By Michael Slezak
April 02, 2007 at 10:42 PM EDT

I would never pit tracks featuring popular divas against each other in an effort to incite a PopWatch comments war. Okay, who am I kidding? I totally would. And I totally am…right this instant! So check out Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s “Welcome to Hollywood” and Rihanna (featuring Jay-Z)’s “Umbrella” (both streaming at AOL Music) and declare a winner. Just don’t let it devolve into a Mariah-vs.-Madonna death-match, the way these things tend to go after comment No. 137. Thank you.

Rihanna (featuring Jay-Z), “Umbrella”:
Okay, so I’m digging the wave of sinister synths that percolate just beneath the chorus, and I kinda like Rihanna’s phrasing on the chorus, “You can stand under my um-buh-rella, ella, ella, ay, ay, ay.” (Click here to hear it.) But the problem — and it’s not a small one — is the Barbadian diva’s voice. It reminds me of a pig-in-a-blanket, if one were to substitute a whine for the hotdog, and a bleat for the dough. (Yes, I need a snack.) In other words, it’s unpleasant. Plus, isn’t it weird that Jay-Z is trying to dub her “Little Miss Sunshine”? As my colleague Dawnie Walton says, “Oh Rihanna. She makes me miss Ashanti!”

Beyoncé, “Welcome to Hollywood”: I’m resisting the urge to make this item a rant about the fact that genius tracks from original-flavor B’day like “Suga Mama and “Freakum Dress” haven’t been released as official singles, and listening to “Welcome to Hollywood” with an open mind. (Click here to hear it yourself.) Okay, so seriously? Another cautionary tale about the trappings of fame? “You’re blinded by the lights”? A “Janis Joplin, River Phoenix, Jimi Hendrix” litany? Oh, but the beat is kinda hot. And does anyone twist a phrase quite like Beyoncé? Also, I keep pressing repeat. Beyoncé why do you insist on hypnotizing me? I am trying to get some work done and you’re not having any of it. You just keep howling and making me dance and making me think of Madonna getting prodded with Botox needles. It is useless to resist you.

Your turn, PopWatchers!