Short takes on five recent or otherwise notable singles:
Mariah Carey, “Almost Home” (from “Oz: The Great and Powerful”)
Given the title and the source, you’d expect a maudlin ballad, but Mimi’s contribution to the upcoming “Oz” soundtrack is a thoroughly modern production with whirring electronic flourishes and an up-tempo beat. After some awkward instances of Auto-Tune in the opening verse, it’s the chorus where Carey takes off, and her high-flying runs in the song’s closing moments are classic Mariah. Get ready to hear this one a lot.
Phoenix, “Entertainment” (from “Bankrupt!”)
There’s a bit of “Turning Japanese” in the French popsters’ return, but elsewhere they’re just as bouncy as ever, with rubbery guitars and wobbly bass rhythms leading to explosive dance rock ecstasy.
Usher, “Go Missin’” (single)
The last time Usher teamed up with producer Diplo, they made the devastating breakup jam “Climax,” but this time they’re out to steal your girl. Usher comes on to a woman whose man was foolish enough to leave her alone for the evening, and Diplo’s disorienting bed of drum machines and spiky synths add to the libidinous feel of the track. This is a gloriously weird collaboration from two pop risk takers who bring out the best in one another. More, please.
The Strokes, “All the Time” (from “Comedown Machine”)
A more traditional offering than the new wave freak-out “One Way Trigger,” this upbeat track finds Julian Casablancas and his mates in vintage Strokes mode, complete with Casablancas’ slightly mumbly lyrics that sound piped in from another room. Not as daring or experimental as its predecessor, but not everything has to reinvent everything that came before it.
Ghost B.C., “Secular Haze” (from “Infestissumam”)
The Swedish metal dudes deal in some pretty dark material, but their trick is they disguise it in the thick haze of stoner rock, making it go down much smoother than barked, pummeling doom metal. They manage to make the end of days sound pretty mellow, all things considered.