ARTIST: CARRIE UNDERWOOD
SINGLE: TEMPORARY HOME
NEW YORK (Billboard) - The second single from Carrie Underwood's chart-topping new album, "Play On," finds the gifted artist switching gears from her feisty previous single to this poignant, finely crafted ballad. Underwood co-wrote the song with Luke Laird and Zac Maloy, and each verse profiles someone facing a challenge, from a young boy to a single mother to a dying old man. Hope reverberates through the scenarios as each character senses that life on Earth is but a temporary trial. Underwood has said that she aimed to reveal more of herself on this album, and her faith shines through here. Vocally, she has never sounded more heartfelt and compelling. "Temporary Home" is a powerful song that's stirring but not preachy, and Underwood's performance is sure to resonate strongly with listeners.
ARTIST: YOUNG MONEY FEATURING LLOYD
SINGLE: BEDROCK (Young Money/Cash Money/Universal Motown)
Lil Wayne long ago established himself as one of the most powerful players in hip-hop, but in the past year he's grown his influence even further with Young Money, his label roster featuring breakout artists Drake and Nicki Minaj. The latest single from the crew's December debut album, "We Are Young Money," turns a vintage '60s cartoon into a sly metaphor. Over a fittingly cheerful beat, featured R&B singer Lloyd croons, "My room is the G-spot/Call me Mr. Flintstone, I can make your bed rock." Drake references Will Ferrell blockbusters and the chorus from Aaliyah's "Are You That Somebody" in his smooth verse, while Minaj revs up the sex appeal with her firecracker delivery. The single is already a hit, but whether Young Money can produce any other budding stars is still up for debate.
ARTIST: NICK JONAS & THE ADMINISTRATION
SINGLE: WHO I AM (Hollywood Records)
Nick Jonas & the Administration don't stray far from the Jonas Brothers -- they, too, play wholesome pop-rock in neat packages. But Jonas' debut single with his new side project differs a bit. Its hook, about the perils of fame, is strikingly honest: "I want someone to love me for who I am," Jonas sings. "I wanna break all the madness, but it's all I have." The song is far more bittersweet than the repertoire with his brothers, with a mellow groove that feels more likely to populate adult contemporary radio formats. Jonas channels John Mayer with vocal rasps and tapestry-weaving guitar riffs. His performance lacks the elder soft-rocker's sophistication, but "Who I Am" still feels authentic and personal, elements that made Jonas Brothers hits like "A Little Bit Longer" so memorable.
ARTIST: ADAM LAMBERT
SINGLE: WHATAYA WANT FROM ME (19/RCA Records)
If Adam Lambert's American Music Awards performance of "For Your Entertainment" proved anything, it was that as an album lead-in, the woozy dance track wasn't going to cut it. Enter "Whataya Want From Me," the glam popster's expedited second single that benefits greatly from subtlety. Lambert keeps his vocals understated, singing over a simple guitar strum and drumbeat that soon develop into a swooping chorus with just the right amount of new wave-esque production. "It's me, I'm a freak/But thanks for lovin' me, 'cause you're doing it perfectly," Lambert sings, delivering lyrics that one can easily imagine co-writer Pink performing. He owns the message, though, imbuing each line with new resonance. If Lambert strikes this balance between flair and substance more often, he might just live up to the hype.
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