Hoobastank-Crawling In The Dark(unchanged)
Crawling In The Dark, from the L.A. band's self titled major label debut, is another song that sounds pieced together from other successful rock songs. It's got Korn style atmospheric guitar, a serious, troubled singer, big power chords and a vague Faith No More/Limp Bizkit style hip hop sensibility. But Crawling In The Dark also has good tempo shifts and it's more interesting than much of the similarly imitative music on rock radio. I like the way the song speeds up and gains energy on the chorus. Doug Robb keeps things from getting too draggy as he sings about "looking for the answer" and trying to find direction in life.
Vanessa Carlton-A Thousand Miles(up 2 positions)
A Thousand Miles is a slightly unwieldy but charming combination of breezy pop and more arty pretentions. 21 year old Vanessa Carlton has a likably modest, youthful voice that's similar to Michelle Branch's. Like Branch's hits, A Thousand Miles, from the Be Not Nobody CD, has a pleasant melody and sunny, optimistic sound that appeals to teenage girls too cool or too old for Britney. But A Thousand Miles also gives its pop ambitious accompaniment. There's a little too much going on but the big, slightly over the top music is appropriate for an expression of big, innocent emotions. Carlton plays smooth, flowery runs that show that Alicia Keys isn't the only young singer with keyboard skills. A Thousand Miles also has an orchestral arrangement with strings busily playing a riff that oddly resembles an old western tv show theme. It also has a bridge where Carlton and a guitar simulate a piece of Natalie Imbruglia's Torn. Carlton sings about missing a departed object of affection and wondering if he misses her.
Ashanti-Foolish(up 7 positions)
Ashanti Douglas is a talented songwriter who's already played prominent vocal roles on other artists' hits. Ashanti's vocal is one of my favorite parts of Fat Joe's What's Luv? and Ja Rule's Always On Time but I'm disappointed by Foolish, the first hit from her self titled CD. Foolish, like the other hits she's sung on, is produced by Irv Gotti. I understand why Foolish is a hit. It has a smooth, uncluttered sound and a crisp, inobtrusive beat. While I find some of the vocal too thin and whispery, Ashanti's singing mostly goes down easy. Unlike What's Luv? and Always On Time, which throw in elements of everything from hard hip hop to smooth soul and catchy pop, Foolish seems to be missing something. I find the main ornamentation of Foolish, a piano riff and shimmering percussion effect, repetitious and uninteresting. Ashanti sings on Foolish that love keeps her running back to her man even though she knows he's "treatin' me so bad."
Kylie Minogue-Can't Get You Out Of My Head(down 9 positions)
Kylie Minogue has been huge in England and Australia for more than a decade but her worldwide success Can't Get You Out Of My Head, from the Fever CD, is her first U.S. monster hit. Can't Get You Out Of My Head, with its la la las and mechanical beat, is obviously sterile, synthetic and dopey. Still, Can't Get You Out Of My Head, cowritten and produced by Cathy Dennis who once sang a dance pop hit called Touch Me(All Night Long), is well constucted and appealing. At times, it reminds of such disparate cold but compelling synth pop songs as New Order's Blue Monday and Cyndi Lauper's She Bop. The futuristic sound is less frantic than recent Eurodisco songs like Around The World and Blue. The music and Minogue's sultry vocal are confident, unhurried and cool. Unlike Madonna's Music, Can't Get You Out Of My Head doesn't try to be ironic and self mocking. It really is just about not being able to get a guy out of her head. The music is just about creating a good, inviting beat.
Weezer-Dope Nose(up 3 positions)
Weezer took until last year to release a followup to their commercially disappointing second record, 1996's Pinkerton. Now that they're selling again, Weezer wasted little time coming back with their fourth release: Maladroit. From what I've heard of Maladroit the songs aren't as tight and don't have the same pop gloss as those on last year's green album but they do have that record's rock heft. With its loose sense of fun and chunky guitar chords, Dope Nose reminds me of the songs from Pinkerton, particularly The Good Life, perhaps my favorite Weezer song ever. Dope Nose has a goofy charm. The band sings their ho-oh-oh-ohs to a tune that sounds like The Flinstones' theme. Brian Bell and Rivers Cuomos's steadily driving guitar work, which includes Bell's exciting and characteristically short, unshowy solo, gives Dope Nose a high energy sense of fun. Rock radio is unlikely to be as receptive to Dope Nose's giddiness as it was to Hash Pipe's heavy metal rumble. But Dope Nose, which clocks in at less than two minutes and 15 seconds, is a simple, good time that extends Weezer's impressive streak of quality music. Dope Nose apparently tells us that dope helps Cuomo to "bust rhymes real slow." Cuomo also throws in the fact that "cheese smells so good on a burnt piece of lamb."
Enrique Iglesias-Escape(down 8 positions)
Enrique Iglesias follows the big, empty soaring ballad Hero with an empty, generic dance pop song. Iglesias' American success is apparently attributable to his genial, unchallenging music and exotic hunkiness. The video for the title track and second single from Iglesias' Escape CD emphasizes Iglesias' looks by pairing him with exotic babe Anna Kournikova. Escape is pleasant enough but it basically has no personality. Escape has a decent if familiar guitar riff but also has an uninteresting, very programmed beat and innocuous synth sounds. Like on most of his English language work, Iglesias doesn't sound completely comfortable. He seems handcuffed by the tight, synthetic production and tentative in some of his English pronounciations. I do like the end of Escape when Iglesias gets a rare chance to let loose with a falsetto repeating "you can run." Iglesias predicts on Escape that, even if she leaves now, his partner will want to come back to a relationship that "was good, it was bad but it was real."
No Doubt-Hella Good(up 9 positions)
Like Hey Baby, Hella Good, the second single from the Rock Steady CD, immediately sounds like a hit. Unlike Hey Baby, I don't hate Hella Good. Even with crisp, tight production by reggae heroes Sly & Robbie, Hey Baby's beeping video game flash was way too gimmicky for me. Hella Good is cold, efficient, mechanical and carefully constructed for commercial consumption but it's more appealing to me. Maybe that's because Hella Good is so danceable. Maybe it's because it reminds me of the dance pop hits of my youth. I can't put my finger on exactly what song Hella Good reminds me of but its heavy beat and big, catchy synths bring to mind such irresistable hits as Prince's 1999, Madonna's Into The Groove, Queen's Another One Bites The Dust and Human League's Don't You Want Me. As with another undeniable recent smash, Kylie Minogue's Can't Get You Out Of My Head, Hella Good doesn't let any complicated ideas get in the way of the groove. With her confident, no nonsense vocal, Gwen Stefani just sings about how it feels really good to dance with someone you love.
Trik Turner-Friends And Family (down 3 positions)
Friends and Family, from the Phoenix band's self titled CD, is similar to Everlast's hits in using a spare sound for a very serious, heartfelt account. You can't argue with the song's premise that what really matters is the love of your friends and family though that message is surrounded by less appealing lines about keeping a(presumably musical) dream alive by overcoming the odds and those who criticize. Friends And Family has a striking, atmospheric sound, with a simple beat and minimal keyboards. But, especially after repeat listens, I find the song too solemn and, while it sounds like it's about something important, it's not actually that interesting.
Puddle Of Mudd-Drift And Diebuy it!
Puddle Of Mudd, Staind, Nickelback and other new rock bands have had huge pop hits. So I haven't done them justice by writing that their main appeal is to troubled male teens with limited musical taste. Obviously, self pitying smashes like Blurry, It's Been Awhile and How You Remind Me have broad appeal. I guess that appeal comes, for people seek meaning, from the fact that they sound they're about something. Whether what they sing about is actually interesting or well written, Wes Scantlin, Aaron Lewis and Chad Kroeger's expressions are sincere and intense. Their music has rock heft and is also melodic, catchy and easy to sing along to. I resist the new grunge label that others have given rock of the early 00s because the music is so much less interesting and powerful than the rock of the early 90s and because the music's commercial calculation should be antithetical to any reasonable definition of grunge. Still, the hitmakers of today have learned from their forefathers. Drift And Die, the third chart hit from Puddle Of Mudd's Come Clean CD, is another song that follows Kurt Cobain's model, starting with a quiet, intense verse then exploding into a rocking, screamed chorus. Scantlin starts with his acoustic guitar and serious, pained vocal. Towards the end, the band make a big, layered sound that's a good imitation of Pearl Jam's Even Flow. I don't like Scantlin's self righteous vocal as he nastily sings "go away from me" and complains how "ignorance spreads lies." Drift And Die doesn't seem quite as top of the charts ready as Barely Breathing soundalike Blurry. I can still imagine plenty of kids singing "as I drift and die" this summer.
Calling-Wherever You Will Go(down 1 position)
Wherever You Will Go, from the Camino Palmero CD, spent six weeks on the chart this summer thanks to rock radio play. It's returned to the chart and rocketed near the top as the kind of catchy, sappy song pop stations love. Wherever You Will Go's extreme earnestness and Alex Band's deep, prematurely old sounding vocal place Calling along with Lifehouse as followers of Creed's model. Wherever You Will Go is apparently about someone contemplating his death and how his wife will go on without him. Band wonders "who will be there to take my place when I'm gone" and hopes to come back as some sort of spirit "to watch you, to guide you." The maudlin lyrics aren't helped by the dopey "if I could, then I would", "way up high or down low" chorus. With sensitive verses and rock guitar on the chorus, Wherever You Will Go has the slick lite rock sound nailed.
White Stripes-Fell In Love With A Girl(up 3 positions)
White Stripes are either a brother and sister(if you believe them) or a current or former couple(if you believe the rock press) from Detroit. Fell In Love With A Girl is from White Stripes' eclectic and quite wonderful 2001 CD White Blood Cells. I sometimes find Jack White's weird, confident persona a little hard to take but I can't resist Fell In Love With A Girl's simple burst of joy. Fell In Love With A Girl is easily the shortest song to make the All-Reviews top 50. But even at 1:45, Fell In Love With A Girl is a complete rock experience. Just banging away on his guitar fast and loud and screaming about a girl with "red hair with a curl", Jack White recalls the spirit of early rock and roll by stripping away any excess to find a pure rock essence. Meg White's drumming is basic but effectively matches the buoyant mood. White Stripes very impressively create a big sound with just a guitarist and drummer. They bring to mind Local H's similar ability to make a huge noise with two players. White Stripes' tale of the thrill of ignoring the "left brain"'s message that love is fleeting is one of the most fun songs around.
Pete Yorn-Strange Condition(down 1 position)
The New Jersey native/LA resident singer and songwriter's following continues to slowly grow. His debut CD is still getting radio play nearly a year after its release. In my mind, Bob Dylan's Love and Theft is the only 2001 rock CD that's better than Yorn's Musicforthemorningafter and The Strokes' Is This It is the only other one that might be as good. The CD has consistently strong songs: great, fun rockers and cool, brooding ballads. Brad Wood, who produced and played on records for Liz Phair, played a similar role for Yorn, another striking, confident young talent. Music . . . was apparently a low budget production but the songs are carefully constructed with layers of instruments, giving even the quietest songs a likable, textured feeling. Strange Condition follows Life On A Chain as Yorn's second chart hit(For Nancy fell just short of the top 50). R Walt Vincent's harmonica, layered over Yorn's acoustic guitar, contributes to a good, moody feel. Yorn is cool, as always, playing a tortured soul on Strange Condition.
X Ecutioners-It's Going Down(down 6 positions)
It's Going Down is from the Built From Scratch CD by New York turntable experts X Ecutioners. X Ecutioners have worked with a number of guest vocalists and musicians. It's Going Down features rapper Mike Shinoda and DJ Joseph Hahn from Linkin Park. It's Going Down sounds like a good Linkin Park song. The absence of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington is a plus in my mind. Bennington's angry wail is undoubtedly a big part of Linkin Park's huge success but I mostly find it unpleasant. X Ecutioners have laid down a tight mix with a good, hard sound. Working with a tough guitar riff, solid beats, samples, record scratching and Shinoda's rap, they've created a no nonsense collage of sound that keeps coming. It's Going Down is about how the song's "audible odyssey" "reflects the complex hybrid dialect" and "melting pot of a super futuresque style." Raps bragging about the originality of a musical style are nothing new but It's Going Down's lyric, like the song itself, is solid and unpretentious.
Moby-We Are All Made Of Stars(up 5 positions)
Moby's new CD is called 18, reportedly because the songs are based on music Moby was listening to in the early 80's when he was that age. You have to go back a few years earlier to We Are All Made Of Stars's most obvious influence: David Bowie's 70's work; most specifically Heroes. We Are All Made Of Stars has Heroes' patient pace and soaring guitar line. As on Heroes, an icy musical atmosphere contradicts the lyrics' optimism. In a distanced, filtered voice, Moby sings about being part of an unstoppable, growing movement that heralds the future. We Are All Made Of Stars also brings to mind Bowie's Starman, futuristic synth songs like Gary Numan's Cars and Porcelain from Moby's great 1999 Play CD. Nothing about We Are All Made Of Stars quite strikes me like the "this is goodbye"s of Porcelain's stark masterpiece of a dream evocation and the music isn't as original as on many of Play's brilliant constructions. Still, I find We Are All Made Of Stars' contrast between cold, synthetic verses and a warmer chorus, where Moby's earnest vocal overcomes the dark, mechanical mood, compelling and moving.
Chris Isaak-Let Me Down Easy(unchanged)
While Chris Isaak seems like a mellow guy, he obviously has savvy businessmen behind him. In January, Isaak achieved big time synergy as, nearly simultaneously with the release of Isaak's new Always Got Tonight CD, Showtime began the second season of Isaak's genial, slight rock sitcom and VH1 played a marathon of the show's first season. In 1985, Isaak came on the scene with his spare, haunted, Roy Orbison influenced Silvertone record. Since then, Isaak has mostly omitted the raw, stark feel but, especially since Wicked Game gave him his one big hit, otherwise continued to make the same kind of moody, adult, country flavored records. Isaak's songs often involve Isaak getting his heart broken and/or being haunted by the memory of the ideal woman who left. While Isaak's music is predictable and a little too smooth, it's still good. His songs are well played and have good atmosphere. Isaak's vocals are cool and self confident with a self deprecating charm that also suits him well(despite minimal acting skills) on his sitcom. Let Me Down Easy is similar to Somebody's Crying and other mellow midtempo Isaak songs but it's likable. Let Me Down Easy has a mechanical beat but it has a good ringing guitar riff. On Let Me Down Easy, Isaak again broods about falling hard for a woman who doesn't reciprocate his feelings.
Incubus-Nice To Know You(down 20 positions)
The Morning View CD's second chart hit reminds me of its first, I Wish You Were Here. Both songs, like most Incubus tunes, have some hard rock trappings and a bit of hip hop but are otherwise pleasant pop. Nice To Know You alternates between rougher patches with a driving beat and record scratching, choruses with a big rock guitar sound and bridges with an upbeat folk rock feel. Incubus aren't particularly important or as tough and edgy as they think they are but their music is pleasant, inoffensive and flavorful and it does a decent job of bridging the gap between different musical styles. Nice To Know You's music and Brandon's Boyd's lyrics, about beginning to experience and enjoy life again, have the same vaguely spacy, positive sense as much of Incubus' work.
Tweet-Oops(Oh My)(up 8 positions)
Oops is from the Southern Hummingbird CD by Timbaland/Missy Elliot protégé Tweet. Oops got attention because of its teasing lyrics but it also has a striking sound. Oops' repeated horn sample and woody percussive beat give it a swirling, vaguely exotic, though mechanical, feel similar to that of some of Elliott's work. The music matches Oops' mysterious theme. Oops is too cute and coy in revealing that Tweet's pleasure comes from masturbating alone but the tale of enjoying her body is undeniably sexy. Tweet's vocal is appropriately cool and confident.
Course Of Nature-Caught In The Sun(down 6 positions)
It usually takes a few records for a hard rock band to go for the big bucks with a lame power ballad. But, consistent with the ever more commercially savvy nature of contemporary rock, Alabama's otherwise tough rockers Course Of Nature introduce themselves to the world with an overblown, sappy hit. Caught In The Sun, from the Superkala CD, resembles Goo Goo Dolls' Black Balloon but it outdoes even the Goo Goos' most overproduced work. Caught In The Sun makes its intentions clear from the start with Mark Wilkerson's emotive singing and a big orchestral sound ladled over sensitive guitar and bass. Predictably, power guitar chords come in on the chorus to show Caught In The Sun's rock cred but they're restrained so that top 40 audiences won't be scared away. On Caught In The Sun,Wikerson muses about how he easily could never have met the woman he's separated from and obsessed with.
Our Lady Peace-Somewhere Out Therebuy it!
Seeking an American commercial breakthrough, Canada's Our Lady Peace move into Creed/Goo Goo Dolls/Aerosmith territory for a string laden rock ballad that sounds like a hit. Somewhere Out There, from the Gravity CD, isn't my favorite Our Lady Peace song(the less sweeping ballad Clumsy probably is), but I find it less annoying than some rock ballads. Our Lady Peace singer Raine Maida has always been a rather serious, intense fellow so it's less jarring than for someone like Steven Tyler to hear Maida shift into mellow mode. Maida's hoarse, yearning singing doesn't have Scott Stapp's self important vanity and Somewhere Out There's sound isn't as bloated as on Creed's hits. Still, Somewhere Out There loses out by following a pop formula. I like Somewhere Out There's heartfelt verses but the song's personal touch is steamrollered when the big guitars and heavy orchestration come in. Somewhere Out There is about waiting "on a bed of nails" for the return of an old flame who transcended a feeling of being "lonely and out of place" by moving on to a new life.
Usher-U Don't Have To Callbuy it!
U Don't Have To Call is the third "U" hit from Usher Raymond's 8701 CD. Like the earlier hits, U Don't Have To Call is pleasant listening but nothing spectacular. U Don't Have To Call was produced by the ubiquitous Neptunes. They deploy the same bomb dropping effect they used on Britney's I'm A Slave For U but otherwise give U Don't Have To Call a considerably less intense sound. Usher's voice is strong enough that The Neptunes don't have to create the kinds of distractions they did for Britney. At its best, U Don't Have To Call recalls the great, easy flow of Michael Jackson's Off The Wall. Mostly, the song amiably but inconsequentially breezes by. Usher's vocal is comfortable and likable but unremarkable. Usher tries to be a sensitive man women adore and a tough guy men respect. On U Don't Have To Call, he doesn't criticize the girl he loved and sacrificed for when she says she's leaving but he's already ready to go out tonight and look for someone else.
U2-In A Little While(unchanged)
The songs on U2's All That You Can't Leave Behind took on greater meaning after September 11th. Their empathetic, hopeful feeling seemed perfect for the times. U2 picked a great to move away from the ironic, superficial songs that characterized much of their 90s work and combine the hopefulness of their earlier work with a modesty appropriate for guys who've been around long enough to know that goals aren't always easily met. The singles from All You Can't Leave Behind have been big anthems but the CD also has good quiet songs like the simply idealistic Peace On Earth and the playful Wild Honey. In A Little While, the CD's fifth song to make the top 50, is a rich love song with a timeless quality. Brian End added subtle strings to The Edge's good, basic guitar riff. Bono remarkably kept his enormous ego in check nearly throughout All That You Can't Leave Behind. He's very sweet on In A Little While, promising a longtime friend "surely you'll be mine."
311's music is often pretty mellow. I'll Be Here Awhile, their From Chaos CD's second chart hit, was laid back, genial and inconsequential. On Amber, From Chaos' third single, 311 are even more relaxed than usual but the easy mood works. Amber has a likable hippie vibe that's consistent with its goofy "amber is the color of your energy" hook. 311's typical ska flavoring goes down especially easily on Amber thanks to good, crisp drumming and loose, jazzy guitar lines including one that's given a rubbery preamped bounce Nick Hexum's vocal can be annoyingly innocuous but it floats effortlessly on Amber in a way that's just right. Amber is a tribute to a distant friend whose voice still "rings like a bell" who glides "through my head blind to fear."
Bonnie Raitt-I Can't Help You Nowbuy it!
In 1989, Bonnie Raitt had a huge comeback when the Nick Of Time CD became the biggest seller of her career. Nick Of Time's title track, which touchingly explored midlife female romantic anxiety and provided a happy ending, and Raitt's nicely raunchy cover of John Hiatt's Thing Called Love provided models for much of her 90's work, which has been smooth and mature with a little bluesy edge and slide guitar. On 1998's Fundamental, Raitt wisely chose to work with Mitchell Froom to muss up a sound that had become a little predictable. Part of Fundamental's charm was the tension between Froom's clangy production and Raitt's predilection for smooth combinations of traditional blues and easy 70s style singer/songwriter music. Raitt's new Silver Lining CD is also produced by Froom but Raitt's sound seems to have moved back into its smooth, mature mode. I Can't Help You Now is very comfortable and easy listening. It has a cool mood, a little bit of rock edge and, as usual, Raitt's voice is smart, strong and sexy. I Can't Help You Now seems very familiar, like other Raitt songs or a restrained version of Something To Talk About. On I Can't Help You Now, Raitt tells a guy she once loved and pined for that he's too late in declaring his interest.
Dave Matthews Band-Everyday(down 4 positions)
The Dave Matthews Band's Everyday CD isn't great but it does have quite a few decent ballads. The best ones keep things simple and relaxed. Everyday's title track is probably the best song on the record. Vocals by South African singer Vusi Mahlasela help create a joyful feel. Everyday shows off the band's strong musicianship. Backing vocals, guitar, horns and Carter Beauford's drums all contribute to Everday's light and playful but rich sound. Everyday's "all you need is love" refrain is nothing new but it fits a song about reducing things to the basics that advises us to "get your hands dirty" and seek love.
India Arie-Videobuy it!
Video, from the Acoustic Soul CD, has been around for a year. It's been on VH1's playlist for almost the entire year. Video finally moved near the top of the pop charts after India Arie Simpson got a bunch of Grammy nominations including for album of the year and best new artist. Hearing any song frequently over a long period can make you a little sick of it. At this point, I sometimes think about Video: I'm glad you love yourself but enough already. I generally still love Video. The message about being happy even if you don't look like a supermodel or have expensive clothes or cars is a very welcome reponse to the ostentatious displays of material wealth and idealized female beauty in countless MTV videos. Video has a very likable, relaxed sound. India Arie's vocal is appropriately confident but charmingly unassuming. She plays an appealing shuffling acoustic guitar riff over loose, varied percussion.