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.
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.
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.
SINGLE: PYRAMID (Reprise Records)
Charice has long counted Oprah Winfrey as one of her biggest fans, but the 18-year-old captured a global audience in 2009 with her easy-listening ballad “Note to God.” On “Pyramid,” Charice — with help from Iyaz — delivers a radio-friendly number about defying the odds while displaying the kind of vocal range that other budding pop stars simply don’t have. Written by a large group of mostly young songwriters, “Pyramid” ultimately sounds believable because of Charice’s conviction in her delivery. “Pyramid, we built this on a solid rock/It feels just like it’s heaven’s touch/Together at the top, like a pyramid,” she sings. An already high-charting dance mix loops Charice’s “oh, oh, oh” runs to crank up the energy even further. Like any strong pop song, expect this one to scale multiple charts.
SINGLE: EVERYBODY IN LOVE (101 Distribution)
JLS rose to U.K. fame when it competed on the 2008 season of “The X Factor,” then followed its runner-up finish by dominating the singles and albums charts. Now, the group is bringing its harmonies stateside with the infectiously rhythmic “Everybody in Love.” The chorus recalls hits by ‘90s male R&B groups like Boyz II Men and All-4-One, as JLS yearns in unison for a long-distance love: “‘Cause every minute’s like an hour, every hour’s like a day/Every day lasts forever, but what else am I gonna do/I’d wait forever and a day for you.” Vocals take center stage, wrapping around an understated drumbeat. Already spinning on top 40 WHTZ New York, “Everybody in Love” is destined to make a splash this side of the Atlantic.
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