Mad Season - Matchbox 20
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #36 (May 2001) buy it!
Mad Season's title track and thrid hit is like its first single Bent. It's a mellow rock song that's a little draggy but also has some edge and atmosphere. Kyle Cook's guitar line is cool and langorous. Like on Bent, Rob Thomas does a self pitying vocal about how screwed up he is("I'm lost and I'm hopeless, bleeding and broken/though I've never spoken I come undone") and asks for a woman to save him("are you gonna help me out, you need to be together now, I need you now").
Mad World - Michael Andrews featuring Gary Jules
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: #14 (April 2004) buy it!
Singer/songwriter Gary Jules and pianist/composer Michael Andrews have made music, together and apart, since they were teenagers in San Diego in the 80s. They recorded a cover of Tears For Fears' Mad World in early 2001 for Andrews' soundtrack to the movie Donnie Darko. Jules put Mad World on his Trading Snakeoil For Wolftickets CD. Jules toured extensively, playing the songs on Trading Snakeoil, which he basically put out himself. He didn't have a big commercial breakthrough until late 2003 when Mad World became a huge hit in England. Stripping down a song to piano and vocals is a standard way to do a cover. Still, Andrews was fairly brilliant in seeing potential in a song from Tears For Fears' 1983 The Hurting CD. With an ominous mood created by dark, cold synths and vocals, the original is very serious, a bit overdone and very much a creation of the early 80s. Jules, a distinctive, idiosyncratic singer and writer, does a sad, understated, unpretty vocal that makes a cover seem very personal. Jules' vocal and the music, Andrews' classical sounding piano with some subtle strings, are haunting and they connect with Donnie Darko's odd, troubled main character. I feel like the subdued voice and piano form naturally leads to pretension. I'm not a huge fan of the new Mad World but it is thoughtful, well made and not particularly self indulgent. The lyric, by Tears For Fears' leader Roland Orzabal, is a harrowing portrayal of a disturbed mind. Mad World's character has "dreams in which I'm dying" which are "the best I've ever had" and wants to "drown my sorrow" and see "no tomorrow." He also has depressed feelings which are easier to relate to. He sees, everywhere he looks, people with "worn out faces" running in circles and "going nowhere." He describes feeling, even as a child, that "no one knew me" and that teachers "look right through me."
Magic Stick - Lil' Lim featuring 50 Cent
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #20 (July 2003) buy it!
Lil' Kim went to the top of the pop charts as one of Lady Marmalade's vocalists. Now she's all over pop radio, appearing on Christina Aguilera's Can't Hold Us Down and on Magic Stick, from her La Bella Mafia CD, with 50 Cent. Everything 50 Cent touches these days becomes a hit but Magic Stick would probably be a hit even if 50 Cent wasn't the biggest recording artist in the U.S. 50 Cent and Lil' Kim are a good match. Neither has a classically impressive or pretty voice but both have plenty of charisma. At the same time, their styles are different. Some writers call 50 Cent's style mush mouthed. That's somewhat accurate but certainly not a complete description of his voice. 50 Cent's charm comes from a confidence that allows him to easily roll through his raps. He's established his street cred with tales of breaking the law and getting shot, but 50 has a likable humility. He stands out from rappers who need to show off their technique by being loud, showy and confrontational. Lil' Kim is also confident and unorthodox but she is much more in-your-face with her provocative, overtly sexual style. She's an Eartha Kitt for our time. Her assurance and sensuality compensate for the lack of standard skill in her raspy voice. Magic Stick finds both vocalists in a nice comfort zone. Magic Stick is totally about sex, a topic 50 Cent and Lil' Kim are comfortable with. They more or less get equal time. Lil' Kim has brags about her "magic clit" to match 50's claims about his member. Unlike most raps about sex, which celebrate the rapper's skills or the fact that everyone wants to be with them, Magic Stick's lyric has a giving tone. 50 and Kim express interest in the pleasure of their partner. Most of the boasting is about their skill in making someone else happy. Magic Stick's backing track, well constructed by the Fantom Of The Beat, is a good complement for the raps. Like 50 Cent's rap, Magic Stick's music moves at an easy, casual pace. It has a good, relaxed, crisp beat and a interesting, slowly twisting, clicking riff that's interrupted periodically by an emphatic crash of synths.
Make Me Bad - Korn
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: #16 (April 2000) buy it!
Confused kids can relate as Jonathan Davis sings on Make Me Bad, like on Falling Away From Me, about his troubled mind. He sings of the lack of compassion he faces and feeling his reason leaving as he obsesses about the object of his desire. Make Me Bad, from the Issues CD, has the rush of a good hard rock song with big, tough guitars. It's harder and less distinctive than the atmospheric Falling Away From Me.
Mambo Number 5 - Lou Bega
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: #22 (Oct. 1999) buy it!
Mambo Number 5 is practically the definition of a novelty hit. It's different, with a retro feel, and catchy. The story of a a proudly promiscuous but harmless guy for whom "flirtin' is just like a sport" has a dumb charm. Mambo Number 5 will probably be a huge hit and then become annoying even quicker than the Macarena.
Man Overboard - Blink 182
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: #26 (Dec. 2000) buy it!
Enema Of The State's fun, fast pop is still selling but Blink 182 is already back with a new CD, The Mark, Travis and Tom Show. Man Overboard sounds a lot like Enema Of The State's Dumpweed, as well as kind of like a fast version of Peter Schilling Major Tom(Coming Home). Once again, Blink 182's music is pretty light but energizing, unpretentious and solidly constructed. Man Overboard is about being sad that things can't be worked out, but deciding that a friend has screwed up too many times.
Maps - Yeah Yeah Yeah
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: #33 (May 2004) buy it!
Fever To Tell, Yeah Yeah Yeahs' first full length CD, has been a critics' favorite but it's not very commercial. Surprisingly, a year after the CD's release, the New York band has achieved some mainstream success, including a lot of MTV play. Maps is not very representantive of Fever To Tell. The first 70% of Fever To Tell has the raw, edgy, punky sound that originally gave Yeah Yeah Yeahs their reputation. I find that music interesting and exciting but I don't know how much I like it. With her ranting and shriek, Singer Karen O is a compelling figure, sounding a little unhinged and like she wants to make us uncomfortable. Nick Zinner creates an exciting, driving sound with an arsenal of jagged guitar riffs. Things calm down on Fever To Tell's last few songs. Y Control is my favorite and the least wild of the CD's other rockers. Modern Romance and hidden track Porcelain are stark with subdued vocals. But Maps is Fever To Tell's real standout. It has an epic quality. Maps is unhurried but it's moved along by Brian Chase's simple pounding and Nick Zinner's processed guitars. Zinner's varied, evocative guitar sounds give Maps texture. A bass sound periodically scrapes along Maps' bottom before exploding with a climactic U2-like fury. Maps' uncluttered, haunting soundscape heightens the poignance of Karen O's uncharacteristically unmannered vocal and Maps' concise lyric. Swearing "they don't love you like I love you" Karen O, sounding a bit like Chrissie Hynde, pleads "wait" and "don't stray."
Maria Maria - Santana
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: #22 (April 2000) buy it!
Like Smooth, Maria Maria, the third hit from the huge Supernatural CD, successfully mixes two different styles. Product G & B smoothly sing a soul ballad about a girl like the one in West Side Story while Santana plays cool, relaxed Spanish guitar. With a clean, chunky beat, Maria Maria creates an easy, sexy Latin groove.
Maybe Someday - The Cure
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #9 (March 2000) buy it!
Bloodflowers, the new Cure CD, has the same dense atmospheric sound of the band's previous work and it often feels like an unsatisfactory rehash. The single Maybe Someday is nothing new but it does show the band's ability to mix melody with the murkiness with good guitars and keyboards. Robert Smith sings of his typical ambivalence and inability to see the bright side of things but his knowing self deprecation does have a charm. Smith sings about being stuck in the past and unable to move on, sure he can't match earlier sensations. He's almost embarrassed about the possibility of feeling joy.
Me Against The Music - Britney Spears featuring Madonna
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #34 (Dec. 2003) buy it!
You have to give Britney Spears(and her publicists) credit. Her recent music isn't very good or interesting and her record sales are declining but, with the help of kisses with Madonna and two day marriages, she's made sure that lots of people want to interview her or put her on the cover of their magazine. Me Against The Music is disappointing for a few reasons, including for showing that the VMA kiss, which seemed exciting at the time, was just publicity for Britney's upcoming single. Me Against The Music, from Britney's In The Zone CD, has the fairly odd idea of teaming up two of the worst singers who ever became huge pop stars. Of course, Me Against The Music doesn't try to show that Britney or Madonna are great singers. The singers' celebrity is used in attempt to create interest in a slight, unremarkable song. Like other songs from the singers' oeuvre, Me Against The Music matches their cold, electronically enhanced voices with an icy, synthetic sound. The pinched, nasal quality of Britney's voice isn't likable but it works OK with the hard, unmelodic music. The vocals are only significantly annoying when Madonna is featured giving irritatingly confident calling out "hey Britney" and advising her to "bare your soul." Otherwise, the singing is mostly buried low in the mix and it often isn't much more than another percussion instrument. The vocals are compressed all over the place and Britney's singing quickly skitters around but there's such a lack of warmth or humanity that nothing draws you in. Me Against The Music has an OK groove but not much sense of a song. The "all my people on the floor"chorus is the only portion with anything resembling a hook. Me Against The Music has the mechanical efficiency of a lot of Britney's music since she began to more actively seek an older audience. It sounds like it was designed as the background for a music video rather than as an appealing song. Me Against The Music is a sterile, joyless piece of work. It's a fairly impressive, tight production so crammed with synths, crisp, brittle beats and processed vocals that it's a bit tiring to listen to. Not surprising for a thin song accompanied by a PR avalanche, Me Against The Music raced into the charts but didn't last long. While the singers(especially Madonna) try to give the impression that they're singing about something serious and intense, Me Against The Music is basically just another song about how it's good to get on the dance floor and dance.
Me Myself and I - Beyonce
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #40 (Feb. 2004) buy it!
The exhilarating Crazy In Love justifiably won Beyonce Knowles Grammy awards but her subsequent singles have been less remarkable. Me, Myself and I was cowritten and produced by the in demand Scott Storch(Pink's Family Portrait, Justin's Cry Me A River, Christina's Fighter). Me, Myself & I has a smooth sound. Its wah-wah riff gives it a bit of texture and a 70's retro feel. But that riff gets a little annoying because nothing else in the song stands up to it. Beyonce singing is smooth and fluid. Her controlled vocal fits Me, Myself & I's sleek, easy sound but gives, as she often does, the impression of holding back and not fully engaging. That impression is supported by the lyric's icy resolve. My, Myself & I's has the same message of self reliance and determination Beyonce has given us since early in her Destiny's Child career. Beyonce apparently describes two different bad relationships. In one, the guy cheated "with loose women." In the other, he was "so controlling." Claiming "there ain't no need to cry", she says she realizes that she can only trust herself and that she's "gon' be my own best friend." She sounds like she's reading from a self improvement book as she vows "I will never disappoint myself." Beyonce's focused, cynical ambition is, obviously, part of why she's a big star but, on Me, Myself & I, it's kind of sad. Beyonce's limited faith in others is apparently based on real, sad experiences but, to me, her chilliness limits her appeal. Me, Myself & I is well made, pleasant listening but it's not very likable.
Meant To Live - Switchfoot
Weeks on Chart: 35 Peak: #10 (April 2004) 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.
Meet Virginia - Train
Weeks on Chart: 23 Peak: #12 (Dec. 1999) buy it!
Train are enjoying a long chart life with this single from their self titled debut. Different radio formats and listeners keep discovering this likeable, unpretentious loving tribute to an idiosyncratic, somewhat screwed woman. Meet Virginia isn't ground breaking but it has a nice low key southern rock tinged feel which is only broken when things get a little too heavy towards the end as singer Patrick Monahan screams about how Virginia doesn't want to live this life and then the song goes into a heavy guitar solo.
Megalomaniac - Incubus
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: #3 (March 2004) buy it!
After mellow hits like Drive and Wish You Were Here, Incubus show they can still rock on Megalomaniac, the first single from their new CD called A Crow Left Of The Murder. On the verses, Brandon Boyd does a familiar smooth croon but, supported by Jose Pasillas' pounding drums, he's focused and not too laid back. On the chorus, Boyd shows off a new, pissed off voice. Ranting like Johnny Lydon, Boyd grabs your attention, sounding committed and a bit crazed. Incubus have done a bunch of songs alternating between mellow and harder sections but Megalomaniac is tighter than most. It doesn't drag, staying interesting even in its quieter parts. Part of the credit goes to guitar player Mike Einzinger, who does his usual solid, versatile job, ranging from spacy, jazzy doodling to big, tough power chords. Megalomaniac is a bit overdramatic and not that well developed but I like its intensity and Boyd's kooky passion. Megalomaniac's video suggests a political bent but the angry lyric is a fairly unspecific diatribe at someone Boyd hears "on the radio" who permeates "my screen" and has delusions of greatness and of being the "only one." Boyd vents violent fantasies and asks him to "step down."
Mesmerize - Ja Rule featuring Ashanti
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: #17 (March 2003) buy it!
I am really sick of hearing Ja Rule's self satisfied rasp of a voice on his and other people's hits. And I don't like the way Ashanti fits into Jeff Atkins' and Irv Gotti's "man's world" as the ideal, submissive woman. But, damn it, Ja and Irv know how to make catchy, if very lightweight, hits. On Mesmerize, from his The Last Temptation CD, Ja's croak is as annoying as ever. But Ashanti's sweet voice is as appealing as ever and the perky little synth riff is ridiculously catchy. I'd imagine that disses from 50 Cent and others would encourage Ja to toughen up his sound, but I guess, with the success he's had, he's crying all the way to the bank. Mesmerize is another opportunity for Ja to objectify women as he dissects the parts of a women that he loves and uninterestingly says how he wants to "do it" with her. Annoyingly, Ashanti's character mostly plays along, swooning and asking him to "take me tonight and do what you do to me baby."
The Middle - Jimmy Eat World
Weeks on Chart: 37 Peak: #2 (May 2002) buy it!
Amid all the dour, self pitying young men on alternative radio and now on the top of the pop charts, Jimmy Eat World's frothy, upbeat hit is especially welcome. Because they're energetic and very sincere and their music rocks hard and fast, Jimmy Eat World have been labeled an "emo-core" band. There's not much hardcore about The Middle's sound. It's just buoyant poppy fun. The Middle does rock but it keeps things light. With a tight, stuttering guitar, a steady bass line and Jimmy Adkins' sunny vocal, The Middle has a likable exuberance. The Middle's lyrics advise a girl to ignore the feeling that others are looking down on her, promising that "everything will be all right." The music carries a similarly optimistic spirit. The title track from Jimmy Eat World's fourth CD was close to the top 50 when September 11 came. Radio and the band's record company decided people didn't want to hear a hard driving rocker called Bleed American. Luckily, the CD also contains the irresistable The Middle, easily the best song on the earnest but not always enjoyable Bleed American CD.
Milkshake - Kelis
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: #22 (Feb. 2004) buy it!
Kelis got some attention with Caught Out There, a striking, impossible to ignore song featuring Kelis screaming "I hate you so much right now." Kelis couldn't even get her second record released in the U.S. but her third CD, Tasty, has yielded her first big pop hit. With its attention grabbing spare sound, eastern rhythms and sassy sexual imagery, Milkshake qualifies as a novelty hit song but Milkshake is a good, interesting song. With so many guys rapping about their docile sexual conquests, it's good to hear a song with a woman who's sensual but confident and very much in control, even if the song was written and produced by The Neptunes(Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams), who have done hits for everyone including Britney, Justin, Usher, Nelly and Snoop Dogg. With her eccentric look and loopy but smart and confident musical persona, Kelis is a bit like Macy Gray but she comes off as slightly less gangly and odd. Without specifying what her milkshake is there's no doubt that, while it "brings all the boys to the yard", she decides who gets a taste. On Milkshake, Kelis teases another woman and offers to teach her "techniques that freak these boys." Milkshake draws you in with its exotic bongos and bells. It nicely alternates Kelis' unpolished, distinctive voice with a smoother female vocal. The distinctive, unusual things about Milkshake could make it annoying after repeat listens but it's good to hear a strong woman and a different sound amid similar sounding, male dominated music.
Minerva - Deftones
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #24 (June 2003) buy it!
Minerva is from Deftones, the band's self titled fourth studio album. Minerva is a lot like Change, from the White Pony CD, Deftones' biggest hit so far. That's not a bad thing. Like Change, Minerva is good and intense. Singer Chino Moreno lets himself get deep into Minerva's maelstrom of sound and emotion. The band get good edge by going slow and making an impressive, dense noise. Stephen Carpenter and Moreno play grinding power chords but Minerva doesn't drag as it powerfully inches forward. Arguably, Minerva is a bit self indulgent and the band is too enamored with their own meaningfulness. But while making a big rock sound, Deftones avoid the pretension, showy excess and lack of originality that mar the updated grunge that dominates modern rock radio. Minerva has exciting passion and strength. Moreno is presumably paying tribute to a woman, rather than the goddess of wisdom, but he uses lofty terms, describing how Minerva's singing makes him numb and brings his knees to the earth and how it "could bring back peace to the earth."
Minority - Green Day
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: #11 (Oct. 2000) buy it!
Fans who were concerned with the maturity Billie Joe Armstrong showed on Time Of Your Life from the Nimrod CD can be reassured by Minority, the first single from the Warning CD. Minority has the likably simple feel that made Green Day a huge success on their Dookie CD. Billie Joe sings that he doesn't want to be a conformist and is happy to stand alone.
Miserable Bastard - John Popper
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #22 (Oct. 1999) buy it!
Miserable Bastard is from the first solo record from the Blues Traveler vocalist and harmonica god. Despite the death of bass player Bobby Sheehan, Blues Traveler apparently hasn't broken up. Long ago, Popper had said he wanted a chance to try some different things. Miserable Bastard has a good groove and it is a little funkier than normal Blues Traveller music. The lyrics about how Popper uses love like fuel, "the pain it fuels my engine" is typical Popper pessimism about how rejection makes him know he still feels.
Miserable - Lit
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: #12 (April 2000) buy it!
The most notable about Miserable, the third chart hit from the band's Place in the Sun CD, is its video with Pamela Anderson playing a giant Amazon babe who's literally a maneater. Miserable doesn't have the fast stupid charm of My Own Worst Enemy and Ziplock. Miserable, with A. Jay Popoff singing about being unavoidably attracted to a woman who ruins his life and makes him miserable, is slower. It's fairly entertaining but unremarkable, with big power chords.
Miss Independent - Kelly Clarkson
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: #13 (Aug. 2003) buy it!
Miss Independent, the first single from the Thankful CD, is a good move for the American Idol '02 winner. Clarkson could probably get a few more hits sticking with the big, emotive ballads that are so popular with American Idol's audience. But Clarkson undoubtedly realizes if she wants a long career, she'll need to connect with the majority of Americans who aren't fans of the easy listening American Idol sound. So, like balladeers including Whitney and Celine, Clarkson is sure to alternate dance pop with her slow, dramatic songs. Miss Independent indicates that Clarkson has taken Christina Aguilera as a role model for her dance pop. Clarkson was pushed in that direction by producer Rhett Lawrence. Lawrence wrote Miss Independent with Aguilera. When it didn't make Aguilera's Stripped CD, Lawrence brought it to Clarkson who supposedly, with Lawrence, reworked it. Miss Independent still sounds just like a Christina Aguilera song(it's odd to hear it back to back with Aguilera's Fighter) and not a great one. Still, in my mind, anything is an improvement over big, showy, empty, generic ballads like Clarkson's first hit: A Moment Like This. Miss Independent is better than Fighter, simply because it doesn't overdo things. The backing is relatively restrained and functional. The verses get good edge from a steady riff with the sound of a tight electric guitar strum and a crisp angular beat. The chorus, with chords crunching in under Clarkson's singing, is very familiar but it is effectively dramatic, Clarkson's vocal doesn't show much distinctive personality but it stays strong, twisting around and not getting overwhelmed by the song's electronics. Miss Independent's lyric doesn't really match Clarkson sweet, regular gal image. It reads more like an attempt, like Beautiful, to redefine Aguilera's unlikable persona. Miss Independent is about a woman who, after working hard at projecting a harsh aura of self sufficiency, drops her defenses and falls hopelessly in love.
Miss You - Aaliyah
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #30 (April 2003) buy it!
More than a year and a half after her death, Aaliyah is back on the charts with her second posthumous pop hit. Miss You is on the I Care 4 U CD, which includes eight of Aaliyah's hits and six new songs. I find Miss You, with tweeting bird effects presumably meant to evoke heaven, a touch creepy. On the video, popular artists lip synch Aaliyah's lines about missing a lover who went off to college as if they wrote the song about Aaliyah. It's a little weird but the performers' affection for Aaliyah is surely real. Miss You, written and produced by Johnta Austin and Teddy Bishop, is generally OK. Aaliyah's singing is fine and it's nicely mixed with good backing vocals. A quiet, simple beat and restrained keyboards don't interfere with the ethereal mood. Miss You's music is oddly similar to that of Minnie Ripperton's Lovin' You. It's very smooth and soothing. It's also so mellow it could put you to sleep.
Mixed Bizness - Beck
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: #41 (April 2000) buy it!
My favorite songs on Beck's Midnite Vultures are Pressure Zone and Beautiful Way, songs which don't fit with the CD's general theme of painstakingly recreating 70's funk and disco. However, Mixed Bizness is a lot of fun. Unlike on some of the songs on Midnite Vultures, Beck seems more concerned with creating a good time mood than in showing off how talented he is. Beck creates a good groove with cheesy sound effects, funky bass, horns and high pitched backing vocals. The fun music makes Beck's typically goofy words, with lyrics about making "all the lesbians scream", go down easier.
More Than A Woman - Aaliyah
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #49 (June 2002) buy it!
Aaliyah's tragic death at age 22 cut short what would likely have been a long, successful music and acting career. At least, the continued success of her self titled CD means that the last memory of Aaliyah won't be the awful movie Queen Of The Damned, which even her charisma couldn't save. We Need A Resolution and Rock The Boat, Aaliyah's previous singles, fell short of the top 50 but More Than A Woman gives her another pop hit. Aaliyah's voice was adequate rather than remarkable but she also had a real presence and a cool, strong, distinctive image. Her gifts are nicely displayed on More Than A Woman. More Than A Woman was produced by Timbaland, who worked with Aaliyah on her One In A Million CD and on Romeo Must Die's Try Again. More Than A Woman is not as striking as Try Again but it's a good and smooth with a crisp beat, a likable keyboard riff and strong backup singers to fill out the sound. Aaliyah again presents a confident persona. She's unsure if a guy is ready for her but encourages him to "tempt me". She's ready to give in to passion and promises him an exciting life with her if he proves himself.
More Than That - Backstreet Boys
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: #29 (July 2001) buy it!
More Than That has the trademark smooth sound of Backstreet Boys ballads like Shape Of My Heart, I Want It That Way and Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely. They play the supportive suitor, sensitive to the pain caused to a girl by a dishonest guy and promising not to repeat his mistakes. The Boys' solos are a little overwrought(especially on the video, as they grimace and pump their fists to show the intensity of their singing) but their harmonies come together very nicely on the chorus. More Than That is a quiet ballad that's a bit wimpy but has pretty good, minimal beats, acoustic guitar and keyboards.
Moses - Coldplay
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #12 (Dec. 2003) buy it!
Moses didn't make A Rush Of Blood To The Head's final cut but Coldplay played it on that record's tour and included on the Coldplay Live 2003 CD & DVD. Moses was probably originally omitted because it was similar to and perhaps not quite as good as A Rush Of Blood's Clocks but it's good that Moses has been given a chance. Moses is another example of the band's charms. Coldplay are often at their best when they showcase Jon Buckland. On Moses, Buckland makes a number of interesting, evocative guitar sounds. Before each verse, Buckland plays a beautiful, shimmering riff. Otherwise, Buckland nicely matches Chris Martin's vocal. On the verses, he does a simple but nice sounding strum. On the chorus, he plays a good, soaring line that leads into the part where Martin climbs to a falsetto. Buckland closes out the song with a fairly basic solo that supplies a sense of catharsis. Martin similarly employs a variety of voices. He uses a fairly plaintive vocal on the chorus, climbs in intensity and finally achieves a feeling of joyful release. Martin has done lots of yearning vocals before but he still communicates humility and sincerity that feels real. Martin must feels very fortunate to be with Gwyneth Paltrow but it'll be interesting to see whether winning the heart of a fabulous babe hurts his writing. Martin's gotten a lot of lyrics from depicting himself as ever hopeful but more interested in a woman than she is in him. On Moses, Martin is typically a bit pathetic but charming as he tries to win a woman by telling her "you're my golden opportunity." The simile that gives Moses its title is overblown even for a romantic like Martin. Does Martin really think that the power a woman has over him is comparable to the power Moses had over the Red Sea?
Most Girls - Pink
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: #26 (Nov. 2000) buy it!
Most Girls isn't quite as interesting as There You Go, Pink's feisty take on the TLC sound. Most Girls, from her Can't Take Me Home CD, is more routine, but it has an effective groove. The lyrics don't totally ring true but Pink continues to show personality. She sings that, unlike other "flygirls", she's more interested in a real love than a "g" with the "mean green" who gives his girl diamond rings.
Mourning - Tantric
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #25 (Jan. 2002) buy it!
Mourning is the third chart hit from the debut CD by the musicians who have recaptured success after getting kicked out of Days Of The New while Travis Meeks' second version of Days Of The New has sunk without a trace. It's a shame that Tantric's tale of resurrection isn't accompanied by better music. Tantric seem like decent musicians but they're making very standard angry rock. Hugo Ferreira, the singer the ex-Days picked, is just another intense, deep sub-Vedder voice. The lyric starts by claiming he's learned about himself and can deal with another woman hurting him but soon accuses her for "all the lies" and how she "conned me into thinking that all I had was you."
Move Ya Body - Nina Sky
Weeks on Chart: 1 Peak: #48 (July 2004) buy it!
Nina Sky are Nicole and Natalie Albino, teenagers from Queens, New York. They apparently are the first twin sisters ever to hit the pop charts. Move Ya Body smartly uses the Coolie Dance rhythm, which was created by Jamaican producer Cordell (Scatta) Burrell and has been used in a number of recent songs. The Coolie Dance rhythm's clapping and bongo sound provides Move Ya Body's backbone. Producers The Jettsonz and Cipha Sounds add a loose, exotic synth sound that underlines the Albinos' vocal. Move Ya Body's singing is fine but unremarkable as it flows with the groove. Jabba's rap also adds some flavor. But Move Ya Body is about the music, which is terrific. The synths and the rhythm combine to create a sinewy, slithery sound that begs people to hit the dance floor. It remains to be seen if Coolie Dance will match last year's Diwali rhythm in sending multiple hits up the pop charts but Move Ya Body is one of 2004's most alluring dance songs. Like its vocal, Move Ya Body's lyric is mostly meant to fit with the rhythm and not get in the way. The Albinos applaud a "girl" who "makes the fellas go." Move Ya Body apparently becomes a first person story as the ladies sing about someone who makes them hot as their "body moves closer."
Movies - Alien Ant Farm
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #36 (Feb. 2002) buy it!
Movies was actually the first single from the Anthology CD. It spent a couple weeks on the chart last spring. After the success of Alien Ant Farm's nasty but ingenious rocking cover of Smooth Criminal, Movies is getting another chance. Movies again shows the band's skill at making music that's rocking but catchy. As on Smooth Criminal, a lot of the credit should go to Terry Corso, whose alternately stuttering and booming guitar playing gives Movies a big, energetic sound. Movies doesn't quite have Smooth Criminal's momentum and I find Dryden Mitchell's vocals somewhat obnoxious. Still Movies, about suggesting a graceful end to a relationship that's gone wrong, is an appealingly buoyant rocker.
Mrs. Potter's Lullaby - Counting Crows
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #19 (June 2000) buy it!
This Desert Life has sold a fraction as many units as Counting Crows' two previous records. It's fallen off the top 200 selling records chart and there's no reason to believe Mrs. Potter's Lullaby will get it back on. Still, Mrs. Potter's Lullaby is a likable relaxed rocker in the vein of Mr. Jones, Rain King and Daylight Fading. The song's easy mood makes the nearly eight minutes of Adam Duritz' collage of musings on circuses, Hollywood and his personal problems pass quickly. The music has a smooth Allman Brothers style country rock vibe with relaxed guitar and piano.
Ms. Jackson - Outkast
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #40 (March 2001) buy it!
Outkast's Stankonia was justifiably one of the most critically acclaimed CDs of 2000 and Ms. Jackson is one of the best songs getting heavy play on MTV. Ms. Jackson has a cool, easy groove with a simple, piano effect. Two good, contrasting rappers work on a baby's mama's mama. Big Boi barely contains his anger through a fast, dextrous rap, complaining about paying the bills for his baby but never getting to be with her. Andre 3000's rap is looser. He hopes his relationship will last forever then realizes how long forever is. Ms. Jackson finds some basis to the stereotype of the irresponsible estranged African American dad, but humanizes the character.
Mudshovel - Staind
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: #22 (Dec. 1999) buy it!
The band's Dysfunction CD was coproduced by Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst. Mudshovel shares Limp Bizkit's talent for making hard rock that musically and lyrically appeals to adolescent boys. It's another intense song about a tormented young man: "you can feel my anger, you can feel my pain." Mudshovel does have an interesting guitar sound that is more original that its raging vocals.
Murder or a Heart Attack - Old 97's
Weeks on Chart: 1 Peak: #45 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
On their last record, Too Far To Care, they were roots rock purists, seemingly believing that making a catchy song was selling out. Their new one, Fight Songs, is considerably more accessible. It's a very good record of well played, fun authentic music. Murder or a Heart Attack confirms their willingness to be commercial. It's a simple, wry song about taking risks to get your baby back. It's very sincere but also catchy country rock.
Music - Madonna
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: #26 (Sept. 2000) buy it!
The title track from Madonna's new CD shows that an incredibly stupid song can be a hit if it's got a good beat and it's sung by a star. The broad, silly 70's tinged video for Music makes it clear that Madonna knows the song is dopey. That knowing irony, even combined with the occasional clever line like "music makes the bourgeoisie want to rebel", still doesn't stop Music from being a little annoying. You're supposed to be reminded of disco's mindless fun by the simple words: "hey mister d.j., put a record on, I want to dance with my baby." French studio wiz Mirwais Ahmadzai does a good job of laying down the beats and adding the house effects.
My Band - D12 featuring Eminem
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: #18 (May 2004) buy it!
D12(aka The Dirty Dozen) originally formed in the early 90s. D12's main claim to fame is that in the mid 90s, before becoming a huge solo star, Eminem was a member. Eminem has stuck by D12 and continued to work with them. D12's Devil's Night CD did pretty well but didn't approach the sales of Eminem's solo work. Not surprisingly, D12's pop breakthrough comes on a song focusing on Eminem doing a showy performance. On Eminem Show's Hailie's Song, the most notable previous song where he sang instead of rapped, Eminem did some very sincere singing but started by saying "I can't sing." Eminem seems considerably more confident on My Band, from the D12 World CD, jokingingly whining/singing the chorus. His singing is pretty awful but, like much of what Eminem does, it's strangely compelling and hard to ignore. My Band starts with a spoken section where Eminem sounds like he's doing Ed Norton. Eminem raps a verse in a voice that's less dramatic and more like his speaking voice than usual. As usual, Eminem's rapping is thick with words and theatrics. His technique is typically remarkable as he playfully races through his rap, quick but always in control. He easily slips into a caricature of a groupie crying "dude you fuckin' rock", "won't you please let me suck your cock." My Band presents a slightly parallel world where, rather than the star helping out his rap friends, Eminem is the lead singer of a boy band. The lyric has fun with the dynamics between the pop idol and formerly equal bandmates. Eminem, playing the clueless star, is very funny. He claims to be confused about how "everybody's all jealous" of his devoted female following and the fact the he gets to "do my a capellas." He accuses bandmates of "tryin' to steal the light from me" and "pulling a knife on me 'cause I told him Jessica Alba's my wife to be." My previous impression of D12's other members was pretty terrible. On My Band, their contributions vary from not atrocious to pretty good. They comfortably play the envious colleagues. Swifty McVeigh does an OK hard rap, complaining that "we in a van and in a tour bus" and about a small dressing room and being confused for another member of the group. Kuniva and Kon Artis's verse is an amusing skit. They call Eminem "a punk ass thinkin' he the shit" for "takin' on a flick" and get dissed by him as a group interview becomes a solo. They complain that "our mics are screwed up and his always sound best." When Eminem asks "you got something to say", they clam up, then blame each other("I was 'bout to talk right after you.") Proof does a decent, fast rap, asking why "he get 90 and we only get 10 percent." Bizarre is My Band's coolest and second most entertaining rapper, bragging about his "big ass stomach" and listing the Eminem videos where "I was in the back." Eminem has long had a problem with boy bands. Boy bands have been in decline for a while but Eminem keeps taking shots, mocking the heartthrob emoting "girls why can't you see you're the only one for me and it just tears my ass apart to know that you don't know my name." My Band ends on an appropriately goofy note with Eminem affecting an odd Indian accent as he claims "my salsa makes all the pretty girls want to dance." As with many Eminem songs, My Band has stupid parts but it's packed with interesting bits. Generally, it's quite hilarious. Beneath the kidding around about the spot Eminem and D12 hold in the success food chain, My Band also expresses a sense of affection between Eminem and his old rapping friends. Eminem produced My Band. The recurring, vaguely spooky riff sounds like ones Eminem and Dr. Dre have used before but it's very effective. My Band's music is catchy and the way it matches the notes of Eminem's singing nicely reinforces the song's amusing central theme of a world revolving around Eminem.
My Everything - 98 Degrees
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: #40 (Feb. 2001) buy it!
I quite liked Give Me Just One Night, the first single from the Revelation CD but My Everything is bland, even by boy band standards. You'd figure even the preteen girl target audience would be bored by the endless string of wimpy declarations of love for the girl who saved him when "my eyes had no more tears to cry": "nothing your love won't bring, my life is yours alone/the only love I've ever known", "all my hopes and all my dreams are suddenly reality" and "every night I pray on bended knee." My Everything sounds like other easy listening favorites like I Believe I Can Fly but its treacly sound, with piano and ladled on strings, is even tamer.
My Friends Over You - New Found Glory
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: #28 (Sept. 2002) buy it!
The demand for fun, dopey, poppy guitar rock continues. Coral Springs, Florida's New Found Glory broke through with the fun, simple Hit Or Miss and have a similarly basic sound on My Friends Over You, the first single from the Sticks and Stones CD. My Friends Over You is like a less obnoxious version of SR-71's Right Now and it's not that far from Sum 41 or Blink 182. My Friends Over You is catchy and likable. It has a fairly clear sound, a positive feel and a restrained pace for a rocker. Chad Gilbert and Steve Klein create a good, varied guitar sound with crunching chords on the verses and a good hook on the chorus. Jordan Pundik's vocal isn't particularly impressive but at least it's unpretentious. Klein's lyrics apologize for leading a girl on but tell her their history makes it clear she's not worth as much as his friendships.
My Generation - Limp Bizkit
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: #50 (Oct. 2000) buy it!
My Generation was one of two singles released in advance of Limp Bizkit's new Chocolate Starfish & The Hotdog Flavored Water CD. My Generation shows Limp Bizkit's skill at mixing hard rock guitar and a good hip hop groove. However, as it goes along, My Generation gets harsher and less appealing, dissolving into a bridge just like Rearranged's. As usual, Fred Durst's rap is not particularly skilled and the lyrics are mostly interesting in showing Durst's narcissism. Durst claims to be a spokesman for his generation but he really seems to be talking about himself. His insights about today's youth are limited to: we don't give a f--- if you talk shit about is.
My Immortal - Evanescence
Weeks on Chart: 23 Peak: #16 (March 2004) buy it!
My Immortal is the least irritating of the three chart hits from Evanescence's hugely successful Fallen CD. Bring Me To Life had rock guitar, rapping, goth touches and a big, atmospheric production. It gave the impression that the band was trying to please everyone and gave me a headache. On My Immortal, Evanescence are the sappy but effective folkie pop band I always thought they were under the rock trappings. It will be interesting to see if Evanescence can survive and thrive now that Ben Moody, who co-founded the band and cowrote all the songs on Fallen, has left. Whether she goes solo or stays with the band, singer Amy Lee will probably do fine. Lee has striking looks and a good voice. My Immortal again shows Lee to be a Tori Amos/Sarah McLachlan fan. My Immortal is reminiscent of simple, emotional, piano based Amos songs like Silent All These Years. Evanescence is unable to stay in a delicate Amos type mode for a whole song. My Immortal is more cliched than a good Tori Amos song. Its strings and the way the drums and guitars crash in for a climactic last run through the chorus make it more formulaic. But My Immortal generally maintains an appealing delicacy. Lee's singing is strong and not too showy. Her voice and simple piano playing easily carry the song. Evanescence have a preference for big, dramatic images. While it could be about an old boyfriend, My Immortal's lyric is apparently about being haunted by the memory of a dead lover whose "presence still lingers." The overripe emotion of Evanescence's songs, which millions have taken to, is too much for me. Heavy strings and Lee's painfully sincere vocal make My Immortal a bit precious. But Lee's intensity, her riveting presence and a direct, stripped down sound make My Immortal compelling.
My Love Is Like... Wo - Mya
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #24 (Oct. 2003) buy it!
My Love Is Like Wo... is from Mya Harrison's Moodring CD. My Love Is Like was cowritten and coproduced by Missy Elliott. My Love Is Like doesn't have the inventiveness and energy of Elliott's hits but it does have those songs' appealing confidence and sensuality. My Love Is Like is one of many R&B songs where a women promises she's going to please her man but it gives the usual idea a nice spin. She knows the guy will be happy with her because she's quite happy with herself. The fun of the song is how Mya's need to satisfy someone else seems less important than how she's satisfied with herself. My Love Is Like's music is unremarkable and a touch light but it's smooth and controlled and nicely matches the lyric's easy assurance. My Love Is Like has a good, simple beat and quietly dramatic piano, string and synth effects. Mya's voice is relaxed when she's on her own and the singing is playful and strong when she harmonizes and trades lines with backup singers.
My Love Is Your Love - Whitney Houston
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: #37 (Jan. 2000) buy it!
At times on her My Love Is Your Love CD, Whitney Houston sadly tries to sound like today's hot hip hop artists. She shouldn't worry about sounding like anyone but herself. Houston doesn't seem totally comfortable on the CD's title track, but it does have a good, smooth groove and Houston has a great voice. The lyrics are sweet if unexciting, proclaiming that her love would survive World War III, judgement day or, God forbid, the loss of her fame and fortune.
My Own Worst Enemy - Lit
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: #7 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
There certainly nothing bold or original about Lit's single from their A Place in the Sun but its pop appeal is undeniable. My Own Worst Enemy mixes chunky power chords and a very catchy pop riff for an appealing glam rockish sound that is poppy and rocking enough to appeal to different audiences. The story of being a dopey, self destructive kid, is an alternative pop standby, also currently in use in Blink 182's What's My Age Again, and is delivered by Lit with self deprecating charm.
My Sacrifice - Creed
Weeks on Chart: 25 Peak: #2 (Dec. 2001) buy it!
My Sacrifice, the first single from Creed's new Weathered CD, sounds a lot like the singles from their last CD Human Clay. Creed and their frontman Scott Stapp apparently can't help but make big, lofty sincere rock music. I find My Sacrifice empty and pretentious but don't hate it as much as most of Creed's music. My Sacrifice closely resembles Higher and With Arms Wide Open but it's not quite as self indulgent as those songs. It also rocks a little harder than those songs. Like What If, My Sacrifice has big power chords and sounds like standard hard rock but Stapp's vocal isn't unpleasantly angry like it was on What If. Stapp's lyrics typically embrace lofty images("above all the others we'll fly, this brings tears to my eyes") but don't make his usual attempt at spiritual meaning. They're actually kind of nice. Stapp sings about gladly forgetting old grudges to restart a friendship that's seen its ups and downs.
My Way - Limp Bizkit
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: #9 (May 2001) buy it!
My Way is the third chart hit from Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water. It sounds like Rearranged, Take A Look Around and a lot of Limp Bizkit's other music. The music, though familiar, is pretty good with an edgy, forboding mood on the verses and good rock energy on the chorus from Wes Borland's fast, hard guitar and John Otto's dynamic beat. But, as usual, Fred Durst messes things up with his mediocre talent and stupid attitude. Durst's thin voice is barely adequate on the verses then he does his distinctive hoarse yelp on the chorus. The lyrics are a typical paranoid Durst rant similar to Rearranged's. He resents a woman looking down on him, pathetically demands respect("it's my way or the highway") and convinces himself "you'll be the one who's left missing me."