, Teignmouth

Seaside Special was never like this: two Mr Punches leer over the stage from posters either side, a circus ringmaster opens proceedings, yet big-top glitter and knockabout humour are way off the agenda.

Let the shuffle gods decide: Will Oldham lets his iPod do the talking

We have a date with destiny but Will Oldham is walking out of his central London hotel just as I'm going in. "Gonna get a better cup of coffee than they serve here and I'll be right back," he says, strolling out on to Tottenham Court Road. Twenty-five minutes later, Oldham returns. He is not, it seems, a man to take his beverages lightly.

Taio Cruz, Academy 2, Sheffield

Hesitant and bashful, UK R'n'B's latest hope must be more confident in the studios of America's hottest producers than at this Yorkshire venue's learner stage. At least, Taio Cruz's CV emphasises his accomplishments behind the mixing desk more than in his slowly burgeoning solo career.

Album: Ashlee Simpson, Bittersweet World (Geffen)

Few acts epitomise the failings of corporate pop as completely as Ashlee Simpson, one of those insubstantial presences who seem to emanate from the industry like marsh-gas, shape-shifting to fit whatever trends briefly catch the public ear, then evaporating to leave only a lingering whiff of inauthenticity.

Sound of the urban underground

Urban artists are turning mainstream – but will popular success kill their credibility? Matilda Egere-Cooper reports

Album: Madonna, Hard Candy (Warner)

For the record, I'm neither ageist nor a prude. But when, four tracks into Madonna's 11th studio album 'Hard Candy', the 49-year-old Queen of Pop starts monotonously cooing "see my booty get down" while Pharrell Williams pants desperately over the top, my immediate reaction is sheer, hair-standing-on-end embarrassment.

Why the music industry must keep its eye on the prize

Majors and indie labels alike must ensure that talent rises to the top in the fractured world of music marketing

Duran Duran, The Lyceum, London<br/>Daggers, Purple Turtle, London

More than 25 years after they burst on to the scene, Duran Duran show that they haven't lost the art of making great pop songs

Bryan Robson: 'I find it frustrating I haven't had a chance at a top club'

The Old Trafford icon who could have been England manager tells Nick Townsend that harder times have not dimmed his desire

Album: Timbaland & Magoo

Under Construction Part II, Blackground / Unique

Shopping: I want...A funky pair of headphones - The route to a secret world of sound

Not everybody appreciates the importance of quality headphones. Some people hold "cans" in such contempt that they would never consider owning a set, were it not for the proliferation of the personal stereo, which, of course, comes equipped with "free" ones. These people are unlikely to have ever experienced the trainspottery buzz of putting on a new CD and being delighted by the discovery that a seemingly two-dimensional song played on a cheap stereo unfurls into virtual stage play when headphones are worn. Take the intro to Timbaland's new album, for instance, wherein you find yourself strolling alongside - and having the same blushing perspective as - vocalist TK Kirkland as he observes that the woman walking ahead of him has a great future behind her.
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Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
3.	Provence 6 nights B&B by train from £599pp
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