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Singles: April 6, 2012

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Nicki Minaj Feat. Chris Brown, ”Right by My Side”
Nicki loves to play dress-up, but it’s been a while since we’ve seen her do R&B Barbie. Luckily, the costume still fits. She’s even invited Breezy to the tea party, and their verses are as catchy and clean as the song’s radio-ready hook. A-Ray Rahman

Beck, ”Looking for a Sign”
The elusive post-folk maestro (he hasn’t released a new studio album since 2008) dusts off his harmonica, banjo, and airy falsetto for the lo-fi Jason Segel mope-com Jeff, Who Lives at Home. His soundtrack contribution oozes gorgeously aching angst, delivered from the front porch at the end of the world. A-Kyle Anderson

Justin Bieber, ”Boyfriend”
Like the Other Justin (that is, Mr. Timberlake), Biebs is graduating from teen-heartthrob status by courting hip-hop fans. On the first single from his upcoming Believe, he raps over a Ying Yang Twins-indebted hook before an acoustic guitar cuts in to mix a little sweetness with the swagger. Need proof that he’s all grown up? He promises to take you girls out for fondue. Sophisticated! B+Melissa Maerz

Pitbull, ”Back in Time”
As soundtrack songs for the Men in Black series go, this party-rap clunker built on a sample of Mickey & Sylvia’s ”Love Is Strange” stands far above Will Smith’s ”Black Suits Comin”’ but well short of his ”Men in Black” (and nowhere close to Huey Lewis’ Back to the Future theme of the same name). B-KA

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, ”Man on Fire”
Alex Ebert’s bearded cult-leader alter ego continues his psychedelic stroll through the sunbaked ’60s on this warm folk jaunt. With its summery strumming, ”Fire” gives off serious ”no shoes, no shirt, no problem” vibes. B+RR

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