Christina Aguilera-Fighter(up 1 position)
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.
Kelly Clarkson-Miss Independent(up 6 positions)
Miss Independent, the first single from the Thankful CD, is a good move for the American Idol '02 winner. Clarkson could probably get a few more hits sticking with the big, emotive ballads that are so popular with American Idol's audience. But Clarkson undoubtedly realizes if she wants a long career, she'll need to connect with the majority of Americans who aren't fans of the easy listening American Idol sound. So, like balladeers including Whitney and Celine, Clarkson is sure to alternate dance pop with her slow, dramatic songs. Miss Independent indicates that Clarkson has taken Christina Aguilera as a role model for her dance pop. Clarkson was pushed in that direction by producer Rhett Lawrence. Lawrence wrote Miss Independent with Aguilera. When it didn't make Aguilera's Stripped CD, Lawrence brought it to Clarkson who supposedly, with Lawrence, reworked it. Miss Independent still sounds just like a Christina Aguilera song(it's odd to hear it back to back with Aguilera's Fighter) and not a great one. Still, in my mind, anything is an improvement over big, showy, empty, generic ballads like Clarkson's first hit: A Moment Like This. Miss Independent is better than Fighter, simply because it doesn't overdo things. The backing is relatively restrained and functional. The verses get good edge from a steady riff with the sound of a tight electric guitar strum and a crisp angular beat. The chorus, with chords crunching in under Clarkson's singing, is very familiar but it is effectively dramatic, Clarkson's vocal doesn't show much distinctive personality but it stays strong, twisting around and not getting overwhelmed by the song's electronics. Miss Independent's lyric doesn't really match Clarkson sweet, regular gal image. It reads more like an attempt, like Beautiful, to redefine Aguilera's unlikable persona. Miss Independent is about a woman who, after working hard at projecting a harsh aura of self sufficiency, drops her defenses and falls hopelessly in love.
P.O.D.-Sleeping Awake(up 4 positions)
Sleeping Awake is from Matrix Reloaded: The Album. Sleeping Awake is generic electronic rap rock that sounds like music by any of the Korn soundalike bands. But, in my mind, Sleeping Awake's mediocrity still places it ahead of P.O.D.'s aggressively annoying previous work. Sonny Sandoval's vocal has its usual self righteous piety but since the band is already borrowing its ideas from a movie, there isn't as much focus on how meaningful Sandoval's thoughts are. The "dreaming of Zion" part of Sleeping Awake's chorus is good. The song's title succinctly describes the Matrix movies' hallucinogenic, dreamlike atmosphere. The guitars and drums make a sound that's big and soaring but not overdone. The vocals and music have a smoothness and lack of excess that P.O.D. normally lacks. The rest of Sleeping Awake is pretty awful. The lyrics are simplistic gibberish that provide no insight into the movies and allow Sandoval to rant self importantly. The obvious, crunching power chords dash hopes that new guitar player Jason Truby will bring any subtlety to the band.
Eminem-Sing For The Moment(down 4 positions)
When The Eminem Show came out, its rock songs, Sing For The Moment and White America seemed like an attempt to hedge bets by an artist who had sold millions of records but had yet to have a big pop or rock radio hit. Eminem's hits have since crossed over to nearly every format so the rock inflected songs have proven commercially unnecessary. But Sing For The Moment has provided another good single from a good album. Dream On is a fairly obvious song to sample for a hip hop track. It's familiar and dramatic. Especially with Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry doing a new, showy solo, Sing for The Moment is over the top and overloaded with meaningful sounds. But melodrama is a natural mode for Eminem. On the verses, over a big, basic beat and muted guitar, Eminem again gets to show off his rap's slithery facility as he powerfully drives the song forward. The intensity of Sing For The Moment's music matches Eminem's typical sense of self dramatization. He declares that his "ideas are nightmares for white parents" and that the parents' "worst fear" is kids emulating him since that would show that what the parents say "has no bearing." Eminem gets a chance to vent his paranoia, saying that while kids "worship us", "critics crucify you", attorneys all want "to get they hands on every dime you have" and "prosecuters wanna convict me." Eminem's defense is "if my music is literal and I'm a criminal", how can I raise a little girl? Eminem assumes that criminals will blame his music for the crimes they commit, concedes that violent imagery helps his sales and credits himself for giving hope to kids "who don't have a thing except for a dream." With its heavy feel, Sing For The Moment isn't as fun as some of Eminem's hits but it maintains a good sense of urgency and again shows that Eminem is a gifted rapper and fascinating personality.
50 Cent-In Da Club(unchanged)
Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson's Get Rich Or Die Tryin' CD was preceded by all kinds of buzz. Eminem "discovered" 50 Cent, who had previously been signed and dumped by Columbia, got him signed to his label, trumpeted 50 Cent's talents and put his Wanksta on the 8 Mile soundtrack. Before the CD came out, 50 Cent's music was all over the place on mix tapes. 50 Cent had an image and street cred from a history of selling drugs, being shot numerous times and getting arrested. The good news is that 50 Cent's music lives up to the hype. In Da Club is an early candidate for single of the year. Where Eminem is wired and always trying to prove himself, 50 Cent's delivery is confidently low key. Still, there's a similarity in their ability to easily slide around the beat and establish a magnetic presence. 50 Cent comes on as laid back but he's sneaky quick with a rap that has staccato emphasis and a smooth, easy flow. Dr. Dre's deserves some credit for In Da Club's success. His production is great, putting together a great groove. Repeating a catchy synth riff, mixing up the way he presents it and putting a tight, ticking bass sound under it, Dre shows his ability to create a dramatic, exciting sound without letting things get cluttered or showy. With its steady, hand clap beat, In Da Club is also a great dance track. The lyrics are fairly standard gangsta rap, celebrating fancy cars and bottles of "bub" and Benz. In Da Club doesn't go beyond the standard objectification of women. 50 is "into havin' sex" and "ain't into makin' love." But In Da Club is mostly about enjoying his new success. 50 sounds like he's having a good time but he's not arrogant, saying he's "still on the grind", trying to get them "to love me like they love 'Pac." In Da Club is the sound of someone who's confident, at ease but still trying to prove himself.
Deftones-Minerva(up 3 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."
Saliva-Rest In Pieces(down 3 positions)
Rest In Pieces is the second chart hit from Saliva's Back Into Your System CD. Rest In Pieces was written by Nikki Sixx who, working with buddy James Michael, has become a songwriter for hire, for Meat Loaf and others, while Motley Crue is on a break. Rest In Pieces might show Sixx' gift for a rock ballad that can stir an arena crowd but it mostly shows how annoying Josey Scott, Saliva's lead singer, is. On Rest In Pieces, Scott tries to recapture the success he had on the dopey but very popular Hero. Scott's problem is that his voice is whiny and unlikable. Rest In Pieces actually has some signs of wit and intelligence. The lyric attributes the fact that a breakup "hurts deeper than I thought it did" to a depth perception problem and asks for a reminder of how you "gently smiled and destroyed my life." But Scott's emoting sucks the life out of Rest In Pieces, emphasizing the self pity and trampling on any originality. There seem to have been pretentions of making a powerful ballad like Pearl Jam's Black but Rest In Pieces doesn't have that song's depth. The repetitious, unimaginative arrangement has the worst characteristics of an empty rock ballad. The band try too hard to create a sense of importance with overly meaningful sounding acoustic guitar and synths. Rest In Pieces' chorus is catchy but Scott's unappealing voice goes a long way in lessening its appeal.
Red Hot Chili Peppers-Cant Stop(down 5 positions)
Cant Stop, the third single from the By The Way CD, continues the Chili Peppers recent habit of following fairly serious, mature singles with looser, goofy songs that echo the bands anarchic earlier music. Like Around The World and other Chili Peppers songs, Cant Stop is a multipart song that quickly segues from wacky to sincere. Cant Stop is a good showcase for John Frusciantes versatility. He alternates between jagged and smooth guitar parts and even gets to play a hard rock solo and a bit of a skanky ska line. As usual, Anthony Kiedis is both annoying and charming. The verses showcase the typical free asssociation glibness hes used on songs like Give It Away but hes still appealing on the chorus singing about the world I love, the tears I dropped and the trains Ive hopped. Cant Stops familiarity is its strength and weakness. Cant Stop is genial and generally goes by easily but its so unmemorable and such a slight variation on other lightweight Chili Peppers songs that its basically pointless.
Stacie Orrico-Stuck(up 4 positions)
Sixteen year old Stacie Orrico got her start in Christian pop but has moved into slick hip hop flavored pop. Stuck, from Orrico's self titled record, is a pleasant trifle. On Stuck, Orrico worked with Dallas Austin, who has produced hits for Pink and TLC. Most relevantly, Austin was largely responsible for the sound of Blu Cantrell's smash Hit Em Up Style. Stuck sounds a lot like Hit Em Up Style. It's even more lightweight but it has the same kinds of old fashioned sound effects and a similar loose sound. Orrico's vocal is reminiscent of Cantrell's, except that Cantrell's attitude is replaced by with youthful exuberance. Orrico does a decent job, twisting playfully around the verses. The choruses aren't as interesting but they're catchy with good crunching chords for emphasis. The keyboards are a little fakey and the sound is too slick. Still, Stuck is enjoyably buoyant if insubstantial. Stuck's I hate you but I love you's lyrics, are helped by Orrico's frisky delivery. Stuck, cowritten by Orrico, tells a standard story of not being able to forget about a guy who doesn't treat her like he should.
50 Cent-21 Questions(up 12 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."
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.
Jennifer Lopez-I'm Glad (up 6 positions)
I'm Glad is the third hit from the This Is Me ...Then CD. Despite Lopez' apparently modest vocal skills, she and her writers and producers have had an impressive streak of incredibly successful, well made singles that have actually been pretty good. That streak ends with the extremely slight I'm Glad. I'm Glad feels like a throwaway. The music, with its lite jazz guitar and chimes, is pleasant but so innocuous that it's almost unnoticable. The lack of a distinctive musical personality is particularly problematic for Lopez, whose vocal is typically vague and uninteresting. As on much of This Is Me ...Then, Lopez and producers Troy Oliver and Corey Rooney are credited with writing I'm Glad, with the extent of Lopez' contribution unclear. If Lopez was a more serious artist, you could figure that I'm Glad's lack of edge shows a woman softened by love. In this case, maybe Lopez contributed more than usual, resulting in lyrics most songwriters(and some high school diary writers) would be embarrassed about. Assumedly referring to Ben Affleck, Lopez shares insipid insights like "I'm glad when you walk you hold my hand" and "I'm happy that you know how to be a man."
Busta Rhymes featuring Mariah Carey-I Know What You Wantbuy it!
I Know What You Want is on Busta Rhymes' It Ain't Safe No More CD. I Know What You Want is not particularly distinctive. It's another smooth R&B song with a star cameo and a bunch of singers doing a verse a piece. But I Know What You Want is well made and appealingly smooth. Members of Flipmode Squad, who have appeared on Rhymes' records for years, don't do much with their verses and get too hung up in the end on dropping names of expensive products. Mariah Carey's whispery contributions to the chorus and a cliched bit of showing off on her "I will climb a mountain high" verse are kind of silly. I Know What You Want's surprise is Rhymes' sweet, controlled vocal. I've always thought of Rhymes(born Trevor Smith) as an over the top, in your face, kind of obnoxious performer. His singing on the catchy chorus and his verse(the one that starts ssh, mommy listen) isn't remarkable but it is likably unassuming and matches the lyric about understanding the woman who's stood by him and wanting to do what he can for her. I Know What You Want's music is innocuous but pleasant with a repeated strum effect and synth beeping that are restrained enough that they aren't too annoying. I Know What You Want passes by easily and with some charm.
Ben Harper-With My Own Two Hands(up 6 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.
Sum 41-The Hell Song(unchanged)
Like Still Waiting, the first chart hit from the Does This Look Infected? CD, The Hell Song indicates that, after depicting themselves as dopey goofballs, the Canadian band wants to be taken seriously. The Hell Song isn't as overreaching as Still Waiting, which assumed that we wanted the kind of dopey band's thoughts about a world filled with hate. The Hell Song is more personal and shows some maturity. While he still sings in a annoyingly bratty voice, Derick Whibley sings that he's learned that we don't always get to choose how "things that matter the most" end up and that "everybody's got their problems." He's also trying to solve problems when he can, learn from hardship and not get overwhelmed by the randomness of life. Hell Song is a hard, straight forward rocker. Hell Song is similar to Still Waiting but it has an even tougher sound. Hell Song has no lulls. It's very tight. Dave Baksh and Whibley keep the guitars coming. Hell Song doesn't have any sense of originality. It's generic fast post punk. But the band keep the music so tight that, while it's not distinctive, Hell Song is exciting. The Hell Song is supported by a good video that, consistent with the band's original youthful image, makes fun use of dozens of action figures representing contemporary stars.
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."
Wayne Wonder-No Letting Go(up 6 positions)
With little warning, Diwali rhythm from Jamaica has become a presence on top 40 radio. Producer Steven "Lenky" Marsden first hit with Sean Paul's fun, brash Get Busy. Impressively, Marsden has another hit with a song that shares Get Busy's Diwali rhythm but is otherwise very different. Paul was in your face with his goofy, lecherous style. Wayne Wonder is laid back, apologizing for past "doings" with other women and declaring his devotion to a "very special" beauty . No Letting Go, from Wonder's No Holding Back CD, easily breezes by. Diwali's relaxed, varied handclaps are the key, making a joyful sound while inobtrusive synths underline Wonder's vocal and add a little flavor. Nothing amazing happens. The lyric is very simple and Wonder's voice is pleasant but unremarkable. But No Letting Go's cool, very positive sound make it a great summer single. Wonder, who's been making music since starting in Jamaica in the mid 80's, has his first American hit.
Ginuwine-Hell Yeah(down 4 positions)
Ginuwine's previous big top 40 hits, Pony and Differences, were slow ballads with Ginuwine playing the intense lover. Ginuwine has done dance songs before but Hell Yeah, from his The Senior CD, is the first one that's really crossed over. Ginuwine was written and produced by R. Kelly. Kelly's had lots of success over the years but this must be the hottest period of his career. In early 2003, he's had a #1 pop hit with Ignition and two more big hits that he wrote and produced: Bump, Bump, Bump and Hell Yeah. Hell Yeah ranks somewhere between the brilliant Ignition and catchy, annoying Bump, Bump, Bump. Hell's Yeah's beeping synth line and light, sweeping beat create a relaxed, slithery, steady jam. Hell Yeah is also repetitious and feels pretty lightweight. Baby from Big Tymers does an unremarkable rap about "big pimpin'" and how "we fresh" with Lexuses, guns and minks but Ginuwine's vocal is controlled, strong, quick and supple. He gives some weight to a pretty slight song. Kelly again lacks the brilliance lyrically he has musically. When I first heard Hell Yeah, I thought, with its evocation of head bobbin' thugs and booty shakin "chicks", it was mocking the standard celebration of submissive women and free flowing, expensive champagne and other alcohol. Instead, Hell Yeah is the standard celebration, though Kelly adds his own distinctively odd love of women, paying tribute with the line: she's"givin' me head like she's a brain donor."
Say You Will is Fleetwood Mac's first record of all new material featuring Rumours era members Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie(Christine McVie chose not to participate) in 16 years. Buckingham and Nicks both wrote nine songs that made Say You Will. Maybe the new record isn't just an excuse for a lucrative tour. Peacekeeper is a bit of a mess but it's a worthy addition to Fleetwood Mac's oeuvre. Peacekeeper is clearly a Buckingham composition. It has the combination of weirdness and Beach Boys style harmonies and pop sonics that made Buckingham my favorite Mac member(and made me a big fan of his 1992 Out Of The Cradle solo CD). Buckingham's vocal is a little scary. Nicks is as hoarse as ever but her harmony softens things up and makes Peacekeeper a little more melodic. There's something comforting about hearing familiar voices, more than 25 years after Fleetwood Mac's commercial peak, fighting the challenges that age presents. Buckingham smartly wrote a song that's both likable and interesting. The verses, with a good snappy beat and Buckingham's basic guitar line dissolve into the very catchy chorus that lets the harmonies shine. There's also a good, quiet bridge before the last verse. Peacekeeper ends with a nice, big finish. Buckingham lets loose a little with his singing and plays a good guitar solo with reassuring similarity to ones from other Fleetwood Mac songs(like Go Your Own Way). Despite its title and the timing of its release, Peacekeeper has little to do with war. The lyric is some vague message about how we screw things up and should fight for the "sweet surprise" that is love.
Counting Crows-Big Yellow Taxi(down 19 positions)
Counting Crows' version of Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi was originally on the Two Weeks Notice soundtrack and wasn't on early pressings of the Hard Candy CD but it's now Counting Crows' biggest pop hit since Long December. There's something ridiculous about Counting Crows doing Mitchell's delightfully buoyant hit. Mitchell's vocal was light and playful and helped Mitchell's complaint about crass money grubbing ruining natural beauty go down easily. Adam Duritz can't help but sing in a mannered, self satisfied way. He's more relaxed than usual on Big Yellow Taxi but he's hardly as charming as Mitchell. The original's slightly subversive vivacity is replaced by smooth professionalism. Duritz shifts the focus from paving paradise to the lover's departure that led Mitchell to whimsically muse about how "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone." The new version has a spare, pleasant sound and a crisp beat. Vanessa Carlton's brief ooh bop bop bops go a long way in softening the stiff feel Duritz creates. And you can't go too wrong with a song with that still has that great line about putting trees in a tree museum. But I really don't see the need for a smooth, string filled muzaky version of a classic.
Radiohead-There Therebuy it!
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.
Frankie J.-Don't Wanna Trybuy it!
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.
Daniel Bedingfield-If You're Not The One(down 12 positions)
After coming out of nowhere with the dance hit Gotta Get Thru This, the title track from his CD, Daniel Bedingfield is back with another big hit. Most of the CD has a low budget feel that's not surprising since Bedingfield made most of the sounds himself, often at home on his computer. If You're Not The One has clanky, minimal synth and drum machine backing. I liked Gotta Get Thru This and its basic, giddy evocation of Michael Jackson's classic sound. But If You're Not The One, while heartfelt, is way too lame and Muzaky for me. If You're Not The One is inconsequential and, with its synth string effects, more than a little sappy. I guess the key to its success is Bedingfield's sincere vocal. He sounds like he means it when he celebrates how his hand fits with his love's and how she makes "my soul feel glad." Romantic female fans must love how Bedingfield admits that the idea of being without her brings him to tears.
AFI-Girl's Not Grey(down 7 positions)
AFI's Sing The Sorrow CD is the California band's seventh record. Through the late 90s, A.F.I. tried different styles, principally hardcore and gothic. Their following kept growing to the point that AFI is now on a major label and they could work on Sing The Sorrow with big time producers Butch Vig(Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins) and Jerry Finn(Blink 182). AFI have mostly taken advantage of their opportunity. AFI leader Davey Havok has become more confident and focused. Girl's Not Grey is solid and well made. AFI are clearly Bad Religion fans and Girl's Not Grey has the serious, intense sound of a good Bad Religion song. I like the way Girl's Not Grey shifts speed. Guitarist Jade Puget and drummer Adam Carson pick up the pace on the chorus and parts of the verses to exciting effect. Puget generally keeps things interesting with a variety of riffs. I don't love Girl's Not Grey. It's a little too tightly structured and Havok is kind of humorless. Still, his singing doesn't have the pretension and narcissism of so many contemporary rock singers. He reminds me of Joe Jackson in an earnest, hard rocking mode. Girl's Not Grey has a good, big, ungimmicky sound. When it gets juiced up, it's quite thrilling. Girl's Not Grey might be about finding a moment of calm before creating the art that "does drown" and "will swallow whole."
Good Charlotte-The Anthem(down 33 positions)
The second hit from the Young and the Hopeless CD solidifies Good Charlotte's position as the most successful of the current large group of bands with punk attitude and a pop sound. Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous was really stupid but Good Charlotte are generally among the most appealing members of their peer group. Good Charlotte's leaders, twin brothers Benji and Joel Madden, have a self deprecating charm and don't seem as dopey as some of the competition. The Anthem is smart enough to have it both ways, employing perky, simple music and mocking its simplicity. Similarly, The Anthem admits the banality of its message. Still, the lyrics about bring bored and misunderstood in high school and wanting to be different undoubtedly connect with the kids. Most importantly, with its fast pace and upbeat feel, has a fun sound. Benji's guitar lines are very familiar but good. The power chords flow around the song, supplying a bit of variation as their speed and intensity rise and fall. Joel's yelling is unpretentious and not too obnoxious. The Anthem is fairly dopey but its self effacing style and high energy lift it above similar songs.