Here's a rundown of some hot downloads from iTunes. And a couple that should be hot downloads, if record labels weren't insane.
Candy Shop (50 Cent): Ah, nothing like monotone raps about blowjobs. This is an odd choice for the first single from 50 Cent's upcoming album. The rapper sounds more than ever like he just woke up and, still half-asleep, went to the mike instead of the bathroom. And such original sex metaphors! Lick the lollipop; magic stick; play with the stick; ride like you're in the rodeo. I'd rather just listen to Prince's Dirty Mind. He's not coy about the sex, and the music's not completely boring.
Landed (Ben Folds): Folds is in danger of ceding the power pop crown to Fountains of Wayne. This starts off with a prissy, earnestly bouncy piano vamp that sounds like Elton John composing music for the bumpers surrounding commercials in bad '80s sitcoms. The later choruses give some hope for Folds' new album, with plenty of backup Foldses adding singalong harmonies and a huge, grumbling bass filling in for electric guitars.
E-Pro (Beck): This could be Devil's Haircut Part II. The distant, AC/DC guitar hook is like a head-banging Odelay outtake. I love Beck the swooner crooner as much as anyone, but the garage-hip-hop-as-found-sonic-art Beck is more fun. There's a terrific break, with Beck singing in an empty tunnel and Missy Elliott claps echoing off the sides. The Dust Brothers may have been out of style since they were tied to every "electronica-tinged" CD of the mid '90s (a.k.a. anything with a couple of drum loops), but they still know how to make a great 1996 Beck song.
Galang (M.I.A.): Just try not to twitch and snap your head at each blurp, video-game-boss stomp and syncopated popped-paper-bag beat. I dare you not to chant "galangalangalanga" the rest of the day. Don't even bother trying to figure out what M.I.A.'s saying, though. The nonsense chants and barely intelligible fragments are hypnotic filtered through a terrific Jamaica-meets-Dizzee Rascal accent (M.I.A. is from Sri Lanka). Let's make her a star.
Better Version of Me/Extraordinary Machine (Fiona Apple): You can't get these leaked, unreleased songs on iTunes, but a little Google searching is more than worth it. With a playfulness and penchant for odd sounds and instruments that channel the spirit of Brian Wilson's Smile, Apple's first songs since 1999 make Norah Jones, Joss Stone, Alicia Keys and other pretenders sound like American Idol rejects. Better Version of Me features assorted hoots and enthusiastic saloon piano over a horse-clop beat that carries more interesting phrasing and vocal rhythms than anything 50 Cent has to offer. Extraordinary Machine is a jaunty, tuba-oboe-and-marimba oompah experiment that Tom Waits could make if he weren't so grim. Somehow, Apple pulls it off. There are few better singers, male or female, out there. Swoon.