Macy Gray-I Try(down 2 positions)
Gray's On How Life Is was justifiably one of the most highly acclaimed records of 1999. There's a good smooth groove nearly throughout and the songs are very well made. Gray's raspy childlike voice takes some getting used to but she does communicate a joyful sense of wonder. I Try is actually a sad story. Gray sings that "we should be together but we're not." She's a prisoner of his love and her world crumbles when he's not near. However, the music and her voice soften the troubled lyrics. Keyboards with chiming and string effects create an understated elegance.
The Deftones-Change (In the House of Flies)(up 21 positions)
The first chart hit from the White Pony CD is hard edged, serious rock. The band seems to be smarter and more interesting than many of their contemporaries but nothing on Change shows much ambition beyoned a desire to rock.
Despite their tough music and attitude, a lot of today's young hard rockers, like Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit, want us to know they have a soul and women can hurt them. On Home, the rock ballad from Staind's Dysfunction CD, Aaron Lewis sings about sacrificing everything for a woman and being totally vulnerable to her: afraid to be alone, afraid she'll leave him when he's gone. It seems a little wimpy but the band makes sure they'll still appeal to the rock kids with crisp drums and power chords on the chorus breaking through the otherwise stark musical setting and heartfelt vocals.
Enrique Iglesias-Be With You(unchanged)
Be With You is pretty generic, if effective, dance music. Iglesias' voice rides fairly effectively with the cold, steady beat though he sounds a little uncomfortable when his singing is rushed(perhaps electronically) to keep up with the beat. Iglesias is generally presented as a macho guy. I don't get why the lyrics make him seem like such a pathetic loser. Iglesias sings about his tears, how his life is meaningless without her and how the sound of her voice could save his soul.
Everclear has two new CDs released under the name Songs From An American Movie. The single version of Wonderful is from Volume One: Learning How To Smile. After disclosing some of his life story on So Much For The Afterglow's Father of Mine, Art Alexakis shares more on Wonderful and his story about the effect his parents' breakup had on him is pretty touching. Alexakis sings as an angry youth who wants his life to be the same as it used to be and doesn't want people to insult him by saying things are fine now. The music resembles I Will Buy You a New Life and other Everclear songs, starting quietly then building in force with undulating keyboards, power chords and Alexakis' screamed no's. However, the mellower start is a little longer and sadder than usual, consistent with the sad tone of the song.
Sisqo-The Thong Song(down 4 positions)
The Thong Song is from the Unleash the Dragon CD by the Dru Hill singer. The nation's latest novelty hit is silly and insubstantial but fairly unpretentious. The song could do without its lame introduction justifying the song as "letting all the ladies know what guys talk" but the sexism of the song is so obvious and good natured that it's hard to hate. The music is fast, light, energetic and rhythmic. The lyrics are just an excuse to keep getting back to the catch phrase, "let me see that thong."
Nickelback-Leader Of Men(up 14 positions)
Nickelback is a hard rocking band, like Creed, led by a serious, intense singer. Leader of Men, from the State CD, is another rant about society's evils and hypocrisy, asking "do you think I could drink something that's so hard to swallow." The music starts with appealingly restrained guitar but predictably builds into a big, guitar heavy onslaught.
Christina Aguilera-I Turn To You(unchanged)
Turn To You is the third hit from Aguilera's self titled CD. It makes it clear that, while she has often been compared to Britney Spears, she sees her role models and future competition in more respected pop singers like Mariah and Whitney. Aguilera gives showy Carey-like demonstrations of high her vocal range can go and pulls them off pretty well. While Turn To You isn't as gimmicky as her dance pop hits, her voice is still better than the material. The song has an appealingly minimal feel but also a few lyrical clunkers like, "for the strength to be strong." I'm not an expert in such things but doesn't Turn To You sound awfully familiar, just like Celine Dion's Because You Loved Me and a bunch of other pop ballads.
N Sync-It's Gonna Be Me(up 13 positions)
It's Gonna Be Me sounds like No Strings Attached's first single Bye Bye Bye. It's got a little bit of a harder dance edge but it's still genial and unthreatening. The words are more standard than the breakup lyrics of Bye Bye Bye, trying to convince a women who's had a bad experience that all men aren't bad and he's not like that. It's Gonna Be Me is pretty slight but the young girls are bound to make it another big hit.
Pink-There You Go(up 3 positions)
Pink is the latest female artist to have a CD released by LaFace records, who also make TLC's records. There You Go, from Pink's debut CD Can't Take Me Home, starts out sounding just like No Scrubs. Pink doesn't equal TLC's cool ease but There You Go has a decent groove and she has a fairly distinctive personality, even if song isn't particularly distinctive. The words are designed to make a female audience feel good, getting the last laugh and taunting a formerly neglectful boyfriend who's now coming back begging for her.
Destiny's Child-Say My Name(down 4 positions)
The pop charts are dominated these days by groups of pretty, smooth singing white boys and black women. Destiny's Child have already had big r&b hits with Bills, Bills, Bills and Bug a Boo from their Writing's On the Wall CD. Say My Name is their biggest pop hit. It is cool and smooth but doesn't really go anywhere with the idea that a lover, who's "acting kind of shady", should say her name to prove that he's not playing around with another woman. The song mixes things up a couple of times by speeding up and changing the beat but mostly it seems like endless repetition of the title.
Vitamin C-Graduation(Friends Forever)(up 3 positions)
If there was any doubt that pop radio is almost exclusively targeted these days towards teenage and preteen girls, the success of this trifle from Vitamin C's debut CD is a clear indication. We're probably stuck with this song until the end of June, especially now that local stations have begun to play versions with local kids talking about their graduation. Graduation has a good clean beat but everything else, from the cheesy mock grandeur of synths trying to sound like strings to the treacly harmonies on the chorus, is silly. Singer Colleen Fitzpatrick is having more success as Vitamin C than she did as a modern rocker in the band Eve's Plum but her singing, including some bad rap, is pretty awful.The lyrics, about remembering the times we had together and promising to be friends forever, no matter how our lives change, are as deep as a note written in a yearbook.
Backstreet Boys-The One(up 6 positions)
It might be unfair to compare since Backstreet Boys are down to the fourth single from the Millennium CD, but they get their butts kicked in the latest battle of the preteen idols by N Sync. N Sync's latest, It's Gonna Be Me, isn't great but it's better than this piece of garbage, which is cheesy in every way from its cheap sounding beat to its awful lyrics. The boys sing a string of cliches about taking her from darkness to light and bad rhymes like"I'll be the light where you can run to make it all right."
Dynamite Hack-Boyz N The Hood(up 4 positions)
The thing about a jokey song is that once you get the joke, unless the music is great, repeated listenings can mean diminishing returns really quickly. The joke of Boyz N The Hood, from the band's Superfast CD, is that the acoustic, mellow and very white sounding band is actually singing gangster rap. It's not the worst joke. The music is comically restrained and pristine, like an especially quiet Weezer song. But the joke is pretty obvious, not to mention fairly racist. After you figure out, yes he really is saying that, there's not much more point to Boyz N The Hood.
Santana-Maria Maria(down 4 positions)
Like Smooth, Maria Maria, the third hit from the huge Supernatural CD, successfully mixes two different styles. Product G & B smoothly sing a soul ballad about a girl like the one in West Side Story while Santana plays cool, relaxed Spanish guitar. With a clean, chunky beat, Maria Maria creates an easy, sexy Latin groove.
The Jayhawks-I'm Gonna Make You Love Me(unchanged)
The Jayhawks' last CD, 1997's Sound of Lies, was brilliantly textured and thoughtful but it was also slow and sad. The very good new Smile CD is a happier affair. Singer/songwriter Gary Louris' mood seems to have been lifted by romantic bliss. Louris is charmingly persistent on the buoyant new song. Acknowledging that "I'll never be all you want me to be", Louris is charmingly persistent in his pursuit of his "perfect lover". I'm Gonna Make You Love Me has a nice light country rock tone and a taste of the breathtaking harmonies that lift Smile, especially in its first half. Louris has done a good job of including new keyboard player/backup singer Jen Gunderman in his intricate arrangements.
Mighty Mighty Bosstones-So Sad To Say(down 3 positions)
So Sad To Say is from the Bosstones' new Pay Attention CD. Dickie Barrett's singing, while enthusiastic and likable, is always rough and his range is limited. Most of the band's songs sound somewhat similar; So Sad To Say is a little like the band's hit The Impression That I Get and the Rascal King from Let's Face It. Still, it's a lot of fun. So Sad To Say is about bitterness about getting dumped. Barrett sings, "you'll get what you deserve." Luckily, the band doesn't let the anger of the lyrics dampen the exuberance of the music. Horns and short, tight guitar lines create an energetic, good time mood.
Sonique-It Feels So Good(down 8 positions)
It Feels So Good, from the CD Hear My Cry, is reminiscent of the golden age of disco. It has an efficient, synthetic beat and dramatic string effects made by keyboards, but not much personality. The lyrics are extremely simple, a fairly dopey tribute to her love which keeps her alive, makes her smile when she's down, takes her higher, etc.
Stir-New Beginning(down 21 positions)
While it's not particularly substantial, the first single from the St. Louis band's Holy Dogs CD is an undeniably catchy rocker. The restrained verses, with fairly spooky keyboards, are meant to match the tension of Andy Schmidt's lyrics about "having a breakdown" because the women he worships is apparently on the way out of their relationship but the song quickly moves into a high spirited chorus, with power chords and Schmidt sounding like Semisonic's Dan Wilson. Things get a little too poppy with Schmidt's na-na-na vocals.
Kid Rock-American Bad Assbuy it!
Kid Rock's new CD is called The History of Rock, assumedly an allusion to his belief, repeatedly voiced in American Bad Ass that he has brilliantly synthesized different types of music into his style. American Bad Ass does nicely mix hard rock guitar and drums with Kid Rock's yelled rap. However, Kid Rock's rapping is the weak link. Boasting is the norm in the genre but Kid Rock's bragging, saying he's the chosen one and comparing himself to Johnny Cash, Grandmaster Flash and The Clash hardly seems justified. He seems insecure, needing to tell us his last record sold seven million and constantly referring to his previous work, claiming "they call me cowboy." There are moments of decent humor like when he flaunts his 30 pack of Stroh's but Kid Rock's attempts to seem tough are generally lame. It seems more accurate when he says he "rocks with Liberace flash."
Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals-Steal My Kisses(down 1 position)
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.
N Sync-Bye Bye Bye(down 13 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.
Savage Garden-Crash and Burn(down 11 positions)
Crash and Burn is the second hit from the Affirmation CD from the very polite Australian easy listening kings. With Crash and Burn, Savage Garden is closer than ever to elevator music. The song is innocuous, inoffensive and totally without edge. The bland vocals assure that you're not alone and if you need to fall apart, I'll mend your broken heart and lots of other lifeless cliches.
Bush-Warm Machinebuy it!
Bush haven't gotten worse or significantly changed their sound but the audience for their derivative rock has largely left them. Even their quite good last single, the ballad Letting The Cables Sleep, went nowhere. The third chart hit from the Science Of Things CD somewhat resembles the record's The Chemicals Between Us, without that song's energy. Grinding guitars create a good, tense mood but the cryptic lyrics and Gavin Rossdale's icy vocals, while creating a sense of forboding, don't make the song very interesting or enjoyable.
Neil Young-Razor Love(unchanged)
Razor Love is from Neil Young's new acoustic Silver and Gold CD. Razor Love is a nice, restrained song about Young's empathy for a woman who's down on her luck. Harmonica, piano and Young's thin, vulnerable voice create a moving setting as Young sings of his faith in and "love that cuts straight through" for someone he hasn't always supported. Razor Love is sad and slightly rambling with Young throwing out a few broader observations about how you "gotta look out for the greedy hand" and that "imagination is my best friend."