K-Ci & Jojo-Crazy(down 6 positions)
Recently, smooth African American love men have been seriously outnumbered at top of the pop charts by R&B divas and white teen pop singers. K-Ci & Jojo Hailey, brothers who were formerly members of Jodeci, return to the charts with a soul ballad from their X CD. They're one of three groups that entered the top 50 within a week in January with a very mellow song about a guy who's nothing without his woman and is willing to do anything for her. K-Ci & Jojo seem like better singers than 98 Degrees and BBMak but their delivery is ridiculously overemotive. The pathetic lyrics apologize for being a fool, beg for her to come back and repeat how obsessed he is with her. Crazy has easy listening backing with a restrained beat and tasteful piano though the chorus tries to spice things up by distorting the voices with a silly vocoder effect. Crazy is also on the Save The Last Dance soundtrack. It's had incessant play on MTV which, not coincidentally, produced Save The Last Dance.
A Perfect Circle-The Hollow(up 1 position)
Tool's new CD is coming out soon but Maynard James Keenan's side project keeps getting radio play. After moving even farther away from the Tool signature sound with the folky Three Libras, Mer De Noms' third chart hit sounds like its first, Judith. The guitars aren't quite as big and the atmosphere isn't as angry and oppressive as on a typical Tool song but The Hollow is still serious with a sweeping sound and Keenan's dramatic vocals. Billy Howerdel creates a good, metallic guitar sound. Keenan sings about someone with a constant need to satisfy his libido. The Hollow is fairly interesting but not too different from Keenan's usual tales of obsession. It lacks his usual climactic payoff and doesn't really go anywhere.
Staind-It's Been Awhile(up 14 positions)
It's Been Awhile, the first single from the Break The Cycle CD, entered the top 50 as singer Aaron Lewis had just made the top 10 for the first time with Outside from the Family Values Tour CD. It's Been Awhile is similar to Outside: thoughtful and fairly subtle for radio rock but very serious and not much fun. It's Been Awhile is another song about Lewis' troubled mind. He sings about how he always screws things and longs for the feeling of relief that came with his love. It's Been Awhile's verses are fairly quiet and similar to Outside. Power chords and drums create rock drama on the chorus but things don't get too overdone.
Barenaked Ladies-Too Little Too Late(down 5 positions)
BNL's main singer Stephen Page is outdone on the Maroon CD by Ed Robertson, who has two of the new CD's best songs, Pinch Me and Falling For The First Time. However, Page has a few good songs and Too Little Too Late may be the best of them. Maroon's second single is a little like Stunt's It's All Been Done. Too Little Too Late is fun, high energy straight ahead rock with Robertson's good, tight guitar riff. Page's self centered character blames his partner for his bad behavior, saying he would be good, "if I knew I was understood" and dooms the relationship by always being a little late in correcting his faults.
Saliva-Your Disease(up 7 positions)
Your Disease, from the Memphis band's Every Six Seconds CD, covers a lot of the bases of hard modern rock to create a sound that its target audience must find irresistable. Like Limp Bizkit, Saliva mixes hard guitars with rap. Over Soundgarden style hard guitars, Josey Scott does a slow Kid Rock style white trashy rap with some truly awful lines("like the Bee Gees cry, I'm just stayin' alive). The chorus is catchy metal pop that would make Def Leppard proud. Your Disease's lyric is familiar junk: "it feels like paradise", "I want to take you down, but your soul cannot be found" and "there's nothing here for free."
Cold-No One(up 2 positions)
On No One, from Cold's 13 Ways to Bleed On Stage CD, Scooter Ward is another serious singer with Vedder-like intensity. At least, with a fluid sound, loose drumming and bass playing and a subtle guitar, Cold's Pearl Jam/STP imitation has pretty good music. Ward sings about being left alone "with no one sent to get me", feeling "like I'm being erased." He apparently isn't dealing well with a breakup and is "so sick of this terrible instinct."
Linkin Park-One Step Closer(down 6 positions)
One Step Closer is from the Hybrid Theory CD. Like Korn, Limp Bizkit and Papa Roach, Linkin Park are an angry band who mix a hip hop sensibility to their heavy metal but they're even less appealing than those bands. The sound is nasty with yelled vocals and harsh guitar chords. One Step Closer is about another young white guy so troubled that he "can't take this anymore." It's not specified, but the lyrics probably refer to a woman: "everything you say to me, takes me one step closer to the edge and I'm about to break."
The Wallflowers-Letters From The Wasteland(up 8 positions)
Breach, the Wallflowers third CD, is a tastefully made and quite boring set of songs. Letters From The Wasteland is another restrained adult rocker that sounds like Sleepwalker or One Headlight but has a gloomier mood. It has decent energy with good guitar and drums but doesn't really go anywhere. Letters From The Wasteland employs dark imagery to describe getting dumped. In a typically uninflected vocal, Jakob Dylan sings, "I wake up sick as you abandon me into these fields of rank and file" and of being "in this smoke filled waiting room with incarcerated love sick fools."
Papa Roach-Between Angels and Insects(up 2 positions)
On Between Angels and Insects, Papa Roach again seem less commercially calculating than their modern rock peers. They're serious and intense if a little simplistic. After songs about a troubled mind on Last Resort and a youth's troubled home life on Broken Home, Papa Roach move into Rage Against The Machine territory for the third chart hit from the Infest CD. Over big, hard guitars, Coby Dick alternates between tortured singing and an angry rap. He tells us "take your money, burn it up like an asteroid/possessions are never gonna fill the void." He gives us a philosophy lesson. He doesn't need possessions " 'cause everything is nothing and emptiness is in everything."
Madonna-Don't Tell Me(unchanged)
Don't Tell Me, the second single from the Music CD, was written by producer Mirwais Ahmadzai and a pop music odd couple, Madonna and her brother in law, atmospheric folk rocker Joe Henry. The lyrics are pretty familar. Telling Madonna to stop loving her man is like telling "the rain not to drop", the wind not to blow" and "the sun not to shine." Henry's minimal, twisted writing style isn't too evident, except maybe towards the end: "tell the bed not to lay, like the open mouth of a grave/not to stare at me, like a calf down on its knees." Don't Tell Me is pretty insubstantial but it has a good, easy mood. The sound is clear and simple with acoustic guitar, solid beats, strings and some silly sonic effects to spice things up. Madonna's vocals are pleasant and not too bad.
Jennifer Lopez-Love Don't Cost A Thing(down 2 positions)
Love Don't Cost A Thing is the first single from Lopez' J. Lo CD. People are bound to see the song as commentary on Lopez' relationship with Puffy Combs. Lopez sings about a paranoid guy who thinks she's with him to spend his cash and drive his Benz. She reassures her man that, "ever if you were broke", "all that matters is that you treat me right." In the end, she decides to leave until he shows his love is true and gives her "all the things I need that money can't buy." Opening with symphonic drums, Love Don't Cost A Thing has good beats and the kind of cool, clean kind of production Rodney Jerkins gave Toni Braxton's He Wasn't Man Enough and Brandy & Monica's The Boy Is Mine. Lopez' voice, pretty thin in the past, is generally hidden by backing vocals. But when she's on her own, her modest singing has an interesting flow, dramatically changing pace.
Nelly Furtado-I'm Like A Bird(up 7 positions)
I'm Like A Bird, from the Canadian singer's Whoa Nelly! CD, sounds like a pop/easy listening hit but it also has a nice, trippy edge. Especially on the verses, the sound is cool and a little jazzy. Furtado's voice is loose and playful. The beat is chunky but the feel is appropriately light. The chorus, cushioned by backing vocals and synths, is more standard pop but Furtado keeps things buoyant and appealing. She sings that, even though she's in love, she's eventually going to have to move on.
Spacehog-I Want To Live(up 2 positions)
Since having an alternative hit with the fun, spacy In The Meantime from 1995's Resident Alien CD, Spacehog's main claim to fame has been that Royston Langdon is Liv Tyler's boyfriend. I Want To Live is a good return to form. I Want To Live is from the Hogyssey CD, which was produced by Paul Ebersold, who did Three Doors Down's The Better Life. Spacehog still are doing the 70s glam thing. On I Want To Live, Langdon channels David Bowie and Bryan Ferry, sounding both ultraserious and self mocking. The music is solid and fairly ungimmicky with a steady beat, big, solid guitars and a positive feel. I Want To Live is apparently about a young woman feeling "faceless and lonely" but trying to escape her problems.
Jennifer Lopez-Playbuy it!
Lopez follows the sleek Love Don't Cost A Thing with a less elegant song that just wants to make you dance.The second single from the J. Lo CD is, like Madonna's Music, a request for the DJ to play a song. But unlike Madonna's knowingly kitschy song, Play really is just about wanting the DJ to "play it all night long." Play has a decent groove and like Lopez' Waiting For Tonight, it's effective and upbeat, if not particularly distinctive or smart, dance music. With its slightly cheesy beeping electronic effects, Play has an 80's feel. Lopez' voice isn't strong but it's loose and competent.
S Club 7-Never Had A Dream Come True(up 7 positions)
The marijuana arrest of some of the S Club kids is the most interesting thing about this boring, squeaky clean British addition to the Radio Disney crowd. The lyrics, about having trouble moving on after the end of a once prefect relationship, aren't awful, just familiar. Jo O'Meara tries to add a little soul and her singing isn't as bad as Britney's on the similar From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart. But the music is bland even for the genre. The violins are ladled on and the dramatic drums and keyboards should be backing a bad easy listening lounge act. Never Had A Dream Come True was first an English single benefitting a children's charity. It was later added to S Club 7's 7 CD.
Nelly-Ride Wit Mebuy it!
Nelly's second top 50 hit has his trademark easily flowing sound and fast, relaxed rap. Ride Wit Me is even smoother than Country Grammar's title track and has a good, likable feel, except for the dopey yelled "must be the money" interruptions. Ride Wit Me has another cocky, kind of silly rap celebrating getting high, girls glad to satisfy and being able to mock people who said he was a failure, with his dough and Benz.
Mya-Free(up 1 position)
Free was added to later printings of Mya's Fear Of Flying CD after appearing on the Bait soundtrack. It's now the CD's second pop hit. Free was cowritten and produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and has the fun, frothy feel of the lighter work they did with Janet Jackson like When I Think Of You. Free is extremely lightweight dance pop but it has good energy and an effective beat. Mya easily slides quickly through the silly classified ad like lyric which advertises her attributes: "I got a four wheel drive, 5' 5", brown eyes" , "I'm free, single, sexy and sweet, makin' my own money." She "may let you share my fantasy" but she doesn't want a man "tryin' to tie me down" or "a playa who got kids all over town" with "his curl juice drippin' all over my Mercedes seat" or "a man who thinks he looks better than me."
Green Day-Warning(down 14 positions)
The joyful songs Church On Sunday and Waiting are my favorites from the Warning CD but the title track is a decent pick for a second single. It's a good example of how solid and unpretentious the new record is. Green Day have become a little more mature without being too serious. Warning reminds me of John Mellancamp's sturdy rock songs, especially Crumblin' Down. Mike Dirnt's chunky bass line keeps the song moving forward as Billie Joe invokes a series of warnings we grew up with that suggest dangers all around us.
Matchbox 20-If You're Gone(down 5 positions)
The second single from Matchbox 20's Mad Season is wimpy but nice. I'm not a big ballad fan but If You're Gone is one of my favorite mellow songs of the year. Rob Thomas' singing is often overdramatic but here it's nicely understated. The music, with inobtrusive guitar and keyboards, fits the sad, resigned song as Thomas sings, "I think I've already lost you." But the song also has some hope. Thomas has finally been roused to action and is willing to try harder: "I think I can need this in my life." Horns rising at the end of the song match the cautiously optimistic feeling.
Ridin' resembles like Lit Up, the hit from Buckcherry's debut. Joshua Todd sounds like a number of cocky rock and roll screamers but his screech is more annoying than that of Jagger, Plant or Steven Tyler. Black Crowes' Chris Robinson is subtle in comparison. The best analogy to this very simple hard rocker, about having a good time with a girl who "loves to go ridin' cause she's sick in the head", might be with an AC/DC song like Highway To Hell. I see the appeal of the basic, rumbing guitars but still find the song stupid and irritating.
New Found Glory-Hit Or Miss(up 4 positions)
Fast, three chord power pop isn't as hot as it was at its 80's peak but it's still around and still fun if done with good energy and not too much seriousness. New Found Glory resemble Green Day, the model for the recent breed of post punksters, and Blink 182 as they have a good, dopey time with a likable, very simple song. Hit or Miss, from the band's self titled CD, is a bittersweet reminisence of a recently ended relationship. Jordan Pundik fondly remembers "the time we realized Thriller was our favorite song" but also sings that for her it was "simple to lie."
The second single from the Awake CD is similar to the title track but even harsher and less appealing. Singer Sully Erna is a devout Wiccan and Greed has a bit of a spiritual sound but the song is just nasty, not exotic. The guitars thump and thud as Erna howls, "hey little bitch, be glad you finally walked away or you may have not lived another day." Amid the despicable misogyny we're supposed to empathize with Erna for feeling smothered and in need of help.
Shawn Colvin-Whole New Youbuy it!
The title track for the Whole New You CD isn't as striking as Colvin's fluke smash hit Sunny Came Home but it's another nice addition to her body of smart, tuneful adult pop rock singles like Steady On and Round Of Blues. Colvin gives a friend a pep talk, advising "shake the loneliness and shine the light." Whole New You has a good, easy feel with understated but effective guitar and keyboards. The chorus is likable and it's probably not Colvin's fault that it reminds me of Starship's 80's relic Nothing Gonna Stop Us Now.
Josh Joplin Group-Camera One(unchanged)
Camera One is from the band's Useful Music CD. Camera One is serious but catchy, kind of like old Peter Gabriel or Genesis but a little more obvious. With production by Jerry Harrison, Camera One sounds good. Camera One is another cynical tale about how pursuit of a Hollywood dream can have disappointing results. Joplin's tale is hardly subtle as he dramatically intones that "you're playing you now."
Alien Ant Farm-Moviesbuy it!
Like The Toadies, Alien Art Farm try to show smarts while benefitting from rock and roll heft. Moves like a rocking(and pretty stupid) version of Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal are meant to show hard rock power and an imagination. Movies gets good energy from a big and alternately stuttering and booming guitar sound but Dryden Mitchell's screaming and the lyric about trying to gracefully end a relationship are just O.K.