Creed-Are You Ready?(down 4 positions)
Are You Ready is the fourth chart hit from Creed's Human Clay CD. As always, Scott Stapp sings as if he's got brilliant ideas no one's ever thought of. But all Are You Ready's says is: seek and you'll find, remember where you came from and life is hard and unpredictable. Usually, Creed's music is a little more subtle than Stapp's lyrics and singing but the music here is uninventive hard rock. Are You Ready sounds like dozens of metal pop songs from The Who's The Seeker to STP's Vaseline.
Blink 182-Man Overboard(down 1 position)
Enema Of The State's fun, fast pop is still selling but Blink 182 is already back with a new CD, The Mark, Travis and Tom Show. Man Overboard sounds a lot like Enema Of The State's Dumpweed, as well as kind of like a fast version of Peter Schilling Major Tom(Coming Home). Once again, Blink 182's music is pretty light but energizing, unpretentious and solidly constructed. Man Overboard is about being sad that things can't be worked out, but deciding that a friend has screwed up too many times.
Nickelback-Breathe(down 5 positions)
Breathe, from the State CD, is the Vancouver band's second top 50 song. Breathe follows Leader Of Men with another overdone, self important rock song. Breather is about a relationship on the brink of breakup. Singer Chad Kroeger is very serious and intense, asking somebody to help him breathe.
Samantha Mumba-Gotta Tell You(unchanged)
Mumba is the latest young female getting the big record company push. Gotta Tell You is the title track from Mumba's CD. Gotta Tell You is fairly routine dance pop. The lyrics are O.K. Mumba sings about wanting her guy to get more involved in their relationship. She doesn't want to love him if he doesn't love her. On the verses, Mumba's voice is hard and unappealing but at least somewhat distinctive. On the choruses, thanks to backing vocals and heavy, generic production, the song turns into catchy, perky Britney-style pop. Mumba's personal story of a black Irish teen who became a pop star is undoubtedly more interesting than the song.
Drive is the third chart hit from the Make Yourself CD. Brandon Boyd is again very serious as he sings about feeling the fear of uncertainty but finding he can stop it from taking control.
Pink-Most Girls(down 4 positions)
Most Girls isn't quite as interesting as There You Go, Pink's feisty take on the TLC sound. Most Girls, from her Can't Take Me Home CD, is more routine, but it has an effective groove. The lyrics don't totally ring true but Pink continues to show personality. She sings that, unlike other "flygirls", she's more interested in a real love than a "g" with the "mean green" who gives his girl diamond rings.
Shaggy-It Wasn't Me(up 2 positions)
It Wasn't Me, from the Hotshot CD, perpetuates the idea that a charming rascal can wink and lie to a woman and get out of any problem. Still, It Wasn't Me is so silly and ingratiating that it's hard to dislike. The song is well structured with Rik Rok playing the man caught "red handed creeping with girl next door." Shaggy is his foolish buddy telling him to deny everything despite physical, eyewitness and photographic evidence. The contrast between Rik Rok's high, loose, youthful voice and Shaggy's deep Jamaican style rumble is appealing. The song has a good groove with minimal, well chosen synth effects and Shaggy's fast, nearly indecipherable toasting.
N Sync-This I Promise You(down 2 positions)
This I Promise You is the third hit from the No Strings Attached CD. It was written by Richard Marx, who had a brief period of pop rock stardom in the late 80's. This I Promse You is a fairly routine, sappy ballad. They sing about being her strength and giving her hope. They promise that "never will you hurt anymore" and to hold her "until the day my life is through" but even their preteen fans probably know that such promises, said by teens, aren't necessarily meant to be taken literally.
Green Day-Minority(up 6 positions)
Fans who were concerned with the maturity Billie Joe Armstrong showed on Time Of Your Life from the Nimrod CD can be reassured by Minority, the first single from the Warning CD. Minority has the likably simple feel that made Green Day a huge success on their Dookie CD. Billie Joe sings that he doesn't want to be a conformist and is happy to stand alone.
Backstreet Boys-Shape Of My Heart(down 3 positions)
Shape Of My Heart is from the Boys' new Black and Blue CD. Shape Of My Heart is the kind of song they do best, a well made ballad like I Want It That Way. The singing and harmonies aren't bad. Shape Of My Heart is fairly innocuous but the preteens won't mind. On Shape Of My Heart, they ask her for forgiveness, playing into the fan fantasy by asking her to "save me from the man I've become."
Rage Against The Machine-Renegades Of Funk(up 12 positions)
Renegades Of Funk is from Renegades, a record of political songs originally done by people like Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Cypress Hill. It's Rage Against The Machine's last CD with Singer Zack De La Rocha, who is leaving for a solo career. Renegades Of Funk is a cover of an Afrika Bambaataa song. Zack gets into it, having fun with the commands to move and groove. Rage always claim a single minded determination to fight for justice so they must like Renegades Of Funk's sweeping statements. Renegades' hook, "no matter how you try you can't stop us now", has the optimism of a Rage song like Guerilla Radio. There's also a little self aggrandizement. They boast, "we change the course of history" and compare themselves to Martin Luther King and Tom Paine. Renegades Of Funk is more about beats and less about guitars than the usual Rage song. The cheap Sci Fi synth recalls the sound of Afrika Bambaataa's time. The beats and the simple idealism create an appealing energy.
Debelah Morgan-Dance With Me(unchanged)
The title track from the Dance With Me CD is a bit bizarre but it probably works O.K. on the dance floor. With its insistent violin, Dance With Me is a little like Marc Anthony's I Need To Know but the recent hit it most resembles is Sonique's It Feels So Good. Both are throwbacks to the dopey hits of the late 70's. Dance With Me is eerily like a hit from the peak of the disco craze in its use of a gimmick, an arrangement based on the tango Hernando's Hideaway from the Broadway musical The Pajama Game, and its very simple lyrics extolling the benefits of dancing. Morgan's singing is pretty good but the words are moronic with every cliche you could imagine including, "the night is young and so are we", "when we hit the floor you'll be asking for more" and "I feel the music inside."
Eve 6-On The Roof Again(down 10 positions)
On The Roof Again is the second chart hit from Eve 6's Horrorscope CD. Keyboards and Jon Siebels' crunching guitar chords create an appropriately edgy feel for this tale of a young man easily pushed to desperation by romantic problems. As on much of Horrorscope, the band's ability to create exciting music is underminded by dopey, often offensive lyrics and unappealing great vocals. Max Collins strangely shows his sympathy for the jumper by repeatedly singing "your heinous highness broke her hymen."
Dream-He Loves U Not(up 2 positions)
Everyone wants a piece of the lucrative teen pop market. Puffy Combs is among those behind the latest package of young females. He Loves U Not, from the CD It Was All A Dream, has a familiar sound that basically guaranteed its success. On He Loves U Not, Dream sound like Christina Aguilera without Aguilera's vocal personality or a white Destiny's Child without their sleek sound. He Loves U Not also resembles N Sync's It's Gonna Be Me. It has efficient, basic music with a big, stuttering beat. The singing and lyrics have a youthful simplicity young girls can handle. The girls claim not to care about another girl who is trying to take a boyfriend since they know he only loves her.
Kandi-Don't Think I'm Not(up 5 positions)
Don't Think I'm Not is from the Hey Kandi CD. It's a little weird musically. The music shifts from austere piano to lush ballad with very heavy strings. Then the strings are awkwardly thrown together on the chorus with hard, synthetic beats. The lyrics are kind of weird too. Kandi brags that while her guy has been playing around with someone else, she has too. I understand her happiness at not being a total sucker and getting some revenge but it doesn't sound like a situation to be happy about.
Aerosmith-Angel's Eye(up 2 positions)
The lyrics about there being no place to hide from an angel's eye are ridiculous except as a tie in to the Charlie's Angels movie. At least Angel's Eye isn't as bloated and obviously commercial as I Don't Want To Miss A Thing, Aeromith's contribution to the Armageddon soundtrack, which was written by successful hack Diane Warren. Angel's Eye's music is fast and loud, with good energy. Joe Perry has a decent guitar riff. Steven Tyler is his usual over the top self, yelling the gibberish about feeding your fantasy, a "halo on fire" and "running in place like a rat in a race."
Shawn Mullins-Everywhere I Go(unchanged)
You could love or hate Lullaby, Mullins' big hit from his Soul's Core CD, but with its spoken verses and evocative, if obvious, lyrics about a woman screwed up by growing up in a weird Hollywood world, it got your attention. Everywhere I Go, from the Beneath The Velvet Sun CD, isn't going to approach Lullaby's success because it's barely noticable. Everywhere I Go is pleasant light rock influenced by the easy California sound of artists like The Eagles. The production is sleek but the result is innocuous. Mullins' voice doesn't have much personality. The mystically tinged lyrics are pretty nice. Mullins sings about the image of his lover guiding him and grounding him when he's on the road.
Eminem-Stan(up 7 positions)
Stan, the latest single from Eminem's Marshall Mathers LP, is one of most interesting singles to hit mainstream radio this year. Dido's easy vocals and the unhurried groove, with Mike Elizondo's smooth bass line, provide a great contrast with Eminem's fast, fluid rap that becomes increasingly agitated along with his character's troubled mind. As usual, the lyrics alternate between fascinating and irritating. Eminem concedes he has an effect on his fans. He raises legitimate issues about a society where people are encouraged to believe celebrities are just like them. Stan is a frightening, obsessive character, "a biggest fan" who bases his life on Eminem, menacingly suggests "we should be together" and is infuriated when his idol doesn't respond to his letters. Stan is undoubtedly based on real people who want to connect with Eminem, sometimes in scary ways. I'd prefer Stan without its self serving final verse. Eminem suddenly becomes caring, writing Stan that he shouldn't take his self destructive lyrics seriously and should get counseling and treat his girl better. The end is silly. Eminem warns Stan not to end up like a guy he saw on TV who killed himself and his pregnant girlfriend and then realizes,"his name was . . . it was you. Damn."
Marilyn Manson-Disposable Teens(up 5 positions)
Disposable Teens is from Marilyn Manson's Holy Wood CD. Especially since the shock value of his weird androgynous image has faded, everything about Manson seems kind of obvious. Disposable Teens has harsh, hard guitars but the sound is merely unpleasant, not overpowering like his role model Trent Reznor's. Manson's tough guy vocals are kind of silly. After some people held his music responsible for the Columbine killings, Manson is more self pitying than ever: "I've got a face made for violence and porn and I'm a teen distortion, survived abortion." Claiming to speak for today's youth, his rebellion shows the sophistication of a 13 year old: "the more you fear us, the meaner we'll get." He dares to allude to the Beatles, singing, "you say you want a revolution, I say you're full of shit."
Mark Knopfler-What It Is(down 1 position)
Since the huge success of Dire Straits' 1985 Brothers In Arms record, Mark Knopfler has kept a fairly low profile, working on soundtracks and not trying to be too commercial in his subsequent Dire Straits and solo work. What It Is is from Knopfler's new Sailing To Philadelphia CD. What It Is is reminiscent of Knopfler's great work before Money For Nothing. It's a distinctive, textured rocker like Making Movies' Tunnel Of Love. Knopfler's guitar playing is seemingly effortless as he unshowily sprinkles interesting riffs. His assuming voice easily twists around the shifting meters. What It Is is nicely detailed with vignettes about a small Scottish town and lots of observations including the fact "everybody's looking for somebody's arms to fall into."
Faded is from the Canadian trio's Nobody Does It Better CD. They're being promoted to the preteens as the latest hunky boy band but Faded isn't that bad. It sounds like a George Michael dance song with a decent, synthetic beat. They try a little too hard to seem black and cool but they basically have the sound down. The parents might not be too happy about the boys trying to convince a girl "it's time we went a bit further."
Crazy Town-Butterflybuy it!
Butterfly is from the The Gift Of Game CD. Like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Crazy Town are a relaxed L.A. band familiar with hip hop and punk. Butterfly is knowingly stupid dance pop. It has a little of the vibe of Folk Implosion's Natural One and Sublime's What I Got. The song has an easy mood and a rapped string of cliches praising the positive effects of a woman, including "it doesn't get better than this", "I see the sun break through the dark clouds", "you showed me life is precious" and "I was lost, now I'm found."
Britney Spears-Strongerbuy it!
Stronger is the third hit from the Oops! I Did It Again CD. Britney's voice sounds even more brittle and synthetic than usual. The lyrics are some garbage about Britney being tired of being treated like some guy's property and wanting to do it her way. The music, similar to Oops and Baby One More Time, is generally, at best, coldly efficient industrial dance pop. Like You Drive Me Crazy, Stronger is uninteresting until its catchy chorus. Stronger is another song written by teen pop genius Max Martin. His touch is clear on the chorus, which has two good hooks.
Five For Fighting-Easy Tonightbuy it!
Five For Fighting is singer/songwriter John Ondrasik's project. It's easy to imagine Easy Tonight with just Ondrasik's voice and piano but he gives it a big production with a big beat on his America Town CD. With his easy, adult sound and sensitive but intense vocals on Easy Tonight, Ondrasik sounds a little like Shawn Mullins. They're both also a little affected. Ondrasik sings about a woman who's now gone. His recitation of all the things she was(you were wrong, you were right, you took a ride on the suicide romance) and his attempts at self expression("I don't know where I'm going but I sure am getting there") are a little corny.
Evan and Jaron-Crazy For This Girlbuy it!
The most interesting thing about Evan and Jaron Lowenstein is that they're probably already the most successful Orthodox Jew twin brother singers in pop history. Crazy For This Girl owes some of its success to being on the second Dawson Creek's soundtrack CD. On Crazy For The Girl, which is also on their self titled CD, the boys have a smooth, sincere, clean cut sound as they sing about the girl they think about constantly who "don't know how I feel." The sound doesn't have much more edge than the teen pop boy bands. But like Hey Leonardo, another song by adults that was aimed at a young audience, Crazy For This Girl is a guilty pleasure. It's superficial but with catchy hooks and good, tight guitar riffs on the chorus.