Four regular singles to be conscientiously probed this week. No nonsense.

Beyonce If I Were A Boy ****

No ‘Crazy In Love’ dancefloor crackmagic this. Instead, this is one of those classic R&B ballads that littered the ’90s, straight out of the school of Wyclef Jean, with a massive hook, fragile trills in the voice, and an unsubtle handclap beat high in the mix for the chorus giving it extra oomph. Seems predicated on an NYPD, misogynist view of what boys are like, but there’s a nice feminist critique of that view underlying the lyric. Top class piece of mainstream R&B, if rather less than innovative…

Friendly Fires – Paris ***

At last, a recent rerelease you can understand – they’ve been waiting until all the ‘credible’ listeners have started to wonder if, actually, Friendly Fires are more than just a typical NME nu-rave band. Like the rest of the album, the percussion’s superb – manic cowbells and a stabbing synth chord powers this song through, daring to sound messy, even clumsy, when it helps keep the beat going. The result is, consequently, a bit of a bloody mess. But a highly enjoyable one, like disco-direction Bloc Party with more colour and bounce and a smile on their faces. The tune’s not their best, but it’ll do.

Coldplay – Lost **

Why the hell do you bother releasing another single when you’ve just won ‘Bestselling Artist Of The Year’ at the World Music Awards? Anyway, ‘Lost’ is one of the more memorable soft-rock beasts from Viva La Vida, and packs a major lighter-waving punch. Its heavy use of organ and such have invited criticisms of ripping off Arcade Fire, but they’re unfounded. This song far more cunningly rips off – in a massive, copyright-goosing way – ‘Under The Greenwood Tree’ by Gravenhurst, a track so obscure that no one’s ever going to notice. Tsk.

Emmy The Great – We Almost Had A Baby **

Normally I focus on the music, not the lyrics, but that’s rather missing the point with this acerbic, angel-voiced folksinger. That said, she’s progressed from simple, three-chord acoustic strums to this pretty, ’60s-sounding arrangement. As usual, her lilting, delicate vocals mask a darker tale, but not so bitter as earlier rants like ‘Gloria’.

“I’m not the girl that you remember from the start/I was only a baby/now I am what you made me/and once you left me in the spring/and twice you left in fall/and once I tried to make a life/to keep myself in yours/do you think of me/when you are playing the one and five in four/is country music what your life is for?”

Actually, her lyrics seem to have gone downhill. Ah well. Decent, sub-Belle and Sebastian tune anyway. She can do better.

Top Of The Ox: Local Tune Of The Week

Tristan and the Troubadours are a good, promising local band. You should all go to their gigs and pay them money. Partially because they play nice indie songs with forward-thinking arrangements and interesting instrumentation. More importantly because, if they can’t afford a voice transplant for their singer to stop him sounding EXACTLY like Ed Larrikin, they’ll get nowhere.

Apologies if the singer actually is Ed Larrikin.

Next week: some more stuff. Oh yes.