ARTIST: MICHAEL JACKSON
SINGLE: THIS IS IT
The controversy over its origins aside, This Is It -- released October 12 on Michael Jackson's official Web site -- is yet another testament to the fact that the King of Pop was very much full of life when he died. I never heard a single word about you/Falling in love wasn't my plan/I never thought that I would be your lover/Come on please, dear, understand, Jackson belts in his high-pitched, vibrating tenor. His voice is boosted by a medley of gentle violins, jazzy guitar strokes, intermittent finger snaps and horns while a choir chants an escalating series of oohs in the background. This Is It will be included on the soundtrack to Jackson's movie of the same name. He will forever be missed, but releases like this will make his music live on.
ARTIST: BLACK EYED PEAS
SINGLE: MEET ME HALFWAY (Interscope Records)
The third Black Eyed Peas single from The E.N.D. is somewhat of a departure from previous hits Boom Boom Pow and I Gotta Feeling, which collectively spent a record-breaking 26 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100. While the Peas' circa-3008 production aesthetic is still at the forefront, Meet Me Halfway boasts a slightly breezier, more downtempo beat and a vintage Madonna-inspired chorus: Can you meet me halfway/Right at the borderline/Is where I'm gonna wait for you. Fergie elongates each note for a sensual vocal and offers a nice complement to co-producer Will.i.am, who handles the majority of the rhymes over funk guitar, hand claps and distorted pulses. With this track already climbing the Hot 100, the Peas are proving that their hit parade is far from over.
ARTIST: JUSTIN BIEBER
SINGLE: ONE LESS LONELY GIRL (Island Records)
Justin Bieber continues to croon his way into the hearts of tween girls everywhere with his sugary second single, One Less Lonely Girl. Much as he did on his debut single, One Time, Bieber makes a strong case for why he's the next pop/R&B heartthrob. I'm gonna put you first, I'll show you what you're worth/If you let me inside your world, he sings. The stump speech is hard to resist, especially when set to an arrangement that follows the lineage of hit midtempo ballads With You and Irreplaceable. Although the lyrics are generic, Bieber's smooth delivery is right on point, and his tender vocals blend well with the song's easy-flowing beat. With this effort, Bieber keeps building momentum for his November 17 debut album -- and young girls around the world couldn't be happier.
SINGLE: GOTTA GET IT (Atlantic Records)
Juvenile is a pioneer in his own right. The New Orleans rapper enjoyed a slew of Southern bounce hits years before Lil Wayne sold his first millions. Unfortunately, his first official track in three years shows he hasn't evolved as much as one might hope. While the production on Gotta Get It has potential (thanks to its organ synths, double-speed drums and those famous Nolia claps), the track is missing the kind of infectious chorus Juvenile is known for on past favorites like Slow Motion. The rapper's lyrics also are unoriginal, bragging about his yellow Chevy thing with the door up and canaries in the grill, among other material things. Let's hope this is just a warm-up for Juvenile and that, as he raps on Ha, he'll handle his biz on the next one.