Things are getting good in pop land right now, real good. This week, we’ve got an incredibly thrilling pop diva-meets-indie-rock collaboration, another incredible offering from the original “Idol,” some slammin’ power pop tracks from girl groups and boy bands across the pond, and the latest offering from the judge’s table of “X Factor USA.”
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1.) Coldplay featuring Rihanna, “Princess of China”
As the band’s first-ever collaboration, there’s been plenty riding on “Princess of China,” Coldplay‘s hotly anticipated track with Barbadian sensation Rihanna as featured on their upcoming studio album due out on Oct. 25, Mylo Xyloto. Luckily, the result was even better than anyone even imagined.
Marching along on a series of hazy synthesizers that play like a cross between an ancient tribal chant and 23rd-century space age jam, RiRi and Martin pass off their woes to one other, painfully mourning the death of a relationship during this fairy tale without a happy ending. “Once upon a time, we weren’t right/All we ever seemed to do is fight,” Martin sadly sings. “I could’ve been a princess; you’d be a king,” Rihanna angrily retorts. Don’t worry, RiRi — maybe you’re not a princess, but you’re a hustler.
As with her current single “We Found Love,” the Barbadian beauty has turned down the sass considerably to provide one of her most startlingly vulnerable and angelic vocals to date. “You really hurt me,” she chokes out as the song comes to a close. And you thought RiRi’s biggest worries in life were picking out chains and whips for her secret dungeon.
It’s a rare occasion in pop, but sometimes the final product matches the sheer epic-ness of the names on paper. This is absolutely one of those times. + LISTEN TO COLDPLAY FEATURING RIHANNA, “PRINCESS OF CHINA”
2.) Kelly Clarkson, “You Love Me”
Kelly Clarkson‘s fifth studio album, Stronger, hits stores next Tuesday, and there’s seriously like, not a single flaw to be found on the entire record. While I’m not about to dedicate my entire Top 5 to Miss Clarkson next week (although this is a serious temptation), I’ve no choice but to spotlight at least a couple of the album’s many gems over the next few weeks.
“You Love Me” is one of the album’s many shining highlights, and perhaps the most anticipated track on the album. During a live webcast for fans last month, Clarkson named the song (which she says took all of 15 minutes to write) as the best track she’s ever written. Obviously, there was a little bit of anticipation surrounding this one.
Much in the same vein as British trio The Sugababes‘ “Ace Reject” (dozens of points to those of you who get that reference!), Clarkson’s heart breaks over a vintage uptempo guitar strum that plays just like The Police‘s “Every Breath You Take.” “You didn’t let me down/You didn’t tear me apart/You just opened my eyes while breaking my heart,” the uber-talented Texan chanteuse cries during the chorus.
The result? While I’m not ready to declare this her very best (you’ll have a tough time convincing me “Sober” doesn’t take the cake for that title, among some others), it’s certainly one of her finest songs ever. + LISTEN TO KELLY CLARKSON, “YOU LOVE ME”
+ Listen to more Must-Hear Pop Songs Of The Week after the jump!
3.) Oh My!, “Dirty Dancer”
Meet Alex & Jade, the two London-based girls better known as rising UK pop duo, Oh My! After unleashing two singles — the big, bossy “Run This Town” and the surging, nearly Daft Punk-like “Kicking & Screaming” — earlier this year, the girls have returned with something new to motivate movement on the dance floor: “Dirty Dancer,” an unbelievably infectious ode to the late actor Patrick Swayze for his role as Johnny Castle in the timeless ’80s favorite, “Dirty Dancing.”
“I want a Patrick Swayze, a dirty dancer/Take my hand, don’t leave me in the corner, baby,” the girls call out on the song’s bouncy, dubstep-speckled chorus. Packed with a crunchy beat and a fierce flow, “Dirty Dancer” is equal parts rowdy and rude. “You think you’re special ’cause you’ve got a special watch but you’re not,” the girls dismiss with a thick British accent, recalling both the delightful sing-song naughtiness of Lily Allen mixed with the gritty spirit of the almighty UK girl group, Girls Aloud. Ouch!
Though they’ve only got three singles so far, Oh My! are quickly proving to be one of the year’s most exciting acts in UK pop today. Not that their power-pop is going unappreciated — the girls have already scored an opening spot on The Saturdays‘ upcoming “All Fired Up” tour coming later this year. + LISTEN TO OH MY!, “DIRTY DANCER”
4.) Nicole Scherzinger, “Try With Me”
Just because she’s been busy getting emotional and jumping up and down delivering standing ovations to contestants as one of the judges on “X Factor USA” doesn’t mean Nicole Scherzinger‘s given up her duties as a newly debuted solo artist.
During some downtime between shooting the show, the former Pussycat Doll stepped into the studio to record “Try With Me,” the Nervo-penned club anthem that will act as the lead single off of the rerelease of her debut album, Killer Love, in the UK. In fact, she even slipped away to the remote jungles of Xilitla, Mexico, to shoot the song’s stunning accompanying video! (And what did YOU do with your day off from work?)
Kicking off with a heartfelt piano-led intro, Scherzy Baby really shows off her diva-size pipes on her latest dance floor stormer. Soon enough, the song’s pulsating beat breaks through: “Why’s it feel like you’re there when you’re already gone?” she belts during the searing chorus. Like her No. 1 UK smash “Don’t Hold Your Breath,” “Try With Me” is a gorgeous combination of pulsating synthesizers and slammin’ vocals, and if she times this one right, there’s no way Scherzy can’t claw her way back to the top overseas. + LISTEN TO NICOLE SCHERZINGER, “TRY WITH ME”
5.) The Wanted, “Lightning”
The Wanted is arguably the UK’s biggest boy band at the moment, and deservedly so. Each single they churn out is nothing short of a perfectly crafted pop ditty that expertly toes the line between boy band schmaltz and masterful electro-pop deliciousness. Ever since their 2010 No. 1 debut “All Time Low,” the group has done nothing but serve smash after smash to UK radio, rapidly becoming one of England’s most in-demand acts. (Don’t believe me? They’re already gearing up for a debut showcase in NYC later this month.)
This week, the mighty fine boys will release “Lightning,” the third single off of their upcoming sophomore album, Battleground. Co-penned and produced by up-and-coming UK singer-songwriter Ed Drewett (whose “Champagne Lemonade” remains one of last year’s best electro-pop ditties), “Lightning” sparkles with pulsating beats and dance-y synths as the guys get all sorts of gushy. “When your lips touch mine, it’s the kiss of life/I know that it’s a little bit frightening, we might as well be playing with lightning,” the boys sing-song before the song explodes into an Ibiza-lite dance breakdown.
Cheesy? Maybe. Infectious? Unbelievably. + LISTEN TO THE WANTED, “LIGHTNING”
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.