Deftones-Minerva(up 1 position)
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."
Godsmack-Straight Out Of Line(down 7 positions)
Straight Out Of Line is from the angry Boston based hard rockers' Faceless CD. The CD's title is a great straight line but, unlike a lot of their interchangable nu-metal contemporaries, I don't think Godsmack's music lacks personality. I just find it really unpleasant. Straight Out Of Line is a fairly typical Godsmack song. I suppose Godsmack are effective at creating an edgy sound the kids can relate to. Sully Erna bellows his rage at his enemies while the band creates a dark, ominous mood. Tony Rombola's guitar threateningly rumbles, slashes and booms. On Straight Out Of Line, Erna complains about unnamed people(maybe critics) who "lie to me" and force him to "justify my ways." I understand that Godsmack's music speaks to troubled young male rock fans but it just strikes me as nasty.
50 Cent-21 Questions(up 4 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."
Busta Rhymes featuring Mariah Carey-I Know What You Want(up 8 positions)
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.
Queens Of The Stone Age-Go With The Flow(unchanged)
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.
Stacie Orrico-Stuck(up 2 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-In Da Club(down 1 position)
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.
Smile Empty Soul-Bottom Of A Bottle(up 3 positions)
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.
Pete Yorn-Come Back Home(down 6 positions)
Pete Yorn has followed his very good debut CD, Musicforthemorningafter, with Day I Forgot. If you know Musicforthemorningafter, there's not much surprising about Come Back Home. Come Back Home features Yorn's cool low rumble of a voice. After receiving good notices for his first record, Yorn hasn't much changed his strategy. On most of Day l Forgot, Yorn and R. Walt Vincent, Yorn's partner on Music ..., played all the instruments. On Day I Forgot, the music again sounds low budget, basic and a little synthetic. Yorn laid down the beat and it has a drum machine predicability. Yorn's stiff, pretty boy singing risks self parody. Yorn's music isn't as fresh the second time around. There's diminishing returns in basically rehashing the same sound. Come Back Home sounds like the rockers from the first record. But Yorn is still making good, interesting music. Come Back Home has good driving guitars and a fun, exciting sound that really kicks in on the chorus. I like the way Yorn and Vincent create great energy by layering a bunch of instruments. Vincent's synth is appealingly cheesy. On Come Back home, Yorn tells a friend to come home and argues that "you're strong enough" to deal with some sort of loss.
Red Hot Chili Peppers-Cant Stop(down 1 position)
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.
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.
Ben Harper-With My Own Two Hands(up 2 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.
Jennifer Lopez-I'm Glad (unchanged)
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."
Eminem-Sing For The Moment(down 10 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.
Frankie J.-Don't Wanna Try(up 4 positions)
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.
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."
Radiohead-There There(up 1 position)
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.
P.O.D.-Sleeping Awake(down 17 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.
Linkin Park-Faintbuy it!
Faint, the second chart hit from Linkin Park's Meteora CD, is easily my favorite Linkin Park single so far. It gets off to a great start with a very good, distinctive riff and a sped up beat. Things take a bit of a turn for the worse when Mike Shinoda begins his flat, dull rap but at least he moves fast and doesn't slow Faint's momentum too much. Chester Bennington's raging howl is typically over the top(does a guy whose record sold more than 8 million copies have any right to scream, "I won't be ignored"?) Even if Bennington's anger is goofy, he gives the song power and fits well into Faint's supercharged atmosphere. Faint's chorus, which takes the song's fast, slippery beat and adds Bennington's wail and a wall of guitars, maintains the song's energy and has a catchy hook. Faint depicts an internal struggle about an unresponsive girlfriend. Shinoda plays the wimpy ego, whining about being lonely and unconfident, complaining about his emotional scars and pleading "'cause you're all I got." Bennington is the unrestrained, pissed off id demanding "you're gonna listen to me."
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."
Jewel-Intuition(up 1 position)
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.
Black Eyed Peas-Where Is The Love?buy it!
Black Eyed Peas are a LA based group, led by Will.I.Am, who have made music that combines various forms of hip hop and rock and usually has a positive message. Black Eyed have flirted with success before. Request Line(featuring Macy Gray), from the Bridging The Gap CD, was a minor hit as was Long Beach All Stars' Sunny hours, which had a rap by Will.I.Am. Black Eyed Peas have broken through in a big way with a smash hit that brings to mind classic R&B reflections on the state of the world by Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder as well as more recent ones by Arrested Development, Outkast and Fugees. Where Is The Love, from the Elephunk CD, has a good, light touch. Justin Timberlake helps out, doing a good job singing the chorus in a sweet falsetto. Strings give Where Is The Love a majestic, hopeful feel. The verses are helped by a simple skipping riff under the raps. Black Eyed Peas' three rappers each take a verse. They all have distinctive voices and, even while bemoaning various problems, they don't contradict the theme that the situation can be helped with love. The first verse urges people not to just focus on terrorism but to work on the hatreds that exist within our country. The second verse starts with the fairly standard idea that love is better than dropping bombs then refers to a war going on for a secret reason. The third verse attacks a world where "most of us only care about money makin'" and "wrong information is always shown by the media." Regardless of the specifics of the words, Where Is The Love's easy flow and upbeat vibe make it one of the summer's best singles.
Fleetwood Mac-Peacekeeper(down 3 positions)
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.
Michelle Branch-Are You Happy Now?buy it!
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. Branch seems destined to play the weepy, sensitive second banana to Avril Lavigne's confident, in your face punk rock fan. Still, Are You Happy Now, written by Branch and Shanks, shows some awareness of the competition. Branch's screaming on the chorus and the simple, rock guitar driven dramatic feel of the music bring Lavigne to mind. Are You Happy Now has some sense of the thrill that can come in a dynamic shift from quiet to boisterous but it doesn't have the excitement 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 probably at least as many of the young women in Branch's target preteen and early teen audience relate to Branch's awkward misfit as to Lavigne's cocky popular girl. Enough girls relate to Branch's insecurities and her very youthful voice to make Are You Happy Now a big hit.
Red Hot Chili Peppers-Dosedbuy it!
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.