Justin Bieber featuring Ludacris—“All Around the World”
You knew the Eurodisco was coming, right? But this is better than expected, with a great beat and all sorts of nice touches (love those live-sounding drum fills). Bieber’s singing continues to be a pleasant surprise, despite his occasional lapses into Chris Brown-style slurring. The inclusion of Ludacris, however, is a major stumble. When was the last time Ludacris contributed anything worthwhile to a track? I honestly can’t remember, and this is even worse than usual.
Lil Wayne featuring Big Sean—“My Homies Still”
The beat isn’t as stunning as, say, “A Milli” or “Lollipop”, but at least it’s in the same ballpark, and suggests that Wayne is coming out of his post-prison funk. His raps aren’t brilliant, but he sounds like he has his energy back, even if he admits that he’s stepping aside from the game (at least the illegal parts of it). What I want to know is if he really spends his spare time skateboarding and listening to Rebirth?
Little Big Town—“Pontoon”
It’s hard not to think of this as the country version of “Call Me Maybe”, a song so happy and infectious that attempting to resist it would cause a minor seizure. Though it never mentions the subject, it’s also about as sexy as country ever gets, with its deep, gently swelling groove and slide guitar creating a simmering heat. Like too many country records, there’s a certain smugness in its craftsmanship, and the sound could be looser to go with the light lyrical content, but otherwise it’s perfect.
Waka Flocka Flame featuring Nicki Minaj, Tyga & Flo Rida—“Get Low”
This is built around one of the best hooks Flo Rida has come up with (which, whether you hate him or not, is saying something), but I have to admit that much of its appeal for me is based on what isn’t on it. No Flo Rida raps about rough sex and blow jobs, for one thing; Waka Flock Flame not yelling another. Nicki Minaj contributes nothing special, and the same goes for Tyga. But they probably felt that they didn’t need to; the hook carries the record along so well you barely notice the paltriness of everything else.
The Lumineers—“Ho Hey”
Try to imagine a combination of .fun and Mumford and Sons. No, no, stop. I don’t want you to hurt yourself.
Imagine Dragons—“It’s Time”
It would be unfair to label Imagine Dragons as merely fun. imitators. Most likely they were making this sort of record anyway, and are being seized on and promoted by the record company in an attempt to cash in. You can’t blame the band for that. But that doesn’t mean this is any good, or that if “We Are Young” didn’t exist anybody would pay attention to them. This sounds like fun. might if they were fans of Kings of Leon. The total lack of emotional confusion and/or subtlety in the lyric doesn’t help any, either.
The Black Keys—“Gold On the Ceiling”
The worst kind of country acoustic balladry, based on an extended metaphor that might have worked if they hadn’t tried to get too much out of it or if they hadn’t tried to change it up in the last verse: they’re not just glass, but oil and water and gasoline too. That inconsistency might not have mattered, though, if the arrangement and singing weren’t filled through and through with sap. Oddly enough, that makes it even easier to see through them.