This week’s wrap-up is a bit singer-songwriter heavy, featuring lots of gorgeously crooned love songs, cautionary tales and heartbreak anthems.
And then there’s a little Willow Smith, because a weekly wrap-up without a hair whip is not a weekly wrap-up worth writing.
Credit: Getty Images, Laura Crosta, iamlights.com
1.) Kelly Clarkson, “What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger)”
Last month, Kelly Clarkson decided to show us a softer, more tender side (well, still angsty–never forget angsty) on “Mr. Know It All,” the gorgeous lead single from her upcoming fifth studio album, Stronger. But after a brief foray into Bruno Mars-like territory, she’s coming back swingin’ again with the title track off of her new record, “What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger).”
After an early version of the song made its way to the web a couple months ago, the Texas-bred powerhouse vocalist decided to take it upon herself to upload the real thing to her YouTube account last week. As for the final version? Utterly MASSIVE: Featuring chilly electronic instrumentation, some signature fire-breathing Clarkson lyrics (“You know the bed feels warmer sleeping here alone”), and one of her most defiant, fist-clenching choruses since “Since U Been Gone.” + LISTEN TO KELLY CLARKSON, “WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU (STRONGER)”
2.) Emeli Sandé featuring Naughty Boy, “Daddy”
Scottish singer-songwriter Emeli Sandé‘s had a pretty astounding skyrocket to fame over the past few years: After taking a break from studying neuroscience at Glasgow University (clearly very unambitious), Sandé made her move into the music industry through songwriting, penning tracks for massive UK acts including Cheryl Cole, Chipmunk and Tinie Tempah.
Earlier this year, the singer released her debut single “Heaven,” a majestic drum ‘n’ bass masterpiece that zoomed to No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart. Now the singer returns this fall with another gorgeous melody, “Daddy.” Once again produced by frequent collaborator Naughty Boy, the song finds Sandé cautioning the song’s subject against a no-good mystery man. “You’re looking like you really like him, like him,” she warns against such a swell of dramatic strings and damning bells that might as well be the theme song to the next James Bond flick. It’s two for two for Sandé now — an artist rapidly becoming the one to watch in 2012. + LISTEN TO EMELI SANDE FEATURING NAUGHTY BOY, “DADDY”
+ Listen to more Must-Hear Pop Songs Of The Week after the jump!
3.) Lights, “Siberia”
Last week, Canadian singer-songwriter Lights released her second studio album Siberia. Like a cross somewhere between the dreamy, folk-infused electro-pop of Ellie Goulding and the hazy electronica of Empire Of The Sun (and even a touch the gritty over-driven beats of Sleigh Bells), Lights’ second effort is a gorgeous collection of hook-heavy electro-pop tunes.
Coated by hazy, surging beats and stinging electronica, the album’s title track “Siberia” finds the honey-voiced crooner dreaming of taking up and traveling far, far away with her beau. “We’ll find ways to fill the empty, far from all the hysteria/I don’t care if we suddenly find ourselves in Siberia,” the singer earnestly croons. Aww! It’s hard to imagine a place this song wouldn’t warm a heart, even in Siberia. + LISTEN TO LIGHTS, “SIBERIA”
4.) Rachael Yamagata, “Dealbreaker”
Indie songstress Rachael Yamagata is responsible for some of the most haunting ballads of the past few years. Chances are you’ve seen some of her hits already, including “I’ll Find A Way” and “Worn Me Down,” tucked into the soundtracks of popular shows like “The O.C.” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Now, with the support of her fans via PledgeMusic, the singer is independently releasing her third studio album this week, Chesapeake. Recorded in the converted home studio of producer John Alagia (quite literally converted — microphones in the shower and all!), Yamagata’s latest record is yet another stunning, heartfelt offering from the soulful songstress.
“Dealbreaker,” the fifth track off the record, is one of the album’s most arresting moments, as Yamagata hits the open road in search of everything she meant to do with someone that’s no longer in the picture. “But all of this means nothing without you,” Yamagata painfully resigns on the bluesy, slow-sauntering ballad. The singer’s smoky vocals meshes effortlessly against the song’s wandering and desolate melody, resulting in an instant tearjerker and of one of Yamagata’s finest works to date. + LISTEN TO RACHAEL YAMAGATA, “DEALBREAKER”
5.) Willow Smith featuring Nicki Minaj, “Fireball”
After debuting last year with “Whip My Hair,” the massive anthem that forced all haters to flee (and the rest of us into a hospital with a severe care of whiplash), pint-size pop star/10-year-old wunderkind Willow Smith is blazing back with “Fireball,” a big, bossy hip-pop jam.
Much like her worldwide smash debut, her latest single is a brag-a-licious banger full of big beats and an even bigger attitude: “I’m the fireball of the party,” Willow chants during the chorus. It’s a smash hit for sure, though it does beg the question: What party is she even talking about?! When I was 10, I was fighting off some monster in braces for an extra slice of ice cream cake at my birthday at the local YMCA.
Featuring a fiery verse by the woman of many voices (and wigs), Miss Nicki Minaj, “Fireball” just continues to drive the point home — Willow is already 10 times more talented, stylish and successful than you or I will ever be. + LISTEN TO WILLOW SMITH FEATURING NICKI MINAJ, “FIREBALL”
Bradley Stern is a writer from Connecticut. In his spare time, he enjoys organizing his Britney Spears CD collection in reverse chronological order and plotting the various ways in which he will bring down Katy Perry to become Rihanna’s best friend. But most of all, he spends his time tweeting and musing daily about pop music on his blog, MuuMuse.