NEW YORK (Billboard) - If the rest of Taylor Swift’s highly anticipated new album is as strong as its finely crafted lead single, then it’s a sure bet that her career juggernaut will continue.
“Mine” possesses a vibrant energy that perfectly complements her impassioned vocals. As the artist matures personally and professionally, the song demonstrates that she’s successfully making the transition from a teen ingenue writing about high school crushes to a young woman exploring the complexities of adult relationships. Swift is a master at creating memorable lines, and one of the standouts here is, “You made a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter.” By no means is “Mine” so heavy that she’ll lose any of her legion of young fans, yet there’s lyrical substance wrapped in the buoyant melody that shows Swift has the goods to go the distance and continue to broaden her audience.
SINGLE: THE CATALYST (Machine Shop Recordings/Warner Bros. Records)
For the lead single to upcoming fourth album “A Thousand Suns,” Linkin Park offers a nearly six-minute anthem of aggression with two distinct parts. “The Catalyst” lets the band dip its toe into electronica in its first half, with rave-ready blips surrounding Chester Bennington’s dystopian cries. At the three-minute mark, however, the track morphs into a slow, emotional dirge, with Bennington singing, “Lift me up, let me go,” over a beat tailor-made for a stadium’s worth of slow claps. “The Catalyst” recalls Muse’s epic vocal chants as well as Green Day’s political commentary, but Linkin Park creates an original, if a bit awkward, transition from twisty techno to fist-pumping rock. The band’s interesting fusion of ideas — and the fact that “Catalyst” is its first No. 1 debut on Billboard’s Rock Songs chart — proves that Linkin Park still has a few tricks up its sleeve.
SINGLE: DJ GOT US FALLIN’ IN LOVE (LaFace/Jive Label Group)
After just three weeks, Usher has landed another top 10 and potential No. 1 hit with “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love.” The R&B star’s recent chart-topper, “OMG,” reminded everyone that he’s no stranger to tempo, and here he looks to Max Martin and his frequent collaborator Shellback for some extra heat on the dance floor. Pitbull drops his usual party antics, lending an energizing verse and “Dale!” ad-libs. Though the lyrics are repetitive, they’re an accurate reflection of the song’s effect on the listener: “Hands up, and suddenly we all got our hands up/No control of my body.” Usher’s high register fits seamlessly with dance beats, and “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love” should keep clubgoers moving for months to come.
SINGLE: STUCK LIKE GLUE (Mercury Nashville)
Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush of Sugarland are poised for a whopping pop crossover with “Stuck Like Glue,” which has already achieved the chart milestone of highest Billboard Hot 100 debut (No. 20) for a country duo or group. Co-written with Better Than Ezra’s Kevin Griffin and songwriter Shy Carter (Rob Thomas’ “Someday”), the song features Bush’s brother, Brandon, on accordion and creates a Southern comfort vibe with mass appeal. It also taps into the rising trend of reggae-pop — from Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” to Train’s “Hey, Soul Sister” and Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire” — that offers a refreshing alternative to the dance-pop hits dominating the airwaves. The song’s catchy lyrics should keep “pulling you right back in,” and you’ll probably tap along to its beat, too.