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Melanie Martinez – Toxic

Melanie Martinez’s folk-inspired rendition of Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” which was originally performed on the Sept. 17 episode of The Voice Season 3, is quite possibly one of the rare cases of a cover version not just improving on the original, but being so good that it stands well on its own, making the original obsolete.

The original version of Toxic was nothing special. The song was too simple, and does not justify even Spears’ limited vocal prowess. What it has going for it is the thumping, heavy beats framed by a gritty guitar hook. With Melanie Martinez’ version, it is the opposite – the slightly-danceable, rock riff is gone. What’s left in place is an acoustic guitar and a tambourine serving as backup. However, Martinez compensates for the thinner sonic framework by replacing Spears’ barely-considered-as-singing parts with a soulful, melodic, and ranged performance that brings the song to places that Spears can never reach even on her prime.

There are actually two versions of Melanie Martinez’ cover of Toxic. The first is the one she originally performed on The Voice, which only had an acoustic guitar and a tambourine as a backup, making it more rooted in folk, while the other version, dubbed as the Studio Version, has a more sophisticated and polished backup, resulting in the song sounding like something from Kelly Dayton-era Sneaker Pimps.

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Nicki Minaj – Va Va Voom

Va Va Voom is the first single from the UK an International release of Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded – The Re Up album. The song was originally intended to be the lead in single for the standard release of Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, but was passed over in favor of Starships.

Va Va Voom contains influences of dubstep, but is at its heart a simple electropop and electonic dance song that features the Trinidadian singer Nicki Minaj’s trademark radio friendly rap and dance melodies. The song’s lyrics is once again full of double entendres, which seems to be a mainstay of Minaj’s bag of tricks, with the song’s title itself referring to sexual activity towards a male.

Despite the risqué subject of its lyrics, Va Va Voom received praise from music critics, probably because nobody really cares about the messages in a Nicki Minaj song, or that nobody really understood what she was saying. The key takeaway is that Va Va Voom is a good crossover between hip hop and pop, extremely catchy, and radio friendly. Best of all, it’s easy to dance to…and when it comes to dance music, sometimes that’s all that really matters.

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Bruno Mars – Locked Out of Heaven

Locked Out of Heaven is the lead single from Bruno Mars’ upcoming sophomore album titled Unorthodox Jukebox, which is slated for a December 11 release. The song was first launched by the crooner in his Google+ Hangout last October 1, with fans from around the world listening in via the Internet (Mars’ seems to be part of the new breed of artists who know how to take advantage of social media in order to develop more intimate bonds with fans.)

Locked Out of Heaven shows that Bruno Mars has not strayed away from the things that made him such a success with female listeners – it still features his smooth, melodic vocals that don’t rely on fancy studio magic to stay in tune, and lyrics that describe a wide range of emotions involved with falling in love.

As for the song, Mars has opted for a different, 80s-like aura. In fact, a lot of listeners have compared Locked Out of Heaven to a Sting, or Outfield song. The music video for the song further underscores the 80s vibe, as it features a slightly stylistic yet vintage style similar to a VHS tape, with Mars singing the song with his band, interspersed with shots of him having a good time with his friends.

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Girls Aloud – Something New

Great news! English-Irish girl group Girls Aloud is back, albeit temporarily. After going their separate ways in 2009 to pursue individual careers, the sophisticated group comes together with their producer Xenomania and Something New is their newest single from their second greatest hits compilation 10.

Something New is reminiscent of their past dance hits, however seeing the women back together after what felt like an eternity, gives the song as fresher take. Although the formula is the same, the song successfully recaptured Girls Aloud fans. Debuted on Capital FM on October 16, 2012, Something New was officially released more than a month later. Within a month, the fans were given the opportunity to download the track before it was even released that by the time Something New was officially released, it has found itself sitting comfortably on the #2 in the UK iTunes Top 20 song list.

Majority of the critics warmly welcomed the group saying Something New was fresh and familiar at the same time. This is a good thing for the group seeing that they need to refresh people’s memory of them. However, other critics frowned upon the unusual lyric and music structure that Something New has. \\. On the other hand, the dance melody does feature scattered voices trying but failing to blend smoothly. At some point you realize you are listening to screaming instead of singing. Nevertheless, listening to the feminine powered track makes you want to cheer on the powerful women.

No matter what happens, Girls Aloud should be thankful to their forgiving fans. If only they forget parting ways again and just stick around for a while they could make another great album.

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Bruno Mars – Locked Out Of Heaven

Retro with funky vibe best describes Locked Out Of Heaven. The track, taken from American singer-songwriter Bruno Mars’s sophomore album Unorthodox Jukebox, was released on the 1st day of October 2012. Since then the groovy song has been busy climbing up the music charts peaking at #4 on US Billboard Hot 100 and #2 on the UK Singles.

Critics gave Locked Out Of Heaven positive reviews acknowledging the New Wave influences of the 80s. The song showcases Mars’ smooth voice and talent. Although there are points in the track that makes you ache for something more, especially in the refrain, the melody is redeemed by the refined and intelligent lyrics that are becoming a rarity at this day and age. Bruno Mars’ restraint whether intentional or not is refreshing and certainly inviting.

Continuing its vintage theme, the music video of Locked Out Of Heaven features a fun take on the old music videos of the 70s and 80s. Some fan comments even note how the entire feel of the song is reminiscent of Sting and the Police.

If Bruno Mars’ latest single is a taste of what’s coming from his sophomore album then then it’s safe to say: we can hardly wait.

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Christina Perri – A Thousand Years

A Thousand Years is the second single from the movie soundtrack of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1. Of course, as the film’s following installment rolls around, A Thousand Years is re-recorded and released with the new installment’s movie soundtrack as well.

A Thousand Years is a song by the melancholic Christina Perri. The talented Perri sang the song this time with actor and singer Steve Kazee. Perri, a talented yet underrated singer has this distinct soothing voice that seems sad at times despite the optimistic theme of the lyrics. She delivers a pacifying pop song that seems to lull you to sleep. Not to say that the song is boring, in fact, A Thousand Years has an interesting poetry that sticks with you like bubble gum. It starts of as a sappy and romantic ode to long awaited love, similar to lines you’re get from a cheesy guy despite the very feminine voice. But then again, this should be expected considering this single is part of the cheesiest movie this decade.

However, as other critics say, give it chance and somewhere in the middle of the melody, you will definitely find the song’s redeeming parts.  At some point, you find yourself hypnotized by Perri’s lulling voice and paired with classical piano and string instruments; it will give you a sense of being cultured and refined.  A Thousand Years may not force you to love the vampire movie, but at least for a time, you will want to believe in soul mates.

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Blackstreet Ft. Dr. Dre & Queen Pen – No Diggity

The song that finally kicked that nasty Macarena off the Billboard Charts, No Diggity was a welcome liberator as far as the music industry is concerned. Too long has the masses been held captive by the tyrannical Macarena, that people rejoiced when Blackstreet gave a chill and cool track to bump and grind with.

Released in the midsummer of 1996, people just couldn’t get enough of No Diggity that it quickly rose up in the charts peaking at #1 in the US Billboard Hot 100 and Canada’s RPM Dance Chart and #9 in the UK. Everyone were overjoyed when No Diggity finally took the #1 spot from Macarena in November 9, 1996.

And probably because of people just waking up from the Macarena slumber, No Diggity’s censored lyrics were easily forgiven and even relished. In 1998, the song was nominated for the Grammy’s Best R&B Song but lost to R Kelly’s I Believe I Can Fly. On the other hand, the track won Blackstreet a Grammy for Best R&B Performance.

The provocative beat and lyrics proved to be a dangerous mix as more than a decade later, No Diggity proves its enduring power by making it to the list of 100 Greatest Pop Songs for both Rolling Stones and MTV.

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Adele – Rumour Has It

Aside from Adele’s massive hit Rolling in the Deep, she considers Rumour Has It as one of the two angriest tracks from her album. And although the song was only released in March 2012 as the last single from her sophomore album 21, it was already hitting the top of the charts months before.

Rumour Has It is a collaboration of Adele and song writer/producer Ryan Tedder. Together with Tedder’s penchant for lively percussion tracks and Adele’s signature bluesy voice, this very personal message resulted in an incredibly catchy sound reminiscent of girl bands of the 60’s. Listening to it makes you expect to see talented beehive haired women our parents used to listen to.

Listening to the song makes you feel like you’re in a rollercoaster where one minute you’re engrossed with Adele’s raspy voice the next you feel you heart drop and beat with the drums as she goes on the chorus.

The critics’ receptions were generally positive and although there were some who found the song too creepy or dark, both sides found Adele’s classy rant about her friends believing in rumours incredibly intriguing. Topping the charts even before it was formally released is a good enough proof that majority of the listeners certainly did not mind listening to Adele rant.

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Tracy Chapman – Fast Car

Sometimes the fate of song falls entirely on luck. Such is the tale of Tracy Chapman’s iconic Fast Car. The autobiographical song’s success can be attributed to her unplanned performance at Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday tribute in 1988. Although she was on the afternoon segment of the concert, the then relatively unknown Chapman was squeezed into the evening show after Stevie Wonder’s flight was delayed. Chapman was given the chance to perform Fast Car for the main event.

From there, the song rose to the charts where it found itself on the US Hot 100 and UK Top 10 charts peaking at 6th and 4th respectively.  In the same year, Fast Car won Chapman the Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

In 2011, the song found renewed popularity when it was performed by Britain’s Got Talent contestant Michael Collings eventually reaching the same spot in the UK Top 10 as it did in 1988. In addition, Rolling Stone recently acknowledged Fast Car as one of the greatest songs of all time, ranking it at 165.

Although essentially received by critics with mixed reviews, Fast Car clearly shows Chapman’s musical and narrative talent. That the magnificent track continues to endure two decades later is a great testament to that fact.

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Aerosmith – I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing

There are times when you hear a song, you’re torn between lying down and hugging your fluffiest pillow or running outside and just start randomly killing just for the heck of it. I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing is such as song. It inspires you to either hug or kill the next person you see.

I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing is a song written by Diane Warren for the 1998 movie Armageddon. It was decently performed by the crazy American rock band Aerosmith. The song was actually the band’s first track which debuted number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and managed to stay on top for several weeks.

The song was so popular it quickly became number one all over the world and was even nominated for an Oscar. But of course, being popular doesn’t make it a great song. The Aerosmith song is moving, heartfelt and but so cheesy that by the end of the year, you feel Steven Tyler’s passionate screeching bleed your ears dry.

Today, it is a videoke classic, a good enough reason to avoid videoke bars altogether. However, there’s no denying that no matter how annoying the song is, secretly, people wouldn’t mind hearing it again. Preferably in a place where there are no people to kill.