WENNComebacks from one of the world's biggest stadium rock bands, the original M.I.A. and Victoria Beckham's former arch-nemesis all feature in this week's guide to the best recently-unveiled tracks.Neneh Cherry – "Blank Project"Although Neneh Cherry has kept herself busy via collaborations with jazz trio The Thing and trip-hop collective Cirkus, it's been 17 years since her last solo LP, Woman. An intense Four Tet-produced account of a love-hate relationship, the title track from her forthcoming fourth studio effort proves she remains as compelling as ever.Solange – "Cash In"After kicking off the year in style with the stunning True EP, the most interesting Knowles sister now ends it with another gorgeous slice of leftfield R&B taken from her Saint Heron compilation – the first release on her own boutique label Saint Records.Sophie Ellis-Bextor – "Young Blood"Capitalising on her current run on Strictly Come Dancing, the UK's most well-spoken pop star abandons the elegant electro she made her name with in favour of a lush and cinematic baroque-pop ballad which certainly bodes well for her upcoming fifth album Wanderlust.Royksopp – "Something In My Heart"Accompanied by the yearning James Blake-esque tones of The Irrepressibles' Jamie McDermott, the Norwegian duo confirm their status as kings of electro-pop heartbreak with a typically dreamy blend of chugging synths, melancholic melodies and slow-motion beats.U2 – "Ordinary Love"Following the commercial disappointment of 2009's experimental No Line On The Horizon, U2 now go back to basics with their contribution to the new Nelson Mandela biopic. Produced by Danger Mouse, "Ordinary Love" combines a resonant piano hook with The Edge's familiar echo-drenched riffs a to produce the band's most quietly affecting single in years.
Even if you’re one of the 19 other people in a competitive internship at Dean Witter with Chris Gardner (Will Smith) you gotta root for the guy. Life’s beaten him up but not got him down. He lugs his computer-monitor-sized bone density scanner all over San Francisco hoping to sell just one to make ends meet for his family—but nobody’s buying. As his wife’s (Thandie Newton) discontentment nears a boiling point Chris accepts an internship at financial institution Dean Witter—six months without pay and only one of the 20 applicants will ultimately get a job out of it. This sends her packing. She leaves Chris and their son Christopher (Jaden Smith) to fend for themselves at which point they get evicted. It’s the tip of the iceberg because over the course of Chris’ penniless pursuit of the Dean Witter job (and “happyness”) he and Christopher will get by sleeping in homeless shelter--and even in train-station bathrooms. Chris had always vowed to never leave his son and he keeps his promise but there’s no guarantee that his perseverance will pay off. Except for the fact that Happyness is “INSPIRED BY A TRUE STORY”! Will Smith is getting all the awards buzz but it’s his real-life son Jaden who transcends all expectations in Happyness. Jaden’s never acted in a movie before and it’s safe to assume that because of his father's long-running movie stardom he could not have grown up in a more different environment than that of his character. Which makes it all the more amazing for this 8-year-old Hollywood tyke to grasp even if coincidentally the plight of a nomadic urban child. The best part about little Jaden is that his performance doesn’t seem robotic like so many child actors who are already too "seasoned" for their own good. Aside from the expected cutesy laughs there’s genuine spontaneity in Jaden’s performance obviously thanks to the fact that he’s acting opposite his dad. Papa Smith gives what’s probably his best performance to date although he's had a career of primarily action roles that weren't exactly conducive to a skills showcase. He delivers the goods here—as seen in the tear-rific trailer—as a man whose whole life is his child but frankly the tears evoked might be too few for Oscar’s liking. Newton (Crash) in a small role is terribly miscast but Mr. and Mr. Smith dominate the screen anyway. Even with the studio flaunting the movie’s "Inspired by a true story..." tagline like a badge of honor—as studios tend to do—and this being the holiday season and all Italian director Gabriele Muccino expends way too much effort into the crowd-pleasing/feel-good aspects of Happyness. The happy ending everyone already knows about should be saccharine enough. Granted this is why a studio loves true stories—one that begins on a low note ends on a really high note and fluctuates all over the radar in between—and it may make the film more pleasing to its targeted mainstream audiences but Muccino and writer Steve Conrad (The Weather Man) really take the gloss factor much too far. In this case they essentially try to tell us a mostly sad story but will not let us feel sad. For instance during what could be very dark reflective scenes potentially connecting with viewers who have struggled through similar problems music befitting a children’s tale overtakes the would-be drama so we don’t ever feel too badly for Chris. It’s nice that the director cares so much for us but oftentimes the best directors are the ones who show an audience tough love.