Britney Spears "3"
Whether it's good, bad or ugly, a Britney Spears song always sounds like it was cobbled together on an assembly line. Organic is so not in her musical vocabulary. This, the sole new track on her second hits compilation, The Singles Collection (November 10), and her third No. 1 single, is no different. But you've gotta hand it to Britney and her assembly-line personnel: It takes a whole lot of something to make a song about a threesome sound like a nursery rhyme.
Robbie Williams "Bodies"
I've always loved Robbie Williams more for his sex appeal than for his music, which, truth be told, has never been all that remarkable. His first single in nearly three years from the upcoming Reality Killed the Video Star (November 9) is sort of charmless, artless and tuneless, and it makes the recent announcement that he's rejoined Take That sound like the best career move ever.
The Black Eyed Peas "Meet Me Halfway"
When you're coming off the best and worst singles of your career ("Boom Boom Pow" and "I Gotta Feeling," respectively), there's pretty much no place to go but sideways. The BEPs know how to craft catchy, but at some point it would be nice to hear them dig a little deeper than "Hey, girl, what's up? We used to used to be just me and you." So simpleton in an Ace Of Base kind of way that it makes you wonder if English is the first language of the songwriters involved.
Carrie Underwood "Cowboy Casanova" and "Mama's Song"
I prefer Carrie Underwood in sexy and sassy mode ("Before He Cheats," "Wasted," "Last Name"). "Cowboy Casanova," the first single from her forthcoming Play On album (November 3), falls squarely into that category. It's basically fiddles and a twang tacked onto a song that sounds like it escaped from a Shania Twain album. But since I love fiddles and twangs and Shania, it suits me just fine. "Mama's Song," the apparent second single is more in the "Don't Forget To Remember Me" vein. It's a tad snoozy, but even on her sappiest day (and this would be one of them), Carrie can sing circles around Taylor Swift.
John Mayer "Who Says"
It's a shame about John's tabloid behavior because it sometimes threatens to overshadow what is actually considerable musical talent. And if you doubt that the guy can deliver the musical goods, listen to "No Such Thing" or "Dreaming With A Broken Heart." His excellent new song from the album Battle Studies (November 17) has more in common with the latter, but it's looser and sparer, more somber and hushed, with a throwback folky singer-songwriter vibe (think Paul Simon or Michael Penn) that's a lot more country than either of the Carrie Underwood singles. Oh, and he looks smoking hot in the video (below).