Happy April everyone! As we are now officially entrenched in the “second quarter” of 2012, it’s time to share with you another edition of “Songs Spinning on My iPod.” As songs from my previous list begin to ascend the Top 40 charts, look for this next batch to follow-suit in the coming weeks or, in some cases – see Justin Bieber’s first-week debut today to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 – mere hours. In any case, enjoy this carefully curated list of current Top 40 music and my brief subjective commentary that accompanies each song. To listen, click on the song title or listen to all of the songs at once.
Kicking off the list with pure camp-value, this new single from obscure Danish band Alphabeat has really no chance of charting in the US. Full of glitz and 80s ostentation, the record is purest pop fluff at its best. And yet, we all need a dose of that once in a while right?
With high-profile endorsements from the likes of Justin Bieber and girlfriend Selena Gomez, this former Canadian Idol third-place finisher seemingly emerged out of the doldrums of pop obscurity into major label recording artist. On this her debut single taken from her first extended play, Curiosity, twenty-six year old Jepsen sings sweetly over a lightweight, however effervescent, melody adorned by strings and a bubbly beat. Already a Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, expect this cut to continue its ascent to the chart’s highest echelons.
Having produced hit singles for the likes of Far East Movement, New Boyz and Dev, hip-hop indie-pop duo The Cataracs are already an established force behind-the-boards in the mainstream music scene. Here – with the assists from Waka Flocka and Kaskade – the duo makes their very fine case for solo artist stardom, as “All You” is an expertly crafted single that is both original in sound yet memorable given repeated listens. The rhymes, rhythms and vocals here are all first-rate, and it truly would be a shame for this record not to see the Top 40 success it so deserves.
A third place finisher on the first season of The X-Factor in the US, rapper Chris Rene releases his frequently-performed audition song “Young Homie” as his proper introduction to Top 40 radio. Established Top 40 producer Jonathan Rotem adds some much needed gloss and energy on a track that – while earnest and sincere – grew a bit listless on the show.
Already released as Nothing but the Beat‘s fourth single internationally, this tour-de-force track, featuring the still domestically under-praised singer-songwriter Sia, has reached the Top 5 in more than a dozen countries and finally receives the single treatment it so deserves stateside. With an anthemic chorus and emotive vocals from the Australian guest artist, this fifth and final single should have zero problem rapidly scaling the Top 40 charts.
With British contemporary Adele now a bonafide global superstar, fellow singer-songwriter Ellie Goudling takes her turn at achieving stateside stardom with Lights, her debut domestic offering. Originally served as a bonus track off of her second UK album of the same name, the single is a bright, shimmering slice of electro-pop that is both breezy and substantial. The jury’s still out whether this track will elevate Goulding’s profile in the US, but consider it a worthwhile single nonetheless.
Officially serviced to radio in early November, it has taken Top 40 outlets a significant amount of time to give this the debut single from independent artist Erin Bowman a chance at mainstream success. Now five months later, this straight-forward piece of urban-pop is finally gaining some traction with DJs. Similar to Goulding’s Lights, this track too may not have enough momentum to thrust Bowman into the spotlight, but it still deserving of a listen or two.
The third-place finisher on the tenth season of American Idol, jazz-leaning pop artist Haley Reinhart delivers her highly-anticipated debut single to Top 40 radio. Always possessing an interesting voice on the show, Reinhart’s first offering is a winning effervescent piece of piano-pop, a song that allows Reinhart to wail, riff, growl and belt in ways that her fans will identify with perfectly. Radio programmers have been a bit slow to pick this song up for heavy rotation but, given the right promotion, it should bring Reinhart Top 40 success.
About a year to-the-date since On the Floor stormed the mainstream airwaves, Lopez and collaborators RedOne and Pitbull reunite for another dance floor barnburner. This time around, the trio turns up the tempo a bit yet favors the same soaring chorus tailored for international success. While it may be a bit too sound-a-like for some listeners’ palettes, this pulsating sexy single – which already is accompanied by an alluring music video – certainly is geared for tremendous Top 40 success.
Released as the first single off of the Canadian pop phenomenon’s second album Believe, the Mike Posner and Mason Levy produced track marks a musical departure for the quickly-maturing singer. Adorned by R&B-flavored beats and a lower vocal key, Bieber raps, sings and riffs over a sparse drum percussion and an acoustic rhythm. Lyrically, the song has been dismissed by many critics; nevertheless, its interesting production and and improved vocal performance from Bieber make this initial offering a promising introduction for the singer’s upcoming album.
Nearly five years after her feature turn on will.i.am’s solo cut I Got It From My Mama, actress, model, singer and dancer Katerina Graham offers radio her first single as a signed artist to Interscope Records. Produced by newcomers Twice as Nice, this hard-hitting, frantic new single is a hectic amalgamation of clanging percussion, ominous synthesizers and interspersed rapping. While Graham’s singing may be somewhat pedestrian, the single is an exciting three-minute romp that merits a few spins.
After signing a new deal with Columbia Records in July 2011, former American Idol runner-up McPhee has seen her career trajectory on a very positive uptick as of late. Scoring a lead role as Karen Cartwright on the NBC television show Smash, McPhee returns for a play at Top 40 success with Touch Me – a song prominently featured on the aforementioned show. Written by Ryan Tedder, the song is a fun uptempo cut that may not reach the highest chart position, but it won’t be for a lack of catchiness or hooks.
Included as a new offering off of the Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection album re-release, Perry teams-up with frequent production partners Lukasz Gottwald and Max Martin on Wide Awake, a midtempo pop track that features sweetly sung versus and a catchy, building chorus. With single Part of Me still climbing the charts, this song may not see a proper radio release until several week from now. Until then, enjoy its addictive pop melodies and a strong Perry vocal performance.
Serving as the official second single off of sophomore album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, rapper-singer Minaj collaborates with a resurgent Chris Brown on this No Air-similar R&B duet. Featuring production from a fleet of players – Andrew “Pop” Wansel, Oak, JProof and Flip – the track is a fine follow-up to current-hit Starships and will undoubtedly similarly reach the Top 10, but there are greater riches to be mined from Roman Reloaded for future release; stay tuned.
The first single from the official motion picture soundtrack to Men in Black 3, omni-present rapper Armando C. Perez – otherwise known as Pitbull – entertains on this lively cut featuring a fantastic sample of Mickey & Sylvia’s 1956 tune “Love is Strange”. With a memorable looping melody and some serviceable rhymes from Pitbull, expect this offering to achieve some significant airplay in a few weeks time.
Superstar singer-songwriter Taylor Swift offers up the first official single from the soundtrack album The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond, a song she solely wrote and co-produced with frequent collaborator Nathan Chapman. One of the two tracks from Swift for the soundtrack, it has already debuted on the Billboard Pop Songs chart at No. 28, making it Swift’s highest Pop Songs chart debut. In only a few weeks time, rest assured this single is going to climb far higher.
Industry R&B veteran Toni Braxton attempts a career comeback with this self-produced single, a dance-oriented pop track that will be featured on the Heartstrings disc on the singer’s seventh full-length, double-disc album release Heartstrings & Synagogue Vibes. With a passionate vocal, pulsating syncopation and surging chorus, the song deserves to see – but likely will not achieve – Top 40 success. With Braxton’s career on the decline, she will have to offer programmers a track that picks significant punch, a requisite that is nearly met here; time will tell if Braxton can finally re-emerge as a charting force to be reckoned with.
Established R&B artist Trey Songz offers this lead single from fifth studio album Chapter 5, a Benny Blanco and Rico Love production that is defined by impassioned lyric composition and midtempo blipping percussion. Having achieved significant chart success over the past few years, the song will undoubtedly land high on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop chart, with a strong potential for crossover mainstream success. Look forward to the album’s official release later this summer.
Wallpaper.’s co-member Ricky Reed describes himself as “sleazy and excess-obsessed” – a description that’s befitting of this his duo’s first official offering to mainstream radio. Following in the same vain as trailblazing party-rockers LMFAO, the cut is memorable for its absurd lyrical content and thumping electro-beats. It may be an obvious re-tread of Redfoo and SkyBlu, but its catchiness and pop sensibility is undeniable.
British boy band The Wanted follows-up their breakthrough Top 10 Glad You Came success with this Michael Woods production, an equally relentless pop track with a huge hook and a dance-oriented sound. Also serving as the lead UK single from their their third studio album, the release should solidify the group’s crossover success as a leading pop act.