Jennifer Lopez-I'm Real(down 7 positions)
Even with a synth riff that reminds me of The Hustle, the third hit from the J.Lo CD is effective dance pop. I'm Real has good rhythm and is less mechanical sounding than Lopez' last single Play. Lopez' voice is pleasant but bland and basically overwhelmed by the beats. The lyrics to I'm Real are fairly vapid. Lopez declares her realness uninterestingly, telling her man not to feel insecure or worry about what she's doing when she's not with him. MTV and some radio stations are now playing a "remix" of I'm Real, basically a new song with almost totally different lyrics and music. The new version, a duet with Ja Rule, was written by Ja Rule and appears on his Pain Is Love CD. It actually has a real feel that's been missing from Lopez' heavily produced music with a clear, relaxed sound of minimal synths and a good, basic beat, The lyrics are also more relaxed. They're riffs off the original that include the publicity grabbing request for "niggas" to "mind they biz."
Rob Zombie-Feel So Numb(up 9 positions)
Feel So Numb, from Rob Zombie's The Sinister Urge CD, has Zombie's typically over the top sound. His music is so theatrical and goofy that I assume you're not supposed to take it completely seriously. Feel So Numb, with its big guitars, is a little more of a mainstream rock song than some of Zombie's work. Still, with its frantic industrial synths and beat and Zombie's maniacal wail, Feel So Numb's sound is still way larger than life. I assume Zombie's music is some sort of parody but I mostly don't get the joke and just find it abrasive. Feel So Numb is apparently a diatribe about the alienating nature of modern society.
Craig David-Fill Me In(unchanged)
Englishman Craig David's vocals are appealingly confident as he quickly glides through Fill Me In. Everything else about Fill Me In, from David's Born To Do It CD, is pleasant but a little innocuous. David's lyrics about a couple closely monitored by the girl's parents while "we were just doing things young people in love do" seem carefully calculated to be sexy and still easy to relate to for kids of different ages. Fill Me In's music, with a mechanical sounding beat and synth strings, is pretty tame and repetitive.
Godsmack-Bad Magick(down 5 positions)
The band that found success by mixing heavy metal, misogyny and witchcraft are back with the third chart hit from their Awake CD. On Bad Magick, Sully Erna continues to act like one of the biggest jerks in rock music. He sings about not wanting to get negative energy from someone "looking at the world with dying eyes." Erna shows his genius and charm with the characterization: "you stare at it dead and you're giving it head."
N Sync-Gone(up 5 positions)
N Sync risked alienating a large number of their fans with Pop, the title track and first single from their new CD, and its cold, harsh sub-Michael Jackson sound, paranoid boasts and ridiculous challenge to critics who don't respect them. The second single plays it safe, letting heartthrob Justin Timberlake pour his heart out about his pain and longing for a lost love while the rest of the boys harmonize behind him. The vocals are nicely restrained and quite good. The music, acoustic guitars and strings, is so tastefully minimal that it's a little boring.
VH1 used Overcome, from Live's V CD, as the music for a video depicting the aftermath of the World Trade Center disaster. With its serious piano, heavy strings and Ed Kowalcyzk's intense vocals, Overcome would ordinarily seem overdone. In the past, Kowalcyzk's use of religious and water imagery has often been heavy handed and he uses such images again on Overcome. But Live's big, emotional, open hearted music, like U2's, has seemed appropriate for a time of healing. Overcome has a stark, mournful sound. After stating "the world is bleeding", the lyrics refer to an escape from a troubled society via a "beautiful drowning."
Saliva-Click Click Boom Boom(up 6 positions)
Click Click Boom Boom, the second chart hit from Saliva's Every Six Seconds CD, isn't as goofy and derivative as Your Disease but it's still pretty goofy and derivative. Click Click Boom Boom has the Soundgarden meets Kid Rock mix of rapping and big beat with power chords that Limp Bizkit has so successfully sold to the male teens. Josey Scott angrily yells lyrics that share Fred Durst's combination of boasting and paranoia and lamely try to seem meaningful. Scott tells us how all his time "up in my room" has paid off in "a new style" that's "buck wild." The only part of Click Click Boom Boom I really like is his gratuitous shot at the "cryin' ass bitchin" of his fellow rockers' complaints about their troubled childhood.
Mary J. Blige-Family Affair(up 10 positions)
Family Affair, from Blige's No More Drama CD, is Blige's biggest pop hit so far and it deserves its success. It has one of the best grooves of the year. Dr Dre's production is quite brilliant. The music, with an easy, shuffling beat and good backing vocals and keyboards, is relaxed but substantial. Blige has established a "don't mess with me" image but on Family Affair she sounds like she's having a good time, advising us to "leave your situations at the door" and "get it crunk", which apparently has something to do with dancing and having fun. Blige's vocal skills are on display as she smoothly scats around the beat.
Jewel-Standing Still(up 3 positions)
I'm not a big fan of Jewel's ballads and their big image school girl poetry but at least her ballads seem heartfelt. Standing Still, the first single from the This Way CD, sounds like some record company guy's idea of a single. It's slick, empty lite rock. Since it's apparently modelled on early 70s Eagles style easy rock, Standing Still is, at least, fairly soothing and pleasant. But Jewel's thin, soulless quavering voice is ill suited to rock singing. The drummer and bass player try to create a little drama but the music stays pretty insipid. Jewel's lyric, agonizing whether a relationship is going anywhere, is, typically, slightly showy and overdone. It starts: "cuttin' through the darkest night in my two headlights." Couldn't you just say driving at night?
Blu Cantrell-Hit Em Up Style(down 5 positions)
Hit Em Up Style is from Cantrell's So Blu CD. The fun thing about Hit Em Up Style is that it doesn't waste time getting angry at its cheating boyfriend, getting right to winning revenge by selling all his things and using his money to go on a shopping spree. It's silly but also light hearted and unpretentious with a relaxed beat. I imagine the repeated samples of chimes and an old timey horn riff will seem monotonous after repeat listens.
Adema-Giving In(down 2 positions)
Giving In is from Adema's self titled debut. Adema singer Mark Chavez is Korn frontman Jonathan Davis' half brother. With its dense atmosphere and big guitars, Giving In sounds a little like Korn but it's not as interesting. Giving In's crunching chords and Chavez' slow elocution also remind me of the hard rock Weezer lovingly mocked on their sweater song. Giving In is about falling into alcohol abuse. Chavez is very serious, especially on a kind of goofy spoken word section.
John Mellancamp-Peaceful World(down 5 positions)
More than two decades into his career, John Mellancamp mostly works in adult contemporary mode but he still has an uncanny knack of making appealing singles. As on his good cover of Wild Night, Mellancamp works with a distinctive African American singer and produces a very likable result. Mellancamp is sometimes stupidly self righteous, pretentiously speaking lines decrying hypocrites and saying he's "sick and tired of being politically correct" but India.Arie's vocals provide a nice balance. They're serious but warm and unaffected and right for the song's utopian message. The music on Peaceful World, from Mellancamp's Cuttin Heads CD is also good, with a loose, edgy beat.
Puddle Of Mudd-Blurrybuy it!
On Blurry, the second single from Puddle Of Mudd's Come Clean CD, Wes Scantlin follows Staind's Aaron Lewis, a fellow Fred Durst protégé, in showing his mellow side. Blurry really strikes me as lame; another rocker showing his troubled, sensitive side. Blurry's verses have a fairly interesting atmosperic guitar effect but its melody is surprisingly similar to Duncan Sheik's adult pop hit Barely Breathing. On the chorus the band, of course, has to show they can rock so the guitar sound gets bigger and Scantlin's vocal approaches the fury he showed on Control. The young males can't get enough of songs about how awful a guy feels about being mistreated by his ex. On Blurry, Scantlin seems to want her back, singing about how meaningless things are after she left him. But he also rages at her, complaining about how she could "take it all away" and shove his pain in his face.
Kid Rock-Foreverbuy it!
His new CD is called Cocky but Kid Rock seems defensive on Forever. Perhaps knowing that his rhymes are pretty stupid, Kid Rock anticipated criticism, warning "do not hate or question the music I make." He brags "I ain't changed nothing" but that's part of the problem with Forever. It's a retread of his previous work with little new inspiration. He's bragged before about his skills at mixing rock and hip hop and how he's "got money like Fort Knox." Still, while Kid Rock will never recapture his Devil Without A Cause/Bawitdaba success, there will always be some attracted to a proudly white trashy guy who confidently does old school rhymes. And there is a simple appeal to Forever's basic beat and grinding guitar line.
If you've seen Destiny's Child on an awards or benefit show, you've probably seen them doing a good, short a capella thing. The message is clear: we're not just a studio creation, we can really sing. Emotion, the third single from the Survivor CD, is a similar display of the ladies' vocal talents. The backing is minimal, mostly from an acoustic guitar and a very simple beat. The singing stands up well on its own and is mostly not overly showy . The harmonies are smooth, tight and good. The thing about Destiny's Child's version is that it's so polite and sedate that it's not much more than a vocal exercise. The Bee Gees' crazy high pitched intensity gave the original undeniable drama. It also fit better with the song's emotional lyrics, with their lines about being "caught up in sorrow" and crying "me a river", about how "heartache lives on inside" since a breakup.
Coldplay-Trouble(up 3 positions)
Coldplay's Parachutes is a nice, good sounding record. Chris Martin's singing is appealing modest. Trouble, Parachutes' third chart hit, is a good example of Martin's unassuming charm. On Trouble, Martin apologizes for "all the stupid things I've done" swearing, "I never meant to do you wrong." Trouble's music is sweet and inobtrusive with a good piano, elegant line.
Calling-Wherever You Will Go(up 7 positions)
Wherever You Will Go, from the Camino Palmero CD, got rock radio play and spent six weeks on the chart this summer. Now pop radio has returned the song to the chart. Calling join Lifehouse as the first of presumably many bands to follow Creed's model for success. Calling's Alex Band is another singer with a deep, serious, prematurely old sounding voice. Wherever You Will Go sounds a lot like Creed's With Arms Wide Open, complete with that song's sincere, overdone sound. At least it doesn't have Creed's meaningful religious overtones. Wherever You Will Go is pleasant folky rock but it's mostly bland and unimaginative. The writing is quite awful: "if I could, then I would, I'll go wherever you will go/way up high or down low." The lyrics, pining for a woman who dumped him and hoping for a way "to make it back some day", are sweet but slightly pathetic.
Eve-Let Me Blow Ya Mind(down 4 positions)
Eve's two solo records have been huge sellers but Let Me Blow Ya Mind is her first pop radio hit. Like the songs on the Scorpion CD with Teena Marie and Bob Marley's kids, Let Me Blow Ya Mind matches Eve with a mellower performer. No Doubt's Return Of Saturn didn't do too well but Gwen Stefani is doing great as a supporting player, following her work on Moby's South Side with nice, playful harmonizing on Let Me Blow Ya Mind. Stefani and the easy music soften Eve's good but harsh rap, which boasts and disses, warning competitors that it takes "a lot more than you to get rid of me." Let Me Blow Ya Mind was produced by Dr. Dre. He uses a cartoonish synth like he did on his own records and on Eminem and Snoop Dogg's. Let Me Blow Ya Mind has a likable, smooth feel and a relaxed beat.
Sum 41-In Too Deep(up 4 positions)
Sum 41 continue to follow Blink 182's bratty but lovable punk popster formula. On In Too Deep, the second hit from the young Canadians' All Killer, No Filler CD, Sum 41 use the same basic guitar riff as they did on Fat Lip. At least this time they don't rap. In Too Deep is very simple but likable. The guitar sound is big and tight. There's nothing original or particularly smart about In Too Deep. But even more than Fat Lip, which vaguely wanted to be a youth rebellion anthem, In Too Deep has a lack of pretension and youthful good spirits that are hard to resist. In Too Deep's lyric seems young as well. It's about a guy overwhelmed by a woman who's never satisfied with their relationship.
Blink 182-Stay Together For The Kids(unchanged)
Blink 182 have easily shown a juvenile mentality on their stupider songs but they also are able to depict youthful inner turmoil in a real seeming, unshowy way. Stay Together For The Kids, from the Take Off Your Pants and Jacket CD, is even more basic than Enema Of The State’s Adam’s Song as it simply illustrates the effect of a couple’s troubled relations on their kid. The different personalities of Blink’s frontmen nicely illustrate the sides of the troubled kid’s mind. Mark Hoppus sincerely croons the verses and Tom DeLonge angrily yells the chorus. Stay Together For The Kids is similar to other Blink songs. Like on all their singles, they take an instrumental break to build the intensity before doing the verse one last time. But the band create a moving grandeur by slowing things down and building emotion as DeLonge’s guitar and Travis Barker’s drums gain in power.
Ryan Adams-New York, New York(up 1 position)
New York, New York is from Gold, the former Whiskeytown frontman's second solo record. Adams' music continues to evolve from alt country to more mainstream rock. New York, New York shows the different sides of Adams' sound. His loose, rapid fire delivery evokes a Dylan song like Tangled Up In Blue but New York, New York also resembles songs by The Allman Brothers and Billy Joel. New York, New York has gotten attention because of its eerie video, filmed September 7th, showing Adams singing in front of a view of New York's downtown skyline with the Twin Towers in the center of the shot. But New York, New York also deserves attention because it's a darn good song. It has a great, fun feel with buoyant guitar and keyboards. Adams' flood of words is very charming. On New York, New York, Adams pays tribute to his adopted home but decides that, since his memories of the city are so intertwined with those of the love that broke his heart, it's time to go.
Dave Matthews Band-Everydaybuy it!
The Dave Matthews Band's Everyday CD isn't great but it does have quite a few decent ballads. The best ones keep things simple and relaxed. Everyday's title track is probably the best song on the record. Vocals by South African singer Vusi Mahlasela help create a joyful feel. Everyday shows off the band's strong musicianship. Backing vocals, guitar, horns and Carter Beauford's drums all contribute to Everday's light and playful but rich sound. Everyday's "all you need is love" refrain is nothing new but it fits a song about reducing things to the basics that advises us to "get your hands dirty" and seek love.
Usher-U Remind Me(down 7 positions)
U Remind Me was produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who with Usher and Janet Jackson are doing especially well these days with light dance pop, and Eddie "Hustle" Clement. U Remind Me, from Usher Raymond's 8701 CD, has a synth hook that's a little wimpy but very catchy. The sound is generally clear and good with a relaxed beat. Usher's vocal generally stays modest, smooth and appealing. He only briefly resorts to overdramatic emoting. U Remind Me's lyric is a little silly, apologizing for the pain he's causing("I know it's so unfair to you") by breaking up with someone who reminds him of the girl who broke his heart by "sexing everyone but me."
Ozzy Osbourne-Gets Me Through(down 3 positions)
After serving so many successful young rock bands as a patron(through the Ozzfest tours) and a musical influence, it seems only fair that a 50-something Ozzy Osbourne should have another shot at a hit. Gets Me Through, which has a suitably cheesy video, is from the Down To Earth CD. Osbourne’s high, demented vocals combine the excesses of 70s art rock and heavy metal. Gets Me Through’s music is fairly standard crunching hard rock, complete with a showy, technically proficient guitar solo, but the song’s main appeal is as a short sample of Osbourne’s over the top dramatics. Osbourne sings about having lost his spirit and being haunted by nightmares and dark visions but still finding some solace in his fans’ love.
Hoobastank-Crawling In The Darkbuy it!
Crawling In The Dark, from the L.A. band's self titled major label debut, is another song that sounds pieced together from other successful rock songs. It's got Korn style atmospheric guitar, a serious, troubled singer, big power chords and a vague Faith No More/Limp Bizkit style hip hop sensibility. But Crawling In The Dark also has good tempo shifts and it's more interesting than much of the similarly imitative music on rock radio. I like the way the song speeds up and gains energy on the chorus. Doug Robb keeps things from getting too draggy as he sings about "looking for the answer" and trying to find direction in life.