Ah, the wonders of autumn: college football, sweeter air and a mildly profane new song from Britney Spears. Seriously, does Brit-Brit have copyright dibs on the word b----? Does she really want that as a catchphrase?! But I digress: The best way to gear up for the oncoming fall music explosion is to take a gander at the current iTunes hit singles list. Here's a quick primer on big tunes from big names and their even bigger albums to follow:
Britney Spears, Work B---- (RCA): Co-written by chief Black Eyed Pea Will.i.am, this snaky EDM club cut is, despite its naughty title, rather good advice: "You want a hot body? / You want a Bugatti? / You want a Maserati? / You better work, b---!" Thongs to the grindstone, boys and girls! This song, which features more bad pseudo-British accents from our Mississippi girl, should be No. 1 by the time you're done reading this sentence. Spears' as-yet-untitled new album is due Dec. 3.
Miley Cyrus, Wrecking Ball (RCA): Everyone's talking about the video for Miley's shouty '80s-style power ballad, and with good reason: She spends a significant swath of time riding the titular demolition orb butterball naked. The chorus-strong breakup special is actually pretty catchy, evidence that Miley's genuine talent is in direct battle with her self-destructive need to be provocative. New LP Bangerz is due out Oct. 4.
Justin Moore, Point at You (Valory Music): Here's the best song on country radio right now, a fun, winkingly schmoopy kiss-up from a cowboy to his best gal: "If they wanna see my sweet side / My soft side, my best side / I just point at you." I like this guy. The Arkansas native released his new album, Off the Beaten Path, earlier this week, and lead single Point at You is so good and so hot right now, you could be looking at Nashville's new breakout star.
Katy Perry, Dark Horse (Capitol): Perry's Roar, the first single from upcoming album Prism (due Oct. 22), is still selling like gangbusters, but when have we known the pop wonder woman to be shy? Here comes the followup single, the stormy Dark Horse, with Perry perhaps seducing new beau John Mayer. The song is breathless and synthy until it takes an odd, heavy, hip-hop edge, the music not unlike a shady Eminem cut. It'll sell because she always sells, but I'm not hearing an irresistible hook on this one.
Eminem, Berzerk (Aftermath): Speaking of Slim Shady: Welcome back, old psychotic friend! Sampling Billy Squier's guitar-overloaded The Stroke, and nodding to the Beastie Boys, this old-school rapdown features wickedly nimble lyrics (poor Khloe Kardashian), DJ scratching and larger-than-life production from Rick Rubin, the guy who made Jay-Z's 99 Problems one of the greatest hip-hop cuts ever. New album The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is due Nov. 2.
Lorde, Royals (Universal): If there's such a thing as insta-fame, Ella Yelich-O'Connor, a.k.a. Lorde, has it. Who is she? Good question. But the 16-year-old New Zealander already has a smash with the quirky, adorkable Royals, which is sort of a generation call to arms, shining light on the disparity of what kids are sold ("Gold teeth / Grey Goose / Tripping in the bathroom") and what they can afford. Smart kid — but I'm not ready to anoint her a new superstar quite yet.
Phillip Phillips, Gone, Gone, Gone (Interscope): So I have this theory about Phillip Phillips, the former American Idol champ and current schmaltzmeister. He's the new Phil Collins — and I mean that mostly as a compliment. This song, which was actually released months ago, has had a radio resurgence lately, reaching No. 1 in late August, a gestation period of some eight months. Those rambunctious drums on the track remind me of something from Collins' Tarzan soundtrack — and I mean that mostly as a compliment. Pop needs savvy guys who have (1) unique voices (2) good percussive sense and (3) zero shame in being sappy. A changing of the Phils! Long live the Phils!
Sean Daly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter.