Audiovent-The Energy(down 5 positions)
Audiovent, like Incubus, got together as teens in Calabasas, California but Audiovent don't even have Incubus' modest distinctiveness. Audiovent sound a little like Nirvana but they're even more like Bush and Default, bands who borrow grunge's sound but leave out any individuality. The Energy is particularly generic. It sounds O.K, with big guitars and an intense, sincere vocal. Audiovent's lyrics, like those of Nickelback, Staind and so many others, are about inner turmoil. The Energy is one of many songs on Audiovent's debut Dirty Sexy Knights In Paris CD dealing with singer Jason Boyd's tough breakup. As she's leaving, Boyd bemoans "what you do to my head" but vows "I'll make it" and "I will stay alive. Appropriately for a band that trumpets the fact that they've been in group therapy, Boyd spouts new age jargon like "it's getting closer to closure."
DJ Sammy & Yanou-Heaven(unchanged)
Heaven is quite a stupid song. At least, unlike Bryan Adams' soaring, bloated original, the new version doesn't have any pretentions of meaning. Adams' stream of cliches("you're all that I want", "we were young and wild and free", "nothing can take you away from me" and "through the good times and the bad, I'll be standing there by you") glide by easily. With a familiar melody, a big, obvious beat and lyrics that can be understood by people for whom English is a second language, Heaven has all the hallmarks of an international dance pop hit. Apparently, DJ Sammy is a Spanish mixmaster/producer who worked on Heaven with Dutch singer Do. With its frantic, eager to please beat, Heaven sounds more suited to a high impact aerobics class than a dance club. But Heaven's upbeat tone and high energy techno synths undoubtedly get people on the dance floor.
Puddle Of Mudd-She Hates Mebuy it!
She Hates Me, Puddle Of Mudd's fourth chart hit, is the least annoying song so far from the Come Clean CD. At least, Wes Scantlin isn't ranting or tunelessly whining. She Hates Me brings to mind numerous jaunty songs by otherwise rocking alternative bands. The melody and guitars particularly remind me of L7's Pretend We're Dead. She Hates Me is also obviously reminiscent of Nirvana songs like Lithium which start whimsically but then reach an angrier screamed chorus. She Hates Me is fairly listenable if totally disposable. Scantlin doen't give us much insight into why things went wrong. His writing is typically uninspired, starting by rhyming grand with hand, two with unglued and grip with slip.
Incubus-Warning(down 5 positions)
Incubus keep giving us likable, unremarkable atmospheric rock songs. Warning, third chart hit from the Morning View CD, is appealing. Warning is even more laid back than I Wish You Were Here and Nice To Know You but it has a similar vibe. On the verses, Brandon Boyd's vocal drifts along with some minimal guitar and sonic effects. The chorus, with Mike Einziger's electric guitar strumming, is harder and more focused, but the song retains it's dreamy feel. Warning is positive and spacy, advising that as you float "in this cosmic jacuzzi", "count your blessings", "don't ever let life pass you by" and love yourself. Warning seems intentionally inconsequential but it is quite appealing.
Nelly-Hot In Herre(down 5 positions)
Hot In Herre, Nelly's latest combination of smooth rap skills and stupid boasting, is fairly lightweight but it sounds like a summer hit. The music and rap have a great, easy flow. On Hot In Herre, from the Nellyville CD, producers The Neptunes start with a riff that sounds like Steely Dan's Josie or FM and then easily move things along, attaching a good, light beat and synth to a sample from Chuck Brown's Bustin' Loose. Nelly's rapping isn't as awe inspiring as some of his fast, dense work on the Country Grammar CD. But even if he's more relaxed and less edgy than on some of hits, Nelly's cocky, seemingly effortless technique is still very impressive. As with his earlier hits, my problem with Hot In Herre is its lyrics. Nelly broke through with lyrics that were mostly rehashed gangsta rap. Now he's a big star, Nelly's less interested in guns, weed and the thug life and more about enjoying the perks of success. On Hot In Herre, Nelly shares his philosophy: "what good is all the fame if you ain't f---in' the models." Nelly is obsessed with ostentatious displays of wealth. Women figure in only as possessions that come with the big bucks. They're more than happy to undress or do whatever they can to please Nelly.
The Hives-Hate To Say I Told You So(down 3 positions)
Cutting away the fat that alternative rock has grown over the years, Swedish band The Hives act like it's still the late 70s and they've only just learned of the thrills of making fast, short rock songs with tight, hard guitar riffs. Hate To Say I Told You So sounds a little like songs by Black Crowes and Buckcherry and it also brings to mind other post punk songs like Blur's Song 2 and Sonic Youth's most compact work. But the most obvious influence seems to be The Stooges' Search And Destroy. Pelle Almqvist always comes across, in interviews, on stage and on record, as a very confident guy. He has no problem projecting Iggy Pop's in your face narcissism, singing about how he does "what I want 'cause I can" and how he wants to "be ignored by the stiff and the bored." Hate To Say I Told You So, which is featured on the Spider-man soundtrack as well as the band's Veni Vidi Vicious CD, recalls the thrill of simple, exciting punk inspired music.
Mario-Just A Friend 2002(up 1 position)
Just A Friend 2002 is from the Baltimore native's self titled CD. Mario, like Alicia Keys, who appears on the Mario CD, is on Clive Davis' J Records. Mario doesn't make the striking impression that Keys did but he does seem to have a strong voice, especially for a 15 year old. Just A Friend is a straight version of Biz Markie's 1989 hit. Biz Markie's off key goofing around is replaced by a Boys II Men style production. Sisqo producer Warryn Campbell created a good, sleek sound with crisp, solid beats, Mario's smooth vocal and good choral type female backup singers. The original was kind of thin so Just A Friend, with its very basic lyric about being rebuffed in trying to get closer to a woman, can't help but be a little repetitive and insubstantial but it goes by easily.
New Found Glory-My Friends Over You(down 4 positions)
The demand for fun, dopey, poppy guitar rock continues. Coral Springs, Florida's New Found Glory broke through with the fun, simple Hit Or Miss and have a similarly basic sound on My Friends Over You, the first single from the Sticks and Stones CD. My Friends Over You is like a less obnoxious version of SR-71's Right Now and it's not that far from Sum 41 or Blink 182. My Friends Over You is catchy and likable. It has a fairly clear sound, a positive feel and a restrained pace for a rocker. Chad Gilbert and Steve Klein create a good, varied guitar sound with crunching chords on the verses and a good hook on the chorus. Jordan Pundik's vocal isn't particularly impressive but at least it's unpretentious. Klein's lyrics apologize for leading a girl on but tell her their history makes it clear she's not worth as much as his friendships.
The Vines-Get Free(unchanged)
Get Free is from the Highly Evolved CD by the young band from Sydney, Australia. With a screaming lead singer and a basic, hard rocking sound, The Vines have a surface resemblance to another hot band from overseas: The Hives. While The Hives' Howlin' Pelle Almqvist goofs around and has fun, Vines frontman Craig Nicholls is very serious about his music. He openly emulates hero Kurt Cobain, especially in the band's older songs. The Highly Evolved CD also has songs similar to those of dreamier British bands like Coldplay and Doves but Get Free's Nirvana influence is clear. It reminds me of Breed, Stay Away and Scentless Apprentice as well as Big Bang Baby by fellow Nirvana fans Stone Temple Pilots. Get Free gets simple, exciting energy from Nicholls' unhinged yell, a slicing guitar line and a good, driving beat. On Get Free, Nicholls rages and drops fragments of desperation: "I'm gonna get free, right into the sun", "she never loved me, why should anyone?", "you know you're really alone" and "save me from here."
Jennifer Lopez featuring Nas-I'm Gonna Be Alright(down 3 positions)
I'm Gonna Be Alright is another song that originally appeared on the J. Lo CD and reemerged in a significantly different form on the J To Tha L-O remix CD. The I'm Gonna Be Alright remix doesn't have the same pared down sound as the I'm Real and Ain't It Funny remixes but it does share the enjoyably laid back feel of those songs. The new mix of I'm Gonna Be Alright, like other J. Lo hits, is careful not to put too much focus on Lopez' thin, modest vocal. I'm Gonna Be Alright gets off to a good start with a strong, tough rap from remix veteran Nas(another remix with a more brittle beat and a more basic rap by 50 Cent isn't bad either). As on Ain't It Funny and Love Don't Cost A Thing, backup vocalists do much of the singing. Lopez' conversational voice humanizes the song and matches the song's deliberate, easy pace. I'm Gonna Be Alright is inconsequential dance pop but it's well made and nicely relaxed with a smooth bass dominated groove. After seeming to teasingly agree on the Ain't It Funny remix to the "you blew your chance when you had it" sentiment of P. Diddy's I Need A Girl, Lopez isn't as hard on I'm Gonna Be Alright's ex-boyfriend. Nas plays a jerk who reminds her of all the things he did for her but Lopez shows regret about leaving someone she still loves.
Kylie Minogue-Love At First Sight(unchanged)
Kylie Minogue continues to proudly recreate Madonna's 80s sound. Love At First Sight, the second American hit from Minogue's Fever CD isn't as irresistable as Can't Get You Out Of My Head but it has the same intent: to be upbeat, very dancable and not particularly meaningful. With cheesy disco era synths, a steady beat and glossy, relentlessly cheery, electronically enhanced vocals, Love At First Sight largely does the job. Minogue and writer/producers Richard Stannard and Julian Gallagher want us to be reminded of dance pop classics. Good Times, Madonna's Holiday and, as the song fades out, Donna Summer's I Feel Love all come to mind. Love At First Sight is stupid, unoriginal, unmemorable and not particularly inspired but it is catchy and familiar enough to give Minogue another hit. On Love At First Sight, Minogue sings about how she was "thinking 'bout giving up" but then "everything went from wrong to right" when she met her baby.
Daniel Bedingfield-Gotta Get Thru This(up 1 position)
Gotta Get Thru This is the title track from Daniel Bedingfield's first solo CD. It follows Dirty Vegas' Days Go By, The Wiseguys' Start The Commotion and Kylie Minogue's singles as the latest dance hit out of England with at least a touch of techno flavor. 22 year old Bedingfield says he made Gotta Get Thru This in his bedroom with a computer and a mike. Gotta Get Thru This's sound is basic, with a steady beat and a decent repeated electronic riff, but it's pretty effective. Bedingfield's voice is obviously treated and enhanced. The result is thin and nasal but interesting, like a cartoonish version of 80s Michael Jackson. Like the music, Gotta Get Thru This' lyric is simple but does the job. Bedingfield repeats the title like a mantra that helps him to stop obsessing about a woman who broke his heart.
Eminem-Cleanin' Out My Closet(up 6 positions)
Eminem knows that he has created enough interest that millions want to know about his history and grudges. Cleanin' Out My Closet, The Eminem Show CD's second single, is another account of the reasons he hates various people in his life. Eminem starts Cleanin' Out My Closet whining about being "protested and discriminated against." He congratulates himself for not leaving his daughter like his "faggot father" left him and for "taking them bullets out of that gun" instead of killing his ex-wife. But Eminem mostly focuses his anger on his mom. We learn that Debbie popped prescription pills, made little Marshall a "victim of Munchausen syndrome(making him "believe I was sick when I wasn't") and that when her brother died, said she wished it was her son who died. Eminem is pretty unappealing, asking for sympathy but showing none for a woman who, even according to his account, went through some very tough times. But like him or not, it's hard to argue against the idea that he provides great theatre, at least giving the impression that he's allowing us a glimpse into a unique, troubled mind. On The Eminem Show, Eminem, assisted by Jeff Bass, has generally replaced his mentor Dr. Dre as his music's producer. The quality of Eminem's tracks vary but he did a good job on the singles. Cleanin' Out My Closet doesn't have Without Me's energy. Eminem cleared out the sound on Cleanin' Out My Closet, keeping the focus on his lyrics. The tapping percussion and Bass' playing create a stark, haunted feel consistent with recounting stories of a dark past. Eminem's technique isn't as impressive as his breathless, nonstop rap on Without Me but he has no trouble keeping his audience's attention with a style that's simultaneously casual, confident and troubled.
Eve featuring Alicia Keys-Gangsta Lovin'(unchanged)
Eve's new CD is called Eve-Olution. Gangsta Lovin' has the same kind of easy, likably playful sound as Eve's first big pop hit Let Me Blow Ya Mind. Ja Rule/Ashanti producer Irv Gotti gave Gangsta Lovin' a good sound with a steady, relaxed beat and a catchy synth riff. Eve's rap is appealingly confident and straight forward. She's strong and subtly teasing as she tells a guy she's interested. Alicia Keys' vocal on the chorus is assisted by backing singers and hardly challenging but her smooth, laid back singing fits Gangsta Lovin's charming, breezy mood.
Weezer's self produced Maladroit CD doesn't always show Weezer at its best. Weezer's usual hooks are in fairly short supply, the sound could use a little polishing and too much time is wasted on pointless guitar rock. Still, it's a pretty good record with quite a few good songs. Musically, Keep Fishin' is so fun and buoyant that its goofy Muppet Show video is a great match. Brian Bell and Rivers Cuomo's good, chunky guitars are well supported by Pat Wilson's upbeat drumming. Loose backing vocals, including doo-wahs on the meter changing bridge, further enhance Keep Fishin's joyful mood. Not surprisingly, Cuomo's lyrics are not as happy as the music. He sings how not being with girl he loves and seeing how she's not getting her life together makes him sad.
I really hated Stupify and Down With The Sickness, the angry, unpleasant rock hits from Disturbed's Sickness CD. But, with David Draiman's manic, staccato delivery, they at least had the courage of their nasty convictions. Prayer, the first single from the new Believe CD, is a weird mix of tight hard rock for their fans and a slick sound presumably intended to appeal to a broader audience. Prayer has a stomping, slashing guitar sound. Draiman's vocal is still harsh in parts but, bizarrely, he sings a melody on the verse not unlike Ricky Martin's Livin' La Vida Loco and the chorus has a cliched pop rock gloss. Prayer seems to be about how Draiman has turned away from God and found his own form of prayer after seeing all the sorrow, pain and suffering in the world.
John Mayer-Your Body Is A Wonderland(unchanged)
Your Body Is A Wonderland is the second chart hit from the Atlanta based singer/songwriter's Room For Squares CD. Like No Such Thing, Your Body Is A Wonderland is pleasant but innocuous. Mayer's admiration for a woman's looks is appealing. A bit of bravado accompanies Mayer's promise to take a while making love and discovering a woman's body but he generally avoids the objectification that often accompanies songs complimenting the female shape.
Counting Crows-American Girls(down 6 positions)
American Girls is from Counting Crows' fourth studio record Hard Candy. Sheryl Crow sings harmonies on American Girls. Adam Duritz doesn't sing about what SPF he's using but American Girls, like Soak Up The Sun's, intentionally loosens things up and achieves a fun, summery feel. American Girls resembles previous good midtempo Crows songs like Rain King and Have You Seen Me Lately, with a little less rock heft than those songs. American Girls maintains its energy and buoyancy thanks largely to a good, driving beat and a nicely uncoiled guitar riff. Duritz can't help but show a little narcissism but American Girls avoids the heaviness of a lot of Counting Crows' music. Not surprisingly, the song's frothy tribute to how American Girls make "me feel so incredible" is largely ironic. American Girls bemoans the bad luck of meeting an emotionally fragile woman who leaves, taking "almost every thing from me." The lyric's unhappy ending doesn't negate the music's enjoyable, if slight, appeal.
Vanessa Carlton-A Thousand Miles(down 9 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.
Chuck Prophet-Summertime Thing(unchanged)
Chuck Prophet used to be the guitar player in the 80s paisley underground band Green On Red. Summertime Thing is from his No Other Love CD. On Summertime Thing, Prophet successfully creates an easy, summery bluesy rock feel with relaxed but evocative keyboards and slide guitar. Prophet does a good job vocally of playing the cool delta bluesman, confidently asking a friend to "take off your clothes and jump into the river."
Unwritten Law-Up All Night(up 1 position)
Seein' Red showed Unwritten Law's sensitive side. On Up All Night, the second chart hit from the Elva CD, the Southern California band is back in a rocking mode. Like many of their punky pop contemporaries, Unwritten Law combine a bunch of influences into a accessible mix. Like Sum 41's hits, Up All Night has hard rock guitars and crisp, fluid drums but it's more serious minded than the lighthearted songs of Sum 41, The Offspring or New Found Glory. Strangely for a song about smoking cigarettes and weed and sittin' back relaxin', Scott Russo angrily spits out his vocal like he thought he was in Bad Religion. The chorus is catchy but Russo's voice is flat as if bad singing was an indication of authenticity. Jagged guitar and bass lines on the verses give Up All Night an edge that could belong to punk or ska. Up All Night has some rock power but it's not a lot of fun.
Norah Jones-Don't Know Why(down 1 position)
Come Away With Me is the debut CD by 23 year old Norah Jones, who is sitar legend Ravi Shankar's daughter but was raised in Texas by her mom. Come Away With Me has justifiably become a yuppie and boomer favorite. Like Cassandra Wilson, Jones starts from a jazz background but plays songs that can be categorized as folk, r&b and pop. Jones' voice even resembles that of country pop singer Shelby Lynne. Don't Know Why is a good showcase of Jones' unshowy but sultry charm. On Don't Know Why, Jones' voice is appealingly yearning and delicate. Jones' piano and rhythm section are easy and inobtrusive, adding to the song's understated poignance. Don't Know Why, written by Jones' guitar player Jesse Harris, has a classic simplicity. Jones sings that, while it makes her feel teary, empty and needing wine, she has to stay away from a guy who has never run to her.
P. Diddy featuring Ginuwine-I Need A Girl Pt. 2buy it!
I Need A Girl Pt. 2 is from the We Invented The Remix CD. P. Diddy coproduced I Need A Girl Pt. 2 with Mario Winans. I liked I Need A Girl Pt. 1 for its breezy, smooth sound and Diddy's bizarre confession of loneliness but Part 2 is of much less interest to me. The music, with its synthetic steady beat and shiny synth riff, is OK but it's also an even more insubstantial, if perkier, variation on an already lightweight theme. The lyric is significantly less compelling than Part 1's apparent paean and mea culpa to J. Lo. P. Diddy's rap is standard issue. He tells us he wants a girl with potential wife credentials who's 5'5" with dimples and makes showy promises of being able to share 100 foot yachts and trips to San Tropez with his girl. Diddy's vocal is typically flat, uninflected and unmelodic. Loon's rap isn't great either with cliched images of lying in a bubble bath with a really big champagne glass and the questionable boast: "I'm smooth as Erik Estrada." Ginuwine and Winans do better with the singer role Usher had on Part 1 but they don't do much to change the song's generic feel.
Sheryl Crow-Steve McQueenbuy it!
Steve McQueen, the second single from the C'mon C'mon CD shows that the empty headed feel of Soak Up The Sun was a strategy rather than an aberration. Soak Up The Sun at least had a likable, relaxed flow to it. On Steve McQueen, Crow awkwardly tries to show she can make stupid rock music as well as a guy. Steve McQueen grinding rock guitar sound is OK but everything else about is ridiculously dumb. Crow cops the ooh-oohs from Steve Miller's Take The Money And Run. Crow is usually a reliable singer but, especially on the chorus, she sounds shrill and as self satisfied as Lenny Kravitz watering down Americna Woman. Crow sings about wanting to "rock and roll this party" and ride a fast machine like Steve McQueen. Crow's social commentary about "rock stars in the White House" and pop stars who "look like porn" seems particularly lame.
Vanessa Carlton-Ordinary Daybuy it!
Ordinary Day is the second single from Vanessa Carlton's Be Not Nobody CD. It's nice that young girls have at least three people making music for them that's not totally awful. They can choose between hip, popular Avril Lavigne, sincere, slightly arty Michelle Branch and Vanessa Carlton, the smart, confident nerd who never misses a piano lesson. I guess I credit the many kids who have picked Carlton's mildly ambitious music but her popularity is also a little strange to me. At the risk of using a critical cliche, Ordinary Day is quite ordinary. There's not much to it except a sense of artistic pretention. Carlton's interesting piano playing plays a less prominent role than on A Thousand Miles. Producer Ron Fair overdoes the strings as if he's orchestrating a third rate production of Oklahoma. I guess the kids feel like that liking a song like Ordinary Day means they're listening to something more serious and important. The most appealing thing about Ordinary Day is Carlton's vocal and persona. She has Tori Amos' honesty without Amos' affectations and with an appealing youthful openness. The lyrics are a sweet story of a boy "looking to the sky" who "asked if I would come along".