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.
Daniel Bedingfield-If You're Not The One(down 3 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 2 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."
Jack Johnson-The Horizon Has Been Defeated(down 4 positions)
The Horizon Has Been Defeated is on the former pro surfer/filmmaker's new On and On CD. Like his buddy Ben Harper, Johnson backs up his cool, confident style with a mix of various musical sources. On The Horizon Has Been Defeated, Johnson's laidback flow is supported by a soulful groove with a reggae taste. The lyrics feature Johnson's easygoing philosophizing. At 27, Johnson has decided that "as we grow older", "things can go bad" but we're less likely to run away because the horizon has begun to fade and look less tempting. He also muses on a world where "machines become our hands" and reminds us that we're just animals with "fancy shoes" and "too many tools."
Amanda Perez-Angel(down 7 positions)
Amanda Perez is a young Mexican American woman from Fort Wayne, Indiana. On Angel, the title track from Perez' breakthrough CD, Perez brings to mind Alicia Keys. Both are confident, idiosyncratic(Perez is pierced in many places) and largely in control of their music. Perez wrote the songs on Angel, coproduced the record and played most of the instruments. It's Perez playing Angel's piano. I'm not a huge fan of Angel. It's a pretty basic ballad. But I do admire its arrangement. With unshowy piano chords, a simple, minimal beat and well placed backing vocals, Angel has a good, uncluttered sound. The only flourish is a bit of vocal distortion which adds some texture. In this age where American Idol rewards intense, overemotive balladeers, it's good to hear Perez' controlled vocal. Angel was apparently inspired by the death of Perez' cousin. Angel is about grieving a loss. Perez asks God to send her an angel "to heal my broken heart from being in love." Perez sings that, even if he sometimes "took my love for granted", losing someone special has made her feel like she can't love anymore since "my heart can't take no more lies and my eyes are all out of cries."
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."
Ataris-In This Diary(unchanged)
In This Diary is on So Long, Astoria, The Atari's major label debut after a bunch of independent releases. The Ataris fit somewhere between rocking, idealistic emo bands and perky pop punk bands like Blink 182 and Sum 41. With its clean, high energy, optimistic sound, In This Diary resembles the music of emo kings Jimmy Eat World's. The Ataris play hard and fast and even use JEW's scratchy guitar sound. Jimmy Eat World's music has an mature, intelligent feeling that In This Diary lacks. In This Diary's "the only thing that matters is just following your heart" lesson is the kind of trite writing you don't usually get outside bad teen comedies and TV movies. But the charm of Kris Roe's writing and singing is that he proclaims that line and the one about being grown up not being half as much fun as growing up with incredible sincerity as if, after a long period of contemplation, the thought just hit him. Roe expresses such unjaded nostalgia for a summer of his youth that he seems even younger than his 25 years. While Roe's sweet perkiness is charming, In This Diary is so lacking in edge or depth, musically and lyrically, that it's basically uninteresting.
Ginuwine-Hell Yeah(up 1 position)
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."
Sum 41-The Hell Song(up 1 position)
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.
Cold-Stupid Girl(up 1 position)
Jacksonvilles Cold have always seemed like just another hard rocking band with a serious, intense singer and an unoriginal, hard rocking sound. Stupid Girl, from the Year Of The Spider CD, doesnt do much to change that impression. Scooter Ward does a tough guy vocal, ranting out his ambivalence(wanna love ya, wanna bug ya) about a girl whos leaving him. The surprise fact is that Weezers Rivers Cuomo co-wrote and played guitar on Stupid Girl. Its unclear whether Ward or Cuomo, whos often written about being unlucky in love, contributed the self pity(Im a loner, Im a loser) but its a safe bet that Cuomo had a lot to do with Stupid Girls catchy chorus. The chorus simplifies the lyrics to shes going away, whats wrong with my life today. The sound is seductively smoothed out with an appealing wash of power chords. Unfortunately, Stupid Girl keeps returning to verses with standard hard rock theatrics and Wards silly barking and draggy enunciation. Stupid Girl is half fun, dopey arena classic and half, lame routine modern rocker.
P.O.D.-Sleeping Awake(up 10 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.
Seethers Fine Again, a decent Nirvana knockoff featuring Shaun Morgans serious, intense vocal, had a long run on rock radio. Morgan is even more serious and intense on Driven Under, the second chart hit from the South African bands Disclaimer CD, and the song is even less fun. Fine Again was kind of catchy, with some resemblance to the annoying but undeniably hooky How You Remind Me. Driven Under just drags and plods along. Seether get a little distinction from the apparent realness of the pain in Morgans voice. But Driven Under is generic contemporary rock. Its got the humorless, showily meaningful sound of so many other bands. The big, hard rocking guitars predictably crunch in on the chorus. Driven Under is apparently about confronting a girlfriend(do you think that I am blind). The surprising response is that she has a gun that she presumably used before on another guy and is now ready to use on Morgan.
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."
Train-Calling All Angels(unchanged)
When they first broke through, Train at least presented themselves as a rock band. As Train's career has progressed, it's become clear that their music is made for easy listening radio. Drops Of Jupiter showed Train's gift for making music appropriate for elevators, dentist offices and yuppie background music. With its slathering of strings, Drops Of Jupiter was smooth and soothing but also sickly sweet. My first impression of Calling All Angels, the first single from the My Private Nation CD, was that it was more fairly empty lite rock. But further listens have shown that the sound has impressive depth. Calling All Angels is similar to Something More, from the Drops Of Jupiter CD. Something More clearly resembled psychedelic late period Beatles. Calling All Angels also has a layered, carefully constructed sound that is even more rich and rewarding. Unlike Something More, where the band didn't seem to know where to go after introducing their musical ideas, Calling All Angels continues to grow in power as it moves towards its conclusion Brendan O'Brien, who has produced dozens of good rock records by artists including Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen and Matthew Sweet, played on and produced Calling All Angels. I like the patient pace, Scott Underwood's big beat and the piano that fills out the striking soundcape. Calling All Angels reaches a majestic conclusion with a blanket of joyful voices. Calling All Angels isn't perfect. Pat Monahan's vocal generally matches the song's hopeful, optimistic tone but he can also sound like a mediocre mannered rock singer, especially when repeatedly invoking the "I won't give up if you don't give up" hook. The lyric's attempts at social commentary like "my tv set just keeps it all from being clear" and "football teams are kissing queens and losing sight of having dreams" are pretty lame. The whole idea of calling for a sign of angelic presence in troubled times is pretty sappy. But the positive, yearning music goes beyond the lyric in creating an appealing feeling.
Fleetwood Mac-Peacekeeper(down 2 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.
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.
Disturbed-Remember(down 13 positions)
Remember is the second chart hit from Disturbed's Believe CD. Remember is another piece of trash from the Chicago based band led by troubled singer David Draiman. Disturbed apparently weren't satisfied selling millions of their angry, edgy, threatening Sickness CD. Believe preserves Distubed's attacking, nasty sound but it also seems made with one eye to the market. Remember has a slightly calmer, commercial sound than the band's previous hits. Disturbed's attempt at mainstream rock success makes them seem lamer than ever. On Remember, Draiman again tells about his excruciating inner sickness. Draiman apparently had suppressed "pain I felt so long ago." He is no longer able to ignore the pain but he tries to hide it behind a mask. For a guy who comes on like such a tough guy, Draiman is quite a whiner.
Socialburn-Down(down 13 positions)
Socialburn are a new band from Tallahassee, Florida lead by singer/songwriter Neil Alday. Socialburns Where You Are CD was produced by John Kurweg, whos done a lot of work with Creed. Sadly, Socialburn dont show any more originality or charm than Scott Stapps kings of humorless, successful mediocrity. Sounding like Alice In Chains Layne Staley or Stone Temple Pilots Scott Weiland, Alday has the angry, serious delivery of so many of todays young rock singers. On Down, Alday repetitively voices the common modern rock complaint that an unnamed you says and does things that make me feel like nothing and fuel his inner torment.
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.
Ben Harper-With My Own Two Hands(unchanged)
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.
Kelly Clarkson-Miss Independentbuy it!
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.
Avril Lavigne-Losing Grip(unchanged)
At this point, anything Avril Lavigne puts out is sure to be a hit. But Losing Grip doesnt have the megahit feel of the first three singles from the multi-platinum Let Go CD. Not coincidentally, Losing Grip is the first Let Go single not written by the trio known as The Matrix. Losing Grip, like much of Let Go, was cowritten and produced by Clif Magness. Magness has been around for a while but only recently became hot, working on O-Towns O2 and Kelly Clarksons Thankful. Though Losing Grip isnt going to be a smash, I like it. Losing Grip is less gimmicky than Lavignes other hits. Lavignes detractors claim that she displays punk rock trappings but is not a real rocker. The criticism is basically accurate but pointless. Even if shes a former country pop fan supported by a record companys calculated promotional push, Lavignes young fans sense a realness that fits her image. I like Lavignes intensity as she yells out the chorus as well as the idiosyncratically Canadian way she says alone(on the second hit in a row). I also like the shamelessly catchy way power chords underline Lavignes vocal on the chorus and create a rock and roll charge. Losing Grip is a decent, no frills pop rocker. Lavigne sings about feeling invisible to a guy whos never there for her. She claims to have decided not to care about him but sounds like she still wants him by her side during a really bad time.
Jennifer Lopez-I'm Glad buy it!
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."
Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow-Picture(down 16 positions)
Until Picture was released as a single, Kid Rocks Cocky CD wasnt selling and his career was in decline. Now, a year and a half after it was released, Cocky is another multiplatinum hit for Kid Rock. Ive never been a Kid Rock fan but Picture impresses me. Picture shows more smarts than I thought Kid Rock had. Picture, with its story of a guy cheating on the road while his woman cheats at home, has the feel of a country classic. Kid Rock uses the comfort of a traditional form but doesnt condescend. Pictures music gets an authentic feel from steel guitar but doesnt overdo the twang. The music stays nicely minimal with restrained drumming and organ and a good, simple guitar solo. Kid Rock isnt a great singer but hes decently controlled. As usual, vocal pro Sheryl Crow is solid. Shes a natural with a country ballad but she doesnt upstage Kid Rock. Picture is a big improvement over Kid Rocks previous hit ballad, the self pitying God Only Knows. Picture has a surprising sad sweetness. The adulterers regret their actions and both just want him to come back home.
Finch-What It Is To Burn(down 10 positions)
What It Is To Burn is the title track from the debut record by the band from Temecula, California. What It Is To Burn isn't awful but it is a fairly standard power ballad. The chorus, with a huge sound of crunching guitars and string effects, has a big, yearning feel reminiscent of Our Lady Peace's Somewhere Out There, with the power and excess that suggests. The verses, featuring showy guitar effects, are less interesting. Singer Nate Barcalow seems to have a good, big voice but he's very earnest. He mixes things up, staying restrained on the verses, getting intense on the chorus then going nuts and shrieking "she burns." His explosion into ranting would be more striking if it hadn't already been done on so many other modern rock hits. Finch's big rock anthem sound seems sincere rather than just calculated to make a hit but it's both overly familiar and over the top in being so serious and trying too hard to create a meaningful feel. What It Is To Burn has dramatic imagery. Barcalow wonders about the price of glory and, I guess, admires a woman who's taken chances.