A Perfect Circle-The Hollow(unchanged)
Tool's new CD is coming out soon but Maynard James Keenan's side project keeps getting radio play. After moving even farther away from the Tool signature sound with the folky Three Libras, Mer De Noms' third chart hit sounds like its first, Judith. The guitars aren't quite as big and the atmosphere isn't as angry and oppressive as on a typical Tool song but The Hollow is still serious with a sweeping sound and Keenan's dramatic vocals. Billy Howerdel creates a good, metallic guitar sound. Keenan sings about someone with a constant need to satisfy his libido. The Hollow is fairly interesting but not too different from Keenan's usual tales of obsession. It lacks his usual climactic payoff and doesn't really go anywhere.
REM-Imitation Of Lifebuy it!
Imitation Of Life, from the new REM CD Reveal, is modest but appealing. It's the kind of reflective midtempo rocker REM's done in recent years. Imitation Of Life resembles Bittersweet Me, The Great Beyond and Man On The Moon. Imitation of Life has a charmingly cheap sounding synth solo. Peter Buck's guitar line is so amiable that you'd never think he could be an air rager. Michael Stipe returns to the cryptic lyrics of the band's early work for a song that apparently appeals to someone to stop crying and be "what you could."
On No One, from Cold's 13 Ways to Bleed On Stage CD, Scooter Ward is another serious singer with Vedder-like intensity. At least, with a fluid sound, loose drumming and bass playing and a subtle guitar, Cold's Pearl Jam/STP imitation has pretty good music. Ward sings about being left alone "with no one sent to get me", feeling "like I'm being erased." He apparently isn't dealing well with a breakup and is "so sick of this terrible instinct."
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.
Lenny Kravitz-Again(down 5 positions)
It's galling to me that someone's decided that Lenny Kravitz's uninspired Hendrix and Sly Stone retreads deserve a greatest hits CD. Still, this new song isn't as annoying as most of his work. It has a nice groove with a good bass and drums high in the mix. Kravitz' vocals are typically complacent and his lyrics are pretty terrible as he sings about hearing a cry in his soul and about never having "a yearning quite like this before" and wondering if he'll ever see his "sacred gift of heaven" again. Kravitz also pulls off an awful, cliched rock guitar solo in the middle. However, while Again is pretty insubstantial, it has a appealingly easy mood.
Depeche Mode-Dream On(up 5 positions)
Depeche Mode are in their third decade of flaunting their bleak worldview. Exciter is their first set of new songs in four years. Like most Depeche Mode music, Dream On isn't much fun or as deep as the band thinks. It's cold like Personal Jesus but the sound is fairly stark and sleek, with a minimum of beat and synth clanging. Dave Gahan's vocals and Martin Gore's lyrics are typically dark and humorless. After stating "death becomes me", Dream On warns those who "party for a living" of karmic payback: "pain is waiting, primed to do its educating." We've heard versions of the song's warning from the band before. If "you feel a little love, dream on."
Nelly Furtado-I'm Like A Bird(unchanged)
I'm Like A Bird, from the Canadian singer's Whoa Nelly! CD, sounds like a pop/easy listening hit but it also has a nice, trippy edge. Especially on the verses, the sound is cool and a little jazzy. Furtado's voice is loose and playful. The beat is chunky but the feel is appropriately light. The chorus, cushioned by backing vocals and synths, is more standard pop but Furtado keeps things buoyant and appealing. She sings that, even though she's in love, she's eventually going to have to move on.
Nelly-Ride Wit Me(unchanged)
Nelly's second top 50 hit has his trademark easily flowing sound and fast, relaxed rap. Ride Wit Me is even smoother than Country Grammar's title track and has a good, likable feel, except for the dopey yelled "must be the money" interruptions. Ride Wit Me has another cocky, kind of silly rap celebrating getting high, girls glad to satisfy and being able to mock people who said he was a failure, with his dough and Benz.
The second single from the Awake CD is similar to the title track but even harsher and less appealing. Singer Sully Erna is a devout Wiccan and Greed has a bit of a spiritual sound but the song is just nasty, not exotic. The guitars thump and thud as Erna howls, "hey little bitch, be glad you finally walked away or you may have not lived another day." Amid the despicable misogyny we're supposed to empathize with Erna for feeling smothered and in need of help.
The Wallflowers-Letters From The Wasteland(down 5 positions)
Breach, the Wallflowers third CD, is a tastefully made and quite boring set of songs. Letters From The Wasteland is another restrained adult rocker that sounds like Sleepwalker or One Headlight but has a gloomier mood. It has decent energy with good guitar and drums but doesn't really go anywhere. Letters From The Wasteland employs dark imagery to describe getting dumped. In a typically uninflected vocal, Jakob Dylan sings, "I wake up sick as you abandon me into these fields of rank and file" and of being "in this smoke filled waiting room with incarcerated love sick fools."
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.
Spacehog-I Want To Live(down 2 positions)
Since having an alternative hit with the fun, spacy In The Meantime from 1995's Resident Alien CD, Spacehog's main claim to fame has been that Royston Langdon is Liv Tyler's boyfriend. I Want To Live is a good return to form. I Want To Live is from the Hogyssey CD, which was produced by Paul Ebersold, who did Three Doors Down's The Better Life. Spacehog still are doing the 70s glam thing. On I Want To Live, Langdon channels David Bowie and Bryan Ferry, sounding both ultraserious and self mocking. The music is solid and fairly ungimmicky with a steady beat, big, solid guitars and a positive feel. I Want To Live is apparently about a young woman feeling "faceless and lonely" but trying to escape her problems.
S Club 7-Never Had A Dream Come True(up 1 position)
The marijuana arrest of some of the S Club kids is the most interesting thing about this boring, squeaky clean British addition to the Radio Disney crowd. The lyrics, about having trouble moving on after the end of a once prefect relationship, aren't awful, just familiar. Jo O'Meara tries to add a little soul and her singing isn't as bad as Britney's on the similar From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart. But the music is bland even for the genre. The violins are ladled on and the dramatic drums and keyboards should be backing a bad easy listening lounge act. Never Had A Dream Come True was first an English single benefitting a children's charity. It was later added to S Club 7's 7 CD.
K-Ci & Jojo-Crazy(down 8 positions)
Recently, smooth African American love men have been seriously outnumbered at top of the pop charts by R&B divas and white teen pop singers. K-Ci & Jojo Hailey, brothers who were formerly members of Jodeci, return to the charts with a soul ballad from their X CD. They're one of three groups that entered the top 50 within a week in January with a very mellow song about a guy who's nothing without his woman and is willing to do anything for her. K-Ci & Jojo seem like better singers than 98 Degrees and BBMak but their delivery is ridiculously overemotive. The pathetic lyrics apologize for being a fool, beg for her to come back and repeat how obsessed he is with her. Crazy has easy listening backing with a restrained beat and tasteful piano though the chorus tries to spice things up by distorting the voices with a silly vocoder effect. Crazy is also on the Save The Last Dance soundtrack. It's had incessant play on MTV which, not coincidentally, produced Save The Last Dance.
Dave Matthews Band-The Space Betweenbuy it!
More than the glib I Did It, The Space Between captures the mood of the Everyday CD, which is at its best on easy, textured ballads that carry on the tradition of the band's best songs like Crush and Crash Into Me. The Space Between has Crash Into Me's delicate, unhurried feel. Matthews repeats a graceful guitar line and his likably relaxed singing creates a hopeful mood. The Space Between is one of Everyday's many songs about Matthews trying to save a troubled relationship. He warns a woman "you cannot quit me so quickly" and reminds her "the space between the tears we cry is the laughter that keeps us coming back for more."
Joe-Stutter(up 3 positions)
MTV's now playing a remix of Stutter. The second pop hit from the My Name Is Joe CD needed a little more edge. Stutter is inoffensively sleek with bland verses. The chorus is better but repetitive, telling us over and over that he can tell she's lying because when she's replying, she stutters. Joe has a decent, smooth voice but Stutter only really comes alive on Mystikal's angry, attitude filled rap.
New Found Glory-Hit Or Miss(unchanged)
Fast, three chord power pop isn't as hot as it was at its 80's peak but it's still around and still fun if done with good energy and not too much seriousness. New Found Glory resemble Green Day, the model for the recent breed of post punksters, and Blink 182 as they have a good, dopey time with a likable, very simple song. Hit or Miss, from the band's self titled CD, is a bittersweet reminisence of a recently ended relationship. Jordan Pundik fondly remembers "the time we realized Thriller was our favorite song" but also sings that for her it was "simple to lie."
Linkin Park-One Step Closer(down 5 positions)
One Step Closer is from the Hybrid Theory CD. Like Korn, Limp Bizkit and Papa Roach, Linkin Park are an angry band who mix a hip hop sensibility to their heavy metal but they're even less appealing than those bands. The sound is nasty with yelled vocals and harsh guitar chords. One Step Closer is about another young white guy so troubled that he "can't take this anymore." It's not specified, but the lyrics probably refer to a woman: "everything you say to me, takes me one step closer to the edge and I'm about to break."
Papa Roach-Between Angels and Insects(down 7 positions)
On Between Angels and Insects, Papa Roach again seem less commercially calculating than their modern rock peers. They're serious and intense if a little simplistic. After songs about a troubled mind on Last Resort and a youth's troubled home life on Broken Home, Papa Roach move into Rage Against The Machine territory for the third chart hit from the Infest CD. Over big, hard guitars, Coby Dick alternates between tortured singing and an angry rap. He tells us "take your money, burn it up like an asteroid/possessions are never gonna fill the void." He gives us a philosophy lesson. He doesn't need possessions " 'cause everything is nothing and emptiness is in everything."
Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya & Pink-Lady Marmaladebuy it!
As it did 25 years ago, Lady Marmalade brings to my mind a junior high school kid showing off naughty words she's learned to her friends in French class. The new version, from the soundtrack of the movie Moulin Rouge, closely tracks Labelle's original and is fairly pointless. It seems like the main purpose of the remake is to provide an excuse for its young singers to play dress up in a sexy video. The funk rock backing is fairly similar to the original's. Only Lil' Kim's good, tight rap adds something new. Her tough, bottom line attitude is far from the 70s record's romanticized tale of a prostitute who helps a guy have a brief, transcendental escape from "his gray flannel life." The production moves efficiently, giving each of the confident young women a chance in the spotlight. Mya is the least distinctive. Pink isn't the greatest singer, but she's self assured and full of personality. Christina Aguilera is typically showy and over the top.
Samantha Mumba-Baby Come Overbuy it!
Like Samantha Mumba's first hit, the title track from her Gotta Tell You CD, Baby Come Over is a simple but appealing song that alternates between a rough verse and a catchy, sunny chorus. Baby Come Over is familiar dance pop but it has a breezy charm. Ringing synths and beats create an upbeat feel on the chorus and the verses are sleek and kind of sexy. The lightweight lyrics match the music. Having checked "your records", Mumba succumbs to a guy's request "to be more than just your friend."
Shawn Colvin-Whole New You(unchanged)
The title track for the Whole New You CD isn't as striking as Colvin's fluke smash hit Sunny Came Home but it's another nice addition to her body of smart, tuneful adult pop rock singles like Steady On and Round Of Blues. Colvin gives a friend a pep talk, advising "shake the loneliness and shine the light." Whole New You has a good, easy feel with understated but effective guitar and keyboards. The chorus is likable and it's probably not Colvin's fault that it reminds me of Starship's 80's relic Nothing Gonna Stop Us Now.
Buckcherry-Ridin'(down 3 positions)
Ridin' resembles like Lit Up, the hit from Buckcherry's debut. Joshua Todd sounds like a number of cocky rock and roll screamers but his screech is more annoying than that of Jagger, Plant or Steven Tyler. Black Crowes' Chris Robinson is subtle in comparison. The best analogy to this very simple hard rocker, about having a good time with a girl who "loves to go ridin' cause she's sick in the head", might be with an AC/DC song like Highway To Hell. I see the appeal of the basic, rumbing guitars but still find the song stupid and irritating.
Josh Joplin Group-Camera One(unchanged)
Camera One is from the band's Useful Music CD. Camera One is serious but catchy, kind of like old Peter Gabriel or Genesis but a little more obvious. With production by Jerry Harrison, Camera One sounds good. Camera One is another cynical tale about how pursuit of a Hollywood dream can have disappointing results. Joplin's tale is hardly subtle as he dramatically intones that "you're playing you now."
Old 97's-King Of All The Worldbuy it!
Old 97's are usually modest twangers, respectful to their country rock roots and not too showy. King Of All The World, from the Satelite Blues CD, finds the band getting off on the thrill of power chords. Rhett Miller is appealingly exuberant, paying tribute from the road to a woman "who turned the power on" when he was "in a real bad way" and hoping "to go back to the world when I was the king of all of the world." Guitar players Ken Bethea and Miller give the song a good, stomping energy.