Bush-The People That We Love(up 14 positions)
The effect of the September 11 tragedies on the chart has been fairly minimal. Alien Art Farm's Smooth Criminal's tale of a woman left near death after a brutal assault had a brief airplay dip but rock and alternative radio is still playing nasty, violent songs. The only song that was widely abandoned by radio was Drowning Pool's Bodies, with its lovely "let the bodies hit the floor" chorus. Bodies was number 12 the week before the attacks and off the top 50 the week after. There is some, often misguided, sensitivity in the music business these days. The first single from Bush's Golden State CD, originally called Speed Kills, has been retitled The People That We Love even though the song has always clearly been about the emotional damge caused in relationships, rather than any literal violence or death. People That We Love, like all of Gavin Rossdale's work, is ever so serious. But it also shows Rossdale's skill for making tight, intense rock with a good, edgy energy as he sings, over driving guitars, about how we "destroy the world we took so long to make."
Nelly Furtado-Turn Off The Light(up 9 positions)
On her second single from the Whoa, Nelly CD, the Portugese-Canadian singer is again a cool, refreshing presence on pop radio. Turn Off The Light has an even looser feel than I'm Like A Bird. Furtado's vocal is easy and appealing. Turn Off The Light has a trippy feel with ringing synths and record scratching but it also has good, tight beats. On Turn Off The Light, Furtado says she acting tough after a breakup but when she's on her own at night she's troubled and lonely.
The Wiseguys-Start The Commotion(unchanged)
Start The Commotion is one of the biggest fluke hits of 2001. Start The Commotion is from The Antidote, a CD originally released in 1998, but it got new life when it was used in a Mitsubishi commercial. Like the best creations of fellow Brit Fatboy Slim, DJ Touche's work on Start The Commotion is great because it's not just meant to work on a dance floor or show how inventive he is, it's a lot of fun. Touche mixes samples of vocals from tough R & B and innocent 60s pop, beats, fuzzy bass, horns and flute into a loose, enjoyable collage. I like it a lot more than the other instrumental MTV is playing these days, Crystal Method's showy, annoying Name Of The Game.
Adema-Giving In(up 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.
Lifehouse-Hanging By A Moment(unchanged)
Having debuted in November, Hanging By A Moment, from the No Name Face CD, is the oldest song on the top 50. Pop radio still isn't tired of it. Lifehouse are another young band clearly showing their Pearl Jam and Nirvana influences. There's a similarity between Lifehouse and Creed, the most successful of the Pearl Jam soundalikes. Lifehouse are very serious, like Creed, but they don't have Creed's pretentious excess. Hanging By A Moment is a familiar sounding rock ballad but Jason Wade is appealingly sincere, singing about "falling even more in love", "letting go of all I've held onto" and "living for the only thing I know."
Afroman-Because I Got High(down 5 positions)
Debuting on the top 50 the week after Start The Commotion, Because I Got High is an even more unlikely out of left field hit. Because I Got High was originally released in 2000 on a record with the same name that was sold at Afroman's shows and the local Hattiesburg, Mississippi record store. Word of mouth made Because I Got High a southern frat hit and the buzz eventually got Afroman(born Joseph Foreman) a record deal. Because I Got High is now on Afroman's Good Times CD and the Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back soundtrack. You can see Because I Got High as an antidrug song. It lists all the things Afroman didn't do because he was high. Still, Afroman doesn't seem too concerned that his pot use makes him screw up. Because I Got High is appealing because it so accurately depicts a relaxed, weed induced mood. With backing that's mostly a very simple beat and a very loose mood, Because I Got High sounds like the guys just showed up wasted at the studio and decided to do it.
John Mellancamp-Peaceful World(up 7 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.
Lit-Lipstick and Bruises(up 9 positions)
Lipstick and Bruises isn't as obvious and gimmicky as Lit's My Own Enemy, which probably means it won't be as big a hit. Still, I like its light, fun but rocking sound. Lipstick and Bruises isn't great or important, but with tight harmonies and big, efficient guitars, it's simple and energetic like the best poppy work of Van Halen and Cheap Trick. Lipstick and Bruises, from the Atomic CD, has a very simple lyric which apparently expresses ambivalence about a woman. A. Jay Popoff mocks her for acting like a rock star with her new friends but still wants her to "kiss me when the lights go down."
Dave Matthews Band-The Space Between(down 9 positions)
More than the glib I Did It, The Space Between captures the mood of the Everyday CD, which is at its best on easy, textured ballads that carry on the tradition of the band's best songs like Crush and Crash Into Me. The Space Between has Crash Into Me's delicate, unhurried feel. Matthews repeats a graceful guitar line and his likably relaxed singing creates a hopeful mood. The Space Between is one of Everyday's many songs about Matthews trying to save a troubled relationship. He warns a woman "you cannot quit me so quickly" and reminds her "the space between the tears we cry is the laughter that keeps us coming back for more."
Eve-Let Me Blow Ya Mind(down 6 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.
Sugar Ray-When It's Over(down 3 positions)
When It's Over is from Sugar Ray's new self titled CD. It wasn't that long ago that Sugar Ray mostly played fast, anarchic ska/metal/dance music. Since then they've found big success by easing to a genial pop sound, especially on 14:59's hits: Every Morning, Falls Apart and Someday. Sugar Ray's sound is likable, even if it's unexciting. Sugar Ray has Someday's charming, unassuming feel. It's well constructed with a pleasant beat and good, subtle keyboards and guitar. Mark McGrath's voice is a little flat and not great but it fits with the music's mood. He's amiable even as he mourns a lost relationship, idealizes his ex, denies it's over("can I still come over") and feels sorry for himself.
Stone Temple Pilots-Hollywood Bitch(up 6 positions)
Days Of The Week, the charming, poppy, mature sounding first single from STP's Shangra La Dee Da CD, had a fairly short chart life. The second single reverts to the tough, angry sound of early STP songs like Sex Type Thing. Hollywood Bitch starts with familiar hard rock guitars and Scott Weiland's cold, nasty vocal. The band's pop gifts kick in later and Hollywood Bitch starts to resemble Big Bang Baby but without that song's buoyancy. Hollywood Bitch is partly dragged down by the cruelty of the portrait of a woman "so fake she seems real" who "sold yourself" while living a "rock star life."
Saliva-Click Click Boom Boom(unchanged)
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.
System Of A Down-Chop Suey(down 7 positions)
Finally, after so many serious, self pitying, soundalike bands have dominated rock radio, a hard rock band has a hit that sounds different and shows a sense of humor. With tough guitars and hardcore fast drums, Chop Suey, from the Toxicity CD, has the chops necessary to keep the headbangers happy but it's also refreshingly weird. Serj Tankian's over the top vocal takes Chop Suey all over the map, starting as a punk rant, slowing down for a meaningful croon that may be mocking his self important contemporaries("I don't think you trust in my self righteous suicide") and eventually shifting to a spacy, gothic conclusion.
Godsmack-Bad Magickbuy it!
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."
Usher-U Remind Me(down 4 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."
Craig David-Fill Me In(up 8 positions)
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.
LFO-Every Other Timebuy it!
The Lyte Funky Ones' previous hit was the confident but very stupid and lame white rap song, Summer Girls. With a synthetic sound and too many aggressively perky na na nas, Every Other Time is also quite empty headed and very white. But Every Other Time, from the Life Is Good CD, isn't as bad as Summer Girls. Sounding like Semi Charmed Life and Hey Leonardo, Every Other Time is more standard teen pop, with a lightweight, genial sound. The lyric is kind of charming. Every Other Time is about a guy who stays in a relationship with a girl who keeps things interesting by walking out, pulling bizarre pranks and telling everyone that he's gay.
Jagged Edge-Where The Party At(unchanged)
Where The Party At is from the Jagged Little Thrill CD by the group led by twin brothers Brandon and Brian Casey. Nelly contributes his distinctive rap and uh-ohs. Like Nelly's work, Where The Party At mixes lyrics glamorizing a silly, decadent lifestyle with very appealing, relaxed music. The lyrics depict a cartoonish, Bacardi filled world where you've got to "represent your side" or "catch a hot one" and girls are "showin' that skin tryin' to make a nigga wanna spend." But Jermaine Dupri's production is remarkable, keeping things easy but never letting the energy wane. Where The Party At has good beats and subtle, tuneful guitar and piano sounds. The vibe is almost too mellow but the vocals are good and smooth.
Michelle Branch-Everywherebuy it!
Everywhere, from Michelle Branch's Spirit Room CD, reminds me of the good, positive energy mid 90s rock of Letters To Cleo and Lisa Loeb. With its savvy mix of pop gloss and tight, energetic rock guitars and drums, Everywhere also sounds like the disposable but undeniably catchy Story Of A Girl. Everywhere is perfect for the soundtrack to Dawson's Creek or whatever the kids are watching these days. The 18 year old Branch's sunny innocence is hard to resist. Everywhere is about realizing the guy she's obsessed with isn't always there for her but still hoping he will be.
Linkin Park-In The Endbuy it!
Linkin Park's first two singles from the Hybrid Theory CD communicated youthful turmoil with raging hard rock and Chester Bennington's loud, nasty yell. In The End is less harsh and confrontational as the band move into Limp Bizkit territory. In The End is effective but very familiar, closely tracking Limp Bizkit's angry but catchy mix of rap, hard rock and vaguely sinister keyboards. Linkin Park have a slight advantage over Limp Bizkit since Mike Shinoda's rap, while fairly simplistic, isn't as stupid as Fred Durst's typical rant. Shinoda and Bennington alternate vocals, looking back bitterly at a failed relationship.
Afro Celt Sound System-When You're Falling(down 6 positions)
Simon Emmerson founded Afro Celt Sound System, bringing in African Irish musicians to experiment with rhythm based sounds. When You're Falling, from the group's third record Further In Time, features long time world music fan Peter Gabriel on guest vocals. Nine years after his last record, Us, it's nice to have Gabriel back on the radio, showing that, working with good material, he can avoid his late career tendency to be overly serious. Gabriel anchors When You're Falling with the kind of passionate but controlled vocal he used for Biko, In Your Eyes and Come Talk To Me. The group's backing vocals, evocative, exotic percussion and string instruments create a joyful mood. When You're Falling is a tribute to a woman who's "a fallen angel with your wings set in light." A warning if you're considering buying the CD: When You're Falling is much more focused than most of Further In Time, which is generally fairly vague beat and atmosphere exercises.
Pete Yorn-Life On A Chain(up 1 position)
Pete Yorn falls somewhere in the folk rock category but his music is distinctive, with good rock energy. His Musicforthemorningafter is one of 2001's best debut CDs. Starting with Yorn's voice filtered, Life On A Chain has a good, light guitar sound and a simple, big beat. Yorn sounds a little like Eddie Vedder but he mostly sounds confident and cool, even as he sings about still feeling chained to the wife he threw away who was "the sunshine heading my front line."
City High-What Would You Do(down 3 positions)
Beyond the facts that their CD is on Wyclef Jean's label and coproduced by him and, like Lauryn Hill, they're from Jersey, comparisons with The Fugees are somewhat appropriate. City High's debut CD is very good, filled with easy grooves that make it a great summer record. They also show a little social consciousness on What Would You Do. What Would You Do, originally featured on the soundtrack to the movie Life, has a smooth feel and good beats. It has nice contrasts. Claudette Ortiz' fluid singing alternates with her bandmates' harder vocals. On What Would You Do, Ortiz plays a single mom explaining how a sad past and financial struggles led her to be a stripper/prostitute. The music toughens up in the song's middle as Robby Pardlo challenges her to "let go of every excuse."
N Sync-Gonebuy it!
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.