Backstreet Boys-Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely(down 2 positions)
Beyond being teen idols, Backstreet Boys have been getting some respect recently. They got Grammy nominations and positive writeups from Robert Christgau of the Village Voice and Ann Powers of the New York Times. I still don't get it. I Want It That Way struck me as an insipid bore. Larger Than Life was generic dance music and the lyrics, allegedly a tribute to their fans, were so vague and unoriginal that their fans should be offended. At least Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely, the third single from the Millennium CD, achieves what it shoots for. It's fairly effective as a big weepy ballad and the singing isn't bad.
Our Lady Peace-Is Anybody Home?(down 6 positions)
Is Anybody Home? is the second hit from Happiness . . . Is Not a Fish You Can Catch. Like most of the Canadian band's work, Is Anybody Home? is serious and intense. It also shows Our Lady Peace's ability to create a good atmosphere with interesting shifts of dynamic. The music varies from Mike Turner's hard rocking guitar to Raine Maida's a capella vocals. The lyrics say that everybody's needy, we're all scared.
Rage Against The Machine-Sleep Now in the Fire(up 4 positions)
On Sleep Now in the Fire, as usual, Zack de la Rocha delivers a heartfelt rant against the world's evils. With hyberbolic flair, the lyrics refer to a society willing to ruin the world to satisfy its desires and punish those who don't follow the greedy plan. Rage's passionate political beliefs make them distinctive but their music helps attracts the millions even when their message is a little over the top. Tom Morello's fast, driving guitar makes Sleep Now in the Fire great rock.
Celine Dion-That's The Way It Is(down 3 positions)
That's The Way It Is is one of the new songs on Dion's All The Way greatest hits record. Dion's music often tends towards banality. That's The Way It Is is particularly insubstantial. Its "everything will work out fine" lyrics have the depth of a greeting card and the music has the complexity of the background to a tv commercial. It's fairly inoffensive except to those who know that romantic problems aren't always easily solved.
Sonique-It Feels So Good(up 3 positions)
It Feels So Good, from the CD Hear My Cry, is reminiscent of the golden age of disco. It has an efficient, synthetic beat and dramatic string effects made by keyboards, but not much personality. The lyrics are extremely simple, a fairly dopey tribute to her love which keeps her alive, makes her smile when she's down, takes her higher, etc.
The Tennessee band Lonestar is the latest poppy country act to have a mainstram hit. Amazed, from the CD Lonely Grill, is a sappy if effective love song written by Nashville hired guns about a feeling inside "almost more than I can take" that "blows me away", being able to "hear your thoughts" and "see your dreams" and generally being amazed by her.
Bush-Letting the Cables Sleep(down 4 positions)
The followup to the exciting, tense guitar rocker The Chemicals Between Us is a good, moody ballad. Letting the Cables Sleep, is an anti-suicide song. Gavin Rossdale movingly consoles a troubled friend. The instrumentation is minimal with simple guitar and piano.
Destiny's Child-Say My Name(up 8 positions)
The pop charts are dominated these days by groups of pretty, smooth singing white boys and black women. Destiny's Child have already had big r&b hits with Bills, Bills, Bills and Bug a Boo from their Writing's On the Wall CD. Say My Name is their biggest pop hit. It is cool and smooth but doesn't really go anywhere with the idea that a lover, who's "acting kind of shady", should say her name to prove that he's not playing around with another woman. The song mixes things up a couple of times by speeding up and changing the beat but mostly it seems like endless repetition of the title.
Faith Hill-Breathe(up 6 positions)
The title track from the country star's Breathe record is her pop breakthrough. It's not surprising that this glossy country pop ballad is a hit but Breathe is particularly empty musically and lyrically. Hill has no desire to seem like a liberated woman. She spends the whole song swooning about her man and how she's never been this swept away. The music starts decently with an acoustic guitar but soon builds into big, boring soaring choruses.
AC/DC-Stiff Upper Lip(up 3 positions)
With Brian Johnson's gravity defying screech and the dopey lyrics about keeping a stiff upper lip and shooting from the hip, the title track of the new AC/DC CD comes close to self parody. Still, their fans will probably be happy. It sounds like AC/DC and a it's got a rockin' boogie guitar.
Macy Gray-I Try(up 10 positions)
Gray's On How Life Is was justifiably one of the most highly acclaimed records of 1999. There's a good smooth groove nearly throughout and the songs are very well made. Gray's raspy childlike voice takes some getting used to but she does communicate a joyful sense of wonder. I Try is actually a sad story. Gray sings that "we should be together but we're not." She's a prisoner of his love and her world crumbles when he's not near. However, the music and her voice soften the troubled lyrics. Keyboards with chiming and string effects create an understated elegance.
Tracy Chapman-Telling Stories(up 2 positions)
On her new CD, Chapman shows her weakness of often taking things a little too seriously. She relaxes a little on the title track. A nice loose electric guitar keeps things moving. Telling Stories also shows the positive side of Chapman's seriousness. Her writing and singing is characteristically simple, direct and poignant as she tells how a lie can be better than the truth.
Christina Aguilera-What a Girl Wants(down 4 positions)
Her songs are about as dopey as those of her chart mates Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears but Aguilera seems to have the best voice. What a Girl Wants isn't as musically striking as Genie in a Bottle, with its stark, crisp beat. It's more like crowd pleasing generic dance pop. Like Genie in a Bottle, What a Girl Wants makes some pretense of trying to show a strong, self respecting woman, but Aguilera seems a little too appreciative of the guy who gave her time to make up her mind.
Sting-Desert Rose(up 3 positions)
Desert Rose is a fairly high point in the mellower baby boomer stage of Sting's career. The title track from Sting's Brand New Day was a ridiculously optimistic look ahead to a new millennium. Desert Rose has more to it with good atmosphere from big percussion, Middle Eastern instruments and an introduction sung by an Arabic singer. There's not that much substance under the atmosphere and Sting can't help seeming like he's just dabbling in other cultures but the song, about being in the desert and dreaming of rain and dreaming of love as time rolls through his hands, has a nice, hallucinogenic feel.
Angie Aparo-Spaceshipbuy it!
Spaceship is from Aparo's the American CD. Spaceship has the moody, synth filled atmosphere of an early 80's song by Thomas Dolby or Ultravox. Aparo, with his voice filtered, achieves a haunting beauty. The lyrics, always returning to "when you gonna grow up", riffs on memory and space flight with images of a satellites and a kid playing at being an astronaut.
Beck-Mixed Biznessbuy it!
My favorite songs on Beck's Midnite Vultures are Pressure Zone and Beautiful Way, songs which don't fit with the CD's general theme of painstakingly recreating 70's funk and disco. However, Mixed Bizness is a lot of fun. Unlike on some of the songs on Midnite Vultures, Beck seems more concerned with creating a good time mood than in showing off how talented he is. Beck creates a good groove with cheesy sound effects, funky bass, horns and high pitched backing vocals. The fun music makes Beck's typically goofy words, with lyrics about making "all the lesbians scream", go down easier.
Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals-Steal My Kisses(up 5 positions)
Steal My Kisses is a particularly light, fun piece from Harper's Burn To Shine CD. Harper presents himself as a good natured rascal, persisting in working on a hard to get lady. The music keeps the mood easy with a loose electric guitar.
The followup to Nookie from the Significant Other is musically more subtle than Nookie. The vocals and guitars don't scream and the song has a good groove with a nice bass line. Lyrically, Fred Durst is still a bitter guy. He's clearly upset about his latest breakup but he tries to convince himself that he thanks God it's over and that she's going to need him when he's gone.
Blaque-Bring It All To Me(unchanged)
Bring It All To Me has a nice easy groove and good crisp beats. Blaque's reedy vocals could be annoying under different circumstances but here everything is comfortable. Though their lyrics have a little too much emphasis on keeping it real for my liking, N Sync fit in well in their supporting performance.
Kenny Wayne Shephard-Was(unchanged)
Shephard's talent as a player and love of his blues rock predecessors is always more apparent than his originality. Was, from Shephard's Live On CD, starts well in a gritty, spare blues setting. Was has a pretty authentic feel but it evolves into his usual showing off and overdone music. The lyrics, about being under a woman's spell, feel pieced together from other songs, with their repeated references to moonlit nights and madman's walks.
Savage Garden-I Knew I Loved You(down 10 positions)
Like on their smash Truly, Deeply, Madly, Savage Garden seem like nice, sincere guys. They also seem a little boring. The vocals are sickly sweet. I Knew I Loved You, from the Affirmation CD, is inoffensively sweet but the lyrics of knowing I loved you before I met you are delivered very blandly.
Limp Bizkit-Break Stuffbuy it!
Break Stuff is my favorite of the three chart songs from the Significant Other CD. The song is about Fred Durst having "one of those days" and being in a bad mood and, of course, relations with women are at the heart of his hostility. Still, Break Stuff doesn't have the same detailed misogyny as Nookie and Rearranged. More importantly, with big guitars and a big hip hop beat, Break Stuff has great energy and momentum.
Bob Dylan-Things Have Changed(up 2 positions)
Dylan's renaissance, which began with his Time Out of Mind CD, continues with this track from the Wonder Boys soundtrack. Dylan continues the persona he used on Time Out of Mind of the cranky old guy who's known heartache so many times that he's almost giving up on love. He sings of being a "worried man with a worried mind" who "used to care but things have changed." But the flip side of the persona is not worrying about looking foolish, dreaming of love "as time slips through my hands", feeling "like falling in love with the first woman I meet." Dylan seems to be have fun with the light, jaunty musical tone with a loose vocal over an relaxed slide guitar and easy bluesy mood.
Carlos Santana hasn't had a hit in nearly 20 years but with Smooth, from his new record Supernatural, he's found a savvy, irresistable sound. The music is classic Santana. Carlos' guitar riffs are evocative and the percussion and horns create a great groove. The new element is the vocals of Matchbox 20's Rob Thomas. Matchbox 20 has been one of the most successful groups of the last 2 years with 5 hit singles from their Yourself or Someone Like You cd which still is getting radio play 3 years after its release. It's kind of funny that Thomas, whose success is largely based on a commercially calculated sound that works to appeal to rock fans without offending easy listening audiences, is singing about giving of your heart and not just being smooth. Nonetheless, it was smart for Santana to work with Thomas. Besides being a smart commercial move, using Thomas does work musically for Santana. His vocals are smooth and they invite you into Santana's cool world.
Blink 182-Adam's Songbuy it!
Just when you thought Blink 182 were only dopey, if fun, rockers, the poignant third single from Enema of the State shows they've got some smarts. Tom DeLonge sings as an innocent young man looking back at his last days, after his premature death. Like all the band's music, Adam's Song still rocks. But it has a more restrained and fully produced sound. As usual, the closest comparison is Green Day, who similarly broadened their sound with Time of Your Life but Adam's Song has its own simple, distinctive sound.