Now hear this
Natasha Bedingfield - These Words (Sony): Move aside, Mariah and Rihanna; it's Natasha's turn to rule the airwaves. The verses of "These Words," punctuated by turntable scratches and stabs of synthesizer, sound oddly retro. But the "I love you" refrain of the chorus, sung with unhinged giddiness, make this an instant pop classic.
Sheryl Crow - Good Is Good (A&M): "Good is good, and bad is bad," sings the often underrated artist. This countryish pop is neither - let's just say that mediocre is mediocre. Crow strives for an uplifting, anthemic chorus, but the hoist isn't effortless. It seems rote rather than inspired.
Depeche Mode - Precious (Wea/Warner Bros.): Now well into their third decade, Depeche Mode should be primed to appeal to a whole new audience hooked on the guitar and synthesizer pop of The Killers. The band's signature sound, led by a chiming keyboard figure, is crisper than ever, but this song is curiously subdued and unmemorable.