Each month, tons of new music from many taste-spanning genres is released into a fast-consuming, unforgiving market; it can be tough to get a handle on what’s new before it’s on to the next. In an attempt to highlight the standout releases, at the end of each month, AUX staff re-cap the month in Punk, Metal, Indie/Pop/Rock, Hip Hop, Electronic, and Pop with the top five releases in each. Consider it your cheat sheet for year-end lists.

Top 5 Pop Tracks: April


Sabi – Where They Do That At? feat. Wale

You might recognize this Inglewood, California-born newcomer’s voice from her featured performance on Cobra Starship’s “You Make Me Feel…,” a surprise hit from last year. The 23-year-old singer has yet to release a record, but her new single “Where They Do That At?” confirms that Warner Bros. has big plans for Sabi in 2012. Her label enlisted radio-friendly hit-makers Dr. Luke and Cirkut to handle the production on Sabi’s first proper solo effort since 2011’s “Wild Heart,” and their crisp, appealing instrumental gives Sabi a decent chance at a breakthrough summer radio smash.

Marina & The Diamonds – Lies

Another Dr. Luke & Cirkut production was on my radar in April, but this time it’s Diplo for the assist. Dr. Luke, Cirkut, and Diplo split production duties on the second single from Marina’s new record Electra Heart. “Lies” showcases Marina’s trademark classical vocal acrobatics, but the production keeps her relevant for a modern audience that’s hungry for grinding synths, bass-drops, and auto-tune. Marina is a very diverse songwriter, and the way she is able to meld pop songs, theatrical operatic vocal pieces, and left-field experimental weirdness makes her one of my favourite emerging artists in 2012. Her work with Dr. Luke, Cirkut, Diplo, and StarGate has me feeling that Electra Heart will be as much a success commercially as critically.

Nelly Furtado – Big Hoops (The Bigger The Better)

Nelly Furtado is back again, this time with a Darchild-assisted beat and a quirky hip-hop number in which the protagonist finds power in the size of her jewelry. Nelly took a break from the pop world, releasing a Spanish-language album, and focusing on her family. Now the “Maneater” singer is reclaiming her spot on the charts, with more of her freak-folk meets pop-hop. Her vocal delivery is as strange as ever, with inventive phrasing on the hook, and her distinctive tone that often edges towards a nasally whine. If her vocal delivery isn’t a deal-breaker for your ears, this song is a crowd-pleaser with a big beat, and a lot of character. Wait for the tempo-jumping break beat that comes out of nowhere around the 3 minute mark, and be instantly transported to last summer, when Tinie Tempah’s “Pass Out” was the breakout hit of the season.

Cheryl Cole – Call My Name feat. Calvin Harris

Former X Factor judge Cheryl Cole’s “Call My Name” might be the singer’s first single to find North American success, thanks to a bouncy house-beat courtesy of Scottish producer Calvin Harris. The former member of British girl-group Girls Aloud has had two number one solo singles in her homeland, but both songs failed to hit home with the sought-after American market. “Call My Name” is an upbeat club banger, with a catchy chorus, “blippy” synth leads, and a throbbing bassline that defies you not to dance. Cole’s vocals aren’t dazzling, but she has world’s more personality than reigning pop divas like Katy Perry, Rihanna, or Jennier Lopez. Calvin Harris’ signature sound is currently dominating North American charts, and the charismatic Cheryl Cole might have found global success this time around.

Little Nikki – Intro Intro

Little Nikki, a.k.a. Nicole Shortland is another well-kept secret from the U.K., and coincidentally, she’s also got a burgeoning solo career resulting from the disbanding of a girl-group. Nikki’s old project, SoundGirls, broke up in late 2011, after having some regional success opening for Justin Bieber, The Wanted, and Pixie Lott. Little Nikki has just released her first solo effort, a song called “Intro Intro,” and it’s a spirited electro tune that comes across as a youthful amalgamation of Rihanna and Azealia Banks. She’s only 16-years-old, but if Little Nikki keeps cranking out music like this, this delightful London-born teenager could soon rise to a level of prominence akin to her former tourmates.

Surprises, disappointments and tracks/albums to watch for next month

Surprise of the month: “Payphone” by Maroon 5, a song that I wrote off as inoffensive, bland, and boring, broke the record for the most first-week iTunes sales by a group, racking up 494,000 downloads. It turns out that “inoffensive, bland, and boring” sells like gangbusters. And it doesn’t hurt to be a vocal coach on a hit televised singing competition, either.

Disappointments: The beef between Azealia Banks and Iggy Azalea wages on, thanks to some misogynistic comments made by T.I.

Out in May: B.o.B.’s Strange Clouds, Santigold’s Master Of My Makebelieve, and Adam Lambert’s Trespassing.

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