Almost Home - Mariah Carey (4/5). Mariah's last... let's call it a "buzz single" (like so many underperforming buzz singles are so shamelessly labelled) "Triumphant" may have turned out a dud to both the ears and the charts--this new effort "Almost Home," the soundtrack for Disney's Oz the Great and Powerful film, is distinctively better. First, she sings on more than just the chorus and the bridge. And second, her vocal is mesmerising--layered over prominent beats and a great melody. Pop radio may be reluctant, but my ears say it's a winner.
When I Was Your Man - Bruno Mars (4/5). Since I've been away for so long, you probably wouldn't know that I wasn't too fond of Mars' last single "Locked Out of Heaven." But its follow-up, "When I Was Your Man," is slice of irresistible, lush balladry. Poignant piano chords wallow in the backdrop as Mars swoons desperately with those sweet melancholic lyrics.
Mirrors - Justin Timberlake (4/5). "Suit & Tie" was slick '70s inspired soul, but a little damp for a comeback single. This new single hits the mark a little better. A thick beat-box backed, beat heavy number, topped with soft electronic guitar chords and swooning strings. It's Timberlake's fourth UK #1.
Thrift Shop - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (3.5/5). The first independent single to reach #1 on the Hot 100 since "Stay (I Missed You)" by Lisa Loeb back in '95. It's a hilarious little kinetic hand clap and horn backed ditty, but unfortunately, also reeks of one-hit-wonder, but who knows.
I Could Be the One - Avicii vs Nicky Romero (3/5). The last we heard of Avicii, he'd scored his first UK #1 with the Etta James sampling "Levels." Now he's back with the even more intensely synth-charged dance number, scoring his third top five single.
Scream & Shout - will.i.am & Britney Spears (3/5). Yes, it's a little too late for this one, but why not. It's a shame it took such a generic synth-driven number to score will.i.am his first worldwide mega-hit and Britney her first #1 in the UK since 2004's "Everytime."
One Way or Another (Teenage Kicks) - One Direction (2.5/5). This isn't particuarly bad. In fact, it sounds the majority of their other singles, despite it being a cover. If anything, a little unspired, but they probably weren't going for inspired anyway. It's their third #1.
Harlem Shake - Baauer (2/5). After watching most of the viral videos, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the song (or instrumental rather) that had become a sort of ear-worm for the last few weeks, was an actual full-fledged 3 minute song. But once you've heard the first minute, you've heard it all.