Jaded - Aerosmith
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: #4 (May 2001) buy it!
Aerosmith's new CD is called Just Push Play. Jaded vaguely resembles the much better Janie's Got A Gun. It's the kind of slick, commercial music Aerosmith's made since their late 80's comeback. Jaded is kind of dopey. The lyrics keep telling us she's jaded but don't find many interesting ways to say it. Steven Tyler's distinctive shriek wails fairly meaningless lines like "you think you're where it's at but is that where it's supposed to be?" Jaded is superficial but also catchy, well made and inoffensive. Aerosmith take no chances, throwing in lots of pleasing sounds from strings, rock guitar and a familiar "my my baby blue" chorus.
Jenny From The Block - Jennifer Lopez
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: #20 (Dec. 2002) buy it!
Jenny From The Block is the first single from Lopez This Is MeThen CD. Jenny From The Block is Lopez latest proclamation of realness but she apparently had no significant role in writing it. Jenny From The Block seems inspired by a marketing persons belief that Lopez can only remain a huge star if, despite her ambition, success and high profile romances, people think shes a regular gal. In that regard, Jenny From The Block strikes me as unsuccessful. Placed along side repeated brags about the rocks that I got, Lopez claim that I know where I came from is meaningless. More importantly, Jenny From The Block, has the light, relaxed sound thats given her an impressive string of hits. Lopez thin voice is again wrapped by backing vocals and studio effects but her nearly spoken vocal also projects a straight forward confidence the audience can connect with. With an inobtrusive, steady beat and perky flute effect, the music isnt novel but it is smooth and likable. A brief, big beat break giving props to Lopez former South Bronx home adds a touch of flavor and seamlessly fits Jenny From The Blocks catchy dance pop. Jenny From The Block has an assembly line quality that undermines its statement of genuineness and keeps it from being particularly interesting but it also guarantees Lopez another hit.
Judith - A Perfect Circle
Weeks on Chart: 23 Peak: #7 (July 2000) buy it!
A Perfect Circle was formed by Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan and Tool guitar tech Billy Howerdel. A Perfect Circle's debut CD is called Mer De Noms. Judith's music is similar to much of Tool's. It's slightly less dense but it's still grinding, jagged and intense. Keenan has always reminded me of Sugar and Husker Du's Bob Mould in the way his anger seems so uncontrollable that he seems on the verge of a breakdown. On Judith, Keenan's screaming vents his rage at christianity. He tries to talk a woman out of an attitude where she feels she's brought on her problems through her sins, yelling "it's not like you killed someone."
Jumpin' Jumpin' - Destiny's Child
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: #25 (Sept. 2000) buy it!
Destiny's Child's Writing's On The Wall CD has produced a ton of R & B hits. Jumpin' Jumpin' is their second big pop hit after Say My Name. I found Say My Name repetitive and draggy. Jumpin' Jumpin' is considerably more lively. It has a nonstop, frantic energy with a good, crisp beat and staccato keyboard notes underlining the vocals. Jumpin' Jumpin' is hardly weighty but it has a positive feel to go with its lyrics inviting men and women to leave their partners for a night and go to a happening club.
Just A Friend 2002 - Mario
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #24 (Sept. 2002) buy it!
Just A Friend 2002 is from the Baltimore native's self titled CD. Mario, like Alicia Keys, who appears on the Mario CD, is on Clive Davis' J Records. Mario doesn't make the striking impression that Keys did but he does seem to have a strong voice, especially for a 15 year old. Just A Friend is a straight version of Biz Markie's 1989 hit. Biz Markie's off key goofing around is replaced by a Boys II Men style production. Sisqo producer Warryn Campbell created a good, sleek sound with crisp, solid beats, Mario's smooth vocal and good choral type female backup singers. The original was kind of thin so Just A Friend, with its very basic lyric about being rebuffed in trying to get closer to a woman, can't help but be a little repetitive and insubstantial but it goes by easily.
Just A Little While - Janet Jackson
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: #46 (March 2004) buy it!
It's a little stupid that everyone made a big deal about Janet Jackson's breast. There are so many much more offensive things on TV. That said, the question comes up whether Just A Little While bombed because of the Super Bowl controversy or whether Jackson and her people felt she needed a lot of publicity to sell a single that isn't so commercial. My guess is a bit of both. At a time when the pop and r&b charts are dominated by club ready grooves and beats, Just A Little While is basically poppy rock. Its breezy, too fast to dance to approach probably never had much of a chance. With pros like Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis helping put together the Damita Jo CD, future singles will inevitably be more urban radio friendly. The success of Jackson's dance pop and ballad singles will be the true indicator of her future prospects. Though Just A Little While had a short chart life, it's my favorite Janet Jackson single in a long time. For a while, Jackson's singles haven't been very exciting. They've been expertly constructed and mildly enjoyable but haven't been much fun. Just A Little While brings to mind the playful, energetic spirit of singles from Jackson's peak period like Control's When I Think Of You and Rhythm Nation's Escapade. Just A Little While was cowritten and produced by Dallas Austin, who's worked with lots of artists including Boys II Men, Madonna, Pink, TLC and Michael Jackson, another singer whose career has faded for a combination of reasons including controversy, getting older and losing his commercial touch. Just A Little While has a buoyant, light handed touch. It has an easy, skittering beat and a fun, simple, perky keyboard line. The compact guitar riff, which resembles the one from Sweet's Love Is Like Oxygen(which also inspired Sugar Ray's fine but lesser Mr. Bartender), gives the song additional momentum. Just A Little While never stops for breath, keeping its enjoyable ride moving. Just A Little While resembles Prince's uncategorizable romps which mixed rock guitar and insinuating, soulful beats and keyboards. Jackson's sexy, loose vocal confidence is also reminiscent of Prince. Jackson has presented a serious, artificial, mannered public persona in recent years. It's a pleasant surprise to hear her relaxed and apparently having a good time. A lot of Damita Jo is about sex and pleasure. Just A Little While's lyric expresses an easy, slightly mischievous assurance. Jackson tries to convince a guy "who's got somewhere to go" to love her for a little while but she sounds convincing when she says she can wait until later, taking care of herself until then by touching "all my favorite fruit."
Just Because - Jane's Addiction
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: #2 (Aug. 2003) buy it!
Perry Farrell has returned to two of his most successful projects. Lollapalooza, the concert tour that Ferrell co-founded, is back for the first time in six years. In time for that Jane's Addiction, with original members Farrell, Dave Navarro and drummer Stephen Perkins, have released Strays, their first record of all new songs since 1990's Ritual de lo Habitual. Jane's Addiction were quite huge but Farrell's intervening work, with Porno For Pyros and on a solo record, was often obscure. Jane's Addiction are smart to reintroduce themselves with a song that gets your attention and announces that they still matter. Farrell and Navarro are also aware that alternative rock music got harder while Jane's Addiction was away. Navarro, who was a Red Hot Chili Pepper and put out a solo record during Jane's break, drives Just Because forward with an attacking, ringing guitar line that sounds a lot like The Edge's on Pride(In The Name Of Love). Farrell tones down his vocal mannerisms. He still has distinctive phrasing, stretching out certain words but his personality doesn't overshadow the song as he does battle with Navarro's slashing. Just Because lacks the eccentricities that originally set the band apart from other groups but it's fun and it rocks. Just Because's lyric is apparently a warning that a relationship might be over because Farrell's partner never does things just because she feels like it.
Just Can't Last - Natalie Merchant
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: #44 (Dec. 2001) buy it!
In her early solo work and, especially, with 10,000 Maniacs, Natalie Merchant's music was usually fairly mellow but it was also interesting and often kind of fun. Merchant's recent singles have been melodic enough to keep some of her yuppie audience but so restrained and tasteful that they barely get your attention. Merchant brought in T Bone Burnette to produce her Motherland CD, presumably to get a richer, edgier feel, but Just Can't Last has that same polite, boring sound. Just Can't Last is nearly identical to Kind & Generous, from Mercant's last studio record Ophelia, especially in its extended fadeout with Merchant repeating Just Can't Last instead of Kind & Generous' thank yous. Just Can't Last's nice, if innocuous, lyrics try to convince someone who feels weighed down after getting lots of tough breaks that misfortune won't last. Merchant's vocals are O.K. but very serious and a little stiff. Her musicians seem skilled but they aren't allowed to disturb the placid mood.
Just Like A Pill - Pink
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: #20 (Sept. 2002) buy it!
When M!ssundaztood came out Pink, aided by the music press, put out the idea that the CD was a bold, rocking work that declared her freedom from record company people forcing her to make calculated, radio friendly music. Get The Party Started, M!ssundaztood's first single, still sounds great and exciting but Pink's subsequent singles have seemed more calculated for radio play than bold and rocking. Just Like A Pill, like Don't Let Me Get Me, was cowritten, arranged and produced by Dallas Austin, a veteran hitmaker for TLC, Boys II Men and Madonna. It has a slick, well made sound with layers of synths and percussion, a sturdy beat and power pop guitars. Just Like A Pill reminds me of another mature, well constructed hit: Sophie B. Hawkins' Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover. Just Like A Pill isn't exciting but it has a good, dense sound. Just Like A Pill's lyrics don't get much more specific than repeatedly stating that instead of making her feel better, her boyfriend keeps "makin' me ill."
Just Like You - Three Days Grace
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #6 (July 2004) 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."
Just Push Play - Aerosmith
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: #48 (July 2001) buy it!
It's been noted that Aerosmith's 1986 collaboration with Run D.M.C. on Walk This Way was one of the first successful examples of the hard rock/hip hop hybrid that's nearly ubiquitous these days. Aerosmith hadn't revisited the sound much until the title track from their new CD. With quotes from Walk This Way and a very similar guitar line, Just Push Play is practically a tribute to Walk This Way. Steven Tyler's singing and lyrics are typically broad and mindless but at least this time they're at the service of a fun song. Just Push Play has a big sound with big guitars, scratching, a big beat and a loose, anarchic feel.