Duke My Kung Fu is Good

On his debut solo record, the Duke, aka Rich Ward, leaves behind the critically acclaimed rap/nü-metal of his Atlanta-based Stuck Mojo outfit and the nostalgic power metal of his current nine to five Fozzy (a band fronted, not as embarrassingly as you might think, by professional wrestler Chris Jericho) and takes up instead the mantle of middle-of-the-road adult-contemporary pop-schlock. The shimmery soft rock production positions Ward’s melodic and lyrical clichés — to say nothing of his "na na na’s” — as the twin centres around which My Kung Fu is Good’s banal song structures and generic instrumentation are organised. The Chinese characters that adorn the album art are presumably there to impress us with the depth and breadth of the Duke’s new-age spirit; the buff bare-chested hairlessness of the interior photography of the masculinity that underlies the pseudo-sensitivity elsewhere on display. "The best part of me is in the music I give to you,” the Duke sings on the opening track, but that just can’t be true. (Spitfire)