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All-Reviews.com Top 50 Songs*:
for the 1st week of July, 2004

*based on airplay at alternative, pop and rock radio stations a cross the nation (reviews by LarryG)

music cd song reviews Previous Week
Song Chart Page

  1. Hoobastank-The Reason    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Out Of Control, the first chart hit from The Reason, didn't last long on the chart. It looked like Hoobastank might disappear for lack of anything to distinguish them from other sensitive hard rockers. But Hoobastank guaranteed themselves a longer shelf life, taking the logical step for a rock band seeking a larger pop audience: putting out a big rock ballad. The Reason CD's title track is the California band's biggest hit. In a compliment and an insult, The Reason has been called the prom theme of 2004. The Reason connects with high school kids' heightened but basic emotions. It's expertly constructed. Doug Robb's vocal is very sensitive. With gentle picking on the verses and power chord strumming on the chorus, Dan Estrin's guitar provides decent variety and dynamics. The Reason effectively reaches a climax with ladled on strings and Robb's heartfelt cry: "the reason is you." The Reason's strengths are its weaknesses. I understand how its emotional approach sweeps people up but The Reason is quite bland. It's very predictable, familiar and a bit heavy handed in its button pushing. The Reason reminds me a lot of Cheap Trick's The Flame, among others. The Reason is basically criticism proof. No matter how banal The Reason is, if people feel that it expresses their emotions who am I or anyone else to say they're wrong. I do feel that the same emotions could be expressed in a more musically interesting way. Robb's lyric is sappy but sweet. He admits that he's made mistakes that put her through pain but he wants a woman to know that she gives him a reason to "continue learning" and "change who I used to be."

  2. Nickelback-Feelin' Way Too Damn Good    (up 1 position)      buy it!
    Feelin' Way Too Damn Good, the third chart hit from Nickelback's The Long Road CD, is more calculated music by Chad Kroeger's depressingly popular band. Feelin' Way Too Damn Good sounds like Nickelback's other hits but the distance between the song's claim of happiness and Kroeger's cold, narcissistic delivery make it odder and even more unpleasant than most of their work. Kroeger claims to be feeling good but there's no joy in the song. Kroeger's tight, harsh singing make the lines about convincing his woman to "fly here and see me" and making love in the shower seem like crude boasts instead of indications of affection. Feelin' Way Too Good's music is typically formulaic. The verses have meaningfully banged drums and strummed guitars. They're kept quiet so we can appreciate the rugged emotion of Kroeger's vocal. Feelin' Way Too Damn Good is built around its chorus. The chorus resembles the thuddingly obvious climaxes for songs like Someday. Drums boom to tell us we've reached the hook. Power chords slowly underline Kroeger's voice then predictably join with the drums to make a big, dramatic noise. Feelin' Way Too Damn Good is terrible. It's a particularly cynical construction. On Feelin' Way Too Damn Good, Kroeger tells us that usually when he falls in love, he finds "my heart face down." Things are going so well now that he feels "like I'm constantly dreaming." For his girlfriend's sake, I hope Kroeger is warmer and less predictable and self centered as a partner than he is as a singer/songwriter.

  3. Velvet Revolver-Slither    (down 1 position)      buy it!
    Velvet Revolver was put together by former Guns N' Roses guitar player Slash, bass player Duff McKagan and drummer Matt Sorum. They tried different singers then got together with Stone Temple Pilots' Scott Weiland for Set Me Free, for the Hulk soundtrack. The guys got along and after STP broke up, probably because of Weiland's drug use, Weiland was available for a full time gig. Weiland was invited, even if that meant interrupting recording for Weiland's court dates and rehab stay. Slither indicates that Velvet Revolver's members are working pretty well together. Slither, from the band's Contraband CD, is no nonsense hard rock with a classic feel. Slash is Slither's star, making all sorts of exciting sounds. Slash plays a memorable, tough central riff that, along with Sorum's dependable pounding and Dave Kushner's chunky, driving rhythm line, keeps Slither racing forward. Slash's fun, showy solo is reminiscent of ones he did on songs like Sweet Child O' Mine. While he can be a jerk and a screwup, Weiland is a good rock singer. Weiland stays focused and shows his ability to do be tough and slithery. He doesn't have Axl Rose's flamboyance. After Slash's solo, you half expect Rose's piercing shriek and it's a bit of a disappointment when, instead, you get Weiland sounding a bit like The Cult's Ian Astbury in a bad mood. Slither might not reach the same transcendence as Guns N' Roses' best songs but it is tight, vibrant hard rock. On Slither, Weiland sings about someone who destroys him, keeps him under her finger and cuts the rope and brings him to his knees. Weiland still sees "pleasure in my mind" and a chance to "wash away the sins of you and I."

  4. Jet-Cold Hard Bitch    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Are You Gonna Be My Girl, the big hit from Jet's Get Born CD, seems like a tribute to late 60s/early 70s psychedelic rock by bands like The Faces and The Stones. With crunching guitar reminiscent of fellow Australians AC/DC, Cold Hard Bitch shows a different, harder side of Jet's music. Jet only want Cold Hard Bitch to be big, tough, stupid hard rock and they reach that goal. Nic Cester shows that he's knows, from repeat listens to You Shook Me All Night Long and Highway To Hell, how to play tight, blugeoning power chords. Cam Muncey has the voice to carry off Cold Hard Bitch. His ragged but assertive howl is strong enough to fight with the guitars and have enough left for a Daltreyesqe climactic wail. Cold Hard Bitch has the stirring power of good simple arena rock. It's effective but dopey. Cold Hard Bitch brings to mind The Darkness' ridiculously faithful reenactments of 70s rock. The Darkness make their songs, especially I Believe In A Thing Called Love, work by lovingly mocking the music they skillfully bring back to life. Muncey's punctuating yeahs and the too provocative to be serious title imply that Cold Hard Bitch is a bit of a goof. But the joke isn't as fun or inclusive as The Darkness'. Cold Hard Bitch is best appreciated as well made, no frills head banging rock. Cold Hard Bitch's title is apparently meant as a compliment. Muncey sings that at first she was "just a kiss on the lips" then "I was on my knees" waiting for her.

  5. Seether featuring Amy Lee-Broken    (up 1 position)      buy it!
    Last year two songs from Seether's 2002 Disclaimer CD, Fine Again and Driven Under, were rock radio hits. Thanks to an appearance by Amy Lee, Evanescence's hot goth pop rocker, the South African band have their first mainstream hit. A new version of Broken, a Disclaimer song, is on the soundtrack of The Punisher. It's also on Disclaimer 2, which adds previously unreleased tracks to the original CD. Broken is more proof that there's a mediocre folk rocker lurking inside many of today's mediocre hard rockers. Broken is another shameless grab by a rock band for an emotive hit. Broken reminds me of Evanescence's monster hit Bring Me To Life. It doesn't have that song's rap metal elements but it similarly piles on sounds meant to guarantee a hit. Broken has a cliched rock ballad opening: a sensitively picked acoustic guitar. Shaun Morgan soon comes in with a subdued and earnest but intense vocal. The genre's conventions dictate that the sound must keep growing. By Broken's conclusion, Morgan and Lee pour their hearts out and violins play with a ferocity that's overdone even by rock ballad standards. Broken also makes me think of Bother, Stone Sour's hypersensitive 2003 hit. Broken isn't quite as drab and dour as that song. Morgan's pinched, showy singing isn't good or interesting but Lee makes him seem a little better. As on Evanescence's music, Lee is overdramatic but she is a good singer who gives Broken more warmth that the usual introspective rock ballad. Like so much contemporary rock, Broken has a troubled protagonist. Broken does convey a desire to move past the trouble. Broken's character wants to steal his partner's pain away, tell her "I love the way you laugh" and be open but he doesn't have the strength yet. He's even worse "when you're away." Lee sings in the more optimistic second verse, "the worse is over" now that he's with someone who can take his pain away and "there's so much left to learn and no one left to fight. Broken isn't much different from so many rock ballads. It's alternatively boring and bombastic but it's got a bit of heart and it's not the worst the form can offer.

  6. Three Days Grace-Just Like You    (up 4 positions)      buy it!
    Just Like You is the second chart hit from Three Days Grace's self titled debut CD. Featuring Adam Gontier's ranting, I Hate Everything About You, Three Days Grace's multiformat hit, was pretty obnoxious but it was also incredibly catchy. Just Like You is mostly just obnoxious. Just Like You is well constructed, like a cynical rocker by fellow Canadiens Nickelback. With Gontier's power chords slamming in between his howls, the barrage of hard, intense sounds never abates. Young male rock fans will probably enjoy the testosterone charged head banging but Just Like You is unlikely to approach I Hate Everything About You's mainstream success. Just Like You is harsh, repetitive and unappealing. Just Like You's lyric doesn't have Everything About You's ambivalence. It's plain nasty. Gontier accuses an unnamed you, who was supposed to be "there to guide me", of being "mean", "fake", "stupid", "cold", "ruthless" and "weak."

  7. Modest Mouse-Float On    (up 4 positions)      buy it!
    Float On is a breakthrough hit for Modest Mouse, who formed in Issaquah, Washington more than a decade ago. Modest Mouse's Good News For People Who Love Bad News is a good and interesting CD. Isaac Brock uses different voices, including odd ones, and writes lyrics that are often wacky and bizarre. The rock songs on Good News take all sorts of forms. Without actually sounding like Pavement, they bring to mind that band's(as well as Flaming Lips' and Pixies') unpredictable, exploring rock. On a couple songs, Brock sounds like Talking Heads' David Byrne. Float On is the CD's closest Heads soundalike. Like a good Talking Heads song, Float On is weird but also sounds good and has an irresistible groove. Brock does the Byrne thing of sounding overwhelmed and a little crazy but also communicating a sense of wonder. With Brock's deliberate diction and Benjamin Weikel's shuffling beat keeping the song marching forward, Float On's strange, joyful ride reminds me of Road To Nowhere. Terrific, compact guitar riffs give the song added momentum. Spacy sonic effects accentuate the song's dreamlike feel. Float On has a great opening line. After backing into to a cop car, Brock decides that "sometimes life's OK" when the cop just drives off. Determining that the good comes with the bad, Brock looks on the bright side. "A fake Jamaican took every last dime" with a scam but Brock says "it was worth it just to learn some sleight of hand." Brock's cockeyed optimism mixes with Float On's gleeful music to produce one of the best singles of the year.

  8. Linkin Park-Lying From You    (down 1 position)      buy it!
    Male teens can't get enough earnest, troubled screeds. Meteora is another multiplatinum record for Linkin Park. Lying From You is Meteora's fourth chart hit. Lying From You is nothing new for Linkin Park. Mike Shinoda rapping is again pretty mediocre. Maybe the white kids appreciate the fact that he tries really hard and the fact that, unlike talented rappers, he has an awkward delivery that makes him sounds like one of them. Chester Bennington's howling is more interesting and skilled but it's the same old raving. His rage has long since lost its shock value. Bennington wailing "youuuuu" is so unsurprising and so much like his rants on other songs that it seems like self parody. Lying From You's sci-fi synths and guitars, processed with post production help from Pro Tools software, also sound kind of familiar but at least they lend a sense of drama to a song that's otherwise has a fill in the blanks sameness. Lying From You is about a person who faked a persona to make a relationship work. He "can't pretend I'm who you want me to be." Partly to protect her from "the criminal I am", he decides "I wanna be pushed aside."

  9. Shinedown-45    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Shinedown are another band playing derivative neo-grunge rock. 45 is from the Florida band's Leave A Whisper CD. 45's lyric is melodramatic even by the standard of rockers about troubled young guys. Brent Smith sings about a young man who "slowly fell apart", his "heart swallowed by pain." Smith's character is an always condemned young man who thinks "nobody knows what I believe." Since he has "no real reason to accept the way things have changed", he's "staring down the barrel of a .45."

  10. Incubus-Talk Show On Mute    (up 4 positions)      buy it!
    The release of Megalomaniac as A Crow Left Of The Murder's first single implied that the newer record would have a harder edge than Incubus' previous CDs. It wasn't very well developed and Brandon Boyd's ranting was a little crazy but Megalomaniac had an energy and anger that was encouraging coming from the often laid back rock band. Talk Show On Mute shows that Crow Left Of The Murder doesn't completely lack the pleasant, spacy, mellow rockers that dominated the band's recent work. Talk Show On Mute has an easy, genial mood. It floats along inoffensively and has a decent flow. But even less happens on Talk Show On Mute than on other relaxed, midtempo songs like Drive, Wish You Were Here and Warning. Talk Show On Mute betrays a bit of narcissism on Boyd's part. The arrangement focuses on Boyd's vocal. The band is deferential to the point that it seems to have been decided that nothing musically interesting can interfere with appreciation of Boyd's brilliant lyric. To be fair to Boyd, his singing isn't narcissistic. He tries to sound humble to the point that his singing doesn't show any personality. Talk Show On Mute's music is smooth and well played but it's also pretty boring. On Talk Show On Mute, Boyd compares our society to the world in Orwell's 1984. His beef is with a country narcoticized by homogenized, cynically manufactured entertainment that pays "an audience to care." His solution is apparently to realize that "there's so much more." Unfortunately, Boyd's message is undermined by his bland, unvaried croon.

  11. Usher-Burn    (up 2 positions)      buy it!
    I feel that Usher Raymond's music isn't quite good enough to justify its remarkable success. Nonetheless, Usher's impressive roll continues. Yeah!, a competently made and fairly exciting but unamazing and not very original dance song, spent a number of weeks at number one on the pop chart. Burn, the second single from the Confessions CD, returns Usher to the style that brought him many of his hits. Burn is a slow jam with a sensitive vocal. Before releasing Confessions, Usher ended his relationship with TLC's Chilli. Burn is one of Confessions' many breakup songs. Usher tells a woman that he doesn't want to leave her but "it's better for me to let it go now than hold on and hurt you." Though he claims it's best for both of them, he blames her because "I don't think you're gonna change" and admits he's doing it because "I'm hurting baby" and "there's so many other things I gotta deal with." Burn's twist is that by the second verse, they're apart and he's decided he's "made a mistake" and he'll "be burnin' 'til you return." Burn suffers by moving up the pop charts along with Mario Winans' I Don't Wanna Know, another slow, quiet jam with a wounded lover. Burn is well made but not as striking or original as I Don't Wanna Know. Burn, cowritten and produced by Jermaine Dupri and Brian Cox, sounds good. It has a crisp, unobtrusive beat. Burn's music and effects add flavor but stay inobtrusive and fit the song's sad, subdued mood. Usher's singing is pretty good. He shows emotion but doesn't go over the top. Still, Burn is a bit superficial and predictable and it's hard to be too concerned about Usher's dilemmas.

  12. JoJo-Leave(Get Out)    (up 9 positions)      buy it!
    JoJo, born Joanna Levesque, got her first big break in 1996 as a six year old when she impressively sang Respect on Bill Cosby's Kids Say The Darnedest Things On The Road in her Boston hometown. On Leave JoJo's voice, which presumably got a studio touchup, is unamazing and not particularly distinctive but fine. She's a bit soulful and sounds older than 13, JoJo's age when she recorded her self titled debut CD. Jojo gets a chance to let loose on Leave's dramatic bridge, which sounds like it's copped from a Christina Aguilera song. Leave(Get Out), produced by Soulshock & Karlin, sounds like a lot of light dance pop. It has the acoustic guitar sound which has become nearly ubiquitous on songs like Jessica Simpson's With You. With its steady, unassuming beat, Leave's backing has the smooth, relaxed flow of songs by Craig David, one of the artists Soulshock & Karlin have worked with. Leave gets a bit of flavor from appropriately bratty backup singers yelling "Leave". But it mostly goes by pleasantly and easily. It's a big hit partly because it's easy for JoJo's young fans to get but it's not so stupid that it turns off older listeners. On Leave, Jo Jo tells the boy who "promised me forever" to leave after she finds out he lied and has been seeing another girl. Her "heart is breakin' " but she refuses to cry.

  13. Britney Spears-Everytime    (up 3 positions)      buy it!
    Helped by a flashy video depicting Britney, driven by media intrusions and a jerk of a Justin-like boyfriend, contemplating suicide in a bath; Everytime is Britney's third hit from her In The Zone CD. Everytime confirms that, after the mediocre showings of the singles from Britney's self titled third record, Spears is a big hit maker again. Following Toxic, Everytime is her second big one in a row. Everytime isn't nearly as good as Toxic's sleek, fun, futuristic dance pop. Everytime isn't particularly interesting but it's fine. The quiet ballad with just a voice and ballad is an appealing form and Everytime is a decent example. Guy Sigsworth, who has worked with Bjork and Madonna(on Music's What It Feels Like For A Girl), produced Everytime. He kept it simple, playing a basic, quite poignant piano line. Sigsworth wisely didn't push Britney. Her vocal stays quiet. It's probably cleaned it up so it's harder to discern how thin and stiff it is. A better singer would have made Everything more compelling. Still, Spears' singing is heartfelt and unembarrassing. Everytime was written by Britney and her backup singer Annette Stamatelatos Artani. It has some bad school girl poetry, like the stuff about trying to fly and falling because she doesn't have her wings, but it's mostly kind of sweet. Britney has strong love for a guy who wants to "carry on without me" after she caused him pain. She prays that his face will fade away but guesses "I need you baby" because his face is "haunting me" and she can't fly on her own. Everything isn't great and it doesn't show Britney can sing but it delivers a sincere message in an unshowy way her young fans will love.

  14. Beastie Boys-Ch-Check It Out    (up 3 positions)      buy it!
    Ch-Check It Out is on To The 5 Boroughs, Beastie Boys' first new CD in six years. The Beasties are in their late 30s and have been recording for more than two decades. On Ch-Check It Out, they still seem like kids, goofing around, having a good time and trying to impress us with their rhymes as if they have something to prove. Ch-Check It Out is notably old school. It resembles previous hits like Intergalactic and So What Cha Want and shows little connection with contemporary rap. Ch-Check It Out sounds like a typical Beasties song but it's a well made one. A good, steady beat and a repeated, emphatic sound effect establish an exhilarating context for the barrage of raps. The raps are tightly edited and the rappers come on fast and confidently. Ch-Check It Out's energy never flags. Ch-Check It Out's lyrics are mostly willfully silly boasts but they're also fresh and funny enough to be consistently enjoyable. MCA, his voice sounding rougher than ever, opens by reminding us "I didn't retire." He threatens to snatch up detractors "with the needle nose pliers." Mike D still comes on like a prankish, showing off kid. He oddly brags "like Lorne Greene, you know I get paid" and compares himself to a Caprese salad with basil and to Nick at nite("with classics rerunning that you know all right"). Ad Rock thanks his friends and family for putting him in check "when I think I'm too good" and says "I'm no better than you, except when I rap." But he also works "magic like a magician" and has class "like pink champale." Ch-Check It Out is nothing new but it's a very fun statement that The Beasties still matter and are still making exciting music.

  15. Outkast-Roses    (up 3 positions)      buy it!
    The Love Below, Andre 3000's half of Outkast's phenomenally successful two disc set, is filled with skits, experiments and playing around. But in the middle of The Love Below's oddities are two terrific, catchy singles: Hey Ya and Roses. Roses isn't quite the force of nature that Hey Ya is but it's got a good groove and a fun, playful sound. Roses has a good, steady beat and lots of nice touches. I like the way Killer Mike goofily echoes Andre 3000's vocal. Kevin Kendricks plays organ and synths that are part 70s retro hip and part roller rink and Casio keyboard cheese. Roses sounds like a jaunty love song but it's actually one long, mischievous dis. It's got to be the first big pop hit ever with the line "I know you'd like to think your shit don't stink." Andre tells us Caroline is "the reason for the word bitch." He hopes that as she speeds to see a "baller or singer" at a club, she'll try to put on her makeup and "crash into a ditch." The song fades out with Andre repeatedly calling Caroline a "crazy bitch." The Love Below and Speakerboxx are basically two solo discs but Roses is one song with major contributions from both Outkast members. Big Boi does a fast, cool, controlled rap. He joins in the piling on, calling Caroline a freak who gets "geeked at the sight of ATM receipts." The lyric is pretty unappealing and harsh but Roses' music is so high spirited and frolicsome that Roses leaves a mostly sweet smell.

  16. Lenny Kravitz-Where Are We Runnin' ?    (down 11 positions)      buy it!
    Dig In, from Lenny Kravitz' 2001 Lenny CD, was a pretty perfect piece of psychedelic rock. It was tight and fun. It showed its influences but sounded fresh. Where Are We Runnin', from Kravitz new Baptism CD, is a lot like Dig In but not as perfect. Where Are We Runnin' isn't as developed as Dig In. It's really just a couple of guitar riffs. In some ways, Where Are We Runnin' is just an uninspired classic rock pastiche. As on many Kravitz songs, Sly Stone's anarchic spirit is present. But, especially when Kravitz does a spoken part, the odor of BTO's stale 70's hit Takin' Care Of Business is there too. The start of each verse also resembles ZZ Top's Sharp Dressed Man. Where Are We Runnin' isn't very original but it is mostly enjoyable. Where Are We Runnin' is an unpretentious retro rocker. It doesn't have the attitude of some Kravitz songs. Like Dig In, Where Are We Runnin' has a big, buoyant beat. It also has a fun, fuzzy metallic guitar sound. Where Are We Runnin' is a little like Are You Gonna Go My Way. It doesn't have that song's energy but it also doesn't have that song's sense that Kravitz is showing off that he can replicate his guitar heroes' moves. Where Are We Runnin' is short, simple decent guitar rock. On Where Are We Runnin', Kravitz decides that a life "chasin' the money" in the fast lane is "cloggin' up our soul" and that "we need some time to clear our heads."

  17. Beyonce-Naughty Girl    (down 2 positions)      buy it!
    Beyonce Knowles continues her impressive run with Naughty Girl, the fourth hit from her Dangerously In Love CD. Naughty Girl apparently won't match Crazy In Love and Baby Boy, which went to #1 on the pop charts, but after a dip with Me, Myself and I, it brings Beyonce back near the top of the top 40. Naughty Girl was produced by Beyonce with Scott Storch who did Baby Boy, Pink's Family Portrait, Justin Timberlake's Cry Me A River and Christina Aguilera's Fighter and Can't Hold Us Down. Naughty Girl doesn't have a lot of heart but it sounds good. Like Baby Boy, Naughty Girl uses exotic sounds to give a good but not great song more edge. Beyonce and Storch constructed a sensual sound that matches Naughty Girl's come ons. Over a brittle beat, Naughty Girl repeats a tense riff with icy synth interjections for additional tension. Backing vocals join Beyonce for whispered enticements. Naughty Girl is obviously inspired by Donna Summer's Love To Love You Baby, which Naughty Girl liberally quotes. It's always a bit of a tease when a pop star claims she's available for sex. But Beyonce is different from Summer. Summer always seemed to believe the fantasy that she wanted to sleep with you. On Naughty Girl, as usual, Beyonce seems somewhat distanced and calculated. She makes it clear that she's a tease. A mediocre rap (including a line about wanting a naughty girl not a good one and one about wanting a relationship not a one night stand) by Houston's rising star Lil' Flip emphasizes that Naughty Girl is a performance, not a depiction of a real erotic encounter. But Beyonce's juxtaposition of seduction and reserve still works. Beyonce does a very sexy vocal. Beyonce does a pretty good sales job, kind of sounding like she means it when she sings about "feeling sexy" and wanting to "hear you say my name." But while saying "the rhythm's got me feelin' so crazy", she's leaves no doubt that she's in control and she'll decide if "I just might take you home." Though it's product from an artist who makes it clear that she makes her decisions with her brain, not her hormones, Naughty Girl is charged and alluring.

  18. Slipknot-Duality    (up 2 positions)      buy it!
    Slipknot has sold millions of records but until now they were only vaguely known by a lot of people as those hard rockers from Iowa who do concerts with scary masks on. Singer Corey Taylor and guitar player James Root's side project Stone Sour had a hit with Bother, a terrible emotive ballad, but Duality is Slipknot's first top 50 hit. On Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses, Slipknot put a little more focus on melody but still rock hard. It's unlikely that many accuse them of selling out. Duality is fairly effective hard rock. Duality efficiently sets a threatening mood with an introduction that has Taylor singing wobbily over a forboding piano and no guitars. Soon, guitars are crunching, speeding, roaring and simulating jack hammers. Duality has a catchy hook with Taylor's muscular vocal over a bed of power chords. Duality has good variety, shifting between Taylor ranting, his smoother singing on the chorus and spoken sections. Slipknot's thrashing, raging music often resembles Korn's. On Duality, the similarity is even more apparent than usual. The song's dark mood and Taylor's bark resemble Jonathan Davis' work. Duality's lyric also resembles Korn's tales songs of anger and self hatred. But it also seems less interesting and original. We don't need more songs about a young white guy's inner pain. Taylor's emoting, about how the pain is making him insane and that pushing "my fingers into eyes" is the only thing that slowly stops the ache, is more of the same. Duality's singing and lyric are often silly and excessive. But Duality's fast, edgily recited sections and constantly driving guitars keep it exciting and dramatic.

  19. Mario Winans featuring Enya and P.Diddy-I Don't Wanna Know    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Mario Winans' family have been among the biggest stars in gospel music for more than two decades. Mario left that world to pursue a career in r&b. Winans has appeared on hits by other people, including P. Diddy's I Need A Girl Pt. 2, but I Don't Wanna Know is his first hit as a lead singer. Among the showy, heavily produced songs on the radio, I Don't Wanna Know's stark, subdued sound stands out. A big part of I Don't Wanna Know's appeal comes from its haunting, elegant backing track. I Don't Wanna Know uses a sample from Enya's Boadicea(which Fugees also used on Ready Or Not). I Don't Wanna Know works because Winans' sad, restrained singing matches the backing track. I Don't Wanna Know is best when the muted Enya sample matches Winans' simple, unshowy vocal. It's worst when P. Diddy shows up. Winans records for Diddy's Bad Boy label. That's the only explanation for using P. Diddy's rap. Diddy destroys I Don't Wanna Know's delicate sound. He sounds even more awkward, complacent and unmelodic than usual. Hopefully, Diddy's Broadway acting is smoother and subtler. I Don't Wanna Know's stark arrangement, with a big, simple beat and sadly atmospheric backing, brings Bruce Springsteen's poignant Philadelphia to mind. Winans' sincere reading of the title reminds me of James Ingram's sappy but sweet I Don't Have The Heart. I Don't Wanna Know presents Winans as sad and pathetic. Because a yes would be too painful, Winans can't bring himself to ask his girlfriend if she's cheating. If she's "playin' me", he'd prefer that she'd "keep it to yourself." P. Diddy doesn't have time for such delicacy. He says he knows "my love you abusin'." His strategy for keeping a woman is reminding her that he "put you in the SUV", and gave her so much ice, "I made you freeze." Except for P. Diddy's intrusion, I Don't Wanna Know works. I Don't Wanna Know makes Winans sound like a loser but it has a striking, appealing sound.

  20. Maroon 5-This Love    (down 12 positions)      buy it!
    Maroon 5 used to make bouncy alternative pop as Kara's Flowers. When their records didn't sell very well, they retooled and came back, with nearly the same personnel, as Maroon 5. The makeover worked. This Love is Maroon 5's second big hit from their debut Songs About Jane CD. Harder To Breathe was slick pop with a good hook but it struck me as cynical and cold. This Love was also carefully constructed with an eye on the pop charts but it's a little looser and warmer. This Love reminds me of the perky 70s pop of The Partridge Family and others. This Love's scratchy guitar riff, keyboards and steady beat give it a bouncy sound. Adam Levine's singing is a bit narcissistic but it's mostly relaxed and playful. Levine sings that a relationship with a girlfriend who acts like love is "a game, pretending to feel the same then turn around and leave again" is taking its toll. But on This Love's buoyant bridge he vows to keep making "sure everything's alright", " 'cause I know that's what you want me to do." This Love is disposable but very well made and charming pop.

  21. Counting Crows-Accidentally In Love    (up 17 positions)      buy it!
    Hard Candy, Counting Crows' last studio record, didn't yield any big hits. Since that record's release the band has had a bit of a mainstream resurgence with three poppy songs: their cover of Big Yellow Taxi on the Two Weeks Notice soundtrack; She Don't Want Nobody Near from the band's best of CD and now Accidentally In Love, the band's biggest hit since the 90's. Accidentally In Love landed a sought after slot on the soundtrack to Shrek 2, one of 2004's biggest movies. Accidentally In Love isn't as sure a thing to appeal to the 2 to 12 crowd as Shrek 1's featured songs: Smash Mouth's All Star and I'm a Believer cover. Still, Accidentally In Love's sunny simplicity is well suited to open a cheerful kids movie. Accidentally In Love isn't too complicated for preteens to digest and it's easy to bop to. Counting Crows have always done upbeat mid tempo rockers. Accidentally In Love resembles Rain King, Einstein On The Beach and Daylight Fading. Accidentally In Love has a tight, likable central guitar riff of the sort that modestly improved a number of Counting Crows rockers. Counting Crows' lighter songs are generally their best because of their buoyant mood and because they discourage Adam Duritz from his ponderous, self important mode. Duritz can be a skilled and, sometimes, even an appealing singer. On Accidentally In Love, Duritz is smooth and relaxed. Accidentally In Love is pretty superficial but it's warm and charmingly perky. With bright, full backing vocals, sturdy drumming and a string of shiny guitar sounds, Accidentally In Love's high spirits build and keep coming. Accidentally In Love is steadily joyful and beguiling. Accidentally In Love has a goofy, giddy lyric. Duritz initially sings "I don't know nothin' 'bout love" and refers to love as a problem that needs a cure. Soon, he decides "there's no escaping your love" and he surrenders, singing about sunlight, blue skies and strawberry ice cream.

  22. Switchfoot-Meant To Live    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Switchfoot, a band formed in San Diego by the Foreman brothers, are the latest artists to cross over from the Christian music world to success on the pop charts. Switchfoot have tried out some different sounds and seem to have decided on a grungy rock style. I'm naturally prejudiced against the many recent bands who borrow the big but melodic guitar rock sound of Nirvana and their contemporaries but, on Meant To Live, Switchfoot do a pretty good job. Meant To Live's guitar line is largely lifted from Smells Like Teen Spirit(especially Kurt Cobain's guitar's tic as he leaves the chorus). It also sounds like Smashing Pumpkin's Cherub Rock . But Meant To Live doesn't show the commercial cynicism or over the top hostility of a lot of the music by today's grunge fans. Jonathan Foreman makes a big, pure guitar sound that reminds me of interesting mid 90s atmospheric guitar rockers Hum. Meant To Live, from Switchfoot's The Beautiful Letdown CD, isn't as showy as much contemporary rock. Foreman's vocal avoids the nastiness and vanity of the many modern rock singers obsessed by unfaithful girlfriends and/or a world that doesn't understand them. He also doesn't haven't have the self righteousness of a faith obsessed singer like Creed's Scott Stapp. Besides encouraging the idea of not replaying "the wars of our fathers"(good luck on that), the lyric doesn't give many specifics on how we can "live for so much more." Given the band's religious focus and the lines about how everything "screams for second life" and about wanting "more than this world's got to offer", Meant To Live seems like a call to get in touch with a higher power.

  23. Usher-Yeah    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Yeah, from Usher's Confessions CD, is pretty good dance music. The problem with Yeah is that I feel like I've heard it before. Yeah very closely resembles Get Low. That similarity is not surprising, since Yeah was cowritten and co produced by Get Low vocalist/writer/producer Jonathan "Lil' Jon" Smith. Yeah has a good, catchy synth riff but that riff is nearly identical to Get Low's. Yeah doesn't have Get Low's raucous energy. It has a more polished sound than Get Low. Usher's vocal is fine if fairly innocuous. Yeah is apparently an attempt to give Usher, whose previous hits have been fairly mild, a harder image. Still, Yeah needs some flavor and benefits from Lil Jon's interjections and Ludacris' edgier, less controlled vocal. In a lyric that apparently alludes to his breakup with TLC's Chilli, Usher sings on Yeah about being seduced, somewhat reluctantly, in a club by a "shorty" who turns out to be "best of homies" with Usher's girl. Ludacris takes over at the end and abandons the plot line. In his verse, he brags about his Jag, his Rolls, his three hundred thousand dollar pinky ring and about how he "won't stop 'til I get 'em in they birthday suits." Ludacris' rap is stupid and typical but he gives Yeah some excitement to go with its killer riff. Yeah is well made and sounds fine but it doesn't do much to improve Get Low. In a reminder of the benefits of a familiar sound and a known star with a pretty face, Yeah is an even bigger hit than Get Low was.

  24. Christina Milian-Dip It Low    (up 2 positions)      buy it!
    Christina Milian has already had an impressive career. She's appeared on a bunch of TV shows and movies including Love Don't Cost A Thing and cowrote Jennifer Lopez's song Play. Now Dip It Low, from her second CD It's About Time, is her biggest hit as a singer. Dip It Low was coproduced and cowritten by Polli Paul, who has worked with Black Eyed Peas but otherwise doesn't seem to have much of a resume. Dip It Low has a very effective sound. It's based around a sample of an exotic, Asian-sounding stringed instrument. Dip It Low also has a good thumping, sliding beat that speeds up to exciting effect on the chorus. Milian adds to Dip It Low's sensual feel with a delicate, confident vocal that's nicely draped in well matched backing vocals. Dip It Low's lyric is Milian's advise on "how to make your man say oh." She tells a friend to "take your time" and "make him wait for you", "meet him at the door with nothin' on" and, most importantly, "know just how to move." Along with the words, Milian's cool, controlled voice offers some instruction on seduction. The only thing on Dip It Low that doesn't really work is Fabolous' rap. He has decent wordplay but his low energy, self satisfied approach makes him seem like he's not worth Milian's effort.

  25. Mis-teeq-Scandalous    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Mis-teeq are three women(Su-Elise Nash, Sabrina Washington and Alesha Anjanette Dixon) who got together in London in the late 90s. Mis-teeq have been scoring hits in England for more than three years. Scandalous is on Mis-teeq's self titled US debut CD, which includes their UK hits. British critics have compared Mis-teeq to Destiny's Child. Before I hear more of their music, I'll say the resemblance to Spice Girls is at least as strong. Scandalous was produced by the Norwegian Stargate team(Mikkel Eriksen, Tor Erik Hermansen and Hallgeir Rustan) who have had light dance pop hits in England with S Club 7 and Samantha Mumba. Scandalous sounds like other European imitations of American hip hop that don't quite get it right. With its steady beat and synth riff and vaguely threatening sound effects, Scandalous is slickly efficient with a bit of edge. It also is synthetic, cold and repetitive. The vocals are similarly icy. The women seem like competent singers but their attempts to seem tough comes across a little fakey. They claim "you should be scared of us" but Scandalous' lyric isn't daring enough to justify the song's confrontational attitude. It's just a song about a guy with "looks to kill" whose "touch gives me chills" and "got me feelin' weak." The female character only really asserts herself during a bridge when she asks him for "a little conversation" and to "show a little patience." Scandalous moves well and has a decent forboding atmosphere but it's also silly and overdramatic.

Songs 26-50


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