Backstreet Boys-Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely(up 4 positions)
Beyond being teen idols, Backstreet Boys have been getting some respect recently. They got Grammy nominations and positive writeups from Robert Christgau of the Village Voice and Ann Powers of the New York Times. I still don't get it. I Want It That Way struck me as an insipid bore. Larger Than Life was generic dance music and the lyrics, allegedly a tribute to their fans, were so vague and unoriginal that their fans should be offended. At least Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely, the third single from the Millennium CD, achieves what it shoots for. It's fairly effective as a big weepy ballad and the singing isn't bad.
Christina Aguilera-What a Girl Wants(up 1 position)
Her songs are about as dopey as those of her chart mates Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears but Aguilera seems to have the best voice. What a Girl Wants isn't as musically striking as Genie in a Bottle, with its stark, crisp beat. It's more like crowd pleasing generic dance pop. Like Genie in a Bottle, What a Girl Wants makes some pretense of trying to show a strong, self respecting woman, but Aguilera seems a little too appreciative of the guy who gave her time to make up her mind.
Rage Against the Machine-Guerrilla Radio(down 2 positions)
Guerrilla Radio is more driving, heartfelt guitar driven rock. Rage are probably the most popular political band around. While the excitement of their intense music probably attracts more fans than their left wing politics, the sincerity of their beliefs is part of their appeal. On Guerrila Radio, the band again comfortably mixes rock and rap. Zack de la Rocha sings optimistically, "it has to start something" and "can't stop us now."
Savage Garden-I Knew I Loved You(unchanged)
Like on their smash Truly, Deeply, Madly, Savage Garden seem like nice, sincere guys. They also seem a little boring. The vocals are sickly sweet. I Knew I Loved You, from the Affirmation CD, is inoffensively sweet but the lyrics of knowing I loved you before I met you are delivered very blandly.
Korn-Falling Away From Me(down 5 positions)
With Nine Inch Nails' sales way down on their new CD, veteran gloom rockers Korn could be the new kings of intense, paranoid, gothic influenced rock. Falling Away From Me is humorless and not fun, but Jonathan Davis' pain sounds real as he sings of being so tormented by his painful life and the voices in his head that he's given up hope and is flirting with suicide. The music is powerful with good, hard guitars and genuinely spooky, atmospheric effects.
N Sync-Bye Bye Bye(up 3 positions)
From the upcoming No Strings Attached CD, Bye Bye Bye has a decent energy but is still pretty slight. Its lyrics, telling an unworthy suitor to hit the road, are slightly bold for today's teen idols, whose songs are usually about pining for a girl or celebrating how great their girl is.
Eiffel 65-Blue(Da Ba Dee)(unchanged)
As Mambo No. 5 has finally fallen down the charts, Blue is the latest big novelty hit. In its low budget sound and quirkiness, Blue brings to mind some of the fun, silly disco of the late 70's. Blue begins with the surreal tale of living in a world where everything, and he means everything, is blue. Then it just drifts along with lots of da da dee's, not totally unlike Crystal Waters' homeless song. You might enjoy it for a while until hearing it repeatedly drives you crazy.
Celine Dion-That's The Way It Is(up 2 positions)
That's The Way It Is is one of the new songs on Dion's All The Way greatest hits record. Dion's music often tends towards banality. That's The Way It Is is particularly insubstantial. Its "everything will work out fine" lyrics have the depth of a greeting card and the music has the complexity of the background to a tv commercial. It's fairly inoffensive except to those who know that romantic problems aren't always easily solved.
No Doubt-Ex-Girlfriend(up 3 positions)
It's been 4 ½ years since No Doubt released their last album, the very successful Tragic Kingdom, which had the hits Don't Speak, Spiderwebs and Just a Girl. The pressure to follow it was apparently pretty heavy. No Doubt took forever to record the new Return of Saturn CD, discarding a lot of material along the way. Like New, their contribution to the Go soundtrack, Ex-Girlfriend has a fast, energetic appeal but doesn't have the broad appeal of their big hits. Ex-Girlfriend is best when the band creates a frenetic momentum and it's worst when it bogs down in Gwen Stefani's vocal mannerisms. She sings that she should have known better than to be with a love em and leave em guy and readily admits to jealousy of his next victim.
Blaque-Bring It All To Me(down 2 positions)
Bring It All To Me has a nice easy groove and good crisp beats. Blaque's reedy vocals could be annoying under different circumstances but here everything is comfortable. Though their lyrics have a little too much emphasis on keeping it real for my liking, N Sync fit in well in their supporting performance.
Our Lady Peace-Is Anybody Home?(up 10 positions)
Is Anybody Home? is the second hit from Happiness . . . Is Not a Fish You Can Catch. Like most of the Canadian band's work, Is Anybody Home? is serious and intense. It also shows Our Lady Peace's ability to create a good atmosphere with interesting shifts of dynamic. The music varies from Mike Turner's hard rocking guitar to Raine Maida's a capella vocals. The lyrics say that everybody's needy, we're all scared.
Santana-Smooth(down 1 position)
Carlos Santana hasn't had a hit in nearly 20 years but with Smooth, from his new record Supernatural, he's found a savvy, irresistable sound. The music is classic Santana. Carlos' guitar riffs are evocative and the percussion and horns create a great groove. The new element is the vocals of Matchbox 20's Rob Thomas. Matchbox 20 has been one of the most successful groups of the last 2 years with 5 hit singles from their Yourself or Someone Like You cd which still is getting radio play 3 years after its release. It's kind of funny that Thomas, whose success is largely based on a commercially calculated sound that works to appeal to rock fans without offending easy listening audiences, is singing about giving of your heart and not just being smooth. Nonetheless, it was smart for Santana to work with Thomas. Besides being a smart commercial move, using Thomas does work musically for Santana. His vocals are smooth and they invite you into Santana's cool world.
A3-Woke Up This Morningbuy it!
It's unlikely Woke Up This Morning would be a hit if there wasn't such a buzz around the Sopranos. The song has a cool, hip edge. But unlike the great HBO show, it seems a little gimmicky, with beeping electronic music. The writing of the series is usually more subtle then the lyrics of its theme, "woke up this morning, got myself a gun."
Lit-Miserable(up 1 position)
The most notable about Miserable, the third chart hit from the band's Place in the Sun CD, is its video with Pamela Anderson playing a giant Amazon babe who's literally a maneater. Miserable doesn't have the fast stupid charm of My Own Worst Enemy and Ziplock. Miserable, with A. Jay Popoff singing about being unavoidably attracted to a woman who ruins his life and makes him miserable, is slower. It's fairly entertaining but unremarkable, with big power chords.
Sugar Ray-Falls Apart(up 2 positions)
The third hit from the band's 14:59 is another pleasant piece of pop. The band once tried to mix ska and fast punkish music but they've found success in genial, less ambitious, music. While the lyrics are about a young woman going through a tough time, the music doesn't get too heavy. It has a nice dynamic, shirting from mellower verses to rougher choruses when the guitars kick in.
Tracy Chapman-Telling Stories(unchanged)
On her new CD, Chapman shows her weakness of often taking things a little too seriously. She relaxes a little on the title track. A nice loose electric guitar keeps things moving. Telling Stories also shows the positive side of Chapman's seriousness. Her writing and singing is characteristically simple, direct and poignant as she tells how a lie can be better than the truth.
Brian McKnight-Back at One(down 3 positions)
Back at One is pretty sappy: "one, you're like a dream come true; two, just want to be with you, three, it's plain to see you're the one for me." But McKnight's singing is heartfelt and stronger than most that of most of his contemporaries on the pop charts. The music is also nicely subtle, starting simply with a lone piano.
AC/DC-Stiff Upper Lipbuy it!
With Brian Johnson's gravity defying screech and the dopey lyrics about keeping a stiff upper lip and shooting from the hip, the title track of the new AC/DC CD comes close to self parody. Still, their fans will probably be happy. It sounds like AC/DC and a it's got a rockin' boogie guitar.
Oasis-Go Let It Out(down 20 positions)
Using Strawberry Fields keyboards, Oasis again show their love of psychedelic era Beatles on Go Let It Out, from the new Standing on the Shoulders of Giants CD. Noel Gallagher's lyrics, urging us to tell the world we're glad for who we are, can be a little shaky(what does life is precocious mean). Liam Gallagher's typically icy vocals are so throaty that you may wish he coughed up some phlegm before starting. Still, Go Let It Out shows Oasis' Beatlesque gift for mixing melody and rich atmosphere.
Incubus-Pardon Me(up 4 positions)
Pardon Me resembles a lot of music on rock radio with its anthemic choruses and power guitar chords. The anguished lyrics about having had enough of the world and being on the verge of spontaneous combustion aren't that unusual these days. But Pardon Me does have some distinction with its good, jagged beat and interesting touches like the sound of scratching records.
Smashing Pumpkins-The Everlasting Gaze(down 30 positions)
After the disappointing sales of their Adore CD, Smashing Pumpkins return to the rocking sound of Cherub Rock, Bullet with Butterfly Wings and especially Zero for the first release from their Machina/Machines of God CD. Everlasting Gaze is pretty powerful with James Iha's slashing guitar and good, driving drumming from Jimmy Chamberlin, who the band has rehired after firing him because of drug problems. Billy Corgan's singing is still annoyingly whiny but it's at least fairly aggressive.
Marc Anthony-I Need to Know(down 3 positions)
Anthony is the latest Latin pop star to make the move to being an American pop star. It makes sense than Anthony makes a smooth transition since he grew up in New York and has English singing experience from starring on Broadway in Paul Simon's Capeman. The lyrics are fairly dopey. The song starts with Anthony singing that he heard a woman he likes asked about him. The rest of the song is just him repeating that he needs to know if it's true that she's interested. However, the key to the song is the music and I Need to Know has a nice, easy groove.
Kenny Wayne Shephard-Was(unchanged)
Shephard's talent as a player and love of his blues rock predecessors is always more apparent than his originality. Was, from Shephard's Live On CD, starts well in a gritty, spare blues setting. Was has a pretty authentic feel but it evolves into his usual showing off and overdone music. The lyrics, about being under a woman's spell, feel pieced together from other songs, with their repeated references to moonlit nights and madman's walks.
Whitney Houston-My Love Is Your Love(down 4 positions)
At times on her My Love Is Your Love CD, Whitney Houston sadly tries to sound like today's hot hip hop artists. She shouldn't worry about sounding like anyone but herself. Houston doesn't seem totally comfortable on the CD's title track, but it does have a good, smooth groove and Houston has a great voice. The lyrics are sweet if unexciting, proclaiming that her love would survive World War III, judgement day or, God forbid, the loss of her fame and fortune.
Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals-Steal My Kissesbuy it!
Steal My Kisses is a particularly light, fun piece from Harper's Burn To Shine CD. Harper presents himself as a good natured rascal, persisting in working on a hard to get lady. The music keeps the mood easy with a loose electric guitar.