Billboard singles reviews: Eminem, Ozzy Osbourne
SINGLE: NOT AFRAID
NEW YORK (Billboard) - No Kim Kardashian barbs here. With "Not Afraid," Eminem seems to have finally recognized that his fans don't need a middling, starlet-bashing lead single from their favorite rapper. The "Recovery" campaign instead begins with a vivid kiss-off whose bloodlines easily trace back to "Lose Yourself," Em's Academy Award-winning "8 Mile" anthem. This time, the Detroit MC fully sings the motivational lyrics, and surprisingly well. "We'll walk this road together, through the storm/Whatever weather, cold or warm," he belts over rolling snares and cinematic strings, supplied by in-demand producer Boi-1da. His rhyming virtuosic as ever, Eminem makes his first verse the most lithe, his second the most self-critical and the third the most personal. "Not Afraid" is somewhat burdened by sing-along cliches, but its revenge-of-the-downtrodden sentiment is a powerful one that should unite all Eminem Stans -- and there are many.
ARTIST: OZZY OSBOURNE
SINGLE: LET ME HEAR YOU SCREAM (Epic Records)
Ozzy Osbourne's first single in three years debuted on "CSI: New York" -- the show's dark and grisly tone made "Let Me Hear You Scream" a fitting choice. Atop a buzz-saw guitar riff (for the first time since 1986, not provided by longtime guitarist Zakk Wylde), Osbourne pulls no punches. "I'm black and blue, beat up and scared," he sings before declaring, "It's do or die, only the strong survive." After a powerful pre-chorus where Osbourne pushes the limits of his vocal range, the track gives way to a disjointed chorus that fails to pack the punch the Prince of Darkness probably intended. "Scream" might have considerably more hard-rock bite than Osbourne's other recent offerings, but it doesn't go anywhere new.
ARTIST: DAVE BARNES
SINGLE: GOD GAVE ME YOU (Razor & Tie)
Dave Barnes has long been one of Nashville's best-kept secrets. A talented pop singer-songwriter with a penchant for writing memorable lyrics, he has an impressive gallery of fans that includes Amy Grant, Bonnie Raitt, Marc Cohn and the members of Lady Antebellum. Barnes' fan base has widened considerably thanks to this eloquent love song, which Christian radio has embraced. Barnes has a warm, engaging voice, and his writing is direct and conversational. Not preachy or treacly, the song's heartfelt sentiment perfectly suits mainstream country radio, and some stations in that genre are already flirting with it. Ultimately, though, it sounds like a big old pop hit. Everyone loves a love song, and "God Gave Me You" has the potential to become a wedding staple for decades to come. Continued...