Pop Shop Picks: John Mayer, M.I.A., Neko Case & More

Harper Smith for Billboard

Each Friday, Pop Shop will showcase a handful of tracks that have been burning up its speakers over the past week. These can include a brand-new song or a track that's been simmering for a minute; the only rule is that it's worth space in the Pop Shop!

"Paper Doll" (4:16)
Producer: John Mayer, Don Was

John Mayer's career has hit some unfortunate speed bumps: debilitating throat granulomas and resulting vocal surgeries kept him off the touring circuit last year and steadied the public eye upon his tabloid-bait breakups. But on a musical level, the 35-year-old has never been stronger. "Paper Doll," his first single since 2012's folk-leaning "Born and Raised," is one of his finest achievements, a return to his ultra-smooth jazz-pop roots topped off with a sublime guitar solo. "You're like 22 girls in one, and none of them know who they're runnin' from," Mayer sings over a supple groove that recalls both Dire Straits and Steely Dan. "Paper Doll" might be a winking reference to ex-flame Taylor Swift (and a clever response to her own breakup ballad "Dear John"), but much more important, it's a perfectly crafted pop song. Mayer's voice has triumphantly returned, ahead of his forthcoming album, "Paradise Valley." - RYAN REED

"Bring the Noize" (3:23)
Producers: Switch & Surkin

"Truth is like a rotten tooth," M.I.A. boasts. "You gotta spit it out." But the truth is complicated, especially for one of the world's most confrontational pop-rappers. "Bring the Noize" is trademark M.I.A. capriciousness: part militaristic battle cry, part brag-rap buffet, with explosively brash beats that blend bhangra exoticism with electro-grime muscle. Like M.I.A.'s best work, "Bring the Noize" leaves a spellbinding black eye. - RYAN REED

"The One That Got Away" (3:33)
Producer: Charlie Peacock

When it comes to hiatuses, the Civil Wars aren't exactly the Smiths: The Grammy Award-winning folk duo split up last November due to "internal discord," and somehow announced a new album six months later. With its austere ­arrangement and Joy Williams' quivering vocals, the group's new single operates in the haunting shades that colored its 2011 debut, "Barton Hollow." Rock fans should be thankful that the Civil Wars did not, in fact, get away from them. - JASON LIPSHUTZ

"Best I Ever Had" (3:47)
Producer: Martin Johnson

Pop-rock singer DeGraw apparently couldn't ignore the dual EDM and folk resurgences of the last two years, so he combined the trends on his latest single with a brisk, stomping beat. A tribute to life on the road, "Best I Ever Had" is a refreshingly rhythmic return for a singer who benefits from a change of pace. - ANDREW HAMPP

"Man" (3:31)
Producer: M. Ward, Neko Case

For her first single in four years, Case adopts the jangly power-pop of her side project the New Pornographers (courtesy of guest producer M. Ward), while featuring the feisty attitude that's been a mainstay of her solo work. "I'm a man/You'll have to deal with me/My proxy is mine/You'll deal with me directly," she informs the listener. A lock for solid triple A play, "Man" previews Case's upcoming sixth LP, due in September. - ANDREW HAMPP


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