Weezer-Island In The Sun(unchanged)
Island In The Sun is the second hit from Weezer's very good green album. Island In The Sun is the mellowest and poppiest song on a record that's otherwise straight forward rockers. It's a nice love song about how good it'll be to go away. Rivers Cuomo's sweet, idealistic lyrics("we'll never feel bad anymore) are well matched by the mood created by easy, strummed guitar and the band's hip hips. The band wisely mixes things up by adding harder rocking guitar on the bridge.
Afroman-Because I Got High(up 1 position)
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.
Staind-Fade(up 12 positions)
I look forward to seeing whether, after his huge success the past year, Aaron Lewis' future work is still about how messed up he is. Fade is another song about how Lewis' parents "were never there for me to express how I felt." Lewis enunciates every syllable to make sure you can feel his pain. Lewis isn't as nasty as other troubled rockers and he's more melodic. Lewis' vocal on Fade is fairly subtle and interesting as it rolls around the lyrics. Still, Staind's ultraserious music is standard rock, following the very common pattern of minimal verse then big guitar filled chorus. Fade has a heavy mood, with a forboding bass line.
Like Breakdown, the second chart hit from the former Days Of The New members' debut CD has Hugo Ferreira doing a bad Eddie Vedder imitation. Ferreira's slurred vocal is more pretentious than Vedder at his self indulgent worst. Astounded resembles Rooster and other Alice In Chains music with its dark, serious tone, "hey, hey, hey"s and acoustic guitar that eventually changes to electric power chords. The lyrics claim "I just found my way" but that apparently doesn't include avoiding resentment to his enemies who he calls "stupid f---ers."
The Wiseguys-Start The Commotion(up 2 positions)
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.
Sugar Ray-When It's Over(down 6 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.
Eve-Let Me Blow Ya Mind(up 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.
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.
The second single from the Awake CD is similar to the title track but even harsher and less appealing. Singer Sully Erna is a devout Wiccan and Greed has a bit of a spiritual sound but the song is just nasty, not exotic. The guitars thump and thud as Erna howls, "hey little bitch, be glad you finally walked away or you may have not lived another day." Amid the despicable misogyny we're supposed to empathize with Erna for feeling smothered and in need of help.
System Of A Down-Chop Suey(up 11 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.
Nelly Furtado-Turn Off The Light(up 3 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.
Usher-U Remind Me(unchanged)
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."
Weezer-Hash Pipe(down 2 positions)
After their good but idiosyncratic 1996 Pinkerton CD sold disappointingly, Weezer took a break then tightened their sound. The payoff is their best and most successful CD: the very good, rocking green album. Hash Pipe was a good choice of a first single. The tough, rocking sound helps kill the band's image as video dependent jokesters. Brian Bell and Rivers Cuomo's guitars are as big and menacing as any hard rock band's. Cuomo sings without his earlier tentativeness. On Hash Pipe, about a transsexual prostitute smoking to relieve life's paranoia and anxiety, Cuomo moves assuredly in and out of a falsetto, always adding to the song's sense of urgency. As on Buddy Holly, power chords and catchy hooks create a great, exhilarating sound.
Like many recent bands, P.O.D. are fans of hard rock and hip hop. Sonny Sandoval's rock vocals have a loose, rough rap edge. Alive, from the Satellite CD, has big guitars and an effective, powerful sound. Still, I find the music hard, cold and unappealing. Alive's proclamation of love and appreciation to God is a little self righteous and silly. Sonny Sandoval claims that he's taking a big chance, stating his devotion "even though it might cost me everything", as if Creed and others haven't make big bucks with catchy, religious tinged rock.
Blink 182-The Rock Show(down 13 positions)
It's seems like time for Blink 182 to try something new and let their sound evolve a little. Still, Blink 182's fast, unpretentious punky pop is very enjoyable. They're less gimmicky and more likable than current competitors like New Found Glory and Sum 41. Blink 182 are particularly appealing on The Rock Show, a nice, simple reminiscence of a girl met at a Warped tour concert and how "everything's better when she's around." The Rock Show, from Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, is buoyant, with a fun, stuttering beat and guitar line that never stop.
Saliva-Click Click Boom Boombuy it!
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.
Afro Celt Sound System-When You're Falling(unchanged)
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.
Smash Mouth-I'm A Believer(unchanged)
For a guy with very modest vocal skills, Steve Harwell has done incredibly well, wisely carving out a niche of vaguely retro, genial music. The producers of Shrek, the most successful movie of 2001, made a good call in asking Smash Mouth to contribute to the soundtrack. With their optimistic, catchy, lightweight music, Smash Mouth are right for a feel good cartoon and unlikely to offend anyone in the audience, no matter how young or old. Smash Mouth wisely didn't try a hard, beat filled 21st version or a note for note reenactment, instead opting for a perky, vaguely mod, horn filled 60s sound. Still, they don't come close to the tight perfection of the Neil Diamond penned original, one of the Monkees' many pop rock gems.
City High-What Would You Do(unchanged)
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."
Melissa Etheridge-I Want To Be In Love(unchanged)
The descriptions of Melissa Etheridge as a female Springsteen used to seem somewhat appropriate but, especially as her career has entered its VH1 phase, it's clear that while she shares Bruce's sincere intensity she sorely lacks his rock and roll energy and detailed, evocative writing. I Want To Be In Love, from Etheridge's Skin CD, is typically earnest but unremarkable. She doesn't do justice to the transcendent love she wants to feel by expressing it with cliched images about climbing highest mountains, wrestling with demons and looking for a heart of gold . The music is sleek but vague with a pleasant beat and tasteful keyboards. The main thing I Want To Be In Love has going for it is Etheridge's passionate vocal.
O-Town-All Or Nothing(down 5 positions)
It had been three months since there were any boy groups in the top 50 but the drought is over. 'N Sync, Backstreet Boys and O-Town all had song debuts in early June. O-Town are the ultimate in manufactured, commercial boy bands, having been put together for ABC's Making The Band. O-Town's lame first single Liquid Dreams, a bizarre story of a dream girl constructed from pieces of various celebrities, fell just short of the top 50. All Or Nothing, which is more standard teen pop about trying to convince a girl to forget another guy and concentrate on him, is clearly a hit even though it's also quite lame. All Or Nothing is modeled on songs by smooth young African American crooners like Boys II Men's I'll Make Love To You. It starts OK with piano and sincere singing and gets progressively more treacly with strings and very bland harmonies, ending like a bad version of Bryan Adams' Everything I Do.
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.
John Mellancamp-Peaceful Worldbuy it!
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.
Pete Yorn-Life On A Chain(down 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."
Lit-Lipstick and Bruisesbuy it!
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."