Godsmack-Greed(up 2 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.
Nelly Furtado-I'm Like A Bird(up 3 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.
Stabbing Westward-So Far Away(up 4 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.
Dave Navarro-Rexall(up 8 positions)
Trust No One is the former Jane's Addiction and Red Hot Chili Peppers guitar player's solo debut CD. Rexall starts like a Chili Peppers psychedelic rock ballad. The atmosphere gets thicker and by the end it has a dense, bleak Korn/Tool type sound. Navarro has the guitar chops to carry off the transition. His voice is competent and pleasant but he doesn't modulate his vocal to match the song's dynamic shift. In general, Rexall is interesting but not that striking. Rexall is about the gap between the positive appearance and sad reality of a relationship and Navarro's agitation as it dies. He sings "I'm running out of room" and repeats "I hate my life."
Destiny's Child-Survivor(down 5 positions)
It's hard to argue with the premise of the title track of Destiny's Child's new CD. The group's history has been like a version of the TV show. Members have been regularly booted and Kelly Rowland and leader Beyonce Knowles have emerged as tough, very wealthy survivors. I like the way Knowles' voice twists around the cheesy synth string effects but the song's unrelenting torrent of self assurance is exhausting. As on Independent Women, the boasts about success become mean taunts. The lyrics specify the many ways "now that you're out of my life I'm so much better", mocking the unnamed person who thought she'd be weak, broke, scared and helpless with the facts that she's wise, tougher and, most importantly, has sold nine million. The women claim they're better than compromising their christianity by dissing the person in interviews or on the internet but apparently doing so in a hit song is OK.
N Sync-Pop(up 15 positions)
Michael Jackson, The King Of Pop, seems to be an influence on Pop, the first single from the Celebrity CD, in both its hard edged dance music and its angry, fairly foolish lyrics. 'N Sync don't just want to sell a lot of records, they want respect. They sing about being "sick and tired of hearin' all these people talk about" their music "and when is it gonna fade out." They claim "what we're doing is not a trend/we got the gift of melody,we gonna bring it 'til the end." Pop doesn't have much gift of melody but it does work as a dance music. It has a cold but effective sound with sleek beats. The singing doesn't fare as well. N Sync don't have Jackson's ability to rise above harsh dance music. The stark production emphasizes the thin, processed feel of the vocals.
Jessica Simpson-Irresistible(up 9 positions)
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(up 7 positions)
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.
Blues Traveler-Girl Inside My Head(down 1 position)
John Popper put out a solo record and bass player Bob Sheehan died but Blues Traveler has stayed together. Bridge is Blues Traveler's first CD in four years. Girl Inside My Head was written by Popper and new bassist Tad Kinchla. Popper inevitably plays a little harmonica but the song doesn't have much edge. Maybe it has something to do with Popper losing 180 pounds. The music, with a psychedelic pop guitar line by Chad Kinchla, has an easy groove and amiable feel but it's pretty innocuous. The lyrics are also a little wimpy. Girl Inside My Head is about a guy making himself crazy, thinking about how to present himself to a woman, unsure whether to let her know what he's like or to play the "jungle cat."
Dream-This Is Me(unchanged)
Except in self confidence, the young women of Dream, the latest addition to Sean Combs' show biz empire, are unremarkable in every way. They've become MTV stars despite looks, dancing skills and voices that are, at best, mediocre. Perhaps the youth of America relate to stars who are unthreateningly ordinary. Dream vaguely recall the Spice Girls' glamorized averageness, with less personality. With a big beat and vague, smooth synths This Is Me, from It Was All A Dream, slips by innocuously. Dream are a little like N Sync with an even more lightweight sound and thinner voices. On This Is Me, Dream play the supportive girlfriend trying to convince a guy that she'll love him faithfully and that she's nothing like the girl who stole his heart and then broke it.
Sum 41-Fat Lip(unchanged)
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.
Backstreet Boys-More Than Thatbuy it!
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.
Three Doors Down-Duck And Run(down 20 positions)
Kryptonite was insinuating and distinctive but the rest of This Better Life is fairly routine rock. Three Doors Down don't have the nasty edge of some of their contemporaries but they sound like Candlebox and many other young rock bands. Duck and Run, like Loser, is sturdy but uninteresting. It's the hardest of their radio songs, with big, familiar power chords. As on the band's other chart hits, Brad Arnold seriously sings about the problems he's going through. He mostly avoids self pity but Duck and Run is a fairly standard angry young man screed about an uncaring world. Arnold doesn't clarify what he won't duck and run from or why "all my work and endless measures never seem to get me very far."
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."
Dido-Thank You(down 6 positions)
Dido's No Angel CD has become a huge hit nearly two years after its release. First, the atmospheric Here With Me slowly approached near hit status. Then, Eminem's use of a piece of Thank You on Stan brought attention. Now, Stan is out of the top 50 after four weeks on the chart and Thank You has easily topped its peak position. Like David Gray, another slow building success from Britain with an adult audience, Dido's charms are subtle. I find Dido's music less interesting than Gray's but No Angel does have a sleek appeal. The use of percussion and electronica effects is tasteful and minimal but it does give Thank You a good texture that makes it more than just easy listening. Dido's vocals are fluid and smart and add edge to the smooth sound. Thank You's lyrics about how "just to be with you is having the best day of my life" are sappy but Dido's story of a love that "reminds me that it's not so bad" even when everything seems to be going wrong, is sweet.
Matchbox 20-Mad Season(down 3 positions)
Mad Season's title track and thrid hit is like its first single Bent. It's a mellow rock song that's a little draggy but also has some edge and atmosphere. Kyle Cook's guitar line is cool and langorous. Like on Bent, Rob Thomas does a self pitying vocal about how screwed up he is("I'm lost and I'm hopeless, bleeding and broken/though I've never spoken I come undone") and asks for a woman to save him("are you gonna help me out, you need to be together now, I need you now").
Stone Temple Pilots-Days Of The Weekbuy it!
A year and a half after releasing their reunion CD, No. 4, Stone Temple Pilots are back. The short, unassuming Days Of The Week is the first single from Shangri-La Dee Da. Like On Down, Dean DeLeo plays good crunching power chords but Days Of The The Weak also has the fun feel of Big Bang Baby and an easy flow that was largely missing from STP's more assertive, derivative early work. Scott Weiland's lyrics, listing the days to describe a difficult relationship with someone who often "thinks I'm the enemy", are typically minimal and not very insightful but his singing is good, strong but relaxed.
O-Town-All Or Nothingbuy it!
It had been three months since there were any boy groups in the top 50 but the drought is over as 'N Sync, Backstreet Boys and O-Town all debuted early this month. Of course, O-Town are the ultimate in manufactured, commercial boy bands, having been put together by former 'N Sync/Backstreet Boys manager Lou Pearlman for the ABC series Making The Band. O-Town's lame first single Liquid Dreams, the bizarre story of a dream girl constructed from pieces of various celebrities, fell just short of the top 50 but All Or Nothing is clearly a hit. All Or Nothing, from O-Town's self titled CD, is standard teen pop, the tale of a guy trying to convince a girl to forget about another and concentrate on him.
Pete Yorn-Life On A Chainbuy it!
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."
Rehab-It Don't Matter(up 3 positions)
Rehab is Danny Boone and Brooks. They met as recovering addicts in an rehab center. It Don't Matter is from the Southern Discomfort CD. As with fellow Atlanta area rappers Outkast, who clearly influenced Rehab, it's good to hear Rehab's smooth grooves on the radio. It Don't Matter has a dark subject matter but the sound is cool and inviting with an easy beat and appealingly relaxed samples and guitar. The singers provide a good contrast between angry rap and smooth, reflective singing. It Don't Matter is about feeling like "depression's my only friend." The lyrics refer to "another day of feeling nothing", thinking "everything's beautiful as long as I ain't there" and hoping to lift "my pain into the air."
Black Crowes-Lickin'(down 1 position)
For the first song from the Lions CD, other formats chose the stirring, gospel tinged Soul Singing but rock radio is happy with the silly if fairly fun Lickin'. Lickin' doesn't pretend to be anything but dumb rock boogie. The dopey lyrics warn a "queen of the underage" who's "got me ranting and raving" that "you gonna catch a lickin'" The music pulls a goofy 70's trick by underlining the vocals on the verse with fuzzy guitar and keyboards. The chorus is standard Black Crowes with Rich Robinson's jamming guitar and Chris Robinson's cocky Mick Jagger-as-soul singer vocals.
Fuel-Hemorrhage(down 3 positions)
Fuel broke through with Shimmer, from their Sunburn CD. That song had a hard rock sound and was catchy but didn't seem too gimmicky. Hemorrhage, from the new Something Like Human CD, doesn't have Shimmer's light touch. With its dramatic strings and acoustic guitar, Hemorrhage is calculated to be a smash hit rock ballad. Brett Scallions is ever so intense as he sings Carl Bell's bombastic lyrics asking her not to leave love bleeding in my his hands, as if Elton John and many others hadn't thought of the image before.
Shaggy-Angel(down 6 positions)
A song with Shaggy thanking a girl, to the tune of Angel Of The Morning, for giving her love, over a riff copped for Steve Miller's The Joker, is not promising. However, as on the silly, very un-politically correct It Wasn't Me, Shaggy's charm overcomes a lot. Shaggy's cocky even when he's supposed to be humble("I called and you heeded, mission completed") and it's hard to believe him suddenly realizing his girl should be treated like a queen but his confident, deep Jamaican rap and easy charm("she was there through my incarceration, I wanna show the nation my appreciation") explains why women would want to believe him. As on It Wasn't Me, Angel wisely pairs Shaggy with a smoother singer though Rayvon's Angel Of The Morning chorus is sickly sweet. Angel, from the Hotshot CD, has a clear sound with a strong, steady beat and the Joker riff works pretty well.
Black Crowes-Soul Singin'buy it!
The second chart song from the Lions CD makes good use of Chris Robinson's natural exuberance for a genuinely uplifting song. There isn't much to Soul Singin' and its tale of settling down to look for "holy places not yet found" in music but it has good backup singing and a stirring gospel tinged sound.
Aerosmith-Just Push Playbuy it!
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.