R. Kelly-Ignition(down 3 positions)
Apparently, accusations of having sex with a minor and possessing child porn won't kill your career if you know how to put together good pop hooks. The Ignition remix, from Kelly's Chocolate Factory CD, is a great testament to Kelly's skills. Kelly's vocal quickly darts around the lyric and mixes up speeds to create different moods while staying very cool. The music has the smooth confidence of a soul classic with easy, fluid keyboards and a relaxed handclap beat. Kelly smartly uses backing singers, creating a moment of excitement with their toot toots and beep beeps. Kelly's lyric is pretty awful. The title comes from a charming sexual metaphor promising "to take my key and stick it in the ignition." Kelly's comeons have the usual brags about an opulent lifestyle and compare a girl to his Lexus and a football coach("the way you got me playin' the field"). Luckily, Ignition sounds so good that you don't focus on its silly words.
Queens Of The Stone Age-Go With The Flow(up 1 position)
Queens Of The Stone Age's Songs For The Deaf is a good, ambitious hard rocking record that works best when the guys loosen up a little. Go With The Flow, the followup to longtime top 50 resident No One Knows, gets a fun, frantic energy from Dave Grohl's hard, distinctively whacking and Nick Oliveri's sturdy, fast bass line. Simple, steady piano and Josh Homme's cutting guitar interjections also help hurtle the song forward. In the midst of Go With The Flow's ebullient chaos, Homme's controlled, unshowy vocal provides some balance. Homme's singing is a welcome contrast to the emotive narcissism that dominates rock music these days. Go With The Flow is apparently about being willing to go along with a breakup but not being happy about.
Deftones-Minerva(down 4 positions)
Minerva is from Deftones, the band's self titled fourth studio album. Minerva is a lot like Change, from the White Pony CD, Deftones' biggest hit so far. That's not a bad thing. Like Change, Minerva is good and intense. Singer Chino Moreno lets himself get deep into Minerva's maelstrom of sound and emotion. The band get good edge by going slow and making an impressive, dense noise. Stephen Carpenter and Moreno play grinding power chords but Minerva doesn't drag as it powerfully inches forward. Arguably, Minerva is a bit self indulgent and the band is too enamored with their own meaningfulness. But while making a big rock sound, Deftones avoid the pretension, showy excess and lack of originality that mar the updated grunge that dominates modern rock radio. Minerva has exciting passion and strength. Moreno is presumably paying tribute to a woman, rather than the goddess of wisdom, but he uses lofty terms, describing how Minerva's singing makes him numb and brings his knees to the earth and how it "could bring back peace to the earth."
50 Cent-21 Questions(down 7 positions)
A short time after being "discovered" by Eminem, 50 Cent has reached the kind of success his mentor took years to achieve. In Da Club is one of the biggest hits of 2003. 21 Questions, 50 Cent's second pop hit, reenforces the fact that the buzz and hype that preceded 50 Cent's Get Rich Or Die Tryin' CD was justified. 50 Cent has separated himself from the hip hop crowd with a style that's distinctively laid back and confident. Like In Da Club, 21 Questions has a vocal and backing track that are interesting on their own and work great together. The rap and music both create a good texture. 50's rap is natural and plainspoken but it's also sneakily rhythmic as he snakes around the already twisty track. Nate Dogg(who's worked previously with Warren G, 2Pac, Snoop Dogg and Eminem) does the singing on the chorus. Dogg fits the song's style with a vocal that's smooth but not too pretty. Like 50's rap, 21 Questions' repeated guitar like riff is a little awkward but it's more interesting because it doesn't sound like everything you've heard before. The riff punctuates the end of each of 50 and Dogg's lines, adding a little edge, taking a split second longer than it has to. 50 Cent has amassed enough cred that 21 Questions, which presents him as a kind of sensitive, vulnerable guy, is unlikely to lose him any fans. 50 is simultaneously tough and light hearted even while asking questions that make him seem needy. His soft spoken style makes it clear that 21 Questions is a request for encouragement rather than a jealous interrogation. 50 doesn't just want to know if she would stand by him if he "got locked up" or lost his fancy cars and "flipped burgers at Burger King." He also wants confirmation that she's his "soulmate" and that she wouldn't freak if he wrote her a love letter or "didn't smell so good."
Coldplay's singles from the A Rush Of Blood To The Head CD sound great in any context but they're especially striking on modern rock radio. Amid angry, testosterone fueled songs, the beauty of Coldplay's music is particularly welcome. Clocks has a wonderful dreamy feel. Strings and a synth provide an airy cushion while Chris Martin plays a simple but insinuating piano line. On some parts of Rush Of Blood, Martin is pretentious or annoyingly meandering but on Clocks, even as the song moves at a leisurely pace that accentuates its hypnotic appeal, Martin's vocal stays focused. Martin's typical sense of yearning works well on Clocks. Martin is apparently singing, as he does on many Coldplay songs, about a woman to whom "nothing else compares" who doesn't want to be with him and about being willing to wait for her to change her mind. He sings "you've put me down upon my knees", leaving him to "beg and plead" and "curse missed opportunities" but seems to retain a bit of hope.
Michelle Branch-Are You Happy Now?(up 3 positions)
For her new Hotel Paper CD, Michelle Branch stuck with John Shanks, who's worked with Sheryl Crow, Stevie Nicks and Melissa Etheridge and produced Branch's The Spirit Room CD. The result on Are You Happy Now is radio friendly but not very exciting. Alanis Morissette's influence on Branch is quite apparent. The similarity is especially there on Are You Happy Now, which is basically You Oughta Know light. The 21 year old Morissette was fascinating, raging furiously against a betraying boyfriend. The 20 year old Branch merely sounds whiny and self pitying. The other appropriate comparison is to Avril Lavigne. Branch has played the weepy, sensitive second banana to Lavigne's confident, in your face punk rock fan. Are You Happy Now, written by Branch and Shanks, shows awareness of the competition. Branch's screaming on the chorus and the simple, rock guitar driven dramatic music brings Lavigne to mind. Are You Happy Now has some of the thrill that dynamic shifts from quiet to boisterous bring but it doesn't have the energy of Lavigne's best songs. The verses drag by with an uninteresting drum machine beat and vague synth embellishments. Are You Happy Now's lyric perpetuates Branch's persona as the girl who doesn't quite fit in and is doomed to wallow in disappointment. Are You Happy Now is about looking for satisfaction in the fact that the guy who left her isn't happy either. The good news for Branch is that at least as many young women in Branch's target preteen and early teen audience relate to Branch's awkward misfit as to Lavigne's cocky popular girl. Branch's voice is annoyingly girlish and thin but enough girls relate to Branch's insecurities and her very youthful voice to make Are You Happy Now a big hit.
Uncle Kracker featuring Dobie Gray-Drift Away(up 4 positions)
Considering that his main goal seems to be making genial, innoucuous pop, Uncle Kracker(born Matt Shafer) has had a decent career. But he hadn't really been able to follow up on Follow Me from his debut CD. In A Little While, which had Uncle Kracker's typical mellow, modest style, was a minor hit. It took a cover of an extremely familiar song to give Uncle Kracker a big hit from his No Strange To Shame CD, which came out last summer. The new version of Drift Away is a remake in the strictest sense. It's a nearly exact copy of Dobie Gray's 1973 hit. It's pleasant but totally unnecessary. The nice thing about Drift Away 2003, I guess, is that it gives Gray another chance in the spotlight. Now in his 60s, Gray still sounds good. Gray's strong, full voice easily outdoes Uncle Kracker's thin, indistinct singing. Drift Away isn't the most remarkable of pop classics. It's a soothing song about how music can provide calm in a troubling life. Drift Away's chief attribute is that it's appealing smooth and relaxed. Uncle Kracker leaves in place the easy, pleasing keyboards and guitars that made Drift Away a lite hits radio staple. But he doesn't add anything that makes the song better or more interesting than the original. I guess one other benefit of the new version is that it settles a question I've had since I was a kid. Yes he says "beat boys" not Beach Boys.
Nickel Creek-Smoothie Song(up 7 positions)
Nickel Creek are a bluegrass group from San Diego. Their modern sensibility has given them supporters beyond the genre's usual fans. Contemporary bluegrass queen Alison Krauss produced Nickel Creek's two CDs. Krauss has succeeded by giving her music a country folk flavor. Like Krauss, Nickel Creek show that they respect bluegrass history and can play traditional instruments and are also aware of other genres. Moves like covering Pavement's Spit On A Stranger show that Nickelback's musical tastes are even broader than Krauss'. Nickel Creek's music is very charming. It's smart and well played and has a sweet modesty. The Smoothie Song, from the This Side CD, is an instrumental written by Nickel Creek mandolin/banjo player Chris Thile which features the interplay of the group's principal players: Thile, fiddler Sara Watkins and guitar player Sean Watkins.
Frankie J.-Don't Wanna Try(down 1 position)
After years in the music business, including a stint with Los Kumbia Kings, Frankie J Bautista has a hit with the first single off his What's A Man To Do CD. Don't Wanna Try is a very basic ballad. Its success is probably due to its simplicity and familiarity. Don't Wanna Try has a standard soaring string sound and sensitive piano and synths but it doesn't overdo things. Similarly, Bautista's vocal is pretty typical for a song about a wounded lover but he largely avoids overemoting. Don't Wanna Try is pleasant and has a bit of real pathos. The downside is that Don't Wanna Try doesn't have much of a personality. There's no sense of Bautista's latin pop background or anything else distinctive. Bautista's resigned lack of inflection makes Don't Wanna Try's lyrics even colder. Hurt by the "things you said" and exhausted after trying "to save it so many times" but only ending up with fights and angry words, Bautista refuses his woman's request for another chance.
Guster-Amsterdam(up 9 positions)
Guster is a Boston band that developed a large following playing lots of gigs with two acoustic guitars and bongos. The guys have since gone electric but they've maintained a simple upbeat sound. Amsterdam, from the Keep It Together CD, is a strong candidate for feel good song of the summer. It's lightweight but very charming. On Amsterdam, Guster remind me of the jangly, perky guitar bands that sprung up in the mid 80s after REM had their initial success. It rides forward easily with a variety of vigorous but smooth strums, a bit of jangling and a crisp, clicking beat. Amsterdam has a pleasant, shiny sound. Ryan Miller's voice isn't amazing but it is warm and good natured. Amsterdam lacks edge and it's kind of saccharine. It does have a likable, clean cut sound with a nice, positive energy. While Amsterdam has a jaunty sound its lyric, written by drummer Brian Rosenworcel, is quite nasty. Amsterdam's giddiness apparently reflects the joy of a spurned lover at the prospect of finding revenge in a nasty letter.
Red Hot Chili Peppers-Dosed(up 1 position)
I try to stay away from bad critic cliches but the fourth chart hit from the Chili Peppers' By The Way CD really invites me to write things like every time I listened to Dosed, I dozed or it sounds like Anthony Kiedis got a bad dose of something. The bottom line is Dosed is a bore. Dosed has a lot of nice and pretty things but it's really lightweight and Kiedis' vocal is quite awful. Kiedis uses a vague, odd, wimpy falsetto that makes him sound like he feels sick to his stomach. The good parts of Dosed are John Frusciante's smooth, sweet guitar playing and a nice uplifting chorus with good harmonies. Dosed has a kind spirit but the verses are lame and the whole song is very tame. With every song fit for easy listening radio, it becomes more unclear how the Chili Peppers have maintained their image as raucous rockers and why modern rock radio and their older fans haven't abandoned them. Dosed's lyric partly explains the song's melancholy mood. Dosed apparently is about a woman who died after working her magic on Kiedis.
Jewel-Intuition(up 8 positions)
Jewel's image, as the sincere folkie who writes poetry and wants people to take her overripe writing seriously, was getting drab. She has come up with a smart surprise by simplifying and lightening up on her new CD. Jewel worked on the 0304 CD with Lester Mendez, who produced and played keyboards on records by Latin pop artists like Shakira and Enrique and Julio Iglesias. Intuition is like lots of other dance pop songs but it still works. Intuition is repetitive and insubstantial but it has a light, easy mood. Mendez maintains a solid beat that doesn't overwhelm Jewel's voice. Jewel, singing with a sensual roll in her voice, sounds like she's having fun mixing up vocal styles. Part of Intuition's success must be attributable to its video. Jewel has projected a seductive image before, on the record and video for You Were Meant For Me. On Intuition she has it both ways, satirizing the way advertisers use sex to attract people to their products while undoubtedly attracting people to Intuition with her alluring poses and clothes. I assume Jewel has a similar intent on the record, gently mocking the mechanical nature of many hits and overdoing the provocative swoon in her voice while knowing those qualities are likely to get her a hit. Intuition's lyric mocks a world obsessed with "Miss J's big butt" where people "learn cool from magazines" and "learn love from Charlie Sheen." Jewel's unstartling advice is to "follow your heart." Jewel's intuition led her to make radio friendly dance pop. Intuition has a lot of internal contradictions but it is pleasant, slight, disposable pop.
Smile Empty Soul-Bottom Of A Bottle(unchanged)
Bottom Of A Bottle is on the self titled CD by the Santa Clarita, CA band. Smile Empty Soul singer/guitarist/songwriter Sean Danielsen has a good grasp of the kind of sleek hard rock that's crossed over to the pop charts. Bottom Of A Bottle has a chorus, with Danielsen ranting over a big guitar sound, that reminds me of Linkin Park's In The End. But Bottom Of A Bottle is pretty unpleasant stuff. It's presumably meant to be a cautionary tale but the "I do it for the drugs" hook is still pretty nasty. The glib, showily harsh quality of Danielsen's singing undercuts any sympathy the song creates for its troubled protaganist. Danielsen sings that in a "scared and lonely" life, drugs and alcohol make him feel alive and loved.
Seether-Driven Under(down 4 positions)
Seethers Fine Again, a decent Nirvana knockoff featuring Shaun Morgans serious, intense vocal, had a long run on rock radio. Morgan is even more serious and intense on Driven Under, the second chart hit from the South African bands Disclaimer CD, and the song is even less fun. Fine Again was kind of catchy, with some resemblance to the annoying but undeniably hooky How You Remind Me. Driven Under just drags and plods along. Seether get a little distinction from the apparent realness of the pain in Morgans voice. But Driven Under is generic contemporary rock. Its got the humorless, showily meaningful sound of so many other bands. The big, hard rocking guitars predictably crunch in on the chorus. Driven Under is apparently about confronting a girlfriend(do you think that I am blind). The surprising response is that she has a gun that she presumably used before on another guy and is now ready to use on Morgan.
Lil' Lim featuring 50 Cent-Magic Stickbuy it!
Lil' Kim went to the top of the pop charts as one of Lady Marmalade's vocalists. Now she's all over pop radio, appearing on Christina Aguilera's Can't Hold Us Down and on Magic Stick, from her La Bella Mafia CD, with 50 Cent. Everything 50 Cent touches these days becomes a hit but Magic Stick would probably be a hit even if 50 Cent wasn't the biggest recording artist in the U.S. 50 Cent and Lil' Kim are a good match. Neither has a classically impressive or pretty voice but both have plenty of charisma. At the same time, their styles are different. Some writers call 50 Cent's style mush mouthed. That's somewhat accurate but certainly not a complete description of his voice. 50 Cent's charm comes from a confidence that allows him to easily roll through his raps. He's established his street cred with tales of breaking the law and getting shot, but 50 has a likable humility. He stands out from rappers who need to show off their technique by being loud, showy and confrontational. Lil' Kim is also confident and unorthodox but she is much more in-your-face with her provocative, overtly sexual style. She's an Eartha Kitt for our time. Her assurance and sensuality compensate for the lack of standard skill in her raspy voice. Magic Stick finds both vocalists in a nice comfort zone. Magic Stick is totally about sex, a topic 50 Cent and Lil' Kim are comfortable with. They more or less get equal time. Lil' Kim has brags about her "magic clit" to match 50's claims about his member. Unlike most raps about sex, which celebrate the rapper's skills or the fact that everyone wants to be with them, Magic Stick's lyric has a giving tone. 50 and Kim express interest in the pleasure of their partner. Most of the boasting is about their skill in making someone else happy. Magic Stick's backing track, well constructed by the Fantom Of The Beat, is a good complement for the raps. Like 50 Cent's rap, Magic Stick's music moves at an easy, casual pace. It has a good, relaxed, crisp beat and a interesting, slowly twisting, clicking riff that's interrupted periodically by an emphatic crash of synths.
Ziggy Marley-True To Myself(up 5 positions)
Dragonfly is Ziggy Marley's first record without The Melody Makers, the band he had with his sisters and brother(though sister Sharon does backing vocals). Ziggy made Dragonfly with a LA bunch of studio pros. He produced Dragonfly with Ross Hogarth, who's enginereed dozens of records, and REM producer Scott Litt. True To Myself's sound is smooth and professional but it does have a vibe that undeniably connects with Bob Marley's work. Ziggy, now 34, has a relaxed singing style that, like his father's, also conveys substance and confidence. True To Myself has the simple, positive, universal message and immediate familiarity and catchiness of Bob Marley's hits. True To Myself easily rolls forward as horns create a joyful mood and David Lindley and James Harrah strum and trade guitar lines. The downside is that True To Myself isn't particularly distinctive. True To Myself has the basic, concise form of Bob Marley's reggae classics but it doesn't have much appeal beyond its classic form. True to Myself is so laid back and reminiscent of other songs that it doesn't really grab your attention. True To Myself's lyrics are pleasant but a bit insipid. He shares pearls including "I can't make you happy unless I am" and "the truth it never changes."
Addicted, the second hit from the Montreal band's No Helmets, No Pads ... Just Balls CD, is one of the more annoying of the recent spate of poppy punk influenced hits. It's also one of the more successful one, assumedly because it's simple enough that preteens can easily get it. Addicted's big power chords and leisurely pace make it easy to sway to. Simple Plan's idea of a joke("I'm a dick, I'm addicted to you") probably goes over big with the junior high set. Pierre Bouvier sings with a bratty, childlike voice. Bouvier whines with youthful self pity "do you think I deserve this?" Addicted is about not being able to get over a girl who left even though he tried to make her happy. Addicted is harmless and I suppose it's only meant to be stupid fun but it's mostly just stupid.
I'm guessing that even some of the millions who stuck with Radiohead for their atmospheric sonic experiments on Kid A and Amnesiac found it trying to find the brilliance among the pretension and obscure experimentation. Hail To The Thief isn't a group of catchy pop songs bit it does have a bit more song form than its predecessors. It's a little closer to Radiohead's first three records, which communicated alienation in challenging but somewhat accessible rock songs. There There is one of the band's most focused recent efforts. It's a fascinating mix of evocative textures that creates a haunting effect. There There starts with Phil Selway's muffled tom toms and clicking beat. Jonny Greenwood comes in with a tense, circular riff then he's joined by Colin Greenwood's solid bass line. Distorted or muted backing vocals pop in and out. One of the worst things about Kid A and Amnesiac was the tendency to deemphasize guitars. Jonny Greenwood and Ed O'Brien's guitars give substance and form to Thom Yorke's meanderings. There There slowly works its way towards a cathartic, chiming guitar riff which clashes with a harder guitar line. Yorke's vocal, of course, is the vehicle that carries There There and most of Radiohead's music. Depending on my mood and its context, I can find Yorke's needy, sensitive tuneful whine beautful or very irritating. Regardless, Yorke's ability to immerse himself in a song is fascinating. There There is apparently a love song of sorts. Yorke sings about "walking in your landscape" and tripping on broken branches. He says "heaven sent you to me" but also warns of sirens "singing you to shipwreck." There There ends with a familiarly gloomy line("we are accidents waiting to happen") but also has a startlingly creepy reference to phantom limbs("just because you feel it doesn't mean it's there") that, coupled with the dislocation in Yorke's voice, is a reminder of Radiohead's gift for original, striking images.
Ashanti-Rock Wit Ubuy it!
Rock Wit U is from Ashanti's Chapter II CD. Ashanti is still playing the sweet, agreeble, ideal woman she played when she sang harmonies on hits by Ja Rule and Fat Joe. At least she's in front now but while Ashanti always displays a sweet, likable voice, she's yet to display a distinctive personality. The same goes for her music. Like most of the hits produced by Irv Gotti and featuring Ashanti's vocal, Rock Wit U is pleasant and innocuous. Gotti and Ashanti wrote Rock Wit U. They long ago nailed a sound that's easy and inoffensive. Ashanti is accompanied by backing singers that are similarly breezy and appealing. Rock Wit U has a crisp, inobtrusive beat. Its synth effects add to a genial, dreamy feeling. But like many of Murder Inc.'s hits, Rock Wit U is benign sonic wallpaper. It's fine as Muzaky background music but has little substance. Ashanti sounds confident and like she's in control but it's depressing that she's still singing about being the supportive babe who just wants to love you babe.
Ben Harper-With My Own Two Hands(down 4 positions)
Ben Harper's new CD is called Diamonds on the Inside. Harper often integrates various world musics into his music. He's done other songs with a reggae flavor but With My Own Two Hands is probably his most complete evocation of the Bob Marley & The Wailers sound. With My Own Two Hands sounds very authentic. It's got the right keyboard skank, a big, rubbery bass and nice light, slinky drums. With My Own Two Hands sounds right but it doesn't do anything for me. It shows an ability to recapture a sound but doesn't add anything new or personal to that sound. I prefer The Horizon Has Been Defeated, the recent single by Harper's buddy Jack Johnson, which has a reggae flavor but also has a distinctive personality. Harper's vocal is always confident and it's usually appealingly cool. But especially in the unoriginal context, Harper comes across as complacent. It's hard to argue with the message that we can all make the world a better place but Harper seems a little too pleased with himself for having the idea.
Pink featuring William Orbit-Feel Good Time(up 2 positions)
After a string of serious, heavily produced singles that were huge hits, Pink has done a fun, light song and it's not nearly as big a hit. I still like Feel Good Time. Starting with a riff from the 1968 Spirit song Fresh Garbage, Beck and William Orbit, who's worked with tons of people including Madonna and U2, wrote Feel Good Time. Beck declined an offer to do Feel Good Time for the Charlie's Angels Full Throttle soundtrack so Orbit did it with Pink. Feel Good Time retains a Beck flavor. It has the breezy, jaunty summery feel of Dead Weight, the song Beck did on the Life Less Ordinary soundtrack, and Mutations' Tropicalia. There are a lot of things to like about Feel Good Time. Its retro beach music charms include perky do do do backing vocals and Orbit's broad electronic touches, which sound like a past era's idea of a futuristic sound. Pink holds her own pretty well sliding easily around the light, quick orchestration and, often harmonizing with herself, projecting her distinctive personality. But Feel Good Time isn't a big hit. Maybe that's because the new Charlie's Angels movie has been a disappointment or because people want her doing more standard dance pop. The Beck touch is present in the trippy lyric which is weirder than you'd expect from a fun summer single. Feel Good Time is apparently about escaping drab existences to have a good time. It includes lines like "riding in the dirt, put a banner over my grave" and "we go in the back, paint our money black, spend it on the enemy."
Christina Aguilera-Fighter(down 8 positions)
Christina Agulera made great progress in fixing her image problems with Beautiful, the second hit from her Stripped CD. Beautiful allowed Aguilera, who had developed a narcissistic, weird persona, to present herself as needy and empathetic with all her fans who have self image problems. On Fighter, Aguilera reverts to an image of self interest and unpleasant ambition. Aguilera has an undeniable vocal gift. But her voice is so big that she can seem like she's just showing off. On Beautiful, Aguilera benefitted from the fairly light touch and commercial sense of producer Linda Perry. On Fighter, producer Scott Storch not only doesn't restrain Aguilera's showboating tendencies but encourages her to go way over the top. Fighter is strewn with a big hard rock guitar sound that totally lacks subtlety. Fighter soon becomes a showdown between the guitars and Aguilera's voice that results in a shrill, headache inducing mess. Aguilera seems to be referring to a boyfriend who used her but, with its references to cheating and greed and cheating, Fighter could just refer to a record company rep who dared challenge her. Either way, Fighter's gritted teeth confidence and bombastic sound hardly has Beautiful's charming vulnerability. Many may have been surprised by Beautiful's expression, written by Perry, of self doubt. It will be news to few that Fighter, written by Aguilera, declares that Aguilera is determined to succeed.
Three Doors Down-The Road I'm On(down 17 positions)
It's depressing that Matchbox 20 is apparently influencing other bands and even more depressing that some of those influenced are making even worse music than Matchbox 20. On The Road I'm On, from 3 Doors Down's Away From The Sun CD, Brad Arnold does the Rob Thomas troubled, tough but sensitive thing but he's not as talented as Thomas. His vocal is heavy and totally lacking in nuance. On the verses, Arnold's vocal is underlined by Matchbox like portentous guitars but instead of achieving the meaningful sound the band seeks, The Road I'm On is both overdone and lacking in substance. Power chords come in on the chorus and there's a guitar solo but there's no imagination or rock energy. The Road I'm On rocks marginally harder than a typical Matchbox 20 song but doesn't create any more excitement. The Road I'm On is boring and lame. Nothing distinguishes it from many recent serious rock ballads. Road I'm On's lyrics are fine. Arnold sings about two kindred spirits who "feel helpless", find life "hard to move in" and are "trying to find out where you belong." 3 Doors Down have some of my least favorite recent videos. When I'm Gone's video was a pathetic attempt to exploit patriotism as the Iraqi war approached. When I'm Gone's lyric is a needy, self pitying plea for a girlfriend to adore and think of Arnold every second of the day. The video unmistakably attempts to give the false impression that the song is a request for a partner to be supportive while the guy's away at war. The Road I'm On video is pretty awful too. With no war to exploit, 3 Doors Down tie into a hot movie(2 Fast 2 Furious) and a hot sport(stock car racing) with a video featuring NASCAR stars Dale Earnhardt Jr.(of the cult of Earnhardt) and Tony Stewart(famous as a great driver and bad boy) dangerously drag racing through a town in SUVs. At the risk of sounding like my mom, aren't they worried about kids trying to imitate that behavior.
John Mayer-Why Georgia(unchanged)
Why Georgia is the third chart hit from the young singer/songwriter's Room For Squares CD. More than a year after No Such Thing first hit the chart, my thoughts about Mayer are basically the same. Mayer has a mellow, mildly whimsical style that would normally be consistent with an older artist who is tired and slowing down or bemused after years of facing life's absurdities. It's odd to me that someone in his mid 20s seems so unambitious and self satisfied. The frankly sexual Your Body Is A Wonderland was charmingly cheeky but Yes Georgia is just more pleasant, vague, easy listening. Mayer again deploys a vocal that's sly and engaging but has little force. Mayer is apparently a good guitar player but he's careful not to be too showy, only displaying his skills in very limited bursts. I don't know whether it symbolizes an urge to leave his mild, smooth work behind and make more challenging music but on Why Georgia, Mayer sings about being tempted to leave his drab, lonely Georgia life behind, asking "am I living it right?" Mayer asks whether he should take a chance and tells himself he can't be satisfied with "everything happens for a reason."
Evanescence-Going Underbuy it!
Going Under doesn't have the mediocre raps that helped made Bring Me To Life sound like an odd Linkin Park tribute. Otherwise, Going Under is a lot like the hugely successful first single from the Arkansas band's Fallen CD. Once again, the band is wildly over the top. Shooting for a cold, futuristic sound, Evanescence throw together crunching guitar chords, atmospheric keyboard effects and Amy Lee's overdramatic art rock vocals as well as strings and layers of backup singing. Lee again sounds like a self important, hysterical version of Sarah McLachlan or Tori Amos. Brian Moody's sledge hammer guitar playing is pretty uninteresting and his short solo pretty awful. Hopefully the novelty value of Evanescence's theatrical music is fast ebbing and they're not a harbinger of a wave of female led melodramatic neo grunge bands. Going Under's lyric is slightly surprising. Lee sings about all the pain her lover has caused but also vows that she'll "save myself" and "won't be broken again."