Locked Out of Heaven (3:54)

Producer: Mark Ronson

Writers: B. Mars, the Smeezingtons

Publishers: various


With Gotye busy channeling Peter Gabriel, 2012 seemed overdue for a Police tribute. Leave it to Bruno Mars, then, for this revved-up take on Sting and company's "Zenyatta Mondatta"-era days, complete with authentically retro production from Mark Ronson. "Swimming in your world is something spiritual/I'm born again every time you spend the night/Cuz your sex takes me to paradise," Mars sings on the carnal cut. "Locked Out of Heaven" is a welcome stylistic change from the sound Mars shaped on 2010's "Doo-Wops & Hooligans", which now seems overly familiar thanks to the endless covers on shows like "The Voice" and "The X Factor." His latest cut boasts an unmistakably powerful vocal and the dramatic percussion fans have come to expect after mega-hits like "Grenade" and "It Will Rain." It's just the right amount of cheeky fun one can expect from the man who named his forthcoming sophomore disc "Unorthodox Jukebox".- AH


Diamonds (3:45)

Producers: Stargate, Benny Blanco

Writers: S. Furler, B. Levin, M. S. Eriksen, T. E. Hermansen

Publishers: EMI Blackwood Music/Matza Ballzack Music/Where Da Kasz At (BMI), EMI April Music (ASCAP)


After releasing a string of hit singles from "Talk That Talk", Rihanna has issued a decidedly calmer, more confident extension of "We Found Love" as the first taste of her upcoming seventh full-length. Last year, fans heard her sing about "Yellow diamonds in the light" as a dance beat grew steadily in the background, but unlike "We Found Love," these new diamonds never crescendo into a massive bass drop. "Diamonds" flows in a way that resembles Drake's "Take Care," with pianos and tribal drums maintaining an emphasis over the electronic assistance. Rihanna once found love in a hopeless place, and now the singer and her lover "shine bright tonight...beautiful like diamonds in the sky," as strings complement the echoing vocals. Co-written by Sia Furler, who most recently lent her talents to David Guetta's "Titanium" and Flo Rida's "Wild Ones," "Diamonds" doesn't resemble Rihanna's previous solo work and that turns out to be good thing. This is a different gem, and its subtleties make it shine brighter. -LW


Skyfall (4:46)

Producer: Paul Epworth

Writers: Adele, P. Epworth

Publishers: Universal-Songs of PolyGram International/EMI Blackwood Music (BMI)/EMI Music Publishing (PRS)


There seems to be two ways to go for a James Bond theme: considerably dated pop or timeless torch song. Not surprisingly, Adele opted for the latter with her "Skyfall" theme. Not only is it a gorgeously cinematic opus featuring a 77-piece orchestra and pristine production, its lyrics aren't spy nonsense. Historically, artists that create 007 themes that reflect current pop trends, like Madonna and Duran Duran, have fared better chart-wise than those who channeled the classic Bond sound established by Shirley Bassey, Nancy Sinatra and Tom Jones. Considering that Adele's established sound is rooted in blue-eyed soul, however, her sophisticated channeling of Bassey will likely work in her favor. If "Skyfall" invades the upper reaches of the Billboard Hot 100, it will be the only song of its kind on pop radio -- a testament to Adele's uniqueness. -JM



Been Away Too Long (3:36)

Producers: Adam Kasper, Soundgarden

Writers: C. Cornell, B. Shepherd

Publishers: You Make Me Sick I Make Music/Noyes Inneroutter (ASCAP)

Seven Four Entertainment/Republic

Chris Cornell starts the first new album single from Soundgarden in 15 years by declaring, "You can't go home," but this blast of jagged energy proves the Seattle band can indeed take up the sonic residence it once had -- and redecorate a little bit at the same time. Penned by Cornell and bassist Ben Shepherd, "Been Away Too Long" is dynamic and punchy, firing full throttle from guitarist Kim Thayil's opening riff through an industrial-toned middle break and pausing only for an a cappella recitation of the title track in the first chorus. It's a fresh look rather than a significant sonic overhaul (which -- admit it -- no one really wants) and shows that Soundgarden hasn't lost any potency during its hiatus. Cornell notes, "I only ever really wanted to break," though he also frets that, due to his absence, "No one knows one loves and hates me." He's protesting a little too much, and can probably rest assured that "Been Away Too Long" will get the Soundgarden faithful primed for "King Animal's" Nov. 13 release. -GG



Young and Gettin' It (3:27)

Producer: Jahlil Beats

Writers: R. R. Williams, O. J. Tucker, K. Randle, V. Robinson

Publishers: various

Maybach/Warner Bros.

Maybach Music Group, which calls itself an "untouchable empire," certainly isn't short on confidence. No member's success is more vital to MMG leader Rick Ross' rep than Philadelphia MC Meek Mill, viewed as one of the label's brightest young stars. It's only fitting that on "Young and Gettin' It," the radio-aiming first single from Mill's full-length debut, "Dreams and Nightmares", the rapper stakes his claim as a boss in training. "When I pulled up in that Rolls, swag was surfing on 'em like gnarley," Meek raps, his whiplash flow drowned in Auto-Tuned gimmickry that complements the hook from Houston rhyme-slinger Kirko Bangz. The fact that Mill dove into party-rap mode for the single is hardly shocking -- it's practically a rapper's rite of passage. But when compared with the palpable promise of this summer's offering, "Amen," "Young and Gettin' It" feels like a step backward. -DH



Everything Is Embarrassing (4:09)

Producer: Ariel Rechtshaid

Writers: S. Ferreira, A. Rechtshaid, D. Hynes

Publishers: various


With "Everything Is Embarrassing," Sky Ferreira is confirming the adage that a singer can remold her image if his or her new material is strong enough to wipe away prior missteps. The Los Angeles native's career has had a few false starts since arriving on the pop scene in 2010, but "Everything Is Embarrassing," a standout from new EP "Ghost", is remarkably self-assured for an artist still finding her way. The song's glossy percussion and cavernous vocal quality quickly bleed into the woozy chorus, in which Ariel Rechtstaid's production cradles the 20-year-old's vulnerable but brilliantly penned lyrics. The key line here: "Maybe if you let me be your lover/Maybe if you tried, then I would not bother," which captures Ferreira's sullen longing and earnest hesitation in one fell swoop. "Everything Is Embarrassing" has made hay in the blogosphere during the past month, and even if it never connects at radio, Ferreira's potential just became a lot more detectable. -JL

Edited by Jason Lipshutz (singles).

CONTRIBUTORS: Justino Aguila, Jim Allen, Zach Dionne, Phil Gallo, Gary Graff, Andrew Hampp, Dan Hyman, Jason Lipshutz, Jillian Mapes, Lindsey WeberAll albums commercially available in the United States are eligible. Send album review copies to Mitchell Peters at Billboard, 5700 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 500, Los Angeles, CA 90036 and singles review copies to Jason Lipshutz at Billboard, 770 Broadway, Seventh Floor, New York, NY 10003, or to the writers in the appropriate bureaus.