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Singles: July 22, 2011

Reviews of the latest songs from Mary J. Blige, ”American Idol” finalist Pia Toscano, and more

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Mary J. Blige, ”The Living Proof”
The soft keys and strings, along with Mary’s soulful belts, make this ballad from the upcoming big-screen adaptation of best-selling novel The Help the right kind of tearjerker — one that acknowledges struggle and strife, but also hails the work of soldiering through it. BBrad Wete

Pia Toscano, ”This Time”
Idol‘s recent cause célèbre underplays her Celine-style glory notes, adroitly inhabiting a wistful ballad about post-heartbreak self-empowerment. Expect Rachel Berry to sing it the next time Finn screws up. BJoe Lynch

Common Feat. Nas, ”Ghetto Dreams”
Revisiting the melancholy horns, booming drums, and evocative storytelling of his best ’90s singles, Common waxes nostalgic for Biggie, fried chicken, and women who get “butt-naked in the kitchen flipping pancakes.” Fox News can’t argue: That’s poetry. AMelissa Maerz

Wilco, ”I Might”
Jeff Tweedy sings about a sno-cone made from “piss and blood” on a spiky, chiming preview of the band’s forthcoming The Whole Love. We recommend that Wilco fans check it out — and that Tweedy start frequenting a different dessert cart. BClark Collis

Demi Lovato, ”Skyscraper”
The Disney starlet sounds miles away from the Magic Kingdom on her first post-rehab single, a Ryan Tedder-lite ode to self-reliance. The emotion is pure after-school angst, but Lovato’s vocals have a raspy bite way beyond her 18 years. BAdam Markovitz

The Rapture, ”How Deep Is Your Love?”
The kinetic dance-rockers return from their self-imposed exile with this first salvo, a sonic Jenga of clattering piano, keening vocals, and funkadelic percussion that builds to a delicious frenzy of more-cowbell boogie. A-Leah Greenblatt

X Japan, ”Jade”
In which the Pacific Rim’s most cultishly adored rock exports frolic in the court of King Crimson and Queen. It’s half overdramatic posturing and half rugged riffing, with just enough cross-cultural goofiness to keep it charming. BKyle Anderson