Eve featuring Alicia Keys-Gangsta Lovin'(down 6 positions)
Eve's new CD is called Eve-Olution. Gangsta Lovin' has the same kind of easy, likably playful sound as Eve's first big pop hit Let Me Blow Ya Mind. Ja Rule/Ashanti producer Irv Gotti gave Gangsta Lovin' a good sound with a steady, relaxed beat and a catchy synth riff. Eve's rap is appealingly confident and straight forward. She's strong and subtly teasing as she tells a guy she's interested. Alicia Keys' vocal on the chorus is assisted by backing singers and hardly challenging but her smooth, laid back singing fits Gangsta Lovin's charming, breezy mood.
John Mayer-Your Body Is A Wonderland(up 5 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.
Kelly Clarkson-A Moment Like This(up 6 positions)
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.
Daniel Bedingfield-Gotta Get Thru This(down 6 positions)
Gotta Get Thru This is the title track from Daniel Bedingfield's first solo CD. It follows Dirty Vegas' Days Go By, The Wiseguys' Start The Commotion and Kylie Minogue's singles as the latest dance hit out of England with at least a touch of techno flavor. 22 year old Bedingfield says he made Gotta Get Thru This in his bedroom with a computer and a mike. Gotta Get Thru This's sound is basic, with a steady beat and a decent repeated electronic riff, but it's pretty effective. Bedingfield's voice is obviously treated and enhanced. The result is thin and nasal but interesting, like a cartoonish version of 80s Michael Jackson. Like the music, Gotta Get Thru This' lyric is simple but does the job. Bedingfield repeats the title like a mantra that helps him to stop obsessing about a woman who broke his heart.
Justin Timberlake-Like I Love You(unchanged)
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."
Nickelback-Never Again(down 2 positions)
Chad Kroeger's dreary chart dominance continues. Never Again, the third single from Nickelback's Silver Side Up CD, debuted on the top 50 while Kroeger's awful Hero was still #1. Never Again is one of Silver Side Up's harder rocking songs but, even with the big guitars, it suffers from the same deadly seriousness and lack of originality as Kroeger's previous hits. Never Again is another song that seems related to Kroeger's troubled youth. Like Too Bad, Never Again is about a dysfunctional home. This time instead of being absent, the dad is a physically abusive drunk. Kroeger is a kid afraid his mom is going to get killed. The happy ending has the mom grabbing a gun and pulling "the trigger just as fast as she can." As always, I don't question Kroeger's sincerity or right to express his pain but wish he could express himself in a more interesting, fresh way.
Our Lady Peace-Somewhere Out Therebuy it!
Our Lady Peace have been huge in Canada for years but, until now, theyve only had modest success in the U.S. Modern rock radio play kept Somewhere Out There, from the Gravity CD, on the top 50 through the summer. It returned to the chart after settling in at pop radio. Top 40 radio always seemed like Somewhere Out Theres ultimate destination. For their U.S. commercial breakthrough, Our Lady Peace moved into Creed/Goo Goo Dolls/Aerosmith territory for a string laden rock ballad. Somewhere Out There isnt my favorite Our Lady Peace song(the less sweeping ballad Clumsy probably is) but it is less annoying than most rock ballads. Our Lady Peace singer Raine Maidas hoarse, yearning singing doesnt have Scott Stapps self important vanity and Somewhere Out There doesnt have the bloated sound of Creeds hits. Maida is always rather serious and intense so its less jarring to hear him shift into mellow mode than someone like Steven Tyler. Somewhere Out Theres carefully crafted and somewhat bombastic atmosphere of synths and strings is designed to make a hit. Somewhere Out There is heartfelt but the songs personal touch is steamrollered when the big guitars and drums and heavy orchestration come in. Still, Maida maintains his sincerity as he sings about waiting on a bed of nails for the return of an old flame who transcended a feeling of being lonely and out of place by moving on to a new life.
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".
Avril Lavigne-Complicated(down 6 positions)
Complicated is from the 17 year old Canadian's Let Go CD. Even more than Michelle Branch and Vanessa Carlton, Lavigne has a sound that seems perfect for girls looking for a more substantial alternative to Britney and Christina. Unlike Branch, whose image is sincere and vulnerable, Lavigne comes across as very self confident. Her voice has a casual, spoken quality that sounds like that of a cool teen. Complicated is fairly insubstantial but it's also appealingly perky and direct. Complicated's confessional, relaxed tone marks Lavigne as an Alanis fan. There's also some resemblance to the more rocking but still poppy recent work of labelmate Pink. Some of Complicated's synth flourishes are unnecessary but the sound is generally appealing simple. A hip hop style drum machine beat adds a bit of edge. On Complicated, Lavigne vents her frustration at a guy who's good and relaxed when they're alone but becomes foolish and showy around others.
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers-The Last DJ(up 3 positions)
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.
Trust Company-Downfall(down 5 positions)
Downfall, from the Montgomery, Alabama band's The Lonely Position Of Neutral CD, is quite ingenious. Like music by Korn, Tool, Deftones and so many others, it has intense atmosphere and a troubled, wailing singer. But Downfall also has a sleek, catchy chorus. Downfall hits both of its musical styles pretty well. The verse, with Kevin Palmer doing an agitated vocal over rumbling bass, is pretty routine but it gains impressive power as, just before it segues into the chorus, the guitars begin to hammer and Palmer howls 'fall". The chorus is striking with appealing harmonies layered over basic but effective hard rock guitars. The lyrics are fairly standard contemporary rock fare but Palmer's agitation seems real. He sings about being tormented by fear and of hiding a volatile "other side of me." Downfall is familiar, competent hard rock with a refreshing touch of distinctiveness.
Dave Matthews Band-Where Are You Going(down 13 positions)
The Dave Matthews Band recorded an album's worth of songs in 2000 with producer Steve Lillywhite. Unhappy with the results, the band started from scratch with producer Glen Ballard and a new set of songs and made the Everyday CD. DMB have returned to the songs from the Lillywhite sessions and rerecorded some of them for Busted Stuff, a CD produced by the band and Before These Crowded Streets engineer Steve Harris. They also wrote a few new songs including Where Are You Going. On Where Are You Going DMB do what they do best. Like Crash Into Me and Crush, Where Are You Going is a love song with relaxed, dreamlike music, a leisurely pace and an appealing Matthews' lyric. In an unassuming voice, Matthews sweetly tells a troubled woman "I have no answers for you", "but I do know one thing, where you are is where I belong." With subtle guitar, drums, piano and Leroi Moore's horn, Where Are You Going easily and likably floats by.
Michelle Branch-Goodbye To You(up 1 position)
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.
Sheryl Crow-Steve McQueen(down 2 positions)
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.
Pink-Just Like A Pill(down 4 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."
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.
Good Charlotte-Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous(up 6 positions)
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.
Jimmy Eat World-Sweetness(down 8 positions)
Sweetness is the second chart hit from the CD originally called Bleed American that, since September 11, the record company wants known as just Jimmy Eat World. Sweetness is a good example of why Jimmy Eat World has been labeled an emo rock band and of why the Arizona based band can be so appealing. Everything about Sweetness is done with great intensity and sincerity and its eager attempt to ingratiate is successful. Jim Adkins is very likable. His full voiced vocal never flags. Stopping and starting on a dime, Tom Linton and Adkins's impressive barrage of guitars gives Sweetness a rock and roll edge but doesn't overwhelm the band's open, positive sound. Sweetness reminds me of a big, glossy Cheap Trick song like Surrender or Dream Police, with good natured seriousness taking the place of that band's tongue in cheek goofiness. Sweetness rocks harder than Jimmy Eat World's surprise monster hit The Middle but like that song, it has high energy that seems to keep building. Instead of The Middle's Major Tom synth riff, Sweetness builds to a climax by adding a perky, one finger piano line. Considering the music's upbeat mood, Sweetness has a surprisingly dark subject matter. Adkins sings that a relationship used to be like a sweet game but, feeling tethered, he doesn't want to play the game anymore. I still find Jimmy Eat World's over the top, innocent enthusiasm tough to take in large doses but short shots like Sweetness are hard to resist.
Madonna-Die Another Daybuy it!
James Bond films long ago lost their originality and flair and became a series of flashy, unmemorable moneymakers.Appropriately, the theme song from the new one, Die Another Day, is functional, competent, a bit stylish and insignificant. Die Another Day soundtrack sounds like it was slapped together in a hurry between Madonnas other projects. It was also Madonna an opportunity to make people forget the terrible reviews she got for Swept Away and work in the medium(music video) where she doesnt have to talk and does her best acting. Madonna wrote and produced Die Another Day with Mirwais Ahmadzai, who also worked on the Music CD. Die Another Day, like Musics title track, is a repetitive sketch thats mostly about beat and synth effects. Die Another Day doesnt go have as many shiny beeps as Music and its not as intent on evoking the golden age of disco. Die Another Day sounds like a remix distilled from a more substantial source but, to my knowledge, this is all there is. With its string effects, edgy electronics and breaks in the beat for Madonna to intone something defiant, Die Another Day tries for theatrical intensity. The attempt is silly and annoying. Its both overdone and completely lacking in substance. Still, as insignificant dance music, Die Another Day basically does the job with a sleek, catchy sound. Mirwais gave it a good, crisp beat. Presented straight, Madonnas singing is affected and unmelodic but Mirwais smartly plays with it, giving it a metallic edge that matches the musics icy, dramatic feel. Die Another Day has a dopey, empty lyric that the latest James Bond film with an innocuous, vaguely threatening title and extensive commercial tie ins probably deserves. Ridiculously, Madonna claims Im gonna avoid the cliches as she spews inanities like Im gonna shake up the system, a time to work, a time to play and, inevitably, its not my time to go.
The Wallflowers-When Youre On Topbuy it!
Jakob Dylans bands Bringing Down The Horse CD, which had the hit One Headlight, went multiplatinum. The Wallflowers success proved short lived. The Breach CD died after getting early radio interest, falling far short of its predecessors sales. When Youre On Top, off the Red Letter Days CD, is largely about wanting to get back with an ex but its also informed by Dylans new commercial reality. Dylans more modest expectations suit him on When Youre On Top. Jakob cant avoid that genetics and upbringing gave him a similar voice to dads. On When Youre On Top the resemblance in Dylans deliberate phrasing and nasal, slightly angry delivery suits him. Jakobs writing will never have the power of Bob Dylans best work but When Youre On Top is dense, rich and good. When Youre On Top is about being jaded and depressed. Bored by a life where hes making new friends but none of them matter, Dylan is looking for new experiences and a thought that I can believe in. Musically, When Youre On Top is a step in the right direction. In the past, The Wallflowers music has often been overly slick and shallow. When Youre On Top strips down the sound and finds a more interesting edge. The verses evoke disconnection, starting with no beat and a cold, throbbing synth then adding a stiff drum machine beat. The chorus is brighter and catchier but its restraint underlines Dylans theme that he feels fine and is doing better but not doing as well as when he was with the one he needs now more than ever.
Korn-Thoughtless(down 1 position)
Thoughtless is the second chart hit from Korn's Untouchables CD. Untouchables has been called the record that introduces melody to Korn's sound. Thoughtless has a melody of sorts but it's hardly tuneful. The verses have hammering guitars. The chorus has a big rock anthem sound. Jonathan Davis' vocal takes on different tones that presumably match the different levels of anger he expresses on Thoughtless. Davis starts with a bit of falsetto playfulness mixed with his rage as he sings about pushing his mercy down, daring someone to take a swing at him so he can have a reason to put him on the ground. But he quickly shifts to a harsh bark: "why are you trying to make fun of me." Things get weird as Davis rants "got my monkey back against the wall." In between, Davis accuses others of "thoughtlessly scheming" to "tear me down" and sings about wanting to "kill and rape you the way you raped me." I'm somewhat fascinated by Thoughtless' surreal, over the top sound, especially Davis' venting of his enormous, barely controlled hostility. But Thoughtless' lack of nuance and endless barrage of noise and negativity make it unlistenably harsh for me.
Oakenfold-Starry Eyed Surprise(up 3 positions)
Paul Oakenfold is England's(and probably the world's) most sought after club DJ. He's also done well as a producer and remixer. The Bunkka CD is Oakenfold's most concerted effort at being a solo artist. On Bunkka, Oakenfold worked with a range of pop and hop hip singers. Starry Eyed Surprise's singer is Shifty Shellshock from Crazy Town, whose Butterfly was a hit a couple years back. Shellshock's hipster rap isn't that different from the one he did on Butterfly. In fact, you could easily fit big chunks of Butterfly into Starry Eyed Surprise. I found the psychedelic, spacy Butterfly, and Shellshock's slick, cocky vocal, annoying but I kind of like Starry Eyed Surprise. Starry Eyed Surprise is insubstantial and close to innocuous but it achieves the likable dance pop sound it shoots for. Starry Eyed Surprise has a genial tone and it's mostly about the music and the beat, so Shellshock isn't as irritating as he can be. Not surprisingly, Oakenfold delivers a strong, sturdy beat but he's also smart enough to keep the music relaxed, unhurried and fairly uncluttered. Oakenfold chose a few appealing riffs to keep things interesting, basing Starry Eyed Surprise on a piece of Nilsson's Everybody's Talkin'(from the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack). Starry Eyed Surprise's lyric is a dopey celebration of clubbing and dancin' "all night to this DJ."
Norah Jones-Don't Know Why(down 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.
Camron-Hey Mabuy it!
Oh Boy fell just short of the top 50. Hey Ma, the followup single from the Come Home With Me CD, is like lots of other songs but it clearly sounds like a hit. Hey Ma grabs you right from the start with the relaxed, inviting Hey ma, whats up interplay between Camron and Toya. The rest of the song isnt as appealing as that exchange but Hey Ma maintains an easy flow throughout. It initially seemed odd that Hey Ma uses a sample from Lionel Richies Easy but Camron is just the latest, following P Diddy, Irv Gotti and Ja Rule and all their associates, to hit the charts with hip hop mellow enough to deserve lite fm play. Juelz Santana and Camrons decent raps give Hey Ma a little intensity but dont do anything do disturb the smooth, safe vibe. Hey Ma is a series of stupid but mostly innocuous stories about hooking up with girls. The chorus tell us that mutual interest in fancy vehicles, drinking and getting high establishes a basis for getting it on tonight. Santana relates how a combination of youthful confidence and respect set up his chance to lay the pipe. Cam tells us his boo shares his love for Gucci and buys his rap that hes a changed man who no longer be sinnin. Hey Ma is fairly dopey but easy to listen to.
Jack Johnson-Flake(down 1 position)
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.