By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Gym Class Heroes, "Cupid's Chokehold," from As Cruel as School Children
Of course the MySpace generation was eventually going to want its own fluffy, unthreatening rap group, but that doesn't make this awkward, rhythmless plod any easier to take. It's all pretty dire: the sproinging bass, the ineffectual DJ scratches, the off-kilter acoustic-guitar lurch, the severe guest yelps from Fall Out Boy frontman Patrick Stump. But it's lead Hero Travis McCoy's sub-Atmosphere, wounded-mutter sing-rap that drops "Cupid's Chokehold" beyond Fuse filler and into apocalyptic atrocity. If this turns out to be anything more than a novelty hit, a few of us are going to start missing Crazy Town.
Akon, "Don't Matter," from Konvicted
When Tara Reid humped his leg at Sundance, tabloids called Akon a rapper. It's a dumb mistake but an understandable one, considering his proclivities for jailhouse videos and Snoop Dogg collabos. This warm, likable cartoon-calypso nugget should go a long way toward correcting any misconceptions. Akon hasn't let his guard down like this since "Mr. Lonely," but his autotuned glide here feels completely second-nature. The crooned chorus gives way to a bit of cheery, double-time dancehall patter; he's begging for forgiveness, but there's not even a hint of doubt in his robotic tenor. And when the airy synth-whistles dissolve into the hand-percussion glide of the coda, it could stretch on for hours.
Daughtry, "It's Not Over," from Daughtry
After years of theatrically troglodytic gargle-moans from the likes of Creed and Staind, it's sort of refreshing to hear a post-grunge power ballad that actually hits its marks. American Idol reject and gazillion-selling growler Chris Daughtry might be a hack, but at least he's a professional, and this desperation lament sticks to a satisfying and familiar formula, starting with a dejected mutter and surging into a scenery-chewing lumberjack wail with practiced efficiency. "Let it out/Let it out/Don't get caught up in yourself," he warns on the bridge, and it doesn't even particularly matter what "it" is as long as our lighters are in the air, where they belong.