Seether are the latest of many glum, post-grunge bands to hit the top 50 though the first to come from South Africa. On Fine Again, from Seether's Disclaimer CD, singer/songwriter Shaun Morgan sounds a lot like Puddle Of Mudd's Wes Scantlin, the most successful of the recent mopey Cobain clones. Morgan doesn't have Scantlin's arrogance and Morgan's lyric and delivery make it clear that his pain is real, not the showy posturing Scantlin sometimes engages in. Seether effectively use the grunge conventions. Morgan's intense emotion can pull you in, in a Lithium kind of way, as can the way the power chords underline his vocal. But Fine Again sounds so familiar and inferior to the music Morgan clearly loves that it's hard to stay interested. Also, Morgan's depression is apparently so deep that he can't vary his flat affect or Fine Again's fairly monotonous melody. Morgan can't even muster the cathartic wail that is often grunge's saving grace. Fine Again is about being told he should get over his breakup but feeling stuck in a world where every day is gray and the same and feeling "like I'm dying."
Singing on the terrible but very popular Hero raised Saliva lead singer Josey Scott's profile. Hopefully, the mediocrity of the title track off Saliva's Back Into Your Sytem CD will return Scott to semi-obscurity. Always is a compendium of modern rock cliches. It's another song based on the Nirvana model from songs like Heart Shaped Box. A subdued verse with quiet guitar picking alternates with a chorus where power chords slam while the singer rants. Always also has a touch of the dark atmosphere and over the top paranoia of the Korn/Tool school though a better comparison may be Def Leppard's empty art metal. Always' "I love you, I hate you" lyric has the misogyny and self pity common in today's rock. I'm sorry Scott went through a tough time but I wish he wouldn't sing about it. Scott doesn't have a great voice and Always' "I'm out the door" but I "can't live without you" tale emphasizes his whininess. On Your Disease from Saliva's Every Six Seconds CD, Scott had cartoonish fun, mixing rapping with broad crooning. Always, like Hero, plays things painfully straight. Towards the end, Always shifts from stupid and annoying to objectionable as Scott introduces the image of a pistol "shakin' in my hand" threatening that he sees "blood all over your hands."
3 Doors Down-When I'm Gonebuy it!
Kryptonite, Three Doors Down's breakthrough single off their The Better Life CD, wasn't brilliant but it was at least spirited and gave some sense that the Mississippi band weren't run of the mill rockers. When I'm Gone Away From The Sun is very run of the mill. It's another offering from the intense, humorless school of Creed and their brethren. Brad Arnold's clenched teeth, tough guy delivery is a bore. When I'm Gone definitely isn't fun. Everything about it is meant to show how serious the band is. The power chords pound and When I'm Gone slowly slogs forward. The lyric isn't awful but it's a lot like those by other sensitive hard rockers and its vulnerability is undercut by his vocal's self righteous tones, making his needy requests sound like orders. Arnold tells his love he lives in darkness burdened with secrets. He's partly redeemed by the depth of his love but he's very dependent, needing her to "hold me when I'm scared" and love him even when he's gone.
New Found Glory-My Friends Over You(down 1 position)
The demand for fun, dopey, poppy guitar rock continues. Coral Springs, Florida's New Found Glory broke through with the fun, simple Hit Or Miss and have a similarly basic sound on My Friends Over You, the first single from the Sticks and Stones CD. My Friends Over You is like a less obnoxious version of SR-71's Right Now and it's not that far from Sum 41 or Blink 182. My Friends Over You is catchy and likable. It has a fairly clear sound, a positive feel and a restrained pace for a rocker. Chad Gilbert and Steve Klein create a good, varied guitar sound with crunching chords on the verses and a good hook on the chorus. Jordan Pundik's vocal isn't particularly impressive but at least it's unpretentious. Klein's lyrics apologize for leading a girl on but tell her their history makes it clear she's not worth as much as his friendships.
Justin Timberlake-Like I Love You(up 2 positions)
The first single from teen pop's top hunkshows that Justin Timberlake can be successful outside N Sync but fails to show that he's developing a distinctive musical personality. On record and especially in the video, Like I Love You seems to be a Michael Jackson tribute. Timberlake mimics Jackson's look and moves but he doesn't have the gloved one's visual or vocal presence. Like I Love You, from the Justified CD, is apparently intended to introduce an adult, urban image for Timberlake. Timberlake does OK with the Jacko-like falsetto parts. Hovever, Like I Love You's spoken, tough guy parts are, if not quite ridiculous, a little silly, though his young fans undoubtedly find them cool and sexy. Otherwise, Timberlake's vocal is uninteresting but amiable, floating nearly unnoticably along with the beat. The Neptunes do their usual competent production. Like I Love You basically works as disposable dance pop. It's got a good crisp beat and a decent repeated guitar based riff. Like I Love You isn't helped by the Neptunes trademark beeping effects, which have almost always been annoying and now are annoying and cliched. The Neptunes try to give the very white Justin some edge by including a rap from Clipse(who happen to have the first record released by the Neptunes' new label). Clipse's rap doesn't work as well as Nelly's on N Sync's fun Girlfriend remix. It's pretty drab with cocky come ons("grab a friend, see I can have fun with two") that don't mesh with Timberlake's more polite approach. Like I Love You's lyric is mostly an inoffensive attempt to charm a woman and get her to drop "your front face" though the effort to be simultaneously tough and respectful results in some stinker lines like "you're a good girl and that's what make me trust ya."
Pink-Just Like A Pill(down 7 positions)
When M!ssundaztood came out Pink, aided by the music press, put out the idea that the CD was a bold, rocking work that declared her freedom from record company people forcing her to make calculated, radio friendly music. Get The Party Started, M!ssundaztood's first single, still sounds great and exciting but Pink's subsequent singles have seemed more calculated for radio play than bold and rocking. Just Like A Pill, like Don't Let Me Get Me, was cowritten, arranged and produced by Dallas Austin, a veteran hitmaker for TLC, Boys II Men and Madonna. It has a slick, well made sound with layers of synths and percussion, a sturdy beat and power pop guitars. Just Like A Pill reminds me of another mature, well constructed hit: Sophie B. Hawkins' Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover. Just Like A Pill isn't exciting but it has a good, dense sound. Just Like A Pill's lyrics don't get much more specific than repeatedly stating that instead of making her feel better, her boyfriend keeps "makin' me ill."
Santana Featuring Michelle Branch-The Game Of Lovebuy it!
After achieving incredible success, with a big assist from Matchbox 20's Rob Thomas, on the Supernatural CD by targeting baby boomers, Carlos Santana aimed for an even younger audience by teaming up with teen favorite Michelle Branch. Neither the song nor Branch's vocal is particularly exciting but, coming on the heels of her weepy hit Goodbye To You, it's nice to hear Branch loosen up a little. Branch again is likably sweet and unassuming, especially when she doesn't quite reach the high notes. Game Of Love, from Santana's Shaman CD, has a pretty dopey lyric. Branch cries for a guy who don't "come around no more", asks him to "use me" and "control me" and consoles herself with the thought that "it's all in the game of love." Fortunately, Game Of Love's music is so relaxed that Branch's angst barely registers. The innocuous "little bit of this", "little bit of that" hook is the most memorable line. Santana's comeback music isn't great but his ability to blend contemporary sounds with the dense but easy music he's been playing with his band for more than 35 years is impressive. Game Of Love's steady percussion flow isn't that different from Oye Como Va's. Game Of Love is very lightweight but its hand claps and horns give it a rich, buoyant feel. The guitar playing is quite remarkable. It's distinctively Santana's and impressively proficient but it never sounds like showing off. Santana seems like he's just trying to fit in with and accentuate Game Of Love's sunny mood even towards the end when he throws out a very good and seemingly effortless solo.
Vanessa Carlton-Ordinary Day(unchanged)
Ordinary Day is the second single from Vanessa Carlton's Be Not Nobody CD. It's nice that young girls have at least three people making music for them that's not totally awful. They can choose between hip, popular Avril Lavigne, sincere, slightly arty Michelle Branch and Vanessa Carlton, the smart, confident nerd who never misses a piano lesson. I guess I credit the many kids who have picked Carlton's mildly ambitious music but her popularity is also a little strange to me. At the risk of using a critical cliche, Ordinary Day is quite ordinary. There's not much to it except a sense of artistic pretention. Carlton's interesting piano playing plays a less prominent role than on A Thousand Miles. Producer Ron Fair overdoes the strings as if he's orchestrating a third rate production of Oklahoma. I guess the kids feel like that liking a song like Ordinary Day means they're listening to something more serious and important. The most appealing thing about Ordinary Day is Carlton's vocal and persona. She has Tori Amos' honesty without Amos' affectations and with an appealing youthful openness. The lyrics are a sweet story of a boy "looking to the sky" who "asked if I would come along".
Eminem-Cleanin' Out My Closet(down 9 positions)
Eminem knows that he has created enough interest that millions want to know about his history and grudges. Cleanin' Out My Closet, The Eminem Show CD's second single, is another account of the reasons he hates various people in his life. Eminem starts Cleanin' Out My Closet whining about being "protested and discriminated against." He congratulates himself for not leaving his daughter like his "faggot father" left him and for "taking them bullets out of that gun" instead of killing his ex-wife. But Eminem mostly focuses his anger on his mom. We learn that Debbie popped prescription pills, made little Marshall a "victim of Munchausen syndrome(making him "believe I was sick when I wasn't") and that when her brother died, said she wished it was her son who died. Eminem is pretty unappealing, asking for sympathy but showing none for a woman who, even according to his account, went through some very tough times. But like him or not, it's hard to argue against the idea that he provides great theatre, at least giving the impression that he's allowing us a glimpse into a unique, troubled mind. On The Eminem Show, Eminem, assisted by Jeff Bass, has generally replaced his mentor Dr. Dre as his music's producer. The quality of Eminem's tracks vary but he did a good job on the singles. Cleanin' Out My Closet doesn't have Without Me's energy. Eminem cleared out the sound on Cleanin' Out My Closet, keeping the focus on his lyrics. The tapping percussion and Bass' playing create a stark, haunted feel consistent with recounting stories of a dark past. Eminem's technique isn't as impressive as his breathless, nonstop rap on Without Me but he has no trouble keeping his audience's attention with a style that's simultaneously casual, confident and troubled.
John Mayer-Your Body Is A Wonderland(up 4 positions)
Your Body Is a Wonderland is the second chart hit from the Atlanta based singer/songwriter's Room For Squares CD. Like No Such Thing, Your Body Is a Wonderland is pleasant and almost proudly inconsequential. Unlike No Such Thing, where Mayer tried so hard for whimsical cheekiness, Your Body Is a Wonderland mostly keeps things nicely understated. His voice, in a tone not much more forceful than a whisper, effectively communicates the song's sly confidence. His guitar playing is also unassuming but pretty cool. Its only flourish is a short Steely Dan style riff towards the end. A skinny young white guy can't help but seem a little leering singing a song about pleasuring a lady but his admiration of a woman's looks is generally appealing. A bit too much bravado accompanies Mayer's promise to take a while making love and discovering a woman's body but he generally avoids the objectification that often accompanies songs complimenting the female shape.
Sheryl Crow-Steve McQueen(unchanged)
Steve McQueen, the second single from the C'mon C'mon CD shows that the empty headed feel of Soak Up The Sun was a strategy rather than an aberration. Soak Up The Sun at least had a likable, relaxed flow to it. On Steve McQueen, Crow awkwardly tries to show she can make stupid rock music as well as a guy. Steve McQueen grinding rock guitar sound is OK but everything else about is ridiculously dumb. Crow cops the ooh-oohs from Steve Miller's Take The Money And Run. Crow is usually a reliable singer but, especially on the chorus, she sounds shrill and as self satisfied as Lenny Kravitz watering down Americna Woman. Crow sings about wanting to "rock and roll this party" and ride a fast machine like Steve McQueen. Crow's social commentary about "rock stars in the White House" and pop stars who "look like porn" seems particularly lame.
Down 4 U fell just short of the top 50 but, generally, the Murder Inc. steamroller shows no sign of slowing down. The endless parade of easy, listenable but unambitious hits produced by Irv Gotti with vocals by Ja Rule and/or Ashanti is becoming increasingly mind numbing. Happy, the second single from the Ashanti CD, is pleasant enough. It's perkier than Ashanti's smash, Foolish. The music and Ashanti Douglas' voice are both sunny, smooth and inoffensive. But they also largely lack personality. Happy is extremely modest in its aspirations and execution. With its laid back feel, Happy resembles the "remix" version of Jennifer Lopez' I'm Real. But Lopez, while no great singer, had more presence and sexy attitude than Ashanti has in her competent, innocuous vocal. Happy repeats a vaguely annoying, chirpy synth riff and a wind blowing sound not much different from the effect in Foolish. Happy's backup singers are pretty good but they're forced to sing a melody line strangely reminiscent of the one from 80s easy listening megahit On My Own. After the obligatory Ja Rule introduction, Ashanti, in a fairly inane lyric, tells her man how he she's "so glad you fell in love with me" and that she "couldn't see me without you."
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers-The Last DJ(unchanged)
The Last DJ, the title track from Tom Petty's new CD, overstates things a little. There are still plenty of djs at college and independent stations who play "what they want to play" and say "what they want to say." And the fact that most stations are guided by the bottom line, rather than a quest for quality, is hardly news. The Ramones, Kinks and Elvis Costello long ago did songs about it. For at least the 25 years of Petty's career, commercial radio has rarely welcomed dj free expression. Market research and pandering play the role in music they do in the selling of movies, tv shows or political candidates though audience tastes sometimes force commercial radio to abandon its conservative instincts and play new, good or different kinds of music. The undeniable subtext of The Last DJ is the unlamentable fact that pop radio no longer plays the music of Petty and some of his contemporaries. The similarity of Last DJ to Petty's other music hardly argues against classic rock radio as the natural 2002 home for his music. Still, I agree it's sad that radio is controlled by large corporations and consultants who "celebrate mediocrity", pushing songs meant to sound like other hits and appeal to the lowest common denominator rather than good, smart or interesting music. And while The Last DJ is familiar, it's one of my favorite current songs. Petty's nasal whine is comforting and he sounds like he still has something to prove. The Heartbreakers' personnel has changed over the years but guitar player Mike Campbell is still giving Petty's songs some kick. Campbell keeps playing Rickenbacker riffs he stole from Roger McGuinn and The Byrds. He gives The Last DJ's verses texture and a good countermelody and adds urgency to the chorus with compact, crunching London Calling style chords. Longtime Heartbreaker Benmont Tench's piano helps fill out the sound and adds to Last DJ's vibrancy.
Incubus-Warning(down 8 positions)
Incubus keep giving us likable, unremarkable atmospheric rock songs. Warning, third chart hit from the Morning View CD, is appealing. Warning is even more laid back than I Wish You Were Here and Nice To Know You but it has a similar vibe. On the verses, Brandon Boyd's vocal drifts along with some minimal guitar and sonic effects. The chorus, with Mike Einziger's electric guitar strumming, is harder and more focused, but the song retains it's dreamy feel. Warning is positive and spacy, advising that as you float "in this cosmic jacuzzi", "count your blessings", "don't ever let life pass you by" and love yourself. Warning seems intentionally inconsequential but it is quite appealing.
Michelle Branch-Goodbye To You(up 2 positions)
The musical appeal of the previous hits from Michelle Branch's The Spirit Room CD was fairly modest but at least something was going on. Everywhere was a likable pop rocker. All You Wanted was a sweet rescue fantasy. Goodbye To You doesn't offer much. It's quite a routine ballad. It's different from Vanessa Carlton's string heavy Ordinary Day but, like that song, Goodbye To You's main asset is the singer's unaffected, natural style. Branch's singing with Santana on Game Of Love hints that she might loosen up in the future but, so far, sincerity and lack of pretension have been the keys to Branch's success. She outdoes even Carlton in those categories. Goodbye To You is like singles by people like Britney and Christina but at least it doesn't have the fakey, manufactured feel of some similar songs. Branch doesn't have the strongest voice but it sounds like a teenager's. As she quavers and reaches for high notes, her quirks and effort make the song feel real and adds to a sense of yearning. Goodbye To You doesn't add much to the breakup song genre but it keeps things simple and undoubtedly connects with girls in their early teens who feel like Branch is the only one who understands their heartache. Branch sings about the pain of trying to put a long relationship behind her.
Kelly Clarkson-A Moment Like Thisbuy it!
After Kelly Clarkson won American Idol, A Moment Like This was rushed out as a single, long before an album was ready, and it's one of the biggest selling singles in recent years. I didn't see much of American Idol. It seemed irrelevant to me and millions others. From what I can tell, there were few signs that rock or hip hop exist. Balladeers competed to show over the top intensity. It's not surprising that Clarkson won. I'd figure the person who would appeal to most average Americans would sing competently, sound very familiar and not be too challenging or unusual. Clarkson has been compared to Mariah Carey. The comparison seems accurate. She doesn't seem as skilled or distinctive as Carey but Clarkson has Carey's confidence as well as her tendency to slightly overdo things. Comfortable familiarity seems like the main goal of American Idol, Clarkson and especially the writers of A Moment Like This, which blatantly borrows pieces of Whitney Houston's ballads. A Moment Like This' resemblance to I Will Always You, The Greatest Love Of All(which it namedrops) and others practically makes it a medley of Whitney's hits. Especially in the big finish final verse, every move seems copped from I Will Always Love You though you can also credit Elton's Circle Of Life and Bette Midler's big hits. A Moment Like This, written and produced by studio pros who have worked with a bunch of lightweight British pop stars as well as Britney and O Town, has a by the book arrangement. The music starts quietly and gains in intensity, with a cushion of backup singers and strings. There will probably always be a market for uplifting, manipulative songs likely to end with the singer's arms raised triumphantly over her head. A Moment Like This is properly constructed to tug at the heartstrings but it doesn't have a transcendent vocal performance or anything unusual to distinguish it from other similar songs. A Moment Like This, with its "some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this" hook, was chosen because it seems to be commemorating Clarkson's victory. But the lyric is actually a clichi ridden love song about a perfect love.
P. Diddy featuring Ginuwine-I Need A Girl Pt. 2(down 8 positions)
I Need A Girl Pt. 2 is from the We Invented The Remix CD. P. Diddy coproduced I Need A Girl Pt. 2 with Mario Winans. I liked I Need A Girl Pt. 1 for its breezy, smooth sound and Diddy's bizarre confession of loneliness but Part 2 is of much less interest to me. The music, with its synthetic steady beat and shiny synth riff, is OK but it's also an even more insubstantial, if perkier, variation on an already lightweight theme. The lyric is significantly less compelling than Part 1's apparent paean and mea culpa to J. Lo. P. Diddy's rap is standard issue. He tells us he wants a girl with potential wife credentials who's 5'5" with dimples and makes showy promises of being able to share 100 foot yachts and trips to San Tropez with his girl. Diddy's vocal is typically flat, uninflected and unmelodic. Loon's rap isn't great either with cliched images of lying in a bubble bath with a really big champagne glass and the questionable boast: "I'm smooth as Erik Estrada." Ginuwine and Winans do better with the singer role Usher had on Part 1 but they don't do much to change the song's generic feel.
Christina Aguilera-Dirrty(up 2 positions)
She's done singles, a Spanish language record and a holiday record but Stripped is Christina Aguilera's first mainstream CD in the more than three years since the release of her smash self titled CD. There's a lot of talk about whether and how the teen stars of the late 90s can remain successul as they and their audiences get older. Christina Aguilera seems to have a good shot at longevity. Her voice is bigger and better than Britney's and she's not saddled with a young image. Aguilera was only 18 when Christina Aguilera was released but her big, brassy, confident voice often seemed more like a 40 year old's. With Dirrty, Aguilera has the bad fortune of seeming to repeat steps her young competitors took to seek continued success. Like Pink, Aguilera confidently announces that "my arrival" will "start the party." Like Britney's I'm A Slave 4 U, Dirrty has an edgy dance sound and a sweaty, steamy video and lyrics meant to introduce an overtly adult, sexy image. As with Justin's Like I Love You, Dirrty has a hot producer the artist succeeded with before and a state of the art but familiar R&B/dance sound. Dirrty doesn't measure up to Pink's great pop hit but Aguilera's strong voice and comfort with the hard dance pop form give her the edge over Spears and Timberlake. Dirrty and Like I Love You are both more grooves than songs but Aguilera is a better fit with the material. On Dirrty, Lady Marmalade producer Rockwilder creates a tough, exciting sound with a metallic beat, a booming bass sound and flashing keyboards. He also includes Redman's decent, driving rap. Dirty's downside is it's not a lot of fun. An obstacle to Aguilera's long term success could be her failure to establish a likable, warm persona. Aguilera's vocal on Dirrty is strong but, especially in a harsh, mechanincal setting, it's a little cold. Dirrty's lyric is a fairly familiar boast about how Aguilera is gonna get the place sweating and "shake the room" but it fits well with Dirrty's tight, steady sound.
P.O.D.-Satellite(down 3 positions)
Satellite is the title track and fourth chart hit from Payable On Death's breakthrough record. As radio gets deeper into the Satellite CD, the San Diego band's success becomes more mysterious and irritating to me. There were logical reasons P.O.D.'s previous singles were hits. Alive, with its supposed positivity, was the right song after 9/11. Youth Of The Nation had a hot topic(school shootings). Boom had a good, big beat and rock guitar sound. Satellite also has decent edgy, slashing guitars but the focus is on Sonny Sandoval's annoying vocal. Sandoval seems bad in lots of way. His attempts to project menacing toughness seem lame. He comes across to me as unpleasant and unskilled and a pale imitation of sharper rappers. Satellite is another religious paean. There's nothing particularly terrible about Satellite's lyrics. Sandoval tells us that His "love constricts my chest" and "now I can see" and asks God to "never take your eyes off me." As with Alive, I find Satellite uninteresting because Sandoval never goes beyond what God means to him to think of others. And maybe I'm close minded but Sandoval's harsh snarl doesn't seem like the best way to express his devotion. His singing strikes me as more about establishing rock cred and selling records than communicating with the Almighty.
Eminem-Lose Yourselfbuy it!
It makes sense that Eminem is making his film acting debut in the semi-autobiographical 8 Mile. He's always had a lot of presence and self confidence and has specialized in self aggrandizing semi-autobiographical work. Lose Yourself, from the 8 Mile soundtrack, continues Eminem's huge breakthrough year on the pop charts. He's had his first three top ten hits in 2002. Lose Yourself isn't as distinctive as most of Eminem's previous singles but it is another good, interesting song. Lose Yourself has a tense, urgent sound. Eminem's rap is, as usual, technically strong. He evokes the tension of the performer trying to take advantage of his "one shot" with a breathless, agitated delivery. Jeff Bass' threatening, repeated guitar line and a stiff, basic beat emphasizes Lose Yourself's edgy feel. Eminem opens with vivid description of a sweaty performer. Since it's Eminem, it's not surprising that the details include that he's vomited his mom's spaghetti on his sweater. Eminem's depicts the combination of insecurity and confidence in his ability that drives him. His character is nervous but "looks calm and ready." Choking on stage just gets him mad and more determined. Audience rejection whips up a rage that sharpens his work. Shifting into the first person on the final verse, Eminem's intensity builds. He lists the forces threatening to overwhelm him: determination not to return to his mom's trailer life, the "dishonor" of struggling "to feed and water my seed", his "prima donna baby mama" and the boredom of a "normal life." He resolves to "formulate a plot 'fore I end up in jail or shot." As usual, Eminem is overly melodramatic but he ends up producing something exciting.
Norah Jones-Don't Know Why(up 2 positions)
Come Away With Me is the debut CD by 23 year old Norah Jones, who is sitar legend Ravi Shankar's daughter but was raised in Texas by her mom. Come Away With Me has justifiably become a yuppie and boomer favorite. Like Cassandra Wilson, Jones starts from a jazz background but plays songs that can be categorized as folk, r&b and pop. Jones' voice even resembles that of country pop singer Shelby Lynne. Don't Know Why is a good showcase of Jones' unshowy but sultry charm. On Don't Know Why, Jones' voice is appealingly yearning and delicate. Jones' piano and rhythm section are easy and inobtrusive, adding to the song's understated poignance. Don't Know Why, written by Jones' guitar player Jesse Harris, has a classic simplicity. Jones sings that, while it makes her feel teary, empty and needing wine, she has to stay away from a guy who has never run to her.
Angie Martinez-If I Can Go(unchanged)
I, like many in the New York area, haven't heard much of If I Can Go, the hit from Angie Martinez' Animal House CD. Martinez is a Hot 97 radio personality. Other stations have decided not to help a competitor, even if that means missing out on a hot song. It's Z-100's(among others') loss. If I Can Go is good, breezy dance pop with an easy, positive energy and a touch of a Latin feel. If I Can Go has a very catchy hook that repeats throughout over a crisp, simple beat. Producer Rick Rock smartly deploys the hook in different ways. A guitar riff is joined or replaced by a dramatic synth when emphasis is needed. Martinez doesn't seem to have great vocal skills but her hard, confident New Yorker voice helps give If I Can Go a tough edge. Lil' Mo effectively takes over when a real singer is needed. Sacario's quick, no nonsense rap is well integrated into If I Can Go. If I Can Go is about wanting to leave New York "with no cells and no trace" for a far away beach, if the guy who can "make you feel like you're right back in the ninth grade" can come.
Jack Johnson-Flake(down 5 positions)
The Hawaiian native/champion surfer turned LA singer/songwriter's first chart hit is charmingly laid back. Johnson sings on Flake, from the Brushfire Fairytales CD, about likable slackers who lose out or let people down because of "ties" or because "often times we're lazy." Flake has relaxed guitars and drums and Johnson's smooth vocal comfortably matches the song's mood. He doesn't seem to exert himself too much even as he reaches for high notes in the song's "please don't drag me down" conclusion. Ben Harper, whose music has an easy, sensual appeal similar to Johnson's, plays good atmospheric slide guitar on Flake.
DJ Sammy & Yanou-Heaven(down 14 positions)
Heaven is quite a stupid song. At least, unlike Bryan Adams' soaring, bloated original, the new version doesn't have any pretentions of meaning. Adams' stream of cliches("you're all that I want", "we were young and wild and free", "nothing can take you away from me" and "through the good times and the bad, I'll be standing there by you") glide by easily. With a familiar melody, a big, obvious beat and lyrics that can be understood by people for whom English is a second language, Heaven has all the hallmarks of an international dance pop hit. Apparently, DJ Sammy is a Spanish mixmaster/producer who worked on Heaven with Dutch singer Do. With its frantic, eager to please beat, Heaven sounds more suited to a high impact aerobics class than a dance club. But Heaven's upbeat tone and high energy techno synths undoubtedly get people on the dance floor.
Good Charlotte-Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famousbuy it!
I like twin brothers Joel and Benji, Good Charlotte's singer and guitar player, as hosts of MTV's All Things Rock. They're pleasant, self deprecating and not too stupid. I certainly prefer them to the blond bimbo who seems to have replaced them. But Good Charlotte's good nature isn't enough to make me like the single from their The Young and The Hopeless CD. Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous feels a little stale. Wasn't the tv show the song's named after on more than 20 years ago? And the choices of famous people to exemplify famous person misbehavior, O.J. Simpson and Marion Barry, aren't exactly fresh. Lifestyles also suffers musically from similarity to other poppy punksters. If anything distinguishes Lifestyles from recent hits by New Found Glory, Sum 41, I'm missing it. With big, upbeat drums, high energy vocals and a catchy chorus, Lifestyles is pleasant and easy to listen to, like a perky cover band's version of Iggy's Lust For Life but it's so unimaginative and unoriginal that it barely gets my attention. Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous has the punky/Robin Hood premise that since the rich and famous are self pitying, they deserve to be taught a lesson by having their mansions burglarized or being forced to live on the street. It doesn't address how a modicum of fame and riches will effect Good Charlotte though, in their defense, I don't think they'll be "always complaining." Good Charlotte seem like nice guys. Too bad their single's music and lyrics aren't more interesting.