Dance With Me - Debelah Morgan
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #36 (Dec. 2000) buy it!
The title track from the Dance With Me CD is a bit bizarre but it probably works O.K. on the dance floor. With its insistent violin, Dance With Me is a little like Marc Anthony's I Need To Know but the recent hit it most resembles is Sonique's It Feels So Good. Both are throwbacks to the dopey hits of the late 70's. Dance With Me is eerily like a hit from the peak of the disco craze in its use of a gimmick, an arrangement based on the tango Hernando's Hideaway from the Broadway musical The Pajama Game, and its very simple lyrics extolling the benefits of dancing. Morgan's singing is pretty good but the words are moronic with every cliche you could imagine including, "the night is young and so are we", "when we hit the floor you'll be asking for more" and "I feel the music inside."
Dare You To Move - Switchfoot
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #38 (July 2004) buy it!
Dare You To Move is the second chart hit from The Beautiful Letdown CD by the Christian rockers from San Diego. On Dare You To Move, Jonathan Foreman encourages someone who's been through a tough time to get up and try to be "who you could be." The lyric is heavy with non specific, religious advice, telling the person to seek redemption, forgiveness and salvation. Fortunately, Dare You To Move doesn't feel as sanctimonious as the lyric makes it seems. Dare You To Move isn't as rousing as Meant To Live, Switchfoot's big hit, which used the big, melodic guitar sound of bands like Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins. But Dare You To Move, despite its epic intentions, sounds more personal than Switchfoot's previous hit. Moving slowly and maintaining a clear, open sound, Dare You To Move gains anthemic force. Foreman's voice is focused and ungimmicky. He projects warm purity. A jangly guitar riff carries Dare You To Move forward on the verses then on the chorus power chords boom, echoing the idealistic ambition of Foreman's vocal. The sound builds in fairly predictable rock ballad ways, as strings come in and the drum sound builds for a big finish. Dare You To Move uses a bunch of cliched rock sounds. It isn't as stirring as the yearning U2 ballads it seems modeled on. I find its overt proselytizing offputting. Still, Dare You To Move is powerful and it has a thoughtful, optimistic sound that's unusual in contemporary rock.
Darling Nikki - Foo Fighters
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: #49 (Feb. 2004) buy it!
The cover of Prince's Darling Nikki was meant as a throwaway. It's an extra track on the CD single for Have It All, an unremarkable, typical Foo Fighters rocker which is the fourth single from the pretty bad One By One CD. Radio prefers the b-side to the a-side. Darling Nikki, on the Purple Rain soundtrack, showcased Prince's irresistable cockiness, his love of racy, sexual subject matter and his ability to create a striking sound. The stark verses featured just Prince's mischievous voice and a muted bass drum beat. The chorus had an icy sound. Its industrial crunch, along with the story of an encounter with "a sex fiend", has apparently made it a long time favorite at strip clubs(where Dave Grohl presumably got the idea for the cover). Foo Fighters' version is less subtle and less distinctive. Grohl beefs up the beat, making the music more rocking but less interesting. He also adds rock guitar of the sort that Prince used to play but, seeking a cool, erotic beat and synths sound, didn't use on Darling Nikki. Its worse addition is a bloated ending with Grohl screaming and playing showy guitar lines. Otherwise, it's fairly respectful and not too bad. Grohl shows some of Prince's playfulness, pronouncing masturbating in the whitest way possible. Grohl kept the lyric, which has twists including the discovery that if you want Nikki to grind, you have to "sign on the dotted line" and the ego stoking ending where she thanks him "for a funky time." Since it was apparently done as a goof and didn't turn out too bad, it's hard to be too tough on Foo Fighters' mediocre version. Still, it best serves as a reminder of Prince's early to mid 80's golden age and as encouragement to dust off, or buy, his wicked, wildly creative records.
Days Go By - Dirty Vegas
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #24 (July 2002) buy it!
Days Go By follows Start The Commotion by becoming a hit dance song after appearing in a Mitsubishi commercial. Dirty Vegas is an British electronic dance group featuring producers/lead musicians Paul Harris and Ben Harris and singer Steve Smith. With a mechanical techno beat and a vocoder effect that's been used in lots of trashy eurodisco songs, as well as Cher's Believe, Days Go By is nothing new but it's well made and has a more substantial feel than many dance songs. Days Go By effectively matches its starkness and the iciness the vocoder gives Smith's voice to its tale of days long bouts of romantic obsession. Days Go By's beats and haunting synths get people on the dance floor and, like classic mixes of songs by people like New Order and Bjork, create an interesting, ominous atmosphere.
Days Of The Week - Stone Temple Pilots
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #7 (Aug. 2001) buy it!
A year and a half after releasing their reunion CD, No. 4, Stone Temple Pilots are back. The short, unassuming Days Of The Week is the first single from Shangri-La Dee Da. Like On Down, Dean DeLeo plays good crunching power chords but Days Of The The Weak also has the fun feel of Big Bang Baby and an easy flow that was largely missing from STP's more assertive, derivative early work. Scott Weiland's lyrics, listing the days to describe a difficult relationship with someone who often "thinks I'm the enemy", are typically minimal and not very insightful but his singing is good, strong but relaxed.
Deep Inside Of You - Third Eye Blind
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #15 (Sept. 2000) buy it!
Third Eye Blind try to make music that can fit on as many radio formats as possible from easy listening to alternative. So it's not surprising that they follow the punky Anything and mainstream rocker Never Let You Go with a pop ballad from their Blue CD. Deep Inside Of You is like their first record's How's It Gonna Be, pleasant and sincere but a little boring. Stephan Jenkins sings about loving a woman who's messing up his life.
Deep - Nine Inch Nails
Weeks on Chart: 1 Peak: #49 (June 2001) buy it!
Deep is from the soundtrack of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. It's not totally Trent Reznor's fault that Nine Inch Nails' music doesn't sound as fresh and striking as it once did. Many bands have borrowed from Reznor's harsh, dark sound. But Deep also sounds like other Nine Inch Nails music like Downward Spiral's Closer. It has an effective crunching beat and spooky sonic effect that don't overwhelm the generally stark feel. Still, Deep sounds very familiar, like lots of other songs about Reznor's troubled mind. He sings that "there's a big black hole gonna eat me up." But there's some optimism. He sings about taking a chance to make a rocky relationship work, trying to dig deep into his lover's feelings.
Defy You - The Offspring
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: #7 (Feb. 2002) buy it!
Defy You, from the soundtrack of the movie Orange County, is in the slower, more standard rock vein of Offspring hits like Self Esteem and Gone Away. One of the problems when The Offspring slow down from their standard post punk pace is that it's easier to understand their lyrics. Defy You's message is typically simplistic, trying to rally the kids by vowing to overcome a society that tries to "push me around." Dexter Holland vows "you cannot stop us, you cannot bring us down." While Defy You is obvious and very basic it does pack the simple thrills of a classic hard rocker. The Offspring slowly grind through with a good, big beat and solid bass line. Holland's yell and Noodles' crunching chords on the chorus have a primal rock and roll power.
Denial - Sevendust
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: #37 (Oct. 1999) buy it!
Denial, from the band's Home CD, is intense hard rock with big, forbidding guitars, similar to a lot of music on rock radio. The lyrics, about all the dishonest things his girlfriend said to him and how her bad acts will leave her alone, are particularly mean spirited. The best thing about Sevendust is singer Lajon Witherspoon who has more soul and is more distinctive than most new rock singers but is forced to scream and compete with the guitars.
Deny - Default
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: #11 (Aug. 2002) buy it!
Like their friends and fellow Canadian pop rockers Nickelback, Default are very serious and intense. Their music is even more generic and lacking in personality than Nickelback's. Like so many bands these days, Default sound like fans of Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains as they emulate those bands' big, ambitious guitar and drum sounds and add little of their own character. Dallas Smith, like Creed's Scott Stapp and so many others, is a deep voiced singer who delivers every proclamation with a fervent passion, as if every song is about a life and death matter and any hint of lightness or humor would detract from the vital importance of their message. Smith's voice is big and strong but it lacks of any subtlety or variety. On Deny, the second chart hit from the Fallout CD, Smith's voice, Jeremy Hora's power chords and Danny Craig's drums pound with sledgehammer obviousness. Deny has the big, yearning sound of Pearl Jam's Even Flow and a touch of Metallica's mix of heavy metal and mysticism around the edges. Nothing distinguishes it from the work of Default's predecessors. Deny's lyrics are of the "you ungrateful bitch" variety so popular with male teens. Smith tells the woman who split and left him in hell that after "I've done it all for you", "I'll never crawl to you."
Desert Rose - Sting
Weeks on Chart: 23 Peak: #15 (July 2000) buy it!
Desert Rose is a fairly high point in the mellower baby boomer stage of Sting's career. The title track from Sting's Brand New Day was a ridiculously optimistic look ahead to a new millennium. Desert Rose has more to it with good atmosphere from big percussion, Middle Eastern instruments and an introduction sung by an Arabic singer. There's not that much substance under the atmosphere and Sting can't help seeming like he's just dabbling in other cultures but the song, about being in the desert and dreaming of rain and dreaming of love as time rolls through his hands, has a nice, hallucinogenic feel.
Diamonds and Guns - Transplants
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: #48 (Jan. 2003) buy it!
Transplants are led by Rancid singer/guitar player Tim Armstrong and his pal Rob "SR" Aston and features Blink-182's Travis Barker on drums. Transplants self titled debut is anarchic fun. Diamonds and Guns has turned out to be a timely tribute to The Clash's Joe Strummer, who died late last year. Rancid's music clearly showed the influence of The Clash. Diamond And Guns, with its unpolished sound, jagged blasts of guitar and Armstrong's rough, slurred vocal evokes The Clash's looser music and seems like another sign of love for the band. The way Armstrong's singing alternates with Aston's cocky rap brings to mind the partnership of rocker Strummer and dance music fan Mick Jones. Both liked to bring elements of black music into their punk. With its positive energy and rollicking western flavored piano sample, Diamonds and Guns has a fun, goofy feel. Diamonds and Guns has a silly lyric that feels like a bad version of a Tarantino movie, with brags about "taking more shots than Karl Malone", showy evocations of drug dealers and philosophizing about the morality of cops, criminals and businessmen.
Diamonds On The Inside - Ben Harper
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: #32 (Oct. 2003) buy it!
I found With My Own Two Hands, the first chart hit from Ben Harper's Diamonds On The Inside's CD, annoying. With My Own Two Hands was an impressive recreation of the Bob Marley sound but it didn't have much distinctive personality and seemed kind of pointless. Diamonds On The Inside's title track is much more comfortable and appealing. Harper's music includes all sorts of different kinds of folk music. He seems comfortable with the country folk of Diamonds On The Inside, which has the genuine, comfortable feel of a song like The Band's The Weight. Harper is a natural charmer but he tries modesty on Diamonds On The Inside, which sounds a little like a restrained version of his Steal My Kisses. Nothing much happens on Diamonds On The Inside but it sounds good. Diamonds On The Inside is anchored by Harper's strong, simple vocal and a solid acoustic guitar line. It builds a bit towards the end with a good, unshowy guitar solo, warm harmonies and a touch of steel guitar but Diamonds On The Inside remains a likably easy ballad with a positive vibe. On Diamonds On The Inside, Harper sings about a girl named Truth who "was a horrible liar", had everything "but couldn't be satisfied." Harper is a little full of himself, advising us to "make sure the fortune that you seek is the fortune you need" but the lyric generally fits Diamonds On The Inside's good feel.
Did My Time - Korn
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #21 (Aug. 2003) buy it!
Did My Time is in the movie Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life but it's not on the movie's soundtrack. It's supposed to be on Korn's next record, which is due by the end of the year. Apparently, 2002's Untouchables, Korn's last record, was a disappointing seller and not a fan favorite. So the band is back in the studio promising that the new record will be more rocking and "not so overproduced." I've admired some of Korn's work for the band's ability to make music that rocks and has interesting atmosphere. But I'm certainly not a fan. Their music often seems silly and overdramatic. If Did My Time is a sign of what's to come, it looks like they're getting stupider and goofier. Did My Time is the same old tale of self loathing that Korn and other theatrical hard rock bands have done for years. It sounds like self parody when Jonathan Davis sings "I feel the anger changing me." He also intones familiar lines like "realize I can never win", "feel like I have failed" and "my mind is laughing at me." Davis' singing, a combination of barking, roaring and whining, is awful. Davis does a good job of communicating his agitation but it's unpleasant listening. Did My Time's music and playing is competent but it's not original or interesting. Hard rock guitars and drums crunch under Davis' vocal and create a typical dark atmosphere.
Die Another Day - Madonna
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #22 (Nov. 2002) buy 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.
Differences - Ginuwine
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: #45 (Jan. 2002) buy it!
There have long been smooth R&B lover men willing to show vulnerability to convince a woman they'll be a sensitive, caring partner. But on Differences, from his Life CD, Ginuwine(born Elgin Lumpkin) kind of strikes me as a wimp, especially in the context of the creepy video showing Ginuwine serenading and worshipping his dream girl in a glowing Heaven-like setting. Differences is nice but boring, stating over and over that "my whole life has changed" and "you are so sweet." Ginuwine's vocal is good, starting smoothly and ending intensely but Differences' music is ultra mellow. The soothing backing vocals and synths are a big yawn.
Dig In - Lenny Kravitz
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: #2 (Nov. 2001) buy it!
I've long disliked Kravitz' self satisfied, unimaginative classic rock ripoffs but I have to admit that Dig In, while still clearly showing the influence of Sly & The Family Stone and others, has an easy energy and is a lot of fun. Dig In's big beat and loose, echoey sound reminds me of ELO's homage to psychedelic era Beatles, Don't Bring Me Down. Dig In, from the Lenny CD, has a familiar message, urging us to experience life and enjoy ourselves, but its relaxed high spirits and tight, propulsive guitar line are even better at telling us to have a good time.
Digital Bath - The Deftones
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #43 (March 2001) buy it!
Digital Bath, the second chart hit from The Deftones' White Pony CD, is about an intense relationship. Like Change, Digital Bath is effectively spooky and atmospheric. For most of the song, the guitars and Chino Moreno's vocals hold back their fury and drums and keyboards create an edgy but restrained sound. It's powerful when the guitars are unleashed and Moreno lets out an anguished cry, "tonight, I feel like more."
Dilemma - Nelly featuring Kelly Rowland
Weeks on Chart: 21 Peak: #16 (Oct. 2002) buy it!
Dilemma is the Nellyville CD's ballad. I'd have thought that doing a tame, kind of sensitive song would hurt Nelly's tough guy rep but I guess he's done enough songs objectifying women and establishing his gangsta cred that Dilemma won't hurt his image much. Nelly competently works in a much more restrained mode than usual. Like his rapping, Nelly's singing is easy and fluid but he's so quiet and subdued that he's upstaged by Destiny's Child's Kelly Rowland. Nelly doesn't get to express his usual arrogance but Dilemma does stroke his ego. Rowland plays a woman who's with another man but is crazy over Nelly and always thinks about him. Nelly's character plays it cool, listening and waiting for his cue to make his move. Nelly has followed Hot In Herre, his first #1 pop hit, with another sure hit. Dilemma is based on a Patti Labelle song written by Kenny Gamble and Bunny Sigler. It has a classic, relaxed sound with a crisp, easy beat. Rowland's good, straight forward vocal is nicely underlined by inobtrusive chiming synths. The repeated "oh" sample reminds me of the version of This Woman's Work by Maxwell, a smooth singer I'd never think I'd compare to Nelly.
Dip It Low - Christina Milian
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #24 (July 2004) 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.
Dirrty - Christina Aguilera
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: #43 (Oct. 2002) buy it!
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.
Dirt Off Your Shoulder - Jay-Z
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #41 (May 2004) buy it!
Dirt Off Your Shoulder is from The Black Album, which Jay-Z says is his last record. I'm not very good at predicting if a song will be a hit. I thought Change Clothes, The Black Album's first single, was going to be a smash. Change Clothes, with Pharrell Williams singing, was fun and light. Jay-Z's smooth, fast rap has a good, light touch. However, Dirt Off Your Shoulder has easily outdone Change Clothes on the pop chart. Dirt Off Your Shoulder also has a good rap but its music is less appealing. Jay-Z released an a capella Black Album. That allowed people to put their tracks behind Jay-Z's raps. The most notable result was Danger Mouse's Grey Album which ingeniously backed the raps with music from The Beatles' White Album. I'd like to hear a different track on Dirt Off Your Shoulder. Dirt Off Your Shoulder was produced and cowritten by Timbaland, who has provided striking music for Missy Elliott and for Aaliyah and Ginuwine. Timbaland has used a harsh, metallic sound before but Dirt Off Your Shoulder's music is particularly cold. It's also repetitive, using the same uninteresting riff over and over without adding much to distract from it. Jay-Z's forceful, confident rap is typically compelling but it's not his most exciting or fresh. Dirt Off Your Shoulder has a lot of references to expensive possessions that he's "tryin' to hustle." He revels in his popularity and skill, tells us that he knows how to deal with hatin' rappers and hecklers and gives a "middle finger to the Lord." The lyric isn't that interesting. I'm glad that 99 Problems, with its huge beat and supposedly controversial video depicting Jay-Z getting shot, has pushed Dirt Off Your Shoulder off the airwaves.
Disease - Matchbox 20
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: #11 (Dec. 2002) buy it!
Matchbox 20 has made a career of catchy pop songs with a touch of rock edge. None of their singles are great art but they're usually easy to listen and there's occasionally something interesting going on. The band's knack seems absent on Disease off the More Than You Think You Are CD. Disease's familiarity will get it a lot of airplay but it's pretty bad. Disease sounds a lot like Smooth, Rob Thomas' contribution to Santana's Supernatural CD. Its "'til I'm free of my disease" fade out sounds just like Smooth's "Or else forget about it." Disease doesn't have the light feel and easy flow Santana's rhythm based music gave Smooth. Disease is pretty heavy. Thomas does a dramatic vocal but the song doesn't have the substance to support the emoting. Thomas wrote Disease with Mick Jagger, who presumably chose not to include it on his Goddess In The Doorway CD. I don't really understand Disease's lyrics. On the first verse, Thomas chastises a partner for making "somebody's heart break" and taunts her: "I am stronger than you know/I have to let you go." After that, he tells us "my world is comin' down" and "I can't live without you" and he needs her to "keep your distance from me" until his obsession fades.
Disposable Teens - Marilyn Manson
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: #44 (Dec. 2000) buy it!
Disposable Teens is from Marilyn Manson's Holy Wood CD. Especially since the shock value of his weird androgynous image has faded, everything about Manson seems kind of obvious. Disposable Teens has harsh, hard guitars but the sound is merely unpleasant, not overpowering like his role model Trent Reznor's. Manson's tough guy vocals are kind of silly. After some people held his music responsible for the Columbine killings, Manson is more self pitying than ever: "I've got a face made for violence and porn and I'm a teen distortion, survived abortion." Claiming to speak for today's youth, his rebellion shows the sophistication of a 13 year old: "the more you fear us, the meaner we'll get." He dares to allude to the Beatles, singing, "you say you want a revolution, I say you're full of shit."
Do Right - Jimmie's Chicken Shack
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: #27 (Oct. 1999) buy it!
Though the success of Do Right can largely be traced to heavy MTV play for the song's very fun video, this likeable song from the Maryland band's Bring Your Own Stereo CD deserves to be a hit. Jimi HaHa, the band's singer, usually presents himself as clueless and Do Right makes good use of his image. He sings of "all the things you find wrong with me", not denying the charges but implicitly saying, what do you expect from a goofball like me. The loose, high spirited, unpretentious music is the real grabber here. The chorus is irresistable with driving guitars underlining the repeated question, "what can I do right?" Like the band's singer, the song is quirkily charming.
Doesn't Really Matter - Janet Jackson
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #27 (Sept. 2000) buy it!
Janet Jackson became a multiplatinum act in the late 80's thanks to the Control record and the tough, no nonsense image she presented with songs like What Have You Done For Me Lately and Nasty. Since then I've found Jackson(now simply calling herself Janet) a little fakey when she's tried to present herself as the innocent girl next door. Still, she is appealing on Doesn't Really Matter as her nearly whispered vocals glide easily over the pleasant, light dance music of the song from the Nutty Professor II soundtrack. The saccharine lyrics match her sweet, too good to be true character from the movie. Janet sings, it "doesn't really matter what the eye is seeing, 'cause I'm in love with the inner being." and "what matters is you're nutty, nutty, nutty for me."
The Dolphin's Cry - Live
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: #4 (Dec. 1999) buy it!
Live have always been intense. The success of their Throwing Copper CD came from striking a balance between the intensity and a likeable REM-influenced poppiness. Their last CD, the Secret Samadhi, lost that balance and often seemed pretentious and self indulgent. The Dolphin's Cry, from Live's new The Distance to Here CD, isn't much fun but it is a quite moving love song. Ed Kowalcyk's vocals are a little over the top but the sentiment, about how "love will lead us", is certainly heartfelt.
Don't Know Why - Norah Jones
Weeks on Chart: 24 Peak: #39 (Nov. 2002) buy it!
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.
Don't Let Me Get Me - Pink
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: #14 (May 2002) buy it!
The former Alicia Moore tells us on Don't Let Me Get Me that since school, when she dated teachers and got into fights, she's done things that get her in trouble and make her hate herself. The context of the song is Pink's decision to toss the sleek dance pop sound of her Can't Take Me Home CD for the more rocking arrangements on Missundaztood. Pink seems genuinely conflicted. She knows that slick music and marketing made her a star and sounds genuine as she refers admiringly to Britney("she's so pretty"). Still, she resents the advice of Arista exec LA Reid to change "everything you are" and finds the music that made her successful irritating. Don't Let Me Get Me also avoids the calculated, synthetic sound of her first CD's hits but it isn't as striking a departure as the buoyant, raucous B-52's influenced Get The Party Started. Pink and her Missundaztood collaborator ex 4 Non Blonde Linda Perry have constructed a song with a pleasant, adult sound. Especially towards its end, when a yearning guitar kicks in, Don't Let Me Get Me reminds me of Natalie Imbruglia's Torn. Its crisp if unexciting beat and compact synth riff also brings to mind the kind of restrained synth pop hit that was common in the mid 80s.
Don't Mess With My Man - Nivea
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: #22 (Jan. 2003) buy it!
Don't Mess With My Man is from Nivea Hamilton's Nivea CD. Don't Mess With My Man is quite lightweight but it's also quite likable. Don't Mess With My Man features Jagged Edge's Brian and Brandon Casey. It's got the easy feel of Jagged Edge's Where The Party At and I find Don't Mess even more enjoyable. With a catchy doodle of a synth riff and a steady beat, Don't Mess With My Man goes by easily. Nivea's voice is pleaant but doesn't show much personality. The Caseys add a little flair with their amiably macho contribution. The lyrics don't go much beyond the title's threat except that the Caseys repeat them and change genders.
Don't Stop - Rolling Stones
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: #10 (Oct. 2002) buy it!
Don't Stop is one of four new songs on Forty Licks, which is billed as the first retrospective of the Stones' entire career. Knowing that people buying the two CD set or attending their concerts are mostly interested in their earlier music, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards don't seem to have exhausted themselves putting Don't Stop together. They certainly haven't repeated Jagger's attempt on last year's Goddess In The Doorway CD to distance himself from the classic Stones sound. There isn't much to Don't Stop. In comparison, Start Me Up is a complex puzzle. Still, there's something satisfying about Don't Stop's simplicity and familiarity. Don't Stop echoes better but similar feel good songs like Start Me Up, Happy, Honky Tonk Women and Tumbling Dice. Jagger wraps his big personality around Don't Stop. Like he does live, Jagger yells as much as sings but shows remarkable energy and warmth for a 59 year old. Richards and Ron Wood could probably play Don't Stop's guitar line in their sleep but their tight, jagged playing still creates a good edge. On Don't Stop, Jagger feels like his "baby" is peppering him "with poison darts" and is soon leaving him but he still asks her to share her "screams of passion" and kisses that draw blood.
Don't Tell Me - Avril Lavigne
Weeks on Chart: 28 Peak: #23 (March 2001) buy it!
Avril Lavigne, at 19, is apparently already entering the mature period of her career. Under My Skin, Lavigne's followup to her 10 million selling debut Let Go CD, must be one of the most anticipated records of the year but its first single met a fairly lukewarm initial response(though it's slowly climbed up the chart). For her new CD, Lavigne stayed away from Let Go's hitmakers The Matrix and Clif Magness. Under My Skin's writers and producers include ex-Evanescence co-leader Ben Moody and Canadian husband and wife pop stars Raine Maida(from Our Lady Peace) and Chantal Kreviazuk. Don't Tell Me was written by Lavigne and her guitar player Evan Taubenfield and produced by Butch Walker, formerly of Marvelous 3(one hit wonders for 1999's Freak Of The Week). On Don't Tell Me, Lavigne and Walker eschewed the youthful, rousing, in your face confidence of Lavigne's #1 hits Complicated and Sk8er Boi. Lavigne doesn't even get to do a really cathartic wail like on her other #1, I'm With You. On Don't Tell Me, Alanis Morissette's influence is even more obvious than usual. My guess is that Lavigne's audience liked Let Go's Morissette style angst but don't want her to be Morissette. Showing a reluctance to continue being the voice of feisty early teens, Lavigne's retains her intensity on Don't Tell Me without the perkiness of her previous hits. While it's less exciting than some of Lavigne's hits, Don't Tell Me is charming. Lavigne's idiosyncratically Canadian pronounciation, passionate singing and seriousness still mark her as an individual. Adults have derided the fact that, despite her punk posturing, Lavigne's music is more pop than punk. That ignores the fact that Lavigne resonated with kids as a distinctive, self assured role model. Don't Tell Me's music, with guitars and drums crashing in on the chorus, is generic pop rock. But Lavigne's heartfelt delivery, strong singing and personal phrasing make Don't Tell Me's typical youthful anguish fresh. As she has before, Lavigne projects big emotions in a way that makes her sound like a real teenager. Don't Tell Me's lyric depicts Lavigne as a sad but strong young woman. Lavigne is "upset" but she decides she's better off alone than with a guy who tried to get "into my pants." She tells him that he shouldn't try to tell her what to do and say and that she had told him she wouldn't "give it up" to him.
Don't Think I'm Not - Kandi
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: #40 (Dec. 2000) buy it!
Kandi Burruss has written hit songs for other people like TLC's No Scrubs, Destiny's Child's Bills, Bills, Bills and Pink's There You Go but she apparently didn't keep her best songs for her Hey Kandi CD. Don't Think I'm Not is a little weird musically. It starts with austere piano, becomes a lush ballad with very heavy strings, then the strings are awkwardly thrown together on the chorus with hard, synthetic beats. The lyrics are kind of weird too. Kandi brags that while her guy has been playing around with someone else, she has too. I understand her relief at not being a total sucker and getting some revenge but it doesn't sound like a situation to be happy about.
Don't Wanna Try - Frankie J.
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #33 (July 2003) buy it!
After years in the music business, including a stint with Los Kumbia Kings, Frankie J Bautista has a hit with the first single off his What's A Man To Do CD. Don't Wanna Try is a very basic ballad. Its success is probably due to its simplicity and familiarity. Don't Wanna Try has a standard soaring string sound and sensitive piano and synths but it doesn't overdo things. Similarly, Bautista's vocal is pretty typical for a song about a wounded lover but he largely avoids overemoting. Don't Wanna Try is pleasant and has a bit of real pathos. The downside is that Don't Wanna Try doesn't have much of a personality. There's no sense of Bautista's latin pop background or anything else distinctive. Bautista's resigned lack of inflection makes Don't Wanna Try's lyrics even colder. Hurt by the "things you said" and exhausted after trying "to save it so many times" but only ending up with fights and angry words, Bautista refuses his woman's request for another chance.
Dope Nose - Weezer
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #28 (May 2002) buy it!
Weezer took until last year to release a followup to their commercially disappointing second record, 1996's Pinkerton. Now that they're selling again, Weezer wasted little time coming back with their fourth release: Maladroit. From what I've heard of Maladroit the songs aren't as tight and don't have the same pop gloss as those on last year's green album but they do have that record's rock heft. With its loose sense of fun and chunky guitar chords, Dope Nose reminds me of the songs from Pinkerton, particularly The Good Life, perhaps my favorite Weezer song ever. Dope Nose has a goofy charm. The band sings their ho-oh-oh-ohs to a tune that sounds like The Flinstones' theme. Brian Bell and Rivers Cuomos's steadily driving guitar work, which includes Bell's exciting and characteristically short, unshowy solo, gives Dope Nose a high energy sense of fun. Rock radio is unlikely to be as receptive to Dope Nose's giddiness as it was to Hash Pipe's heavy metal rumble. But Dope Nose, which clocks in at less than two minutes and 15 seconds, is a simple, good time that extends Weezer's impressive streak of quality music. Dope Nose apparently tells us that dope helps Cuomo to "bust rhymes real slow." Cuomo also throws in the fact that "cheese smells so good on a burnt piece of lamb."
Dosed - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #36 (July 2003) buy it!
I try to stay away from bad critic cliches but the fourth chart hit from the Chili Peppers' By The Way CD really invites me to write things like every time I listened to Dosed, I dozed or it sounds like Anthony Kiedis got a bad dose of something. The bottom line is Dosed is a bore. Dosed has a lot of nice and pretty things but it's really lightweight and Kiedis' vocal is quite awful. Kiedis uses a vague, odd, wimpy falsetto that makes him sound like he feels sick to his stomach. The good parts of Dosed are John Frusciante's smooth, sweet guitar playing and a nice uplifting chorus with good harmonies. Dosed has a kind spirit but the verses are lame and the whole song is very tame. With every song fit for easy listening radio, it becomes more unclear how the Chili Peppers have maintained their image as raucous rockers and why modern rock radio and their older fans haven't abandoned them. Dosed's lyric partly explains the song's melancholy mood. Dosed apparently is about a woman who died after working her magic on Kiedis.
Down With The Sickness - Disturbed
Weeks on Chart: 21 Peak: #15 (Oct. 2001) buy it!
Even in the over the top world of troubled contemporary rockers, Disturbed seem pretty silly. Down With The Sickness is the third chart hit from their The Sickness CD. Down With The Sickness has rumbling, hammering guitars and a menacing atmosphere but it's not quite as hard as Disturbed's previous rock radio hits. The music is kept quiet and slow so you can pick up the ridiculous, dark lyrics about "drowning in my deep sea of loathing" and waking "the demon in me." On the chorus, David Draiman does the same angry, stuttering yell he did on Stupify and Voices.
Downfall - Trust Company
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: #10 (Sept. 2002) buy it!
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.
Down - Blink 182
Weeks on Chart: 35 Peak: #9 (Nov. 1999) buy it!
Blink 182's self titled 2003 CD is quite good. The boys sound more grown up but they still rock and have fun. Feeling This and I Miss You are the CD's most obvious singles but there are other good candidates. I wouldn't mind repeatedly hearing any of the five songs in the CD's second half between Go and Here's Your Letter. They're all fun(I especially like All Of This with The Cure's Robert Smith on lead vocal) and mostly pretty smart. Instead, Down, one of the lesser songs on the CD's first half, was picked. It was probably chosen because it's one of the CD's slower songs and it has the classic Blink 182 sound while showcasing the band's new more mature approach. Down isn't bad. It's pretty good. It's just not as good as other songs on the CD. As a song about romantic disappointment, it's not as striking as the haunted, brooding I Miss You. Down also isn't as exciting as the CD's rockers. But Down is short, simple and subtly powerful. Down starts well and builds anticipation with Tom DeLonge's slicing guitar chords. After that, Down settles down though its intensity rises and falls nicely, matching the basic emotions of the song's protagonist. I like Down's bridge. DeLonge's power chords build and Travis Barker pounds impressively while DeLonge sings about a tidal wave of feeling and cries to his character's girlfriend "pick me up now; I need you so bad." On the chorus, over Barker's drums and simple piano, Mark Hoppus keeps saying "down"(64 times in all). That effectively expresses obsessive neediness but, as a hook, it's a bit of a bore and a letdown. On Down, DeLonge sings that the girlfriend's awkward silence makes him crazy. He tries to convince her to kiss him and support him. Down isn't the CD's most exciting song but it is tight with a minimal but evocative lyric and nicely matched, dramatic music.
Dream On - Depeche Mode
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: #7 (June 2001) buy it!
Depeche Mode are in the third decade of flaunting a bleak worldview. Exciter is their first set of new songs in four years. Like most Depeche Mode music, Dream On isn't much fun or as deep as the band thinks. But the sound, while cold like Personal Jesus, has a sleek, stark appeal, with a minimum of beat and synth clanging. Dave Gahan's vocals and Martin Gore's lyrics are typically dark and humorless. After stating "death becomes me", Dream On warns those who "party for a living" of karmic payback: "pain is waiting, priming to do its educating." We've heard versions of the song's warning from the band before. If "you feel a little love, dream on."
Drift And Die - Puddle Of Mudd
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: #5 (Aug. 2002) buy it!
Puddle Of Mudd, Staind, Nickelback and other new rock bands have had huge pop hits. So I haven't done them justice by writing that their main appeal is to troubled male teens with limited musical taste. Obviously, self pitying smashes like Blurry, It's Been Awhile and How You Remind Me have broad appeal. I guess that appeal comes, for people seek meaning, from the fact that they sound they're about something. Whether what they sing about is actually interesting or well written, Wes Scantlin, Aaron Lewis and Chad Kroeger's expressions are sincere and intense. Their music has rock heft and is also melodic, catchy and easy to sing along to. I resist the new grunge label that others have given rock of the early 00s because the music is so much less interesting and powerful than the rock of the early 90s and because the music's commercial calculation should be antithetical to any reasonable definition of grunge. Still, the hitmakers of today have learned from their forefathers. Drift And Die, the third chart hit from Puddle Of Mudd's Come Clean CD, is another song that follows Kurt Cobain's model, starting with a quiet, intense verse then exploding into a rocking, screamed chorus. Scantlin starts with his acoustic guitar and serious, pained vocal. Towards the end, the band make a big, layered sound that's a good imitation of Pearl Jam's Even Flow. I don't like Scantlin's self righteous vocal as he nastily sings "go away from me" and complains how "ignorance spreads lies." Drift And Die doesn't seem quite as top of the charts ready as Barely Breathing soundalike Blurry. I can still imagine plenty of kids singing "as I drift and die" this summer.
Drift Away - Uncle Kracker featuring Dobie Gray
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #25 (July 2003) buy it!
Considering that his main goal seems to be making genial, innoucuous pop, Uncle Kracker(born Matt Shafer) has had a decent career. But he hadn't really been able to follow up on Follow Me from his debut CD. In A Little While, which had Uncle Kracker's typical mellow, modest style, was a minor hit. It took a cover of an extremely familiar song to give Uncle Kracker a big hit from his No Strange To Shame CD, which came out last summer. The new version of Drift Away is a remake in the strictest sense. It's a nearly exact copy of Dobie Gray's 1973 hit. It's pleasant but totally unnecessary. The nice thing about Drift Away 2003, I guess, is that it gives Gray another chance in the spotlight. Now in his 60s, Gray still sounds good. Gray's strong, full voice easily outdoes Uncle Kracker's thin, indistinct singing. Drift Away isn't the most remarkable of pop classics. It's a soothing song about how music can provide calm in a troubling life. Drift Away's chief attribute is that it's appealing smooth and relaxed. Uncle Kracker leaves in place the easy, pleasing keyboards and guitars that made Drift Away a lite hits radio staple. But he doesn't add anything that makes the song better or more interesting than the original. I guess one other benefit of the new version is that it settles a question I've had since I was a kid. Yes he says "beat boys" not Beach Boys.
Driven Under - Seether
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: #16 (June 2003) buy it!
Seethers Fine Again, a decent Nirvana knockoff featuring Shaun Morgans serious, intense vocal, had a long run on rock radio. Morgan is even more serious and intense on Driven Under, the second chart hit from the South African bands Disclaimer CD, and the song is even less fun. Fine Again was kind of catchy, with some resemblance to the annoying but undeniably hooky How You Remind Me. Driven Under just drags and plods along. Seether get a little distinction from the apparent realness of the pain in Morgans voice. But Driven Under is generic contemporary rock. Its got the humorless, showily meaningful sound of so many other bands. The big, hard rocking guitars predictably crunch in on the chorus. Driven Under is apparently about confronting a girlfriend(do you think that I am blind). The surprising response is that she has a gun that she presumably used before on another guy and is now ready to use on Morgan.
Drive - Incubus
Weeks on Chart: 39 Peak: #3 (April 2001) buy it!
The third chart hit from the Make Yourself CD is my favorite Incubus single so far but after hearing Drive since its December chart debut, I've had enough of it. I guess that, like Staind, Incubus have struck the delicate balance of keeping their modern rock cred while making music that's accessible and not too harsh for a wide audience. I see why Brandon Boyd's meaningful sounding mix of vulnerability and optimism, singing about feeling the "fear of uncertainty" but finding he can stop it from taking control, is appealing. I'm just finding it a little boring.
Drops Of Jupiter - Train
Weeks on Chart: 36 Peak: #1 (June 2001) buy it!
If Black Crowes' Chris Robinson was in a really good mood and fronted an upbeat piano based Bruce Hornsby song, it would sound a little like Drops Of Jupiter, the title track from Train's new CD. Like Meet Virginia, it's a tribute to a complicated lady but Drops Of Jupiter is even sunnier than Train's first hit. Drops Of Jupiter has soaring strings and not much of an edge. The lyrics, which compare love to "the best soy latte that you ever had", don't hide their lightweight, yuppie side. Still, Drops Of Jupiter has good energy and it's hard to resist the positive vibe as Pat Monahan recites the attributes of woman whose growth convinces him "there's time to change."
Drowning - Backstreet Boys
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: #43 (Nov. 2001) buy it!
Drowning is the only new song on Backstreet Boys' The Hits: Chapter One. Much more than N Sync's strikingly spare current single Gone, Drowning goes for a comfortable, familiar sound. It resembles Boys hits like Shape Of My Heart and, somewhat ironically, also sounds quite a bit like All Or Nothing, the smash for Backstreet/N Sync facsimile O Town. Drowning starts quietly with subdued vocals and piano but soon shifts to a typical lush, overproduced sound with a bad, fakey beat. The harmonies are O.K. but very tame. On Drowning, The Backstreet Boys split the vocals on Drowning, playing a wimpy guy who's totally under the control of a woman with "the power to make me weak inside." Their young fans undoubtedly cherish the dream of being the girl the Boys mean when they sing "only you can save me."
Duality - Slipknot
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #18 (July 2004) 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.
Duck And Run - Three Doors Down
Weeks on Chart: 21 Peak: #10 (May 2001) buy it!
Kryptonite was insinuating and distinctive but the rest of This Better Life is fairly routine rock. Three Doors Down don't have the nasty edge of some of their contemporaries but they sound like Candlebox and many other young rock bands. Duck and Run, like Loser, is sturdy but uninteresting. It's the hardest of their radio songs, with big, familiar power chords. As on the band's other chart hits, Brad Arnold seriously sings about the problems he's going through. He mostly avoids self pity but Duck and Run is a fairly standard angry young man screed about an uncaring world. Arnold doesn't clarify what he won't duck and run from or why "all my work and endless measures never seem to get me very far."
Dyin' Man - Widespread Panic
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #33 (Sept. 1999) buy it!
Their biggest hit so far is from the record, Til the Medicine Takes. The music is Allman Brothers style 70s boogie with a little of Edgar Winter's Frankenstein thrown in. The words are about how sad he is"since you've been gone" but the exuberance of the music contradicts the lyrics. It's mindless, unoriginal fun.