Hoobastank-Crawling In The Dark(unchanged)
Crawling In The Dark, from the L.A. band's self titled major label debut, is another song that sounds pieced together from other successful rock songs. It's got Korn style atmospheric guitar, a serious, troubled singer, big power chords and a vague Faith No More/Limp Bizkit style hip hop sensibility. But Crawling In The Dark also has good tempo shifts and it's more interesting than much of the similarly imitative music on rock radio. I like the way the song speeds up and gains energy on the chorus. Doug Robb keeps things from getting too draggy as he sings about "looking for the answer" and trying to find direction in life.
Michelle Branch-All You Wanted(up 4 positions)
I assume that a large number of Michelle Branch's fans are girls in their early teens who have outgrown or are too cool for Britney or Christina. Branch's songs have the feel of schoolgirl poetry and are probably heavily influenced by Alanis and Jewel's youthful, searching and intense work. All You Wanted doesn't have the rocking energy of Everywhere, the first hit from Branch's Spirit Room CD, but it has a similar sincere charm. Branch isn't a great singer but her voice has an open, innocent appeal. All You Wanted's music, with a steady, perky beat and good sprinklings of rock guitar is simple, modest and likable. All You Wanted is a sweet story of volunteering to "save" someone who seemed to have everything together but needs "someone to show you the way."
Shakira-Underneath Your Clothes(unchanged)
Before she made the Laundry Service CD, Colombian pop star Shakira Mebarak apparently studied American pop. Especially in its first half, Underneath Your Clothes sounds a lot like The Bangles' Eternal Flame. Like that song, Underneath Your Clothes is corny but gets real poignance from a sincere vocal and solemn backing. With subdued drums and keyboards, Underneath Your Clothes maintains has a serious tone. However Shakira's singing, with her tendency to pinch certain vocal lines and add little yodels to others, can't help but spice things up. The lyrics also find a slightly new and odd way to express a standard love song idea. Instead of beneath the surface or in his heart or soul, she finds her man's "endless story" and the place where she gets credit for "being such a good girl" underneath his clothes. With Penny Lane style horns, Underneath You Clothes achieves a goofy majesty.
Vanessa Carlton-A Thousand Miles(up 5 positions)
A Thousand Miles is a slightly unwieldy but charming combination of breezy pop and more arty pretentions. 21 year old Vanessa Carlton has a likably modest, youthful voice that's similar to Michelle Branch's. Like Branch's hits, A Thousand Miles, from the Be Not Nobody CD, has a pleasant melody and sunny, optimistic sound that appeals to teenage girls too cool or too old for Britney. But A Thousand Miles also gives its pop ambitious accompaniment. There's a little too much going on but the big, slightly over the top music is appropriate for an expression of big, innocent emotions. Carlton plays smooth, flowery runs that show that Alicia Keys isn't the only young singer with keyboard skills. A Thousand Miles also has an orchestral arrangement with strings busily playing a riff that oddly resembles an old western tv show theme. It also has a bridge where Carlton and a guitar simulate a piece of Natalie Imbruglia's Torn. Carlton sings about missing a departed object of affection and wondering if he misses her.
Trik Turner-Friends And Family (unchanged)
Friends and Family, from the Phoenix band's self titled CD, is similar to Everlast's hits in using a spare sound for a very serious, heartfelt account. You can't argue with the song's premise that what really matters is the love of your friends and family though that message is surrounded by less appealing lines about keeping a(presumably musical) dream alive by overcoming the odds and those who criticize. Friends And Family has a striking, atmospheric sound, with a simple beat and minimal keyboards. But, especially after repeat listens, I find the song too solemn and, while it sounds like it's about something important, it's not actually that interesting.
Lenny Kravitz-Stillness Of Heart(up 5 positions)
Dig In, the first single from the Lenny CD, showed a side of Lenny Kravitz that he hadn't shown much before. Dig In was a light, fun rocker that lacked the heavy attitude than often drags down Kravitz' music. Stillness Of Heart doesn't have Dig In's lightness and excitement but it's still a good, if not great, second single. Stillness Of Heart's melody is very similar to that of his second to last hit: Again. Stillness Of Heart achieves a good edge by holding back and going nice and slow. Heavy bass and drums create a good, slow jam on the verses and are joined on the chorus by a solid, steady guitar strum. Unlike Dig In, Stillness Of Heart doesn't really sound like a hit. Nothing really happens. It's got a good atmosphere but doesn't grab you. Kravitz' typically complacent vocal doesn't help. On Stillness Of Heart, Kravitz sings about trying to calm and center himself so that he can move on after a tough romantic experience. I'm not questioning Kravitz' pain but his way of expressing it is hardly great poetry. This is the second verse: "I got more than I can eat, a life that can't be beat/yet still I feel this heat, I'm feeling incomplete/What am I buying, my soul is crying."
X Ecutioners-It's Going Down(unchanged)
It's Going Down is from the Built From Scratch CD by New York turntable experts X Ecutioners. X Ecutioners have worked with a number of guest vocalists and musicians. It's Going Down features rapper Mike Shinoda and DJ Joseph Hahn from Linkin Park. It's Going Down sounds like a good Linkin Park song. The absence of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington is a plus in my mind. Bennington's angry wail is undoubtedly a big part of Linkin Park's huge success but I mostly find it unpleasant. X Ecutioners have laid down a tight mix with a good, hard sound. Working with a tough guitar riff, solid beats, samples, record scratching and Shinoda's rap, they've created a no nonsense collage of sound that keeps coming. It's Going Down is about how the song's "audible odyssey" "reflects the complex hybrid dialect" and "melting pot of a super futuresque style." Raps bragging about the originality of a musical style are nothing new but It's Going Down's lyric, like the song itself, is solid and unpretentious.
Weezer-Dope Nose(up 5 positions)
Weezer took until last year to release a followup to their commercially disappointing second record, 1996's Pinkerton. Now that they're selling again, Weezer wasted little time coming back with their fourth release: Maladroit. From what I've heard of Maladroit the songs aren't as tight and don't have the same pop gloss as those on last year's green album but they do have that record's rock heft. With its loose sense of fun and chunky guitar chords, Dope Nose reminds me of the songs from Pinkerton, particularly The Good Life, perhaps my favorite Weezer song ever. Dope Nose has a goofy charm. The band sings their ho-oh-oh-ohs to a tune that sounds like The Flinstones' theme. Brian Bell and Rivers Cuomos's steadily driving guitar work, which includes Bell's exciting and characteristically short, unshowy solo, gives Dope Nose a high energy sense of fun. Rock radio is unlikely to be as receptive to Dope Nose's giddiness as it was to Hash Pipe's heavy metal rumble. But Dope Nose, which clocks in at less than two minutes and 15 seconds, is a simple, good time that extends Weezer's impressive streak of quality music. Dope Nose apparently tells us that dope helps Cuomo to "bust rhymes real slow." Cuomo also throws in the fact that "cheese smells so good on a burnt piece of lamb."
Calling-Wherever You Will Go(down 1 position)
Wherever You Will Go, from the Camino Palmero CD, spent six weeks on the chart this summer thanks to rock radio play. It's returned to the chart and rocketed near the top as the kind of catchy, sappy song pop stations love. Wherever You Will Go's extreme earnestness and Alex Band's deep, prematurely old sounding vocal place Calling along with Lifehouse as followers of Creed's model. Wherever You Will Go is apparently about someone contemplating his death and how his wife will go on without him. Band wonders "who will be there to take my place when I'm gone" and hopes to come back as some sort of spirit "to watch you, to guide you." The maudlin lyrics aren't helped by the dopey "if I could, then I would", "way up high or down low" chorus. With sensitive verses and rock guitar on the chorus, Wherever You Will Go has the slick lite rock sound nailed.
Ashanti-Foolish(up 15 positions)
Ashanti Douglas is a talented songwriter who's already played prominent vocal roles on other artists' hits. Ashanti's vocal is one of my favorite parts of Fat Joe's What's Luv? and Ja Rule's Always On Time but I'm disappointed by Foolish, the first hit from her self titled CD. Foolish, like the other hits she's sung on, is produced by Irv Gotti. I understand why Foolish is a hit. It has a smooth, uncluttered sound and a crisp, inobtrusive beat. While I find some of the vocal too thin and whispery, Ashanti's singing mostly goes down easy. Unlike What's Luv? and Always On Time, which throw in elements of everything from hard hip hop to smooth soul and catchy pop, Foolish seems to be missing something. I find the main ornamentation of Foolish, a piano riff and shimmering percussion effect, repetitious and uninteresting. Ashanti sings on Foolish that love keeps her running back to her man even though she knows he's "treatin' me so bad."
Pete Yorn-Strange Condition(down 7 positions)
The New Jersey native/LA resident singer and songwriter's following continues to slowly grow. His debut CD is still getting radio play nearly a year after its release. In my mind, Bob Dylan's Love and Theft is the only 2001 rock CD that's better than Yorn's Musicforthemorningafter and The Strokes' Is This It is the only other one that might be as good. The CD has consistently strong songs: great, fun rockers and cool, brooding ballads. Brad Wood, who produced and played on records for Liz Phair, played a similar role for Yorn, another striking, confident young talent. Music . . . was apparently a low budget production but the songs are carefully constructed with layers of instruments, giving even the quietest songs a likable, textured feeling. Strange Condition follows Life On A Chain as Yorn's second chart hit(For Nancy fell just short of the top 50). R Walt Vincent's harmonica, layered over Yorn's acoustic guitar, contributes to a good, moody feel. Yorn is cool, as always, playing a tortured soul on Strange Condition.
Course Of Nature-Caught In The Sun(down 16 positions)
It usually takes a few records for a hard rock band to go for the big bucks with a lame power ballad. But, consistent with the ever more commercially savvy nature of contemporary rock, Alabama's otherwise tough rockers Course Of Nature introduce themselves to the world with an overblown, sappy hit. Caught In The Sun, from the Superkala CD, resembles Goo Goo Dolls' Black Balloon but it outdoes even the Goo Goos' most overproduced work. Caught In The Sun makes its intentions clear from the start with Mark Wilkerson's emotive singing and a big orchestral sound ladled over sensitive guitar and bass. Predictably, power guitar chords come in on the chorus to show Caught In The Sun's rock cred but they're restrained so that top 40 audiences won't be scared away. On Caught In The Sun,Wikerson muses about how he easily could never have met the woman he's separated from and obsessed with.
Ja Rule-Always On Time(down 1 position)
Jeff Atkins is ubiquitous these days. While Livin' It Up was still on the chart, Always On Time, the third chart hit from his Pain Is Love, crossed over from the R&B charts to the pop charts. Like Livin' It Up, Always On Time is lightweight and enjoyable. Ja Rule's rough vocal is again matched with a much more melodic voice. The music is easy and enjoyable with a relaxed beat, a good guitar riff and sweet vocals from Ashanti and background singers. Always On Time is pretty stupid, bragging about Ja Rule's talent as a lover("I got two hoes" "and I keep 'em drugged up off that ecstasy") while he apologizes for behavior that led to restraining orders and asks for another chance. Ja Rule's rapping skills are little more than competent but he and producer Irv Gotti have hit upon a successful formula. His voice adds edge but doesn't overpower his smooth, tuneful music.
White Stripes-Fell In Love With A Girl(up 7 positions)
White Stripes are either a brother and sister(if you believe them) or a current or former couple(if you believe the rock press) from Detroit. Fell In Love With A Girl is from White Stripes' eclectic and quite wonderful 2001 CD White Blood Cells. I sometimes find Jack White's weird, confident persona a little hard to take but I can't resist Fell In Love With A Girl's simple burst of joy. Fell In Love With A Girl is easily the shortest song to make the All-Reviews top 50. But even at 1:45, Fell In Love With A Girl is a complete rock experience. Just banging away on his guitar fast and loud and screaming about a girl with "red hair with a curl", Jack White recalls the spirit of early rock and roll by stripping away any excess to find a pure rock essence. Meg White's drumming is basic but effectively matches the buoyant mood. White Stripes very impressively create a big sound with just a guitarist and drummer. They bring to mind Local H's similar ability to make a huge noise with two players. White Stripes' tale of the thrill of ignoring the "left brain"'s message that love is fleeting is one of the most fun songs around.
Chris Isaak-Let Me Down Easy(unchanged)
While Chris Isaak seems like a mellow guy, he obviously has savvy businessmen behind him. In January, Isaak achieved big time synergy as, nearly simultaneously with the release of Isaak's new Always Got Tonight CD, Showtime began the second season of Isaak's genial, slight rock sitcom and VH1 played a marathon of the show's first season. In 1985, Isaak came on the scene with his spare, haunted, Roy Orbison influenced Silvertone record. Since then, Isaak has mostly omitted the raw, stark feel but, especially since Wicked Game gave him his one big hit, otherwise continued to make the same kind of moody, adult, country flavored records. Isaak's songs often involve Isaak getting his heart broken and/or being haunted by the memory of the ideal woman who left. While Isaak's music is predictable and a little too smooth, it's still good. His songs are well played and have good atmosphere. Isaak's vocals are cool and self confident with a self deprecating charm that also suits him well(despite minimal acting skills) on his sitcom. Let Me Down Easy is similar to Somebody's Crying and other mellow midtempo Isaak songs but it's likable. Let Me Down Easy has a mechanical beat but it has a good ringing guitar riff. On Let Me Down Easy, Isaak again broods about falling hard for a woman who doesn't reciprocate his feelings.
No Doubt-Hella Goodbuy it!
Like Hey Baby, Hella Good, the second single from the Rock Steady CD, immediately sounds like a hit. Unlike Hey Baby, I don't hate Hella Good. Even with crisp, tight production by reggae heroes Sly & Robbie, Hey Baby's beeping video game flash was way too gimmicky for me. Hella Good is cold, efficient, mechanical and carefully constructed for commercial consumption but it's more appealing to me. Maybe that's because Hella Good is so danceable. Maybe it's because it reminds me of the dance pop hits of my youth. I can't put my finger on exactly what song Hella Good reminds me of but its heavy beat and big, catchy synths bring to mind such irresistable hits as Prince's 1999, Madonna's Into The Groove, Queen's Another One Bites The Dust and Human League's Don't You Want Me. As with another undeniable recent smash, Kylie Minogue's Can't Get You Out Of My Head, Hella Good doesn't let any complicated ideas get in the way of the groove. With her confident, no nonsense vocal, Gwen Stefani just sings about how it feels really good to dance with someone you love.
Leann Rimes-Can't Fight The Moonlight(down 3 positions)
At 19, Leann Rimes apparently is no longer satisfied being America's innocent sweetheart. With a mature look on the cover of her I Need You CD and Can't Fight The Moonlight's synthetic dance pop production, Rimes is clearly pushing for a piece of Britney and Christina's audience. She's probably succeeded with a fairly state of the art sound but Can't Fight The Moonlight is so uninteresting and unoriginal that it makes a song like Genie In A Bottle seem remarkably loose and fresh in comparison. Can't Fight The Moonlight's drum machines sound particularly recycled. The song uses the same kind of latin guitar that's shown up on songs by at least half of the dance pop artists of the last few years. In the past, Rimes has shown signs of a decent voice but here her voice is processed to fit the beat to the point where she could be J. Lo or a lesser Aguilera. Rimes played it safe for I Need You's first single, using a song written by Diane Warren, who wrote Rimes' biggest hit How Do I Live and assembly line hits like Starship's Nothing Gonna Stop Us Now and Aerosmith's I Don't Want To Miss A Thing and tends to sprinkle her songs with cliches. Can't Fight The Moonlight, with lines promising "there's no escaping love" and "we'll be lost in the rhythm so right, it will steal your heart tonight", couldn't have taken more than a few minutes for Warren to throw together.
Creed-My Sacrifice(down 31 positions)
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.
Moby-We Are All Made Of Starsbuy it!
Moby's new CD is called 18, reportedly because the songs are based on music Moby was listening to in the early 80's when he was that age. You have to go back a few years earlier to We Are All Made Of Stars's most obvious influence: David Bowie's 70's work; most specifically Heroes. We Are All Made Of Stars has Heroes' patient pace and soaring guitar line. As on Heroes, an icy musical atmosphere contradicts the lyrics' optimism. In a distanced, filtered voice, Moby sings about being part of an unstoppable, growing movement that heralds the future. We Are All Made Of Stars also brings to mind Bowie's Starman, futuristic synth songs like Gary Numan's Cars and Porcelain from Moby's great 1999 Play CD. Nothing about We Are All Made Of Stars quite strikes me like the "this is goodbye"s of Porcelain's stark masterpiece of a dream evocation and the music isn't as original as on many of Play's brilliant constructions. Still, I find We Are All Made Of Stars' contrast between cold, synthetic verses and a warmer chorus, where Moby's earnest vocal overcomes the dark, mechanical mood, compelling and moving.
Dave Matthews Band-Everyday(down 1 position)
The Dave Matthews Band's Everyday CD isn't great but it does have quite a few decent ballads. The best ones keep things simple and relaxed. Everyday's title track is probably the best song on the record. Vocals by South African singer Vusi Mahlasela help create a joyful feel. Everyday shows off the band's strong musicianship. Backing vocals, guitar, horns and Carter Beauford's drums all contribute to Everday's light and playful but rich sound. Everyday's "all you need is love" refrain is nothing new but it fits a song about reducing things to the basics that advises us to "get your hands dirty" and seek love.
U2-In A Little While(down 1 position)
The songs on U2's All That You Can't Leave Behind took on greater meaning after September 11th. Their empathetic, hopeful feeling seemed perfect for the times. U2 picked a great to move away from the ironic, superficial songs that characterized much of their 90s work and combine the hopefulness of their earlier work with a modesty appropriate for guys who've been around long enough to know that goals aren't always easily met. The singles from All You Can't Leave Behind have been big anthems but the CD also has good quiet songs like the simply idealistic Peace On Earth and the playful Wild Honey. In A Little While, the CD's fifth song to make the top 50, is a rich love song with a timeless quality. Brian End added subtle strings to The Edge's good, basic guitar riff. Bono remarkably kept his enormous ego in check nearly throughout All That You Can't Leave Behind. He's very sweet on In A Little While, promising a longtime friend "surely you'll be mine."
Train-She's On Fire(down 6 positions)
She's On Fire is the third chart hit from the Drops Of Jupiter CD by genial San Francisco yuppie rockers Train. She's On Fire has Train's usual smooth, likable sound. It has good, easy boogie guitar lines. But She's On Fire is even more lightweight and insignificant than most of their work. She's On Fire sounds a little like Train's breakthrough hit Meet Virginia without that song's leisurely, quirky charm. She's On Fire also has less detail about the song's object of affection than Meet Virginia. On She's On Fire, Train just want to keep getting back to the innocuous chorus. Pat Monahan's vocal is typically pleasant but a little bland as he sings about a woman who "is truly fine to see" and "is surely blinding" to be.
Outkast-The Whole World(down 1 position)
After getting surprising but well deserved Grammy nominations and awards for the Stankonia CD and Ms. Jackson single, Outkast are back on the pop chart with a new song from their hits collection Big Boi & Dre Present Outkast. Besides having great beats and the skilled raps of Andre 3000 and Big Boi, Stankonia bursted with ideas. Its two dozen songs mixed smarts and goofing around, often on the same song. The Whole World's sound is more on the goofy side. The backup vocals sound like they're sung by Muppets. The music track has a loose feel with chimes and a repeated beat that's like machinery clanging. Whole World's three rappers are all fast and fluid but otherwise provide interestingly contrasting styles. They only touch on the chorus' idea that "the whole world loves it when you sing the blues." Andre 3000 presents a confused mind. He urges haters to look forward not behind but threatens "your head I'll sever from the neck." Guest rapper Killer Mike does the most standard rap, telling us "my focus is crime" and bragging "my words are diamonds" and "I catch a beat runnin' like Randy Moss." Big Boi is depressed by what he sees on the TV but still hopeful about dismissing hate and extreme prejudice and doing "all things that are doable." Regardless of the sentiments of its raps, nothing about them stops The Whole World's easy, likable flow.
Incubus-Wish You Were Here(unchanged)
Incubus follow their mellow megasuccess Drive with a song reminiscent of Make Yourself's other singles. Wish You Were Here, the first single from the Morning View CD, has Pardon Me's record scratching and Stellar's spacy atmosphere. As on Drive, the lyrics show a sincere, slightly sappy, decency. Brandon Boyd sings about being in an idyllic setting. The you he wishes were here are apparently extraterrestrials. Wish You Were Here is good sounding, if unremarkable. Big guitars beef up a basically poppy song.
Tweet-Oops(Oh My)buy it!
Oops is from the Southern Hummingbird CD by Timbaland/Missy Elliot protégé Tweet. Oops got attention because of its teasing lyrics but it also has a striking sound. Oops' repeated horn sample and woody percussive beat give it a swirling, vaguely exotic, though mechanical, feel similar to that of some of Elliott's work. The music matches Oops' mysterious theme. Oops is too cute and coy in revealing that Tweet's pleasure comes from masturbating alone but the tale of enjoying her body is undeniably sexy. Tweet's vocal is appropriately cool and confident.