P.I.M.P. - 50 Cent
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: #27 (Oct. 2003) buy it!
P.I.M.P, the third hit from his Get Rich Or Die Tryin' CD, supports the theory that 50 Cent can release anything these days and it'll be a hit. P.I.M.P.'s success was probably aided by 50's flamboyant performance with Snoop Dogg on the Video Music Awards. P.I.M.P. is a slight novelty song but it is appealing. P.I.M.P. rolls along easily on the Caribbean sound of steel drums and a steady, if slightly irritating, scraping beat. 50's rap has even more relaxed charm than usual. His style is very effective. He's fast and confident but his easy, unshowy, slightly mushed mouthed, regular guy delivery make his rap very accessible and likable. On P.I.M.P., 50 Cent is working hard, keeping a seemingly endless string of lines coming, but he's still very much at ease. P.I.M.P.'s whimsical sound disguises the obnoxious nature of the lyrics. P.I.M.P. is apparently about the fact that, when it comes to women, 50 has the cold, bottom line oriented attitude of a pimp. 50 Cent tells us how he can charm the ladies but P.I.M.P. is mostly about how "a bitch can't get a dollar out of me." The third verse has some nasty, pointless details of the pimping business, threatening that if you "put my other hoes down, you get your ass beat" and ordering his girls to do tricks and "make a pimp rich." P.I.M.P. shows how 50 Cent has been able to appeal to different audiences. His violent personal history, criminal past and gritty urban tales give him street cred. But he also appeals to a mainstream audience because his music sounds good.
Pain - Stereomud
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: #43 (July 2001) buy it!
Pain is from Stereomud's Perfect Self CD. With its crunching guitar chords, anguished, yelled vocals and dark atmosphere provided by synth effects, Pain is by the numbers contemporary rock and a good example of what's wrong with rock radio. The lyrics are the same basic complaint of dozens of recent songs by angry young white guys, about being suffocated and controlled, presumably by a woman.
Pardon Me - Incubus
Weeks on Chart: 30 Peak: #14 (April 2000) buy it!
Pardon Me, from the Make Yourself CD, resembles a lot of music on rock radio with its anthemic chorus, power guitar chords and anguished lyrics about having had enough of the world. However, as an acoustic version indicates, there is a real, thought out song within the more rocking record. Brandon Boyd's intensity and images of spontaneous combustion are striking. The band also create a distinctive sound on the electric version. A good, jagged beat and records scratched by their DJ add to a feel of turmoil.
Pavement Cracks - Annie Lennox
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #42 (Aug. 2003) buy it!
With Eurythmics, Annie Lennox was a playful figure with a good sense of a groove and an ability to work with many different types of music. Since she's gone solo, she's become old and boring, making various kinds of background music. Diva, her solo debut, sold a bunch of records but Medusa, Lennox's cover record, and her new Bare record don't have much of a point commercially or artistically. Pavement Cracks is a mess. It's got someone's idea of a hip, urban sound but it's quite lame. Pavement Cracks starts with overdone atmosperic instrumentation. After a sprinkling of piano, a generic disco beat comes in. There's showy guitar and Lennox does an awful "uh-huh" filled vocal that's supposed to sound streetwise. Pavement Cracks has a core of a sweetness when the music and Lennox's singing soften but, far too soon, Pavement Cracks reverts to mechanical backing and Lennox's vocal again grows cold. The lyric is overly poetic but it does have real sadness. Lennox sings about a world where "love don't show", "my water colors fade to black", "I'm going nowhere" and "my dreams have fallen flat."
Peace Tonight - Indigo Girls
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #46 (Oct. 1999) buy it!
On Galileo, one of their best singles, Indigo Girls acknowledged that they had a sometimes justified reputation that they "take everything so seriously." Shame On You, the single from their last CD Shaming of the Sun, was a good rock song and one of the few really good songs on the record but it's not surprising that a song about our country's policy towards immigrants didn't appeal much to the mainstream. Peace Tonight, from the new Come on Now Social, is much more light hearted. The music has a good feel with horns, hand claps and upbeat drums. The lyrics also create a nice mood with vignettes evoking joyful moments.
Peaceful World - John Mellancamp
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: #25 (Oct. 2001) buy it!
More than two decades into his career, John Mellancamp mostly works in adult contemporary mode but he still has an uncanny knack of making appealing singles. As on his good cover of Wild Night, Mellancamp works with a distinctive African American singer and produces a very likable result. Mellancamp is sometimes stupidly self righteous, pretentiously speaking lines decrying hypocrites and saying he's "sick and tired of being politically correct" but India.Arie's vocals provide a nice balance. They're serious but warm and unaffected and right for the song's utopian message. The music on Peaceful World, from Mellancamp's Cuttin Heads CD is also good, with a loose, edgy beat.
Peacekeeper - Fleetwood Mac
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #37 (April 2003) buy it!
Say You Will is Fleetwood Mac's first record of all new material featuring Rumours era members Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie(Christine McVie chose not to participate) in 16 years. Buckingham and Nicks both wrote nine songs that made Say You Will. Maybe the new record isn't just an excuse for a lucrative tour. Peacekeeper is a bit of a mess but it's a worthy addition to Fleetwood Mac's oeuvre. Peacekeeper is clearly a Buckingham composition. It has the combination of weirdness and Beach Boys style harmonies and pop sonics that made Buckingham my favorite Mac member(and made me a big fan of his 1992 Out Of The Cradle solo CD). Buckingham's vocal is a little scary. Nicks is as hoarse as ever but her harmony softens things up and makes Peacekeeper a little more melodic. There's something comforting about hearing familiar voices, more than 25 years after Fleetwood Mac's commercial peak, fighting the challenges that age presents. Buckingham smartly wrote a song that's both likable and interesting. The verses, with a good snappy beat and Buckingham's basic guitar line dissolve into the very catchy chorus that lets the harmonies shine. There's also a good, quiet bridge before the last verse. Peacekeeper ends with a nice, big finish. Buckingham lets loose a little with his singing and plays a good guitar solo with reassuring similarity to ones from other Fleetwood Mac songs(like Go Your Own Way). Despite its title and the timing of its release, Peacekeeper has little to do with war. The lyric is some vague message about how we screw things up and should fight for the "sweet surprise" that is love.
Peaches & Cream - 112
Weeks on Chart: 1 Peak: #50 (Sept. 2001) buy it!
Peaches & Cream is from the Part III CD by the Atlanta based group who are part of P. Diddy Combs' entertainment empire. On their previous r&b hits, 112 generally presented themselves as smooth, sensitive crooners. Their attempt to show a harder, sexier side on Peaches & Cream is a little silly. They seem genuinely worshipful of women but try too hard. Daron Jones and the guys seriously overdo the comeons, making it clear early on that I "wanna sex" and "that I'm a fiend gettin' freaky in my Bentley limousine" and repeating the same ideas unimaginatively with obvious double entendres for sex and the female anatomy. Peaches and Cream has a good beat but the sound is cold and gimmicky, with annoying beeping.
The People That We Love - Bush
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #14 (Oct. 2001) buy it!
Out of concern for our delicate post-September 11 sensibility, the first single from Bush's Golden State CD has been renamed. Speed Kills is now called The People That We Love, even though the song has always clearly been about the emotional damage caused in relationships, rather than any literal violence or death. People That We Love, like all of Gavin Rossdale's work, is ever so serious. But it also shows Rossdale's talent for making tight, intense rock with a good, edgy energy as he sings, over driving guitars, about how we "destroy the world we took so long to make."
Perfect Time Of Day - Howie Day
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #37 (Jan. 2004) buy it!
Howie Day is a young singer/songwriter from Bangor, Maine. Day gained attention as a writer with a personal style and as a virtuoso musician who played solo and make all sorts of sounds come out of his acoustic guitar at the same time. The spare, haunting Ghost from Day's debut Australia CD fell just short of making the top 50. On Stop All The World Now, the first CD Day has recorded for a major label, the music has a smoother, fuller sound but it's less distinctive. Perfect Time Of Day is fine. It sounds good and Day's yearning vocal is appealingly heartfelt. It also sounds like it could have been made by any of the many earnest singer/songwriters(mostly named Josh) around these days. Perfect Time Of Day's tasteful mix has a big, unshowy beat, fairly subdued synths and not much guitar. Perfect Time Of Day would be better if it had some jagged edges or idiosyncracies. Maybe it's time to go back to being the guy on his own who makes lots of different guitar sounds. Perfect Time Of Day, presumably a love song, is about appreciating the beauty of the moment.
Perfect World - Indigo Girls
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #45 (Feb. 2004) buy it!
Perfect World is a pleasant, good sounding song from All That We Let In CD, Indigo Girls' ninth studio record. Perfect World has an appealing lyric that urges us "to be a ripple in the water." The Girls ask us not to "look the other way" but to "look a little closer" and to work towards a perfect world. As on many Indigo Girls songs, there's a sense of preaching to the chorus. The people Indigo Girls have in mind are unlikely to appreciate being criticized for their cell phone dependence or being help complicit for "the killing."
Perfect - Simple Plan
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: #20 (Jan. 2004) buy it!
Simple Plan scored a hit with I'd Do Anything, punky pop that was basic and dopey enough for preteens to understand and love. On Perfect, the third hit from the Canadian band's debut No Pads, No Helmets... Just Balls CD, they've basically done the same thing with angst rock. It's hard to hate Perfect. Singer Pierre Bouvier sounds very sincere as he relates the pain inflicted by an unsupportive dad. Bouvier isn't as pretentious as older, deeper voiced singers, like Staind's Aaron Lewis, who've told a similar tale. But Perfect has little appeal for someone over 16. Bouvier's youthful voice and Perfect's simple, unremarkable lyric are best appreciated by kids. For an emotional rock ballad, Perfect shows admirable restraint. Perfect's first half has minimal backing. A good wash of power chords are limited to introducing the verses. The downside of Perfect's stripped down portions is that they focus attention on Bouvier's bratty vocal, which is more appealing than usual but still a bit annoying. Towards its end, Perfect's music becomes more that of a generic mellow rocker but the guitar is still pretty good if not particularly original. Perfect is about regretting that it's too late to try to fix a relationship with a father who was never satisfied with what his son did.
Picture - Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: #21 (March 2003) buy it!
Until Picture was released as a single, Kid Rocks Cocky CD wasnt selling and his career was in decline. Now, a year and a half after it was released, Cocky is another multiplatinum hit for Kid Rock. Ive never been a Kid Rock fan but Picture impresses me. Picture shows more smarts than I thought Kid Rock had. Picture, with its story of a guy cheating on the road while his woman cheats at home, has the feel of a country classic. Kid Rock uses the comfort of a traditional form but doesnt condescend. Pictures music gets an authentic feel from steel guitar but doesnt overdo the twang. The music stays nicely minimal with restrained drumming and organ and a good, simple guitar solo. Kid Rock isnt a great singer but hes decently controlled. As usual, vocal pro Sheryl Crow is solid. Shes a natural with a country ballad but she doesnt upstage Kid Rock. Picture is a big improvement over Kid Rocks previous hit ballad, the self pitying God Only Knows. Picture has a surprising sad sweetness. The adulterers regret their actions and both just want him to come back home.
Pieces Of Me - Ashlee Simpson
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: #30 (July 2004) buy it!
19 year old Ashlee is Jessica Simpson's younger sister. Jessica's overblown, empty cover of Angels, Robbie Williams' poignant Elton John soundalike ballad, fell just short of the top 50. So Ashlee is currently the Simpson with the bigger hit. Ashlee Simpson starred on Seventh Heaven and her MTV reality show and now has released her first CD, Autobiography. She's marketed as the bubble headed blond's regular gal sister. Ashlee is apparently also supposed to be a less angry Avril Lavigne. Pieces Of Me is carefully constructed teen pop product. It's not that different from Hilary Duff's breezy So Yesterday. It was written by John Shanks and Kara Dioguardi, who wrote Duff's Come Clean and produced by Shanks, who did Are You Happy Now and Breathe with Michelle Branch. Pieces Of Me is still pretty good. The music is fairly gimmick free pop rock. Like The Matrix did for Lavigne, Shanks creates a sound that's catchy and tuneful and also suggests that the singer has a personality. I'm probably giving Simpson and Pieces Of Me too much credit but I'm reminded at times of Suzanne Vega's Tom's Diner recitation and Jill Sobule's nasal idiosyncracy. Simpson starts the chorus in a way that's like the chorus for Jason Mraz' overly facile The Remedy. But Simpson mostly seems comfortable with an unremarkable voice that breaks into screams of joy. Simpson doesn't go as far as Lavigne in presenting herself as a strong, distinctive person but, like Lavigne, she has the voice of a natural and feisty young woman. On Pieces Of Me, Simpson recognizes that she can be hard to deal with. She expresses appreciation for the guy who's "come to rescue me" for understanding the different pieces of her personality.
Pinch Me - Barenaked Ladies
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: #4 (Oct. 2000) buy it!
One Week, from BNL's Stunt CD, gave the band their first taste in the U.S. of the huge success they've long enjoyed in their native Canada. Pinch Me, from the Maroon CD, doesn't have One Week's irresistable supercharged momentum. Pinch Me is more reflective of the band's typical modest, likable style. Ed Robertson is usually more unassuming than the band's other singer, Steven Page. However, Robertson did the lightning fast rap on One Week and he similarly races smoothly through parts of Pinch Me, providing a good dynamic shift from the song's generally mellow mood. Robertson is appealing even when playing a guy who lives in a dream world because in the real world, "everything's a mess." Pinch Me has quirky charm, like the non sequitor line, "I just made you say underwear" plus a happy ending of sorts with Robertson's character tentatively deciding to "try to figure out what all this is for" and "try to see the world beyond your front door."
Play - Jennifer Lopez
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #22 (May 2001) buy it!
Lopez follows the sleek Love Don't Cost A Thing with a less elegant song that just wants to make you dance.The second single from the J. Lo CD is, like Madonna's Music, a request for the DJ to play a song. But unlike Madonna's knowingly kitschy song, Play really is just about wanting the DJ to "play it all night long." Play has a decent groove and like Lopez' Waiting For Tonight, it's effective and upbeat, if not particularly distinctive or smart, dance music. With its slightly cheesy beeping electronic effects, Play has an 80's feel. Lopez' voice isn't strong but it's loose and competent.
Poem - Taproot
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: #16 (Jan. 2003) buy it!
Poem is from the Michigan band's Welcome CD. Poem, made with Korn/Alice In Chains/Sevendust producer Toby Wright, has a state of the art sound. It's also like a lot of today's hard rock. Poem's driving, threatening guitar sound and touches of staccato and grunted vocal are reminiscent of Disturbed's angry, aggravating music. In general, Poem is familiar, edgy contemporary rock. Michael DeWolf's big, slashing guitar is, like the song, competent and hard rocking, but not particularly interesting. The only thing about Poem that gets my attention at all is Stephen Richards' vocal on the chorus which, especially when underlined by harmonies, has the rock theatricality of a singer like Alice In Chains' Layne Staley. Like so many rockers these days, Richards sings about his pain, telling us about an "overbearing panic attack" and a feeling that he's drowning. Poem apparently is about a bad breakup. Its good news is that the song "helps me to live."
Pop - N Sync
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #23 (July 2001) buy it!
Michael Jackson, The King Of Pop, seems to be an influence on Pop, the first single from the Celebrity CD, in both its hard edged dance music and its angry, fairly foolish lyrics. 'N Sync don't just want to sell a lot of records, they want respect. They sing about being "sick and tired of hearin' all these people talk about" their music "and when is it gonna fade out." They claim "what we're doing is not a trend/we got the gift of melody,we gonna bring it 'til the end." Pop doesn't have much gift of melody but it does work as a dance music. It has a cold but effective sound with sleek beats. The singing doesn't fare as well. N Sync don't have Jackson's ability to rise above harsh dance music. The stark production emphasizes the thin, processed feel of the vocals.
Porcelain - Moby
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: #50 (Jan. 2000) buy it!
Moby's great Play CD has yielded a half dozen singles. That is justified since so many songs on Play, including those based on samples of old blues songs, are remarkable, deserving and standing up to close attention. Currently, Natural Blues, Moby's reshaping of Vera Hall's stirring Trouble So Hard, and Porcelain are getting airplay on different formats. Unlike many of the singles from Play, Porcelain is not primarily based on a sample of another song. Most of the vocals are Moby's. His eerie, electronically altered singing matches the song's haunting tone as he sings about dreams of dying. The striking music is fleshed out by a simple, elegant piano.
Praise - Sevendust
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #45 (Dec. 2001) buy it!
Praise, from Sevendust's Animosity CD, is a fairly good model of dark hard rock. With harsh, rumbling guitars, it captures the threatening tone the band presumably seeks. Lajon Witherspoon is one of the best singers in hard rock and he has the appropriate agitated wail and doesn't go too far over the top. Still, Praise is pretty unpleasant stuff. Its anger and unnerving sound will keep it from having an audience beyond troubled male teens. Praise's lyrics have the paranoia and anger central to much recent hard rock. Witherspoon sings of an unnamed someone whose "hate for me is strong" and is "oblivious to all of my cries."
Prayer - Disturbed
Weeks on Chart: 23 Peak: #8 (Sept. 2002) buy it!
I really hated Stupify and Down With The Sickness, the angry, unpleasant rock hits from Disturbed's Sickness CD. But, with David Draiman's manic, staccato delivery, they at least had the courage of their nasty convictions. Prayer, the first single from the new Believe CD, is a weird mix of tight hard rock for their fans and a slick sound presumably intended to appeal to a broader audience. Prayer has a stomping, slashing guitar sound. Draiman's vocal is still harsh in parts but, bizarrely, he sings a melody on the verse not unlike Ricky Martin's Livin' La Vida Loco and the chorus has a cliched pop rock gloss. Prayer seems to be about how Draiman has turned away from God and found his own form of prayer after seeing all the sorrow, pain and suffering in the world.
Price To Play - Staind
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: #4 (June 2003) buy it!
I'm curious about Staind's new 14 Shades Of Grey CD. After having enormous success, is Aaron Lewis still in the whiny, self pitying mode that sold millions? Price To Play brings some reason for optimism. It's fairly dark but not as draggy as Break The Cycle's hits. On the other hand, for better or worse, Price To Play is less distinctive than Staind's earlier hits. Lewis' accounts of pain, caused by his father's neglect and inner demons, were irritating but at least you knew what he was talking about. Price To Play has a vague lyric blaming an unnamed you for causing destruction by taking without giving and blaming without empathizing. The music also doesn't have much personality. Price To Play has the typical nu-metal mix of verses with crunching guitars and glossy, hook filled choruses. Price To Play is better than most recent grunge pop hits. 14 Shades Of Grey was produced by Josh Abraham, who also did Break The Cycle and Chocolate Starfish and The Hot Dog Flavored Water(with Staind's mentor Fred Durst). Price To Play is pretty tight, without the hard rock showing off, narcissism or obvious commercial calculation that ruins most successful work by Staind's fellow grunge fans. Guitar player Mike Mushok and drummer Jon Wysocki create a big sound but Price To Play doesn't get too murky or showy. The catchy chorus has a bed of guitars with nice sounding chord changes. Durst's natural reticence works well on the chorus. He creates decent edge by singing fairly slowly and avoids the ranting others might resort to(though the end of the song has someone doing the obligatory tortured wail). Price To Play isn't ground breaking but at least it sounds good and isn't too pretentious.
Promises - Def Leppard
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #16 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
Close your eyes and you might think it's still 1983. Apparently, they never broke up and have been making records all along, one armed drummer and all. Maybe enough time has passed that boomers are nostalgic for their over the top though melodic heavy metal . Promises, from their new cd Euphoria, has the wildly overdown production, screaming vocals and guitars and studio enhanced backup vocals of their hits like Photograph. The lyrics are a cliched pledge to a love of not making promises he won't keep. It's no better or worse than their 80's hits.
Promise - Eve 6
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: #10 (Sept. 2000) buy it!
In a rock world dominated by classic rock retreads, overblown gothic rock and harsh rap hybrids, Eve 6's music is refreshingly straight forward. They're not original or brilliant though not quite as mindless as similar bands like Lit. Promise, from their Horrorscope CD, is a solid, modest rocker. It's not as irresistably hook filled as their radio hit Inside Out. Promise, like Leech and Tongue Tied from their debut, is likable power pop. Max Collins makes modest promises to his girlfriend, swearing he won't try to mess with her head or let her down, won't mind if she decides to leave and won't look her in the eyes and lie. The big guitar chords help the promises go down easily.
Put Your Lights On - Santana with Everlast
Weeks on Chart: 23 Peak: #5 (Dec. 1999) buy it!
Santana follows up the success of Smooth, his song with Matchbox 20's Rob Thomas, with another single from his Fundamental CD teaming him with one of today's big young stars. Unlike Smooth, which sounded like an equal partnership, Put Your Lights On seems more like an Everlast song where Santana is just around to add a little color though Carlos' guitar doodling is still interesting. Everlast's warning to all of a danger lurking, which might be him, has the pluses and minuses common to his work. It has a compelling, stark sound and a feeling of sincerity but his messages are delivered so humorlessly and monotonously that each song and each listen means diminishing returns.