Easy Tonight - Five For Fighting
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #31 (Jan. 2001) buy it!
Five For Fighting is singer/songwriter John Ondrasik's project. It's easy to imagine Easy Tonight with just Ondrasik's voice and piano but he gives it a big production with a big beat on his America Town CD. With his easy, adult sound and sensitive but intense vocals on Easy Tonight, Ondrasik sounds a little like Shawn Mullins. They're both also a little affected. Ondrasik sings about a woman who's now gone. His recitation of all the things she was(you were wrong, you were right, you took a ride on the suicide romance) and his attempts at self expression("I don't know where I'm going but I sure am getting there") are a little corny.
Eat You Alive - Limp Bizkit
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #39 (Sept. 2003) buy it!
First, guitarist Wes Borland left Limp Bizkit. Then the band recorded and scrapped albums worth of material with new guitar player Mike Smith. Finally, Limp Bizkit is back with the Results May Vary CD. Eat You Alive, the CD's first single, doesn't do anything to resuscitate the career of the once hugely successful but now widely reviled Fred Durst. Almost everything about Eat You Alive is terrible. Durst's one talent was an ability, with Borland's help, to give his mediocre hard rock a decent groove. Eat You Alive totally lacks any kind of groove, forcing us to focus on Durst's weak, whiny singing and nasty lyrics and his band's lame attempts to make arty hard rock in the Tool/Korn vein. Eat You Alive is dominated by Durst's unappealing tough guy ranting and creepy personality. Guitars and drums pound away bombastically in the background but never really get anywhere. Eat You Alive depicts Durst as a leerer/stalker. Durst curses out a woman then tells her "I'm drawn to you." He notes that she's too cool to want anything to do with him, alternates hoots of "you're so hot" with apologies for his behavior and pathetically(and somewhat scarily) repeats "I just want to look at you all day; there ain't nothing wrong with that."
Echo - Trapt
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #22 (March 2004) buy it!
Echo is the third chart hit from Trapt's self titled CD. Trapt's Headstrong was one of the biggest hits of 2003. Headstrong was fairly typical angry rock but it had a big, powerful sound. Chris Brown's vocal shifted in and out of rage mode with the suppleness of a decent rapper. Echo also shows signs Trapt may be more interesting than some hard rock bands. Trapt is less loud and furious than Still Frame, Trapt's other top 50 hit, and Headstrong. It has decent contrast. The verse has an open, dreamy sound that floats on a rotating keyboard riff. It's like a verse by Incubus(who also have a song called Echo) but Brown's anchored vocal makes sure it's not quite as spacy. Power chords soon come in, effectively adding heft without overwhelming Echo's searching feel. Trapt are hardly the first band to use the quiet/loud contrast that Nirvana and other grungers popularized and many 21st century rockers have copied. The fluid doodling that Simon Ormandy does before and during the verses is interesting but it sounds a lot like what he did on Headstrong. Brown doesn't scream on Echo like he does on other songs but he's still very serious. His singing doesn't communicate the lyric's joy and energy. Echo isn't that different from other serious midtempo rock but it sounds good. Echo has a personal, varied sound and it isn't too showy or overdone. On Echo, Brown accepts that he "can't change the past I hold inside" and decides to "let go of this pride" and "run away with you by my side."
Electrical Storm - U2
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: #2 (Oct. 2002) buy it!
Electrical Storm is one of two new songs on U2's Best of 1990-2000 CD. Not so long ago, U2's work from the second half of their career didn't seem particularly worthy of a greatest hits set. Then the band refocused their energy and put out All That You Can't Leave Behind, which included thoughtful, musically rich singles which should be memorable years from now. Electrical Storm isn't quite on the level of Beautiful Day or Walk On. With a melody similar to Zooropa's Stay and guitar lines like the ones The Edge played on Walk On, Electrical Storm feels a bit rehashed. Still, Electrical Storm has the depth of sound and feeling of U2's best work. William Orbit worked on Electrical Storm instead of usual U2 producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. Orbit fills out the sound with keyboards that at times are like something from a bad sci-fi movie soundtrack but he's generally respectful of the classic U2 sound. Even if it's familiar, The Edge's playing still creates big, poignant atmosphere. He easily segues between ringing lines on the verse and thick, powerful work on the chorus. It isn't Bono's most exciting vocal but he admirably projects hope while keeping his naturally supple voice under control and restrained.. On Electrical Storm, Bono plays a distant, guilty("you're in my mind all the time, I know that's not enough") man confident that a relationship that's been dogged by bad luck will be repaired by "love and only love", allowing them to see colors and places "that have never been seen.".
Elevation - U2
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: #3 (June 2001) buy it!
The third chart hit from All That You Can't Leave Behind is the closest the generally mellow CD comes to U2's big, empty synth filled 90s work. Elevation is a silly but fun song about a woman who makes Bono "feel like I can fly." Bono has a good time with his "woo-hoo" falsetto and goofy "mole living in a hole" lyrics. Eno and The Edge's synths create a buoyancy that overcomes the music's industrial nature.
Emotion - Destiny's Child
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #28 (Dec. 2001) buy it!
If you've seen Destiny's Child on an awards or benefit show, you've probably seen them doing a good, short a capella thing. The message is clear: we're not just a studio creation, we can really sing. Emotion, the third single from the Survivor CD, is a similar display of the ladies' vocal talents. The backing is minimal, mostly from an acoustic guitar and a very simple beat. The singing stands up well on its own and is mostly not overly showy . The harmonies are smooth, tight and good. The thing about Destiny's Child's version is that it's so polite and sedate that it's not much more than a vocal exercise. The Bee Gees' crazy high pitched intensity gave the original undeniable drama. It also fit better with the song's emotional lyrics, with their lines about being "caught up in sorrow" and crying "me a river", about how "heartache lives on inside" since a breakup.
The End Of The World - The Cure
Weeks on Chart: 1 Peak: #50 (July 2004) buy it!
Radio has given some of the forefathers of modern rock a fairly muted welcome back. Irish Blood, English Heart, the rousing first single from You Are The Quarry, Morrissey's first CD in seven years, fell short of the top 50. It's likely that First Of The Gang To Die, You Are The Quarry's even better second single, will miss the chart. The End Of The World from The Cure's first CD in four years, has only done slightly better. The timing seemed good for The End Of The World. The Cure's music is in TV commercials, their Curiosa tour has attracted hot young alternative bands eager to play with their idols and big audiences and 311's cover of Love Song is a hit. Robert Smith and The Cure are usually a bit closed, depressed and ambivalent. The End Of The World, like Love Song, is their rare song that's simple, warm and open. The End Of The World doesn't quite have Love Song's giddy, unstoppable momentum but it is enjoyable. The End Of The World and the rest of The Cure's self titled CD was produced by Ross Robinson, who has produced dense, confrontional hard rock by Korn, Limp Bizkit and Slipknot. The End Of The World has a good, clean sound but otherwise I don't hear anything that marks it as a Robinson production. The End Of The World sounds like a good if unremarkable Cure song, a little like Love Song, Just Like Heaven and In Between Days, without the distinctiveness of those songs. Perry Bamonte picks out a good, straight forward guitar line that's typical for the band. Robert Smith's yelp still sounds a little pained but it mostly communicates joy. End Of The World has some nice touches like Bowiesque backing vocals as well as a cheesy early 80s style knob twisting keyboard sound. The End Of The World isn't new but it's a nice addition to the fairly small collection of simple, upbeat Cure songs. The End Of The World has a bittersweet lyric. Smith tells a lover she can leave if she wants to but quietly reminds her of the love she clearly still feels for him. Smith admits that he doesn't "show much" but swears that while he can't "be all you wanted, he couldn't love her more."
Enemy - Days of the New
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: #9 (Sept. 1999) buy it!
As teenagers, Travis Meeks and his band, Days of the New, soon placed themselves among the kings of rock radio with their intense, acoustic rock. They epitomized the kind of band that succeeds on what's left of rock radio. They were competent and serious but largely humorless and derivative of better bands. Meeks now has put together a totally different band. It's unclear if the name of the new CD, Days of the New 2, shows Meeks' lack of imagination or whether it's about the new lineup and a new direction for the band. Enemy, the first single from the new CD, is a little more adventurous musically than the band's earlier work. It's looser and has an almost hip hop beat. However, Meeks' vocals are as overwrought as ever. He's really got to learn to loosen up.
The Energy - Audiovent
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: #21 (Aug. 2002) buy it!
Audiovent, like Incubus, got together as teens in Calabasas, California but Audiovent don't even have Incubus' modest distinctiveness. Audiovent sound a little like Nirvana but they're even more like Bush and Default, bands who borrow grunge's sound but leave out any individuality. The Energy is particularly generic. It sounds O.K, with big guitars and an intense, sincere vocal. Audiovent's lyrics, like those of Nickelback, Staind and so many others, are about inner turmoil. The Energy is one of many songs on Audiovent's debut Dirty Sexy Knights In Paris CD dealing with singer Jason Boyd's tough breakup. As she's leaving, Boyd bemoans "what you do to my head" but vows "I'll make it" and "I will stay alive. Appropriately for a band that trumpets the fact that they've been in group therapy, Boyd spouts new age jargon like "it's getting closer to closure."
Enough of Me - Melissa Etheridge
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: #48 (May 2000) buy it!
Like Angels Would Fall, the first single from the Breakdown CD, and most of Etheridge's recent music, Enough Of Me is sincere, emotional and heartfelt but not particularly enjoyable. Etheridge used to rock. Now she makes glossy, overblown pop that just drags. It seems to me that unless you're really interesting in Etheridge's persona, her screaming how she gave everything(her soul, every ounce of control, her skin, her original sin, her shame, her eternal flame) for her lover who has left her is not that interesting.
Escape - Enrique Iglesias
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #16 (April 2002) buy it!
Enrique Iglesias follows the big, empty soaring ballad Hero with an empty, generic dance pop song. Iglesias' American success is apparently attributable to his genial, unchallenging music and exotic hunkiness. The video for the title track and second single from Iglesias' Escape CD emphasizes Iglesias' looks by pairing him with exotic babe Anna Kournikova. Escape is pleasant enough but it basically has no personality. Escape has a decent if familiar guitar riff but also has an uninteresting, very programmed beat and innocuous synth sounds. Like on most of his English language work, Iglesias doesn't sound completely comfortable. He seems handcuffed by the tight, synthetic production and tentative in some of his English pronounciations. I do like the end of Escape when Iglesias gets a rare chance to let loose with a falsetto repeating "you can run." Iglesias predicts on Escape that, even if she leaves now, his partner will want to come back to a relationship that "was good, it was bad but it was real."
Essence - Lucinda Williams
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #50 (June 2001) buy it!
Lucinda Williams' Essence CD doesn't have the detailed, evocative writing of her remarkable Car Wheels On A Gravel Road but it's not bad either. Similarly, the title track isn't quite as good as Change The Locks and Metal Firecracker, her moody masterpieces that it resembles, but it's good. Williams and her band hold back and go nice and slow, creating a good sexy edge. I find Williams' very simple rhymes too much like Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs And Ham but Williams effectively communicates a simple need for a love that's like a drug.
The Everlasting Gaze - Smashing Pumpkins
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: #14 (Jan. 2000) buy it!
After the disappointing sales of their Adore CD, Smashing Pumpkins return to the rocking sound of Cherub Rock, Bullet with Butterfly Wings and especially Zero for the first release from their Machina/Machines of God CD. Everlasting Gaze is pretty powerful with James Iha's slashing guitar and good, driving drumming from Jimmy Chamberlin, who the band has rehired after firing him because of drug problems. Billy Corgan's singing is still annoyingly whiny but it's at least fairly aggressive.
Every Other Time - LFO
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: #43 (Oct. 2001) buy it!
The Lyte Funky Ones' previous hit was the confident but very stupid and lame white rap song, Summer Girls. With a synthetic sound and too many aggressively perky na na nas, Every Other Time is also quite empty headed and very white. But Every Other Time, from the Life Is Good CD, isn't as bad as Summer Girls. Sounding like Semi Charmed Life and Hey Leonardo, Every Other Time is more standard teen pop, with a lightweight, genial sound. The lyric is kind of charming. Every Other Time is about a guy who stays in a relationship with a girl who keeps things interesting by walking out, pulling bizarre pranks and telling everyone that he's gay.
Everyday - Dave Matthews Band
Weeks on Chart: 25 Peak: #10 (Dec. 2001) buy it!
The Dave Matthews Band's Everyday CD isn't great but it does have quite a few decent ballads. The best ones keep things simple and relaxed. Everyday's title track is probably the best song on the record. Vocals by South African singer Vusi Mahlasela help create a joyful feel. Everyday shows off the band's strong musicianship. Backing vocals, guitar, horns and Carter Beauford's drums all contribute to Everday's light and playful but rich sound. Everyday's "all you need is love" refrain is nothing new but it fits a song about reducing things to the basics that advises us to "get your hands dirty" and seek love.
Everything You Want - Vertical Horizon
Weeks on Chart: 37 Peak: #2 (April 2000) buy it!
The title track and second chart song from Vertical Horizon's CD has striking guitar effects but is otherwise pretty generic sensitive rock. Matt Scannell is ever so serious singing about a woman who's never satisfied with a man. His tone is so bitter that it's not much of a twist at the end when he reveals himself to be the he who is everything she wants.
Everything - Alanis Morissette
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #30 (June 2004) buy it!
Time(she turned 30 this spring), therapy and a new boyfriend have calmed Alanis Morissette. So-Called Chaos, Morisette's fourth studio album, has less rage and more introspection than her early records. Morissette seems less interested in being provocative. She also seems fairly uninterested in gaining new young listeners. She's apparently resigned to mostly selling records to longtime fans and baby boomers. Everything, So-Called Chaos' first single, isn't particularly surprising or exciting. It's pleasant listening. Everything has a spacy rock intro that sounds a little like Soundgarden's Black Hole Sun. Everything then settles into a fairly standard rock arrangement, with a steady beat, that has some variation. The chorus has a warm, layered sound with a simple, ringing guitar riff. Morissette's voice is fine and pretty open. Everything has a leisurely pace. Everything's sprawling recitation is reminiscent of Thank U, from Morissette's second record. The thanks go to her boyfriend, rather than Thank U's more random list of targets. Morissette appreciates how he sees all her sides. He digs the good things in her(she's wise with a kind soul and a brave heart). He doesn't pretend her bad side(she's moody, withholding and passive aggressive) doesn't exist and he even loves some of her darkness. I'm not that interested in Morisette's self explorations but Everything is very genial. It has a giving tone. Musically, Everything isn't very ambitious but it's inoffensive and goes by easily.
Everytime - Britney Spears
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: #13 (July 2004) 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.
Everywhere I Go - Shawn Mullins
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #42 (Dec. 2000) buy it!
You could love or hate Lullaby, Mullins' big hit from his Soul's Core CD, but with its spoken verses and evocative, if obvious, lyrics about a woman screwed up by growing up in a weird Hollywood world, it got your attention. Everywhere I Go, from the Beneath The Velvet Sun CD, isn't going to approach Lullaby's success because it's barely noticable. Everywhere I Go is pleasant light rock influenced by the easy California sound of artists like The Eagles. The production is sleek but the result is innocuous. Mullins' voice doesn't have much personality. The mystically tinged lyrics are pretty nice. Mullins sings about the image of his lover guiding him and grounding him when he's on the road.
Everywhere - Michelle Branch
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #25 (Oct. 2001) buy it!
Everywhere, from Michelle Branch's Spirit Room CD, reminds me of the good, positive energy mid 90s rock of Letters To Cleo and Lisa Loeb. With its savvy mix of pop gloss and tight, energetic rock guitars and drums, Everywhere also sounds like the disposable but undeniably catchy Story Of A Girl. Everywhere is perfect for the soundtrack to Dawson's Creek or whatever the kids are watching these days. The 18 year old Branch's sunny innocence is hard to resist. Everywhere is about realizing the guy she's obsessed with isn't always there for her but still hoping he will be.
Ex-Girlfriend - No Doubt
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #25 (April 2000) buy it!
It's been 4 ½ years since No Doubt released their last album, the very successful Tragic Kingdom, which had the hits Don't Speak, Spiderwebs and Just a Girl. The pressure to follow it was apparently pretty heavy. No Doubt took forever to record the new Return of Saturn CD, discarding a lot of material along the way. Like New, their contribution to the Go soundtrack, Ex-Girlfriend has a fast, energetic appeal but doesn't have the broad appeal of their big hits. Ex-Girlfriend is best when the band creates a frenetic momentum and it's worst when it bogs down in Gwen Stefani's vocal mannerisms. She sings that she should have known better than to be with a love em and leave em guy and readily admits to jealousy of his next victim.
Extraordinary - Better Than Ezra
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #33 (Aug. 2001) buy it!
Extraordinary, from Better Than Ezra's fourth CD Closer, is an attempt to abandon the one hit wonder status the band's had ever since their artistic and commercial peak, Deluxe's Good. It might succeed but Extraordinary is a lame imitation of a number of recent easy frat boy hits like What I Got, Fly, Hooch and One Week, which it directly quotes. I've often been charmed by Better Than Ezra's modest, tuneful pop rock but Kevin Griffin's tribute to love on Extraordinary, while pleasant, lacks any distinctiveness the band ever had. The lyrics are a pretty weak attempt at rap charm("I've got more hooks than Madonna's got looks") and the melody and dj scratching are very familiar.