KE$HA

Die Young (3:33)

Producers: Dr. Luke, Cirkut, Benny Blanco

Writers: Dr. Luke, B. Blanco, Cirkut, N. Ruess, Ke$ha

Publishers: various

RCA Records

The writing credits on Ke$ha's new single represent a who's who of every hotshot of the moment on pop radio: Dr. Luke, Ke$ha's career mentor and frequent collaborator; Dr. Luke proteges Benny Blanco and Cirkut, who have scored credits on Maroon 5 and Flo Rida hits recently; fun. frontman Nate Ruess, who contributes an anthemic chorus to the song; and of course, the pop upstart herself. With all the elements in place for a hit, how does "Die Young" somehow feel like less than the sum of its impressive parts? Perhaps it's because the song sounds like a leftover from the sessions Blanco and Cirkut did for Marina & the Diamonds' "Electra Heart", whose "How to Be a Heartbreaker" bears a striking resemblance to the Ke$ha single. Or maybe it's just because the track is lacking Ke$ha's signature humor and an overall sense of energy, despite the relentless beats. The singer sounds like she's ready to take a nap on her lazy line readings. While the single should generate excitement for December release "Warrior", Ke$ha could stand to sound a bit more excited about her return to music. -AH

SWEDISH HOUSE MAFIA FEATURING JOHN MARTIN

Don't You Worry Child (3:33)

Producers: Axel Hedfors, Sebastian Ingrosso, Steve Angello

Writers: J. Martin, M. Zitron, A. Hedfors, S. Ingrosso, S. Angello

Publishers: Lateral Publishing (ASCAP)/Universal Music Publishing Scandinavia (AB)

Virgin Records

Swedish House Mafia, the DJ super-crew comprising Steve Angello, Sebastian Ingrosso and Axwell, recently announced plans to scrap touring, save for a final globe-hopping excursion that begins this fall. It's a curious move for the arena-filling outfit -- now arguably at the height of its popularity -- especially considering its contemporary mastery of the EDM-pop crossover hit, best-evidenced by latest single "Don't You Worry Child." Gargantuan, soaring vocals courtesy of fellow Swede John Martin (who also provided the vocals behind the group's spirit-shaking 2011 single, "Save the World") anchor the sprightly cut. "My father said, 'Don't you worry child/See heaven's got a plan for you,'" the singer proselytizes before SHM's progressive house havoc swells beneath. Here, the trio's trademark trick is revealed: the ability to transform head-throbbing thumpers into uplifting, radio-ready unifiers. It will be missed. -DH

CIARA

Sorry (4:50)

Producer: Jasper "Big Love" Cameron

Writers: C. Harris, J. Cameron

Publishers: C. Harris/Royalty Rightings/Universal Music Publishing (ASCAP)/Pretty Girls and Big Love Songs/Songs of Universal (BMI)

Epic Records

Disregard the song title-in "Sorry," Ciara apologizes to no one. The sultry track serves as the lead single from her upcoming album "One Woman Army", and the Jasper Cameron-produced song takes on the familiar trope of grasping for forgiveness from someone who can't offer contrition. "All you have to do is say that I'm sorry," Ciara begs her absent lover, while a ghostly electronic voice croons back at her, "Baby I'm sorry." In a way, the song serves as a duet between Ciara and the person she wishes would just apologize-a person whose voice takes the form of an echoing robot. Still longing for an apology, the track ends with a spoken-word interlude: "Are you happy?" Ciara asks. This time, her question goes unanswered. -LW

ALTERNATIVE

TEGAN & SARA

Closer (3:29)

Producer: Greg Kurstin

Writers: T. Quin, S. Quin, G. Kurstin

Publishers: Naked in a Snowsuit Publishing (SOCAN)/EMI April Music o/b/o itself and Kurstin Music (ASCAP)

Sire/Warner Bros. Records

On their sixth studio album, 2009's vastly underrated "Sainthood", Tegan & Sara brightened up their cathartic indie-rock with big spritzes of vintage synth-pop. Apparently, the twin-sister duo's fascination with the sound has only multiplied in the past three years: "Closer," the debut single from their still-untitled follow-up, is the slickest, slinkiest track they've ever released, propelled by blaring synthesizers, glitzy piano lines and a four-on-the-floor drum crunch. Some of Tegan & Sara's best songs (like 2007's "Nineteen") thrive on wild dynamics, building tension through quiet-loud propulsion. Musically, "Closer" is cranked to 11, but the sugar rush is balanced by lyrical subtlety. "Here comes the rush before the touch," Tegan Quin sings, reflecting on the sexual and emotional ambiguities of a blossoming romance. "All you think of lately/Is getting underneath me." "Closer" is another anthem from a band impervious to the mediocre. -RR

COUNTRY

BRAD PAISLEY

Southern Comfort Zone (4:34)

Producer: Brad Paisley

Writers: B. Paisley, C. DuBois, K. Lovelace

Publishers: House of Sea Gayle Music/EMI April Music/Didn't Have to Be Music Publishing (ASCAP)

Arista Nashville

It's difficult to grasp which direction Brad Paisley is moving in on his latest single, "Southern Comfort Zone." On the one hand, he's branching out into new production territory with "Viva La Vida"-style experimental theatrics and a church choir; on the other, the track still centers on Paisley's bread-and-butter lyrical fare about trucks, NASCAR and ball caps. On paper and in execution, the two concepts are somewhat at odds, but the veteran puts forth a valiant effort. The chorus packs a stadium-ready punch highlighted by dazzling guitar work and the aforementioned choir -- and, for better or worse, Paisley gets points for taking risks beyond what's currently on the country charts. As Paisley's next album arrives in April, time will tell just how well he operates outside his comfort zone. -JM

HIP-HOP

JUICY J FEATURING LIL WAYNE & 2 CHAINZ

Bandz A Make Her Dance (4:40)

Producer: Mike Will Made-It

Writers: M. Williams, J. Houston, D. Carter, T. Epps

Publishers: various

Kemosabe/Columbia

Three 6 Mafia member Juicy J has used the single "Bandz A Make Her Dance" to grace the Billboard Hot 100 in a surprising reinvention that's not unlike the comeback of 2 Chainz, one of his featured guests on this remix. The hit even cribs a Mike Will Made-It beat that's way too similar to the producer's own "No Lie" arrangement for 2 Chainz. Still, Juicy J sounds fairly revitalized as he runs through a laundry list of sex acts with the lumbering confidence that's always served his bars well. Lil Wayne slithers into view to spout a few filthy gems and a Steven Spielberg shout-out, and 2 Chainz drops the curious line, "I be laughing to the bank/All you do is giggle!" "Bandz" is a hit-or-miss affair, but Juicy J is a Southern hip-hop talent who deserves a legitimate shot at establishing a mainstream solo career. And, hey, that beat can sure make you dance. -JL

Edited by Jason Lipshutz (singles)

CONTRIBUTORS: Phil Gallo, Gary Graff, Andrew Hampp, Dan Hyman, Jason Lipshutz, Kerri Mason, Jill Menze, Ryan Reed, 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.