ARTIST: MILEY CYRUS
SINGLE: PARTY IN THE U.S.A.
The heated online debate about Miley Cyrus' Teen Choice Awards performance of Party in the U.S.A. threatens to overshadow one of her most entertaining songs yet. The loose, reggae-powered pop tune -- appearing on an August 31 mini-album exclusive to Walmart -- is Cyrus' take on growing up in the Hollywood spotlight: It's definitely not a Nashville party/'Cause all I see are stilettos/I guess I never got the memo. Lukasz Dr. Luke Gottwald and Claude Kelly (Kelly Clarkson's My Life Would Suck Without You) share writing credits with online singing sensation Jessica Cornish, and producer Gottwald injects the song with an energy recalling Robyn and early Gwen Stefani. After successfully tackling dance and country formats and delivering one of the year's strongest ballads (The Climb), Cyrus continues to show off her impressive range.
SINGLE: CELEBRATION (Warner Bros. Records)
Madonna's latest single won't start any new trends, but it does return the singer to her dance-floor roots. Come join the party ... 'cause everybody wants to party with you, she sings on Celebration, the title track and one of a reported two new songs on her best-of set that's due September 29. A notable assist comes courtesy of trance DJ/producer Paul Oakenfold, who co-wrote and co-produced the buoyant stomper. He supplies a surging beat that could easily have been lifted from the star's Confessions on a Dance Floor period (Hung Up, Sorry,) but can be traced even further back to her 1992 hit Deeper and Deeper. The melody, meanwhile, recalls her last single, 4 Minutes, in its urgency. Consider Celebration a score for Madonna's retro-futuristic fan base and a nice bookend to her collection of chart glories.
ARTIST: MICHAEL FRANTI & SPEARHEAD
SINGLE: SAY HEY (I LOVE YOU) (Anti-)
After two-plus decades in the industry and 15 years performing with his band Spearhead, Michael Franti is breaking the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time with one of the most-requested songs on radio. Say Hey (I Love You) -- from the album All Rebel Rockers, released almost a year ago -- has a feel-good, hand-clapping rhythm and a positive message about life's journey. The legendary Jamaican production team Sly & Robbie infuses the song with elements of reggae and funk as well as a touch of hip-hop. Everything is in place for a hit, from the sing-along melody to the lively piano and group-vocal outbursts. Having pioneered social humanitarianism in his own brand of music, Franti and his band are finally getting their due and having a good time while they're at it.
ARTIST: JENNI RIVERA
SINGLE: OVARIOS (Fonovisa)
Corridos, or narrative regional Mexican songs, have mostly been the provenance of male artists. But Jenni Rivera does it her way on Ovarios, using a corrido melody to start up a snarling beef with her rivals. The hook cleverly uses ovaries as a replacement for cojones (the male anatomical equivalent of courage, as in English), and La Diva de la Banda, as Rivera is known, even throws in a biatch at the end for good measure. Naturally, this has ratcheted up the controversy between the singer and her critics, even prompting a public response by Graciela Beltran, aka La Reina de la Banda. That may explain the song's popularity -- Ovarios recently debuted at No. 22 on Billboard's Hot Latin Songs chart -- but as a single, it's far from the bold, fun, sexy, sassy swing of the rest of Rivera's repertoire.
SINGLE: UPRISING (Warner Bros. Records)
The first song Muse leaked from its upcoming album, The Resistance, was the Queen-emulating United States of Eurasia, but it's now clear that Uprising will be the lead single. The song's persistent bass and driving snare, synched to cries of Oi!, give it a collectivist stadium-chant vibe. Still, it's hard to imagine a song less likely to be sung at an actual protest. The hook is part Billy Idol's White Wedding, part Blondie's Call Me, while the chorus -- They will not force us/They will stop degrading us/They will not control us/We will be victorious -- is a nearly note-for-note quote of ABBA's Lay All Your Love on Me. The track's dense energy is likely to make it a dance-floor event, but intended or not, there's a bit too much parody to take this Uprising completely seriously.