Poem is from the Michigan band's Welcome CD. Poem, made with Korn/Alice In Chains/Sevendust producer Toby Wright, has a state of the art sound. It's also like a lot of today's hard rock. Poem's driving, threatening guitar sound and touches of staccato and grunted vocal are reminiscent of Disturbed's angry, aggravating music. In general, Poem is familiar, edgy contemporary rock. Michael DeWolf's big, slashing guitar is, like the song, competent and hard rocking, but not particularly interesting. The only thing about Poem that gets my attention at all is Stephen Richards' vocal on the chorus which, especially when underlined by harmonies, has the rock theatricality of a singer like Alice In Chains' Layne Staley. Like so many rockers these days, Richards sings about his pain, telling us about an "overbearing panic attack" and a feeling that he's drowning. Poem apparently is about a bad breakup. Its good news is that the song "helps me to live."
Madonna-Die Another Day(down 5 positions)
James Bond films long ago lost their originality and flair and became a series of flashy, unmemorable moneymakers.Appropriately, the theme song from the new one, Die Another Day, is functional, competent, a bit stylish and insignificant. Die Another Day soundtrack sounds like it was slapped together in a hurry between Madonnas other projects. It was also Madonna an opportunity to make people forget the terrible reviews she got for Swept Away and work in the medium(music video) where she doesnt have to talk and does her best acting. Madonna wrote and produced Die Another Day with Mirwais Ahmadzai, who also worked on the Music CD. Die Another Day, like Musics title track, is a repetitive sketch thats mostly about beat and synth effects. Die Another Day doesnt go have as many shiny beeps as Music and its not as intent on evoking the golden age of disco. Die Another Day sounds like a remix distilled from a more substantial source but, to my knowledge, this is all there is. With its string effects, edgy electronics and breaks in the beat for Madonna to intone something defiant, Die Another Day tries for theatrical intensity. The attempt is silly and annoying. Its both overdone and completely lacking in substance. Still, as insignificant dance music, Die Another Day basically does the job with a sleek, catchy sound. Mirwais gave it a good, crisp beat. Presented straight, Madonnas singing is affected and unmelodic but Mirwais smartly plays with it, giving it a metallic edge that matches the musics icy, dramatic feel. Die Another Day has a dopey, empty lyric that the latest James Bond film with an innocuous, vaguely threatening title and extensive commercial tie ins probably deserves. Ridiculously, Madonna claims Im gonna avoid the cliches as she spews inanities like Im gonna shake up the system, a time to work, a time to play and, inevitably, its not my time to go.
Justin Timberlake-Like I Love You(down 3 positions)
The first single from teen pop's top hunkshows that Justin Timberlake can be successful outside N Sync but fails to show that he's developing a distinctive musical personality. On record and especially in the video, Like I Love You seems to be a Michael Jackson tribute. Timberlake mimics Jackson's look and moves but he doesn't have the gloved one's visual or vocal presence. Like I Love You, from the Justified CD, is apparently intended to introduce an adult, urban image for Timberlake. Timberlake does OK with the Jacko-like falsetto parts. Hovever, Like I Love You's spoken, tough guy parts are, if not quite ridiculous, a little silly, though his young fans undoubtedly find them cool and sexy. Otherwise, Timberlake's vocal is uninteresting but amiable, floating nearly unnoticably along with the beat. The Neptunes do their usual competent production. Like I Love You basically works as disposable dance pop. It's got a good crisp beat and a decent repeated guitar based riff. Like I Love You isn't helped by the Neptunes trademark beeping effects, which have almost always been annoying and now are annoying and cliched. The Neptunes try to give the very white Justin some edge by including a rap from Clipse(who happen to have the first record released by the Neptunes' new label). Clipse's rap doesn't work as well as Nelly's on N Sync's fun Girlfriend remix. It's pretty drab with cocky come ons("grab a friend, see I can have fun with two") that don't mesh with Timberlake's more polite approach. Like I Love You's lyric is mostly an inoffensive attempt to charm a woman and get her to drop "your front face" though the effort to be simultaneously tough and respectful results in some stinker lines like "you're a good girl and that's what make me trust ya."
Pink-Family Portrait(up 3 positions)
When her M!ssundaztood CD came out, Pink proclaimed that she was taking a huge chance by abandoning a safe musical formula. As its turned out, Pink just traded one radio friendly style for another slightly different one. In retrospect, the real chance Pink took was in filling M!ssundaztood with all kinds of biographical information. The risk has paid off. Pink was a fairly generic dance pop artist. Now she has a very identifiable image as feistily overcome obstacles life has thrown at her. Family Portraits success is the clearest sign yet that a large audience is willing to follow Pinks search for self discovery wherever it goes. Pinks previous hits were catchy enough that listeners could just have been tolerating the self expression because the music helped it go down easily. The only purpose of Family Portraits music is to accentuate the poignant mood and stay out of the way of Family Portraits story. Family Portrait is unadorned enough and apparently so much about Pink that much of its appeal must come from its vicarious look at Pinks youth. Family Portraits soap opera style piano brings Mary J. Bliges No More Drama to mind. But unlike that songs self dramatizing portrayal of not being dramatic, Family Portrait keeps things fairly subdued until pushing the emotional buttons by closing with a kiddie chorus. Family Portrait, with Pinks character feeling responsible for and trying to fix up her parents screwed up relationship, doesnt say anything about domestic strife that hasnt been said in dozens of TV movies but Pinks pained delivery sounds real enough that her simple portrayal of a dysfunctional family packs some emotional power, even with its cliches. Nothing about Family Portraits music gets my attention. And in conjunction with its video, with a tv commercial cute kid playing young Pink, Family Portrait is too much of an ego massage for my liking. But Pinks fans surely appreciate the chance to fill in her back story.
Christina Aguilera-Beautifulbuy it!
After Dirrty, Christina Aguilera's update of Redman's Let's Get Dirty, had a fairly short stay in the pop top 20, there was a lot of talk that poor song selection and image presentation would lead Aguilera's career into a nose dive. Aguilera has proved the doubters wrong. Beautiful, the second single from Aguilera's Stripped CD, is one of Aguilera's biggest hits. Aguilera wisely worked on Beautiful with writer/producer Linda Perry, who did Get The Party Started for Pink and is sure to be an extremely sought after collaborator for the forseeable future. Beautiful is smartly constructed. It starts with very minimal music and slowly builds from Perry's piano. The strength of Aguilera's voice has never been in doubt. She again shows impressive range and, while her singing will never be subtle, Aguilera shows some restraint. Lyrically, Beautiful gets off to a bit of a shaky start. Aguilera shares her insecurity about her fame before declaring that her detractors can't "bring me down." But, in conjunction with a good video and an empathetic musical feel, Beautiful's uplifting message of self respect take on a more universal feel that young listeners have latched onto.
Creed-One Last Breath(down 1 position)
I should know by now not to underestimate Creed. I figured, after My Sacrifice fell off the chart quicker than the hits from Creed's Human Clay's CD, that people might be getting tired of Creed's bloated, ultraserious sound. In fact, while it won't have Higher or With Arms Wide Open's longevity, One Last Breath is Creed's first #1 song. Radio still loves their generic, soaring, meaningful sounding music. On One Last Breath, Scott Stapp admits he's screwed up and doesn't show the self righteous arrogance he has on previous hits. His clenched fist intensity is still way too much. One Last Breath, the third chart hit from the Weathered CD, starts O.K. Stapp sings with just a quiet guitar and then a subdued guitar, drums and strings. Inevitably, the sound intensifies and any subtlety is bludgeoned by heavy rock guitars and drums and Stapp's pained howl. Stapp uses his big, melodramatic imagery to say how bad life's become. He's close to the edge and "I think I'm falling." He's cried out to heaven "save me" but this time he's apparently looking for help from a woman not God.
U2-Electrical Storm(down 4 positions)
Electrical Storm is one of two new songs on U2's Best of 1990-2000 CD. Not so long ago, U2's work from the second half of their career didn't seem particularly worthy of a greatest hits set. Then the band refocused their energy and put out All That You Can't Leave Behind, which included thoughtful, musically rich singles which should be memorable years from now. Electrical Storm isn't quite on the level of Beautiful Day or Walk On. With a melody similar to Zooropa's Stay and guitar lines like the ones The Edge played on Walk On, Electrical Storm feels a bit rehashed. Still, Electrical Storm has the depth of sound and feeling of U2's best work. William Orbit worked on Electrical Storm instead of usual U2 producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. Orbit fills out the sound with keyboards that at times are like something from a bad sci-fi movie soundtrack but he's generally respectful of the classic U2 sound. Even if it's familiar, The Edge's playing still creates big, poignant atmosphere. He easily segues between ringing lines on the verse and thick, powerful work on the chorus. It isn't Bono's most exciting vocal but he admirably projects hope while keeping his naturally supple voice under control and restrained.. On Electrical Storm, Bono plays a distant, guilty("you're in my mind all the time, I know that's not enough") man confident that a relationship that's been dogged by bad luck will be repaired by "love and only love", allowing them to see colors and places "that have never been seen.".
The Wallflowers-When Youre On Top(unchanged)
Jakob Dylans bands Bringing Down The Horse CD, which had the hit One Headlight, went multiplatinum. The Wallflowers success proved short lived. The Breach CD died after getting early radio interest, falling far short of its predecessors sales. When Youre On Top, off the Red Letter Days CD, is largely about wanting to get back with an ex but its also informed by Dylans new commercial reality. Dylans more modest expectations suit him on When Youre On Top. Jakob cant avoid that genetics and upbringing gave him a similar voice to dads. On When Youre On Top the resemblance in Dylans deliberate phrasing and nasal, slightly angry delivery suits him. Jakobs writing will never have the power of Bob Dylans best work but When Youre On Top is dense, rich and good. When Youre On Top is about being jaded and depressed. Bored by a life where hes making new friends but none of them matter, Dylan is looking for new experiences and a thought that I can believe in. Musically, When Youre On Top is a step in the right direction. In the past, The Wallflowers music has often been overly slick and shallow. When Youre On Top strips down the sound and finds a more interesting edge. The verses evoke disconnection, starting with no beat and a cold, throbbing synth then adding a stiff drum machine beat. The chorus is brighter and catchier but its restraint underlines Dylans theme that he feels fine and is doing better but not doing as well as when he was with the one he needs now more than ever.
Kelly Rowland-Stole(up 1 position)
With Beyonce Knowles in Destiny's Child and Nelly on the hit Dilemma(which appears on Nellyville and Kelly Rowland's Simply Deep CD) Rowland has allowed her costar to get most of the attention. Rowland has the spotlight to herself on Simply Deep but continues her unassuming ways. On Stole, Rowland's vocal is decent and unshowy. Stole is smooth and well made though not particularly distinctive. Stole was written and produced by industry pros Steve Kipner(who worked on Olivia Newton John's Physical and Christina Aguilera's Genie In A Bottle and many other hits) and Sean Hosein and Dave Deviller(O-Town and 98 Degrees among others). Stole has an easy mood with good, subtle ringing and scratching effects and guitar matching the climactic line about "playing angry chords." Stole effectively layers Rowland's voice with good backup singing. Stole is the latest song to address school shootings. We find out the shooter was the brightest kid in school but he was bullied and put down and didn't fit in. Stole means well. It's not offensive(unless you're a grammarian troubled that she doesn't say stolen) but it's even less insightful than P.O.D.'s Youth Of The Nation because its invented mass killing doesn't feel real. Stole tells us that one victim "could have been a movie star" and another would have "had a try out with the Sixers", as if Columbine-type deaths are less tragic if their victims weren't destined for stardom.
System Of A Down-Innervisionbuy it!
Innervision is on Steal This Album, a collection of songs that didn't make System Of A Down's first two records. Innervision is good and similar enough that it would have fit on the Toxicity CD. Innervision has the great, bizarre energy of songs like that CD's title track. Guitar player Daron Malakian, bass player Shavo Odadjian and drummer John Dolmayan all play fast and hard and contribute to Innervision's exciting intensity. Singer Serj Tankian is, typically, so passionate that he almost seems possessed or insane, veering between crooning and shrieking. A lot of the fun of a SOAD song is following its twists. In its 2« minutes, Innervision shifts from speed metal to a hardcore bridge with Tankian ranting "It's never too late to reinvent the bicycle." Malakian appropriately shifts his guitar to a quiet, dreamy sound for Serj's epiphany("there is only one true path to life, the road that leads to all, leads to one.") then the song crunches to a conclusion. Malakian sings on Innervision about seeking the guidance of an unnamed spiritual source.
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers-The Last DJ(down 5 positions)
The Last DJ, the title track from Tom Petty's new CD, overstates things a little. There are still plenty of djs at college and independent stations who play "what they want to play" and say "what they want to say." And the fact that most stations are guided by the bottom line, rather than a quest for quality, is hardly news. The Ramones, Kinks and Elvis Costello long ago did songs about it. For at least the 25 years of Petty's career, commercial radio has rarely welcomed dj free expression. Market research and pandering play the role in music they do in the selling of movies, tv shows or political candidates though audience tastes sometimes force commercial radio to abandon its conservative instincts and play new, good or different kinds of music. The undeniable subtext of The Last DJ is the unlamentable fact that pop radio no longer plays the music of Petty and some of his contemporaries. The similarity of Last DJ to Petty's other music hardly argues against classic rock radio as the natural 2002 home for his music. Still, I agree it's sad that radio is controlled by large corporations and consultants who "celebrate mediocrity", pushing songs meant to sound like other hits and appeal to the lowest common denominator rather than good, smart or interesting music. And while The Last DJ is familiar, it's one of my favorite current songs. Petty's nasal whine is comforting and he sounds like he still has something to prove. The Heartbreakers' personnel has changed over the years but guitar player Mike Campbell is still giving Petty's songs some kick. Campbell keeps playing Rickenbacker riffs he stole from Roger McGuinn and The Byrds. He gives The Last DJ's verses texture and a good countermelody and adds urgency to the chorus with compact, crunching London Calling style chords. Longtime Heartbreaker Benmont Tench's piano helps fill out the sound and adds to Last DJ's vibrancy.
Nelly featuring Kelly Rowland-Dilemma(down 8 positions)
Dilemma is the Nellyville CD's ballad. I'd have thought that doing a tame, kind of sensitive song would hurt Nelly's tough guy rep but I guess he's done enough songs objectifying women and establishing his gangsta cred that Dilemma won't hurt his image much. Nelly competently works in a much more restrained mode than usual. Like his rapping, Nelly's singing is easy and fluid but he's so quiet and subdued that he's upstaged by Destiny's Child's Kelly Rowland. Nelly doesn't get to express his usual arrogance but Dilemma does stroke his ego. Rowland plays a woman who's with another man but is crazy over Nelly and always thinks about him. Nelly's character plays it cool, listening and waiting for his cue to make his move. Nelly has followed Hot In Herre, his first #1 pop hit, with another sure hit. Dilemma is based on a Patti Labelle song written by Kenny Gamble and Bunny Sigler. It has a classic, relaxed sound with a crisp, easy beat. Rowland's good, straight forward vocal is nicely underlined by inobtrusive chiming synths. The repeated "oh" sample reminds me of the version of This Woman's Work by Maxwell, a smooth singer I'd never think I'd compare to Nelly.
Sum 41-Still Waiting(up 3 positions)
Sum 41's new CD is called Does This Look Infected? Sum 41 broke through with the youthful, poppy, punky hits from All Killer, No Filler CD. Still Waiting shows signs that the band is making the huge mistake of wanting to grow up and be taken seriously. Still Waiting's video reveals jealousy at the critical respect The Strokes receive. On Fat Lip, the band just demanded the chance to have a good, stupid time. Now they want us to believe that they're looking for "hope to believe" in a world full of hating. It seems clear that Sum 41 is best suited to make dopey, fun music and that's what people want from them. Still Waiting, with its attempt at lyrical significance and Derick Whibley's meaningful ranting, has an uncomfortable resemblance to the lesser work of The Offspring, whose music seems to get stupider the more they try to seem smart. Still Waiting does show benefits of Sum 41's new intensity. I don't love the darkness of the singing and Whibley and Dave Baksh's guitar but I do like that Still Waiting is fast, energetic and focused, without the foolishness that has made some of their music more cutesy than fun.
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band-Lonesome Day(down 1 position)
Bruce Springsteen's The Rising is a CD of varying quality. The music isn't always that interesting and sometimes Bruce's writing is too empty or cliched to provide the meaning he clearly seeks. But The Rising is mostly good and it often achieves a comforting, healing feel. 9/11 related imagery lurks throughout The Rising. The title track doesn't specifically cite 9/11 but its story of overcoming devastating circumstances, like much of The Rising, has that day and its aftermath in mind. Sometimes the quest for significance seems overreaching. Lonesome Day is first about trying to move on after being surprised when a woman he thought he "knew everything I needed to know about" leaves. Next thing you know, Bruce sings that the "house is on fire" and a "dark sun's on the rise" and suggests a need for revenge. Lonesome Day's lyrics may be murky but, as is often the case, Bruce's music and The E Street Band's playing suggest meaning deeper than provided by the words. The music brilliantly evoke sadness and rebirth. As the Lonesome Day moves at a cautious pace, Bruce's strong, ungimmicky vocal and Max Weinberg's solid whacks create a majestic, optimistic feel. That hopeful feeling is further bolstered by Roy Bittan and Danny Federici's nice, subtle keyboards, Clarence Clemons' brief, familiar solo and the good "it's alright" fadeout backing vocals. Lonesome Day's spare, uplifting sound brings to mind a good middle period song from John Mellancamp, one of Bruce's many disciples. It also has a sound that's right for an artist seeking a mature voice and meaning in a troubled time.
Nivea-Don't Mess With My Manbuy it!
Don't Mess With My Man is from Nivea Hamilton's Nivea CD. Don't Mess With My Man is quite lightweight but it's also quite likable. Don't Mess With My Man features Jagged Edge's Brian and Brandon Casey. It's got the easy feel of Jagged Edge's Where The Party At and I find Don't Mess even more enjoyable. With a catchy doodle of a synth riff and a steady beat, Don't Mess With My Man goes by easily. Nivea's voice is pleaant but doesn't show much personality. The Caseys add a little flair with their amiably macho contribution. The lyrics don't go much beyond the title's threat except that the Caseys repeat them and change genders.
Angie Martinez-If I Can Go(down 7 positions)
I, like many in the New York area, haven't heard much of If I Can Go, the hit from Angie Martinez' Animal House CD. Martinez is a Hot 97 radio personality. Other stations have decided not to help a competitor, even if that means missing out on a hot song. It's Z-100's(among others') loss. If I Can Go is good, breezy dance pop with an easy, positive energy and a touch of a Latin feel. If I Can Go has a very catchy hook that repeats throughout over a crisp, simple beat. Producer Rick Rock smartly deploys the hook in different ways. A guitar riff is joined or replaced by a dramatic synth when emphasis is needed. Martinez doesn't seem to have great vocal skills but her hard, confident New Yorker voice helps give If I Can Go a tough edge. Lil' Mo effectively takes over when a real singer is needed. Sacario's quick, no nonsense rap is well integrated into If I Can Go. If I Can Go is about wanting to leave New York "with no cells and no trace" for a far away beach, if the guy who can "make you feel like you're right back in the ninth grade" can come.
Tori Amos-A Sorta Fairytale(up 8 positions)
Tori Amos had some mainstream radio success with songs like God, Silent All These Years and Crucify from her early solo CDs Under The Pink and Little Earthquakes. Recently, Amos' career has taken a slightly more obscure path, concluding with 2001's Strange Little Girls, her collection of songs originally done by guys. A Sorta Fairytale, supported by a bizarre video with an oddly poignant conclusion, is Amos' first hit in the four years we've been doing the All-Reviews top 50. A Sorta Fairytale, from Amos' Scarlet's Walk CD, is a nice reminder of Amos' gift for mixing melody, classicism and eccentricity. A Sorta Fairytale shows Amos' ability to subtly grab our attention. A Sorta Fairytale starts quietly with Amos' delicate piano playing and an effective, fairly inobtrusive drum machine beat. It builds a little on the chorus which has David Torn's good, simple guitar riff. A Sorta Fairytale also varies its subdued sound with a slightly brighter bridge. Amos sings slowly. Her vocal is restrained but her thoughtful, interesting personality still shines through. A Sorta Fairytale's sound matches its lyrics. Amos sadly relates how an apparent "life long thing" relationship was lost.
Jack Johnson-Bubble Toes(up 2 positions)
Bubble Toes is the second chart hit from the former surfing champ's Brushfire Fairytales CD. Johnson's Flake was pretty whimsical and Bubble Toes ups the whimsy level to the point where cutesy is a better description. I also have a problem since Bubble Toes' cocky white boy flow of words reminds me of the Brenda & Eddie parts of Billy Joel's Scenes From An Italian Restaurant. Still, Johnson is genuinely appealing. His singing is unpretentious with a light, easy flow that allows Johnson to pull off Bubble Toes' goofy la da da da da das. Bubble Toes is a tribute to the woman he loves whose "beauty will follow wherever she goes" and to himself for the charm she eventually won't be able to resist.
O-Town-These Are The Days(up 4 positions)
Backstreet Boys' success has apparently plummeted and N Sync is on hiatus as members put out solo records or tried to go into space. So O-Town, which was put together for the Making The Band TV show, is currently the top boy group around. O-Town's members are claiming that on the O2 CD, they're more in control of their own music and presenting a more distinctive sound. There's little sign of that on These Are The Days. These Are The Days was written by veteran pop music hack Steve Kipner. The only thing new about it is that instead of doing a squeaky clean, bland copy of an N Sync song, for much of These Are The Days, O-Town imitate a bland Bon Jovi ballad. It opens with Jacob Underwood doing a tight throated Jon Bon Jovi impersonation. Later on, These Are The Days more closely resembles typical boy group fare as a sing along chorus repeats over soaring and string effects. These Are The Days is basically inoffensive and it works OK as background music. Shep Crawford's production, with vague synths and a lame drum machine beat, is polished but innocuous. These Are The Days' lyrics allow an O-Town fan to imagine herself as saving her hero. These Are The Days' character is lonely, stuck in a place without love and trying to prepare himself for another chance.
Daniel Bedingfield-Gotta Get Thru This(down 8 positions)
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.
Tracy Chapman-You're The One(up 3 positions)
On her self titled 1988 debut CD, Tracy Chapman was a striking new talent making music that was political and personal. She seemed to have the potential to move folk music in exciting new directions. Chapman has since made pleasant, thoughtful music but the deeper she gets into career, the more her work leaves the impression of unfulfilled potential. You're The One, from the Let It Rain CD, has a sweet Chapman vocal and a nice, positive feel but it's so lightweight and unambitious it's barely noticable. I assume Chapman is trying to pare her music to its essentials but she's also pared away what can be interesting about her writing and music. You're The One's lyric is charming. Chapman promises to stand by a lover who others say is crazy, uncouth and no good.
The Used-The Taste Of Inkbuy it!
The Taste Of Ink is from the self titled debut CD by the band from Orem, Utah. The New York Times' Kelefa Sanneh put The Used at the top of her list of the best non-mainstream CDs of 2002. I haven't heard the whole CD but, based on Taste Of Ink, it's hard to believe that The Used is that exceptional. It sounds like lots of 80s post punk music. I do like The Taste Of Ink. It's good, tight rock that gets good edge from Bert McCracken's screaming himself hoarse intensity and Quinn Allman's compact, stomping guitar line. McCracken, who's probably best known as Kelly Osborne's boyfriend, sings on Taste Of Ink about tolerating a miserable present for a "chance to break out" of a town he couldn't take much longer.
Avril Lavigne-Complicated(down 5 positions)
Complicated is from the 17 year old Canadian's Let Go CD. Even more than Michelle Branch and Vanessa Carlton, Lavigne has a sound that seems perfect for girls looking for a more substantial alternative to Britney and Christina. Unlike Branch, whose image is sincere and vulnerable, Lavigne comes across as very self confident. Her voice has a casual, spoken quality that sounds like that of a cool teen. Complicated is fairly insubstantial but it's also appealingly perky and direct. Complicated's confessional, relaxed tone marks Lavigne as an Alanis fan. There's also some resemblance to the more rocking but still poppy recent work of labelmate Pink. Some of Complicated's synth flourishes are unnecessary but the sound is generally appealing simple. A hip hop style drum machine beat adds a bit of edge. On Complicated, Lavigne vents her frustration at a guy who's good and relaxed when they're alone but becomes foolish and showy around others.
Rolling Stones-Don't Stop(down 9 positions)
Don't Stop is one of four new songs on Forty Licks, which is billed as the first retrospective of the Stones' entire career. Knowing that people buying the two CD set or attending their concerts are mostly interested in their earlier music, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards don't seem to have exhausted themselves putting Don't Stop together. They certainly haven't repeated Jagger's attempt on last year's Goddess In The Doorway CD to distance himself from the classic Stones sound. There isn't much to Don't Stop. In comparison, Start Me Up is a complex puzzle. Still, there's something satisfying about Don't Stop's simplicity and familiarity. Don't Stop echoes better but similar feel good songs like Start Me Up, Happy, Honky Tonk Women and Tumbling Dice. Jagger wraps his big personality around Don't Stop. Like he does live, Jagger yells as much as sings but shows remarkable energy and warmth for a 59 year old. Richards and Ron Wood could probably play Don't Stop's guitar line in their sleep but their tight, jagged playing still creates a good edge. On Don't Stop, Jagger feels like his "baby" is peppering him "with poison darts" and is soon leaving him but he still asks her to share her "screams of passion" and kisses that draw blood.
SR-71-Tomorrow(down 4 positions)
Tomorrow, the title track from SR-71's new CD, seems to confirm that the Baltimore band has no distinctive personality and merely follows trends that sell records. When Blink 182 were red hot, SR-71 was playing similar punky pop. They had a hit with Right Now, a song that was even more obnoxious and unoriginal than the other fast juvenile music of a couple years ago. Hybrid Theory was the biggest selling record of 2001 and, what do you know, SR-71 are back on the charts with a song with Linkin Park's dark, threatening sound. Tomorrow is a faint copy of Linkin Park's In The End without the flavor Mike Shinoda's rap gave that song. Mitch Allan, like Chester Bennington, sings about being in turmoil but he doesn't have Bennington's intensity. Allan does a decent job of evoking paranoia but he seems like he's ripping off Linkin Park, Korn and so many others. Similarly, the music, with its forbidding atmosphere of booming and droning guitars, feels second hand. Allan sings about an unspecified "they" who "find a way to make you feel discarded", feel "you've become a complication" and are "all waiting for the crash". He does admit that it's "myself" who makes him feel caged.