SR-71-Right Now(up 10 positions)
Right Now is from the band's debut Now You See Inside CD. SR-71, named for a military stealth aircraft, are the latest band to follow Green Day in making fast, punky pop. Right Now has appealing energy and a good guitar riff. However, its appeal is limited by its mediocre vocals and dopey lyrics. Especially in Mitch Allan's bratty singing, Right Now is reminiscent of the sloppy, speedy mindlessly fun songs the Goo Goo Dolls do when bass player Robby Takac gets to sing lead. The male teens will probably appreciate the immature tale of a guy who used to worship his girlfriend and "hang on every word" but now, feeling taking advantage of, he's just going to use her until something better comes along.
Godsmack-Bad Religionbuy it!
Rock radio continues to die, as it targets an audience that mainly consists of teenage males. Godsmack is a prime example of what's wrong with the format. Their hard guitar rock is murky, unexciting and pretentious. Their lyrics are a weird combination of self pity, mysticism and self aggrandizement. On Bad Religion, the latest AOR hit from their self title CD, Sully Erna sings about how he's different from other people, that the pressure he faces is making him insane and that no one understands what he has to deal with.
With its edgy but inobtrusive beat and keyboards and Aaliyah's confident presence, Try Again, from the soundtrack of the movie Romeo Must Die, is very cool hip hop with a good, smooth sound. Aaliyah presents herself as an appealingly strong woman. Wary of being thrown a line, keeps a guy on his toes, making it clear she's into him like he's into her but not wanting to be used and discarded. She asks to wait and see, looking for him to earn her trust and hinting that his persistence will pay off even if she "might be shy on the first date."
Disturbed-Stupify(up 8 positions)
Stupify is from Disturbed's Sickness CD. Stupify starts with a promise of a mix of hard rock and rap like Rage Against The Machine and Limp Bizkit. It soon degenerates into an unpleasant rage from singer David Draiman, who calls himself a sick animal. The harsh, menacing mood is apparently the appeal of Stupify but the sound certainly doesn't have the full, overwhelming power of bands like Nine Inch Nails. The hard edged guitars and electronics seem a little thin at times. The first verse is an excuse for Draiman to repeatedly spit out a profanity that Gordon Gano of Violent Femmes used more interestingly on Add It Up, telling us he just wanted to have sex once. Because of Draiman's nasty delivery, I don't really care that he lives his life in a daze, his sense of reality slipping and that he's breaking down.
Joe-I Wanna Know(unchanged)
I Wanna Know is from the My Name Is Joe CD. Joe's singing is pleasant and appealingly smooth, if unremarkable, as he croons over easy beats. However, the main reason for I Wanna Know's success has got to be the lyrics, which set him up as the ideal sensitive man. Joe plays a man trying to convince a woman that unlike her current, undeserving guy, he understands what she's worth. He lays it on pretty thick, telling her that she takes his breath away and knocks him off his feet and that he'd do whatever he could to please her.
Pink-There You Go(down 4 positions)
Pink is the latest female artist to have a CD released by LaFace records, who also make TLC's records. There You Go, from Pink's debut CD Can't Take Me Home, starts out sounding just like No Scrubs. Pink doesn't equal TLC's cool ease but There You Go has a decent groove and she has a fairly distinctive personality, even if song isn't particularly distinctive. The words are designed to make a female audience feel good, getting the last laugh and taunting a formerly neglectful boyfriend who's now coming back begging for her.
Limp Bizkit-Take a Look Around(up 3 positions)
The second hit from M:I-2 is a good time musically. Rock guitars and keyboards riff on the Mission Impossible in a fairly predictable but enjoyable way and the music has a good beat and good energy. Fred Durst's rap also keeps things moving. Durst hasn't always been the most positive character so it's questionable whether he has the right to bemoan the fact that "hate is all the world has even seen lately." Of course, Durst's real concern isn't hatred in the world but people hating him. He's got a point about critics giving him a hard time but for someone who presents himself as a tough nonconformist who doesn't care what people think, it's a little inconsistent that he lets the criticism get to him.
Jessica Simpson-I Think I'm In Love With You(unchanged)
I Think I'm In Love With You, from the Sweet Dreams CD, tries to separate Simpson from the other teen blondes with a slightly strange mix of teen pop, dance music and a classic rock guitar riff. With a good beat and the irresistable hook from John Mellancamp's Jack and Diane, I Think I'm In Love With You is a can't miss hit. Simpson comes off as a bit of a Mariah wannabe but her singing is pleasant and her voice seems fairly strong. With Simpson melting every time some boy comes around, the lyrics are as awful as those for any of her contemporaries. She sings about being "crazy in my head for you." However, the song is listenable and relaxed, if lightweight.
As if we don't have enough bland boy groups, now we're importing them. The British trio sound particularly pleasant, clean cut and inoffensive, unless you're offended by their repeatedly calling a girl "baby." The harmonies aren't great and at worst, they threaten the innocuous blissful serenity of Savage Garden. Back Here, from the Sooner or Later CD is decent enough, starting with acoustic guitars and working up to an O.K. beat. The lyrics are an amiable plea for forgiveness, as a guy admits he was wrong and says nothing's been the same since she's been gone.
8Stops7-Question Everythingbuy it!
In the hands of today's hard rockers the rock ballad, especially when it involves a white young male trying to figure out what it all means, is a form that's doomed to an overdone combination of wildly dramatic singing and big guitars to keep the young males interested. Question Everything is the followup to Satisfied, 8Stop7's chart debut from the In Moderation CD. The music isn't as overblown as it could have been. Evan Sula-Goff's vocals are very serious but appropriate for a song about deciding how to deal with an intolerant, unloving as he nears death and is no longer an imposing force.
Live-They Stood Up For Lovebuy it!
They Stood Up For Love and The Dolphin's Cry and Run To The Water, the other top 50 hits from the Distance To Here CD, show Ed Kowalcyk is one of the most dramatic and emotional performers in rock music. He's taken his cues from the most intense work of Bono and Michael Stipe and goes even farther. They Stood Up For Love is another soaring rock ballad where Kowalcyk gets lost in the music as it builds to the choruses with his ecstatic screaming. The lyric says that romantics like Kowalcyk pay a price: "we spend all of our lives going out of our minds." Live has good musicians but their recent music doesn't take advantage of all their skills. At their peak on songs like Selling The Drama and All Over You from Throwing Copper, they created music that was stirring but also had energy and didn't get bogged down.
Vertical Horizon-Everything You Want(down 6 positions)
The title track and second chart song from Vertical Horizon's CD has striking guitar effects but is otherwise pretty generic sensitive rock. Matt Scannell is ever so serious singing about a woman who's never satisfied with a man. His tone is so bitter that it's not much of a twist at the end when he reveals himself to be the he who is everything she wants.
Mandy Moore-I Wanna Be With You(unchanged)
The title track from Moore's I Wanna Be With You CD shows her to be even blander than her young female competition. I Wanna Be With You is a pretty wimpy, treacly ballad that uses strings and other lulling effects to create a smooth sound. Moore's vocals are pleasant but light and breathy as she sings about being head over heels over a boy. Girls with crushes will undoubtedly relate to Moore singing about not being able to think of "anything but you" and being happy for whatever attention he'll give her.
Destiny's Child-Jumpin' Jumpin'(up 5 positions)
Destiny's Child's Writing's On The Wall CD has produced a ton of R & B hits. Jumpin' Jumpin' is their second big pop hit after Say My Name. I found Say My Name repetitive and draggy. Jumpin' Jumpin' is considerably more lively. It has a nonstop, frantic energy with a good, crisp beat and staccato keyboard notes underlining the vocals. Jumpin' Jumpin' is hardly weighty but it has a positive feel to go with its lyrics inviting men and women to leave their partners for a night and go to a happening club.
Toni Braxton-He Wasn't Man Enough(up 5 positions)
Toni Braxton has had most of her success with big ballads. The first hit single from The Heat, Braxton's first CD in four years, is an attempt to show that she's kept up with the times. He Wasn't Man Enough is a sleek dance song with a good, light groove. But it isn't the best showcase for Braxton's vocal talents. She's stuck in a low, mannered tone. The song does do a good job of weaving her voice with more energetic backing vocals. He Wasn't Man Enough is basically the musical version of a catfight. Songwriter/producer Rodney Jerkins makes Braxton seem pretty nasty. The lyric quickly makes the point that Braxton's old flame's new girl doesn't have to worry that Braxton is still interested since she let him go. Braxton's dis of the guy is so harsh that it makes her look bad as she repeatedly sings that he begged her to stay.
Blink 182-Adam's Song(down 2 positions)
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 plays an innocent young man looking back at his life after his impulsive suicide. 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.
On the likably relaxed Heavy Things, from the Farmhouse CD, the band invites the Grateful Dead that have followed Phish for years. Trey Anastasio's vocals, singing about the things coming down on him and referring to women he's known, have a Garcia-like modesty and he finishes the song with a nice loose guitar solo. With good harmonies and keyboards, the skilled band creates a positive vibe.
AC/DC-Satelite Bluesbuy it!
With its familiar crunchy guitar chords and piercingly shrieked vocals Satelite Blues, from the Stiff Upper Lip CD, finds AC/DC in their simple, classic mode. It's very similar to the band's popular songs like Hell's Bells and Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap and their core fans probably don't mind. Angus and Malcolm Young's lyrics are as unsophisticated as ever as Brian Johnson sings about a woman who "make the place a jumping", "brings me to the boil" and "like to give it up some." They then apparently move on to complaints about a satelite dish that won't work.
XTC-I'm The Man Who Murdered Love(up 3 positions)
XTC's last CD, Apple Venus Vol.1, was a well made but very subdued record. Wasp Star(aka Apple Venus Vol.2) is considerably more fun and lively. I'm The Man Who Murdered Love is reminiscent of their cheeky, energetic rock songs Peter Pumpkinhead and Mayor of Simpleton. Despite its topic, Man Who Murdered Love is high spirited with a good, clear guitar line. Andy Partridge shows his ability to be simultaneously cynical and light hearted. He sings that he's doing a job for all humanity, assuring there'll be no more pain from broken hearts. He claims that, after a bad century, love begged to be put out of his misery.
David Gray-Babylon(up 4 positions)
Babylon, from Gray's White Ladder CD, is a very nice introduction for the Welsh singer/songwriter to a larger audience. Gray presents an appealing humble and unassuming persona. He owns up to his mistakes in his relationship, admitting he's "been a fool to ever open up my heart to all that jealousy, that bitterness, that ridicule." He asks for another chance, singing "the love that I was giving you was never in doubt" and asking his partner to "let go your heart, let go your head and feel it now." The music is good and minimal with a little acoustic guitar, piano and a steady beat.
Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise-Baby(down 3 positions)
The Blackwater Surprise are one of the best stories in rock. A group of young musicians led by brothers Michael and Andrew Nehra discovered Bradley, who's now 50, after he'd been playing for years. Baby, from the Time To Discover CD, is a bluesy ballad with a nice, relaxed musical mood. Bradley is very cool as he gently seduces a woman. Bradley has the same cocky swagger as Prince at his best as he convinces a woman that it's alright if she stays tonight, telling her he'll be her lover and her friend.
Janet Jackson-Doesn't Really Matterbuy it!
Janet Jackson became a multiplatinum act in the late 80's thanks to the Control record and the tough, no nonsense image she presented with songs like What Have You Done For Me Lately and Nasty. Since then I've found Jackson(now simply calling herself Janet) a little fakey when she's tried to present herself as the innocent girl next door. Still, she is appealing on Doesn't Really Matter as her nearly whispered vocals glide easily over the pleasant, light dance music of the song from the Nutty Professor II soundtrack. The saccharine lyrics match her sweet, too good to be true character from the movie. Janet sings, it "doesn't really matter what the eye is seeing, 'cause I'm in love with the inner being." and "what matters is you're nutty, nutty, nutty for me."
Incubus-Pardon Me(down 24 positions)
Pardon Me, from the Make Yourself CD, resembles a lot of music on rock radio with its anthemic chorus, power guitar chords and anguished lyrics about having had enough of the world. However, as an acoustic version indicates, there is a real, thought out song within the more rocking record. Brandon Boyd's intensity and images of spontaneous combustion are striking. The band also create a distinctive sound on the electric version. A good, jagged beat and records scratched by their DJ add to a feel of turmoil.
Britney Spears-Oops! . . . I Did It Again(down 9 positions)
The title track from Spears' new CD is nearly a remake of Baby One More Time. It's another piece of pleasant, light dancable synth pop with a little bit of a hard edge. Spears still shows no particular signs of being much of a singer. The lyrics perpetuate the image of Spears being both childlike and a mature temptress as she sings "I'm not that innocent." Oops is about teasing a boy, getting lost in the game and playing with his heart, making him believe they're more than just friends. There's nothing wrong with it except for a lack of depth or substance the preteens are unlikely to mind.
Nickelback-Leader Of Men(down 31 positions)
Nickelback is a hard rocking band, like Creed, led by a serious, intense singer. Leader of Men, from the State CD, is another rant about society's evils and hypocrisy, asking "do you think I could drink something that's so hard to swallow." The music starts with appealingly restrained guitar but predictably builds into a big, guitar heavy onslaught.