NEW YORK (Billboard) - ARTIST: JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE, SINGLE: SUMMER LOVE - Timberlake's previous single, "What Goes Around . . . Comes Around" lived up his reputation as rhythmic-pop's main man, and "Summer Love" is no doubt destined to be fourth in line from his album "FutureSex/ LoveSounds" to ride to the crest of top 40. However, while the track offers cunning instrumentation, Timbaland's heavy production hand is so overwhelming that the singer is pushed to the back of the track, with so much vocal layering that it could be any Tom, Dick or Harry at the mic. The synthesizer hook is lustily catchy -- but who's headlining here, producer or artist? It doesn't matter. Artistic achievement or not, anything with J-Tim's name attached is solid gold, as his heroic stature inches ever upward.
Budding adult-contemporary artist Lisa Palleschi is a bit of a paradox. While "I Wanna See You Cry" is a penetrating, keenly produced prototypical power ballad, there are occasional glitches in the quality of her vocal -- moments where she simply misses her mark. Repeated listens endear it to the ear, particularly given its melodic comeliness . . . but her greatest talent may be in songwriting. Palleschi's ultimate fame may come from offering such songs to Celine Dion, whose fourth-quarter 2007 album would take it to another level.
Soulful songstress Sunshine Anderson had early success with 2001 gold debut "Your Woman," but has not matched sales with second effort "Sunshine at Midnight." New single "Force of Nature" exposes Anderson's masterful songwriting, as she muses over love for a man who doesn't match the standards of her overachieving parents. Listeners can relate to placing happiness and compatibility over parental consent. Following in the successful paths of Corrine Bailey Ray and Jennifer Hudson, Anderson should make an impact as a renewed "Force of Nature" for R&B soul.
With enduring radio hit "Chasing Cars" still ringing in our ears, U.K. quintet Snow Patrol hands over a new track from the "Spider-Man 3" soundtrack. Understanding that with great power comes great sensitivity, "Signal Fire" reveals Spidey's vulnerable side, and all the humanity hidden behind the mask. A powerful love song written in the first person, it features a superhero's confessions: "I felt every ounce in me screaming out/But the sound was trapped in me." It would be easy to over-sing the dramatic, arena-seeking chorus, but frontman Gary Lightbody delivers starry-eyed vocals like someone wholly unimpressed with special effects.
Cascada, which scored last year with top 10 dance anthem "Everytime We Touch," has all intention of reminding top 40 of its charms. This time, it's a cover of Savage Garden's 1997 No. 1 "Truly Madly Deeply," already a colossal Euro smash. On the album, the song is cast as a tranquil ballad, but here it is remixed as a techno-beat bevy, reminiscent of vocalist Natalie Horler's "Touch." The CD single offers no fewer than 10 rerubs to seduce dancefloors, while the song's inherent familiarity offers top 40 a no-brainer. Europe is already a world ahead in 2007 with a collective of acts bringing bite back to FM radio.
Among the million or so "American Idol" finalists to score on various charts, season five's Chris Daughtry is the only one to be embraced by so many formats with first single "It's Not Over," including rock, for the first time. The band's follow-up, "Home," fires up another anthemic rock power ballad, with a lyric dedicated to U.S. troops overseas, a la, "I'm going home to a place I belong/Where your love has always been enough for me." Considering his sure-shot, flame-throwing vocal, name-brand cachet and mass appeal via a No. 1 album -- not to mention the song's use as the exit theme each week on "A.I." -- "Home" is undeniably where America's heart is.
Rock quartet Nicola could make Evanescence bow in reverence, given the grit and grimace of lead singer and band namesake Nicola. Despite fist-waving bravado, she offers a distinguished brag sheet. After graduating from New York's Fiorello LaGuardia School of Performing Artists, Nicola worked in Nashville and Argentina as frontwoman, guitarist-for-hire and Broadway performer. "Lighthouse" trades between a canvas of inky melodic goth featuring the impetuous clamor of high-octane guitars, against passages of plucky acoustic strumming, as she vocally segues from vocal roar to refined rustle. It's an all-in-one track offering unadulterated pop/rock mastery, alongside the hearty intelligence of 11-track, radio-ready "Don't Take It Personally."