Blu Cantrell-Hit Em Up Style(up 6 positions)
Hit Em Up Style is from Cantrell's So Blu CD. The fun thing about Hit Em Up Style is that it doesn't waste time getting angry at its cheating boyfriend, getting right to winning revenge by selling all his things and using his money to go on a shopping spree. It's silly but also light hearted and unpretentious with a relaxed beat. I imagine the repeated samples of chimes and an old timey horn riff will seem monotonous after repeat listens.
Weezer-Hash Pipe(down 3 positions)
After their good but idiosyncratic 1996 Pinkerton CD sold disappointingly, Weezer took a break then tightened their sound. The payoff is their best and most successful CD: the very good, rocking green album. Hash Pipe was a good choice of a first single. The tough, rocking sound helps kill the band's image as video dependent jokesters. Brian Bell and Rivers Cuomo's guitars are as big and menacing as any hard rock band's. Cuomo sings without his earlier tentativeness. On Hash Pipe, about a transsexual prostitute smoking to relieve life's paranoia and anxiety, Cuomo moves assuredly in and out of a falsetto, always adding to the song's sense of urgency. As on Buddy Holly, power chords and catchy hooks create a great, exhilarating sound.
Weezer-Island In The Sun(up 6 positions)
Island In The Sun is the second hit from Weezer's very good green album. Island In The Sun is the mellowest and poppiest song on a record that's otherwise straight forward rockers. It's a nice love song about how good it'll be to go away. Rivers Cuomo's sweet, idealistic lyrics("we'll never feel bad anymore) are well matched by the mood created by easy, strummed guitar and the band's hip hips. The band wisely mixes things up by adding harder rocking guitar on the bridge.
Like Breakdown, the second chart hit from the former Days Of The New members' debut CD has Hugo Ferreira doing a bad Eddie Vedder imitation. Ferreira's slurred vocal is more pretentious than Vedder at his self indulgent worst. Astounded resembles Rooster and other Alice In Chains music with its dark, serious tone, "hey, hey, hey"s and acoustic guitar that eventually changes to electric power chords. The lyrics claim "I just found my way" but that apparently doesn't include avoiding resentment to his enemies who he calls "stupid f---ers."
Calling-Wherever You Will Go(unchanged)
Wherever You Will Go is from Calling's Camino Palmero CD. Wherever You Will Go sounds a lot like Creed's With Arms Wide Open, complete with that song's idealistic but empty sound, but at least it doesn't have Creed's silly religious overtones. Wherever You Go is pleasant folky rock but it's pretty unimaginative and the writing is quite awful: "if I could, then I would, I'll go wherever you will go/way up high or down low." The lyrics, pining for a woman who dumped him and hoping for a way "to make it back some day", are kind of sad.
U2-Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Ofbuy it!
Nearly a year after reviewing All That You Can't Leave Behind, I'm sticking to my original opinion. The CD is quite mellow and can be a little slow but it's remarkably consistent with thoughtful, enjoyable songs. Especially after the band's showy 90s work, All That You Can't Leave Behind's modesty is very appealing. Bono restrains the excesses that sometimes obscure his gift. His vocals have a charming grace. As they do throughout the CD, producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois give Stuck In A Moment a warm, rich sound. The keyboards create the easy feel of an r&b classic like People Get Ready. The fact that Bono wrote this as a message he wished he had sent to his friend Michael Hutchence, before he killed himself, gives Stuck In A Moment added poignance.
Godsmack-Greed(down 4 positions)
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.
Incubus-Wish You Were Here(up 15 positions)
Incubus follow their mellow megasuccess Drive with a song reminiscent of Make Yourself's other singles. Wish You Were Here, the first single from the Morning View CD, has Pardon Me's record scratching and Stellar's spacy atmosphere. As on Drive, the lyrics show a sincere, slightly sappy, decency. Brandon Boyd sings about being in an idyllic setting. The you he wishes were here are apparently extraterrestrials. Wish You Were Here is good sounding, if unremarkable. Big guitars beef up a basically poppy song.
The Wiseguys-Start The Commotion(up 7 positions)
Start The Commotion is one of the biggest fluke hits of 2001. Start The Commotion is from The Antidote, a CD originally released in 1998, but it got new life when it was used in a Mitsubishi commercial. Like the best creations of fellow Brit Fatboy Slim, DJ Touche's work on Start The Commotion is great because it's not just meant to work on a dance floor or show how inventive he is, it's a lot of fun. Touche mixes samples of vocals from tough R & B and innocent 60s pop, beats, fuzzy bass, horns and flute into a loose, enjoyable collage. I like it a lot more than the other instrumental MTV is playing these days, Crystal Method's showy, annoying Name Of The Game.
Better Than Ezra-Extraordinary(down 2 positions)
Extraordinary, from Better Than Ezra's fourth CD Closer, is an attempt to abandon the one hit wonder status the band's had ever since their artistic and commercial peak, Deluxe's Good. It might succeed but Extraordinary is a lame imitation of a number of recent easy frat boy hits like What I Got, Fly, Hooch and One Week, which it directly quotes. I've often been charmed by Better Than Ezra's modest, tuneful pop rock but Kevin Griffin's tribute to love on Extraordinary, while pleasant, lacks any distinctiveness the band ever had. The lyrics are a pretty weak attempt at rap charm("I've got more hooks than Madonna's got looks") and the melody and dj scratching are very familiar.
Alicia Keys-Fallin'buy it!
Alicia Keys' Songs In A Minor is probably the most remarkable success story of 2001. Keys' only previous credits were a couple soundtrack songs and a little backup work but her CD debuted at number one and has been near the top of the charts ever since. Fallin' is striking on first listen and goes a long way in explaining the CD's success. Unlike the overproduced work of other female pop singers, Fallin' shows the confidence to let Keys' singing stand on its own and her strong, sexy voice is up to the task. Fallin' has a good, minimal production. Strong backing vocals and Keys' piano playing create a classic, soulful sound. There isn't much to the lyric, about the confusion of a relationship that brings lots of pleasure and pain, but its simplicity fits the song's stylish, retro feel.
Adema-Giving In(up 1 position)
Giving In is from Adema's self titled debut. Adema singer Mark Chavez is Korn frontman Jonathan Davis' half brother. With its dense atmosphere and big guitars, Giving In sounds a little like Korn but it's not as interesting. Giving In's crunching chords and Chavez' slow elocution also remind me of the hard rock Weezer lovingly mocked on their sweater song. Giving In is about falling into alcohol abuse. Chavez is very serious, especially on a kind of goofy spoken word section.
Afroman-Because I Got Highbuy it!
Debuting on the top 50 the week after Start The Commotion, Because I Got High is an even more unlikely out of left field hit. Because I Got High was originally released in 2000 on a record with the same name that was sold at Afroman's shows and the local Hattiesburg, Mississippi record store. Word of mouth made Because I Got High a southern frat hit and the buzz eventually got Afroman(born Joseph Foreman) a record deal. Because I Got High is now on Afroman's Good Times CD and the Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back soundtrack. You can see Because I Got High as an antidrug song. It lists all the things Afroman didn't do because he was high. Still, Afroman doesn't seem too concerned that his pot use makes him screw up. Because I Got High is appealing because it so accurately depicts a relaxed, weed induced mood. With backing that's mostly a very simple beat and a very loose mood, Because I Got High sounds like the guys just showed up wasted at the studio and decided to do it.
O-Town-All Or Nothing(down 4 positions)
It had been three months since there were any boy groups in the top 50 but the drought is over. 'N Sync, Backstreet Boys and O-Town all had song debuts in early June. O-Town are the ultimate in manufactured, commercial boy bands, having been put together for ABC's Making The Band. O-Town's lame first single Liquid Dreams, a bizarre story of a dream girl constructed from pieces of various celebrities, fell just short of the top 50. All Or Nothing, which is more standard teen pop about trying to convince a girl to forget another guy and concentrate on him, is clearly a hit even though it's also quite lame. All Or Nothing is modeled on songs by smooth young African American crooners like Boys II Men's I'll Make Love To You. It starts OK with piano and sincere singing and gets progressively more treacly with strings and very bland harmonies, ending like a bad version of Bryan Adams' Everything I Do.
Eve-Let Me Blow Ya Mind(unchanged)
Eve's two solo records have been huge sellers but Let Me Blow Ya Mind is her first pop radio hit. Like the songs on the Scorpion CD with Teena Marie and Bob Marley's kids, Let Me Blow Ya Mind matches Eve with a mellower performer. No Doubt's Return Of Saturn didn't do too well but Gwen Stefani is doing great as a supporting player, following her work on Moby's South Side with nice, playful harmonizing on Let Me Blow Ya Mind. Stefani and the easy music soften Eve's good but harsh rap, which boasts and disses, warning competitors that it takes "a lot more than you to get rid of me." Let Me Blow Ya Mind was produced by Dr. Dre. He uses a cartoonish synth like he did on his own records and on Eminem and Snoop Dogg's. Let Me Blow Ya Mind has a likable, smooth feel and a relaxed beat.
Destiny's Child-Bootylicious(down 16 positions)
As the women mock a potential dance partner and challenge him to show he can handle them, Bootylicious is another show of Destiny's Child's confidence. But unlike the exhausting brag about Beyonce's success on Survivor's title track, Bootylicious is fairly good natured. Bootylicious is effective dance music. A steady electronic clap supplies a good beat. A riff sampled from Stevie Nicks' Edge Of 17 was a strange choice but it adds an edge otherwise missing from this very simple song. Even with it, Bootylicious' repetitiveness means diminished returns from repeated listenings.
City High-What Would You Do(down 6 positions)
Beyond the facts that their CD is on Wyclef Jean's label and coproduced by him and, like Lauryn Hill, they're from Jersey, comparisons with The Fugees are somewhat appropriate. City High's debut CD is very good, filled with easy grooves that make it a great summer record. They also show a little social consciousness on What Would You Do. What Would You Do, originally featured on the soundtrack to the movie Life, has a smooth feel and good beats. It has nice contrasts. Claudette Ortiz' fluid singing alternates with her bandmates' harder vocals. On What Would You Do, Ortiz plays a single mom explaining how a sad past and financial struggles led her to be a stripper/prostitute. The music toughens up in the song's middle as Robby Pardlo challenges her to "let go of every excuse."
Smash Mouth-I'm A Believer(up 1 position)
For a guy with very modest vocal skills, Steve Harwell has done incredibly well, wisely carving out a niche of vaguely retro, genial music. The producers of Shrek, the most successful movie of 2001, made a good call in asking Smash Mouth to contribute to the soundtrack. With their optimistic, catchy, lightweight music, Smash Mouth are right for a feel good cartoon and unlikely to offend anyone in the audience, no matter how young or old. Smash Mouth wisely didn't try a hard, beat filled 21st version or a note for note reenactment, instead opting for a perky, vaguely mod, horn filled 60s sound. Still, they don't come close to the tight perfection of the Neil Diamond penned original, one of the Monkees' many pop rock gems.
Melissa Etheridge-I Want To Be In Love(down 1 position)
The descriptions of Melissa Etheridge as a female Springsteen used to seem somewhat appropriate but, especially as her career has entered its VH1 phase, it's clear that while she shares Bruce's sincere intensity she sorely lacks his rock and roll energy and detailed, evocative writing. I Want To Be In Love, from Etheridge's Skin CD, is typically earnest but unremarkable. She doesn't do justice to the transcendent love she wants to feel by expressing it with cliched images about climbing highest mountains, wrestling with demons and looking for a heart of gold . The music is sleek but vague with a pleasant beat and tasteful keyboards. The main thing I Want To Be In Love has going for it is Etheridge's passionate vocal.
Afro Celt Sound System-When You're Falling(unchanged)
Simon Emmerson founded Afro Celt Sound System, bringing in African Irish musicians to experiment with rhythm based sounds. When You're Falling, from the group's third record Further In Time, features long time world music fan Peter Gabriel on guest vocals. Nine years after his last record, Us, it's nice to have Gabriel back on the radio, showing that, working with good material, he can avoid his late career tendency to be overly serious. Gabriel anchors When You're Falling with the kind of passionate but controlled vocal he used for Biko, In Your Eyes and Come Talk To Me. The group's backing vocals, evocative, exotic percussion and string instruments create a joyful mood. When You're Falling is a tribute to a woman who's "a fallen angel with your wings set in light." A warning if you're considering buying the CD: When You're Falling is much more focused than most of Further In Time, which is generally fairly vague beat and atmosphere exercises.
Jessica Simpson-Irresistible(down 7 positions)
Irresistible is terrible, even by teenpop standards. Irresistible, the title track from Simpson's new CD, is a rehash of songs that weren't so good the first time. The music is very synthetic synthy dance pop. On the verses, Simpson's voice has Britney's pinched, processed quality. On the chorus, Simpson tries, largely unsuccessfully, for a big Christina Aguilera sound while the music mimics Genie In A Bottle, even adding a touch of Latin guitar sound. On Irrestistible, Simpson is the swooning woman who's "weak with desire." I find the lyrics on the chorus unlistenably banal: "he's irresistible, up close and personal, now inescapable, I can hardly breathe."
Usher-U Remind Mebuy it!
U Remind Me was produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who with Usher and Janet Jackson are doing especially well these days with light dance pop, and Eddie "Hustle" Clement. U Remind Me, from Usher Raymond's 8701 CD, has a synth hook that's a little wimpy but very catchy. The sound is generally clear and good with a relaxed beat. Usher's vocal generally stays modest, smooth and appealing. He only briefly resorts to overdramatic emoting. U Remind Me's lyric is a little silly, apologizing for the pain he's causing("I know it's so unfair to you") by breaking up with someone who reminds him of the girl who broke his heart by "sexing everyone but me."
Pete Yorn-Life On A Chain(down 1 position)
Pete Yorn falls somewhere in the folk rock category but his music is distinctive, with good rock energy. His Musicforthemorningafter is one of 2001's best debut CDs. Starting with Yorn's voice filtered, Life On A Chain has a good, light guitar sound and a simple, big beat. Yorn sounds a little like Eddie Vedder but he mostly sounds confident and cool, even as he sings about still feeling chained to the wife he threw away who was "the sunshine heading my front line."
Willa Ford-I Wanna Be Bad(unchanged)
I Wanna Be Bad, from Ford's Willa Was Here CD, surpasses Christina and Britney at their worst in its desperate use of sexuality and mechanical music. The lyrics are silly comeons("boy, say the time and place, 'cause you make me wanna misbehave.") The music is empty, dopey disco. I prefer the dance remix, where you can concentrate on the synths and big, fast bass drum beats, rather than the lameness of the song.
System Of A Down-Chop Suey(unchanged)
Finally, after so many serious, self pitying, soundalike bands have dominated rock radio, a hard rock band has a hit that sounds different and shows a sense of humor. With tough guitars and hardcore fast drums, Chop Suey, from the Toxicity CD, has the chops necessary to keep the headbangers happy but it's also refreshingly weird. Serj Tankian's over the top vocal takes Chop Suey all over the map, starting as a punk rant, slowing down for a meaningful croon that may be mocking his self important contemporaries("I don't think you trust in my self righteous suicide") and eventually shifting to a spacy, gothic conclusion.