Black Crowes-Soul Singin'(up 9 positions)
The second chart song from the Lions CD is Black Crowes' best single in years. Soul Singin' makes good use of Chris Robinson's natural exuberance for a genuinely uplifting song. The verse, with Rich Robinson's CCR style guitar line, has a good down and dirty feel. On the chorus, Chris and good backup singers create a stirring gospel tinged sound. There isn't much to Soul Singin' and its tale of settling down to look for "holy places not yet found" but it has a good, positive feel.
Godsmack-Greed(up 3 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.
Janet Jackson-All For You(down 1 position)
With the often used riff from Chic's Good Times as its base, the title track from Janet Jackson's All For You CD has the feel of light, easy early 80's disco like Diana Ross' Upside Down. It has a taste of Jackson's Escapade and even Kool & The Gang's Celebration. I preferred Jackson's image before she became an ever smiling good girl and sometimes her singing on All For You is too sickly sweet. Mostly, she has a fluidity similar to her brother's. The lyrics encouraging a guy to "be yourself", "come on talk to me" and "tell me I'm the only one", promising "I'll let you sit right next to me" seem unlikely but, with the exception of silly, harder beats towards the end, All For You goes down pretty easily.
Backstreet Boys-More Than That(unchanged)
More Than That has the trademark smooth sound of Backstreet Boys ballads like Shape Of My Heart, I Want It That Way and Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely. They play the supportive suitor, sensitive to the pain caused to a girl by a dishonest guy and promising not to repeat his mistakes. The Boys' solos are a little overwrought(especially on the video, as they grimace and pump their fists to show the intensity of their singing) but their harmonies come together very nicely on the chorus. More Than That is a quiet ballad that's a bit wimpy but has pretty good, minimal beats, acoustic guitar and keyboards.
Destiny's Child-Bootylicious(up 1 position)
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.
Sum 41-Fat Lip(up 3 positions)
Fat Lip, from the All Killer No Filler CD, is fairly fun but totally derivative punky pop. Fat Lip alternates between an early Beasties style mix of rap and rock guitar and mindless power pop. The rhymes, like "I like songs with distortion, to drink in proportion, the doctor said my mom should have had an abortion", are cocky and dopey. With Deryck Whibley singing about being "sick of always hearing act your age" and of liking to have "fun at other people's expense", the other half of Fat Lip is basically a rehash of Blink 182's What's My Age Again. The song also throws in some lame rebellion("I'll never fall in line, become a victim of conformity") but the song's appeal comes from its fast, high spirited energy.
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."
Lifehouse-Sick Cycle Carousel(unchanged)
Like on Hanging By A Moment, the megahit from Lifehouse's No Name Face CD, Jason Wade does a variation on Eddie Vedder and Creed's Scott Stapp without Vedder's substance but also lacking Stapp's pretension, as he sings about wanting to break a sick cycle. Wade is only 20 but he has that deep, serious, prematurely old voice that's been almost mandatory for rock singers of the last decade. He's also too young to be writing defeated lyrics like "if shame had a face, I think it would like mine." Sick Cycle Carousel's lofty, yearning chorus is like that of Pearl Jam or Live songs like Run To The Water or In Hiding without attaining the transcendence those bands can reach. Sick Cycle Carousel is earnest and pleasant sounding but not too interesting.
REM-Imitation Of Life(down 11 positions)
REM's days of huge success are behind them but they continue to make good music. Imitation Of Life, from the Reveal CD is the kind of reflective, modest and appealing midtempo rocker REM's done in recent years. It resembles Bittersweet Me, The Great Beyond, Man On The Moon and Texarkana. Peter Buck plays a guitar line so amiable that it's hard to believe the recent accusations of air rage. The synth solo is charmingly cheap sounding. Michael Stipe's vocals do as much as the lyrics at establishing empathy as he encourages someone to stop crying and be "what you could."
311-You Wouldn't Believe(up 9 positions)
311 have maintained the same basic formula, mixing rock, ska and hip hop. You Wouldn't Believe, the first single off their From Chaos CD, sounds like Down, 311's commercial and artistic high point, and their other music, with Douglas Martinez' raps interspersed between Nick Hexum's crooned vocal lines. Still, You Wouldn't Believe, about a guy having a tough time after getting dumped, is a good example of the band's formula. It's enjoyable, with skittery, ska drums, and tough, with good guitars and a focused sound.
City High-What Would You Do(up 9 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."
Cake-Short Skirt/Long Jacketbuy it!
Cake's music usually catches your attention with John McCrea's sardonic vocals. On Short Skirt/Long Jacket, McCrea is as much of a smart ass as ever as he sings about the attributes he wants in a girl(like "eyes that burn like cigarettes"). Still, I find Short Skirt/Long Jacket more enjoyable than previous Cake hits Never There and The Distance because the music is better. Short Skirt/Long Jacket, from the Comfort Eagle CD, has a good funky guitar line and beat and fun touches like Vince DiFiori's trumpet.
Janet Jackson-Someone To Call My Loverbuy it!
Like on All For You's title track, Janet Jackson plays it safe on the CD's second hit, using a familiar riff from a 70's hit, creating a pleasant, though not particularly exciting, sound. Someone To Call My Lover, written and produced by Jackson and her longtime partners Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, has a nice, easy feel with a riff from America's Ventura Highway, chiming keyboards and smooth beat. Jackson's vocal is fluid and likable. Someone To Call My Lover is also like All For You in its hope that some guy will come up to her and decide she's "the girl of his dreams." On Someone To Call, Jackson bemoans the loneliness of the road and how "easily I fall in love."
Eve 6-Here's To The Night(unchanged)
It's a cliche of contemporary rock for an otherwise tough band to include a slow song or two on their CD in an attempt at pop success. Here's To The Night stands out jarringly among the otherwise tough, somewhat unpleasant rock songs on Eve 6's Horrorscope CD. With its strings and pleasant but empty pop sound, Here's To The Night probably fits more comfortably on pop or easy listening radio. It resembles an 80's rock ballad like John Waite's Missing You. Max Collins tries to sounds to like a sensitive male but the lyrics, like many of Horrorscope, are pretty backward about women. Collins tells the woman he lied to, "don't let me let you go."
Nelly-Ride Wit Me(unchanged)
Nelly's second top 50 hit has his trademark easy flowing sound and fast, relaxed rap. Ride Wit Me is even smoother than Country Grammar's title track and has a good, likable feel except for the repeated dopey yells of "must be the money." Nelly tells us that now he's got the money everyone wants a piece of him. He can mock those who called him a failure with his dough and Benz. Ride Wit Me is another Nelly rap that's cocky and a little silly, celebrating getting high and girls glad to satisfy.
O-Town-All Or Nothing(unchanged)
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.
If you considering buying Coldplay's Parachutes, I should warn you that the rest of the CD isn't quite as good as their very good singles, Yellow and Shiver. The rest of Parachutes is good, with mellow, atmospheric songs. But it doesn't match Shiver's vibrance. Alternately intense and relaxed, swooping between an easy baritone and a fearless falsetto, Chris Martin sounds eerily like the late Jeff Buckley. Martin is cool even as he sings "you'll always get your way" to a woman who ignores him, pledging "I'll be there by your side, just you try and stop me." Jon Buckland effectively shifts from an ethereal guitar line on the verse to a good, tight rock riff on the chorus.
Pete Yorn-Life On A Chain(unchanged)
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."
Stabbing Westward-So Far Away(down 8 positions)
Stabbing Westward established themselves, along with Korn and Tool, by making dense, gothic, nearly industrial music. So Far Away, from the band's self titled fourth CD, isn't exactly light but the sound is fairly clear rather than murky. So Far Away is fairly routine contemporary rock. It's very serious and soaring without the pretension of, say, Creed. The filtered guitar is piercing but Christopher Hall's vocal is straight forward if uninteresting as he sings about wanting to "find a way to smash these walls" that separate him from his love. The chorus("every time I touch you it feels so far away') is almost catchy.
Nelly Furtado-I'm Like A Bird(down 8 positions)
I'm Like A Bird, from the Canadian singer's Whoa Nelly! CD, sounds like a pop/easy listening hit but it also has a nice, trippy edge. Especially on the verses, the sound is cool and a little jazzy. Furtado's voice is loose and playful. The beat is chunky but the feel is appropriately light. The chorus, cushioned by backing vocals and synths, is more standard pop but Furtado keeps things buoyant and appealing. She sings that, even though she's in love, she's eventually going to have to move on.
American Hi-Fi-Flavor Of The Weak(down 22 positions)
American Hi-Fi are another band like Presidents of the USA and Weezer with a fondness for fun, somewhat silly rocking pop artists from the late 70s like The Knack, Kiss and Pat Benatar. Flavor Of The Weak, from the band's self title debut CD is a good time with a simple sound and big power chords. The lyrics are appropriately basic. A teen wishes he could make his unrequited love see that her boyfriend "don't know anything about her, he's too stoned" and that he'll soon dump her.
Pain is from Stereomud's Perfect Self CD. With its crunching guitar chords, anguished, yelled vocals and dark atmosphere provided by synth effects, Pain is by the numbers contemporary rock and a good example of what's wrong with rock radio. The lyrics are the same basic complaint of dozens of recent songs by angry young white guys, about being suffocated and controlled, presumably by a woman.
Aerosmith-Just Push Play(unchanged)
It's been noted that Aerosmith's 1986 collaboration with Run D.M.C. on Walk This Way was one of the first successful examples of the hard rock/hip hop hybrid that's nearly ubiquitous these days. Aerosmith hadn't revisited the sound much until the title track from their new CD. With quotes from Walk This Way and a very similar guitar line, Just Push Play is practically a tribute to Walk This Way. Steven Tyler's singing and lyrics are typically broad and mindless but at least this time they're at the service of a fun song. Just Push Play has a big sound with big guitars, scratching, a big beat and a loose, anarchic feel.
Afro Celt Sound System-When You're Fallingbuy it!
Afro Celt Sound System was founded by Simon Emmerson, who brought in African and Irish musicians to experiment with different forms of rhythm based sounds. When You're Falling, from the group's third record Further In Time, features guest singer Peter Gabriel, a long time fan of world music. Nearly nine years after his last record, Us, it's nice to have Gabriel back on the radio, showing he doesn't have to be ponderous and overly serious when he's working with good material. Gabriel anchors When You're Falling with the same 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 woman who's "a fallen angel with your wings set in light."
Lucinda Williams' Essence CD doesn't have the detailed, evocative writing of her remarkable Car Wheels On A Gravel Road but it's not bad either. Similarly, the title track isn't quite as good as Change The Locks and Metal Firecracker, her moody masterpieces that it resembles, but it's good. Williams and her band hold back and go nice and slow, creating a good sexy edge. I find Williams' very simple rhymes too much like Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs And Ham but Williams effectively communicates a simple need for a love that's like a drug.