Jennifer Lopez-I'm Real(up 12 positions)
Even with a synth riff that reminds me of The Hustle, I'm Real, the third hit from the J. Lo CD, is effective dance pop. I'm Real has good rhythm and it's less mechanical sounding than Lopez' last single Play. Lopez' voice is pleasant but bland and basically overwhelmed by the beats. The lyrics to I'm Real are fairly vapid, declaring Lopez' realness uninterestingly. She tells her man that she's not living a secret life, urging him not to worry about what she's doing when she's not with him, declaring "as long as I'm with you, it doesn't matter what we do."
Live-Simple Creed(up 8 positions)
Live's fifth studio record is called V. Simple Creed is another uplifting rocker from Live. Ed Kowalcyk's answer to a world where kids take guns to school is that "we gotta love each other." Kowalcyk makes a nice contribution to Evolution Revolution Love on Tricky's Blowback CD and Tricky returns the favor with a guest vocal on Simple Creed.
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.
Tantric-Astounded(up 2 positions)
Like Breakdown, the second chart hit from the former Days Of The New members' debut CD has Hugo Ferreira doing a bad Eddie Vedder imitation. Ferreira's slurred vocal is more pretentious than Vedder at his self indulgent worst. Astounded resembles Rooster and other Alice In Chains music with its dark, serious tone, "hey, hey, hey"s and acoustic guitar that eventually changes to electric power chords. The lyrics claim "I just found my way" but that apparently doesn't include avoiding resentment to his enemies who he calls "stupid f---ers."
Calling-Wherever You Will Go(unchanged)
Wherever You Will Go is from Calling's Camino Palmero CD. Wherever You Will Go sounds a lot like Creed's With Arms Wide Open, complete with that song's idealistic but empty sound, but at least it doesn't have Creed's silly religious overtones. Wherever You Go is pleasant folky rock but it's pretty unimaginative and the writing is quite awful: "if I could, then I would, I'll go wherever you will go/way up high or down low." The lyrics, pining for a woman who dumped him and hoping for a way "to make it back some day", are kind of sad.
Five For Fighting-Superman(up 10 positions)
Superman is the second chart hit from Five For Fighting's America Town CD. It's the latest in a long series of Superman rock songs by groups from The Kinks to, more recently, Three Doors Down, Crash Test Dummies and Our Lady Peace. Like many Supermans, Five For Fighting's is an aging young man's attempt to feel better about the fact that "it's not easy to be me" with the idea that even the man of steel has problems. It's lite-fm pap. Superman should kick Five For Fighting frontman John Ondrasik's ass for putting new agey jargon like "I'm just out to find the better part of me" and "wish that I could cry" in his mouth. Superman's music is tasteful and wimpy with a quiet piano eventually joined by polite drums.
Blu Cantrell-Hit Em Up Style(up 4 positions)
Hit Em Up Style is from Cantrell's So Blu CD. The fun thing about Hit Em Up Style is that it doesn't waste time getting angry at its cheating boyfriend, getting right to winning revenge by selling all his things and using his money to go on a shopping spree. It's silly but also light hearted and unpretentious with a relaxed beat. I imagine the repeated samples of chimes and an old timey horn riff will seem monotonous after repeat listens.
Better Than Ezra-Extraordinary(unchanged)
Extraordinary, from Better Than Ezra's fourth CD Closer, is an attempt to abandon the one hit wonder status the band's had ever since their artistic and commercial peak, Deluxe's Good. It might succeed but Extraordinary is a lame imitation of a number of recent easy frat boy hits like What I Got, Fly, Hooch and One Week, which it directly quotes. I've often been charmed by Better Than Ezra's modest, tuneful pop rock but Kevin Griffin's tribute to love on Extraordinary, while pleasant, lacks any distinctiveness the band ever had. The lyrics are a pretty weak attempt at rap charm("I've got more hooks than Madonna's got looks") and the melody and dj scratching are very familiar.
Weezer-Island In The Sun(up 10 positions)
Island In The Sun is the second hit from Weezer's very good green album. Island In The Sun is the mellowest and poppiest song on a record that's otherwise straight forward rockers. It's a nice love song about how good it'll be to go away. Rivers Cuomo's sweet, idealistic lyrics("we'll never feel bad anymore) are well matched by the mood created by easy, strummed guitar and the band's hip hips. The band wisely mixes things up by adding harder rocking guitar on the bridge.
O-Town-All Or Nothing(down 9 positions)
It had been three months since there were any boy groups in the top 50 but the drought is over. 'N Sync, Backstreet Boys and O-Town all had song debuts in early June. O-Town are the ultimate in manufactured, commercial boy bands, having been put together for ABC's Making The Band. O-Town's lame first single Liquid Dreams, a bizarre story of a dream girl constructed from pieces of various celebrities, fell just short of the top 50. All Or Nothing, which is more standard teen pop about trying to convince a girl to forget another guy and concentrate on him, is clearly a hit even though it's also quite lame. All Or Nothing is modeled on songs by smooth young African American crooners like Boys II Men's I'll Make Love To You. It starts OK with piano and sincere singing and gets progressively more treacly with strings and very bland harmonies, ending like a bad version of Bryan Adams' Everything I Do.
City High-What Would You Do(down 7 positions)
Beyond the facts that their CD is on Wyclef Jean's label and coproduced by him and, like Lauryn Hill, they're from Jersey, comparisons with The Fugees are somewhat appropriate. City High's debut CD is very good, filled with easy grooves that make it a great summer record. They also show a little social consciousness on What Would You Do. What Would You Do, originally featured on the soundtrack to the movie Life, has a smooth feel and good beats. It has nice contrasts. Claudette Ortiz' fluid singing alternates with her bandmates' harder vocals. On What Would You Do, Ortiz plays a single mom explaining how a sad past and financial struggles led her to be a stripper/prostitute. The music toughens up in the song's middle as Robby Pardlo challenges her to "let go of every excuse."
Dave Navarro-Rexall(down 12 positions)
Trust No One is the former Jane's Addiction and Red Hot Chili Peppers guitar player's solo debut CD. Rexall starts like a Chili Peppers psychedelic rock ballad. The atmosphere gets thicker and by the end it has a dense, bleak Korn/Tool type sound. Navarro has the guitar chops to carry off the transition. His voice is competent and pleasant but he doesn't modulate his vocal to match the song's dynamic shift. In general, Rexall is interesting but not that striking. Rexall is about the gap between the positive appearance and sad reality of a relationship and Navarro's agitation as it dies. He sings "I'm running out of room" and repeats "I hate my life."
Adema-Giving In(up 4 positions)
Giving In is from Adema's self titled debut. Adema singer Mark Chavez is Korn frontman Jonathan Davis' half brother. With its dense atmosphere and big guitars, Giving In sounds a little like Korn but it's not as interesting. Giving In's crunching chords and Chavez' slow elocution also remind me of the hard rock Weezer lovingly mocked on their sweater song. Giving In is about falling into alcohol abuse. Chavez is very serious, especially on a kind of goofy spoken word section.
Jessica Simpson-Irresistible(down 2 positions)
Irresistible is terrible, even by teenpop standards. Irresistible, the title track from Simpson's new CD, is a rehash of songs that weren't so good the first time. The music is very synthetic synthy dance pop. On the verses, Simpson's voice has Britney's pinched, processed quality. On the chorus, Simpson tries, largely unsuccessfully, for a big Christina Aguilera sound while the music mimics Genie In A Bottle, even adding a touch of Latin guitar sound. On Irrestistible, Simpson is the swooning woman who's "weak with desire." I find the lyrics on the chorus unlistenably banal: "he's irresistible, up close and personal, now inescapable, I can hardly breathe."
Eve-Let Me Blow Ya Mind(unchanged)
Eve's two solo records have been huge sellers but Let Me Blow Ya Mind is her first pop radio hit. Like the songs on the Scorpion CD with Teena Marie and Bob Marley's kids, Let Me Blow Ya Mind matches Eve with a mellower performer. No Doubt's Return Of Saturn didn't do too well but Gwen Stefani is doing great as a supporting player, following her work on Moby's South Side with nice, playful harmonizing on Let Me Blow Ya Mind. Stefani and the easy music soften Eve's good but harsh rap, which boasts and disses, warning competitors that it takes "a lot more than you to get rid of me." Let Me Blow Ya Mind was produced by Dr. Dre. He uses a cartoonish synth like he did on his own records and on Eminem and Snoop Dogg's. Let Me Blow Ya Mind has a likable, smooth feel and a relaxed beat.
The Wiseguys-Start The Commotionbuy it!
Start The Commotion is one of the biggest fluke hits of 2001. Start The Commotion is from The Antidote, a CD originally released in 1998, but it got new life when it was used in a Mitsubishi commercial. Like the best creations of fellow Brit Fatboy Slim, DJ Touche's work on Start The Commotion is great because it's not just meant to work on a dance floor or show how inventive he is, it's a lot of fun. Touche mixes samples of vocals from tough R & B and innocent 60s pop, beats, fuzzy bass, horns and flute into a loose, enjoyable collage. I like it a lot more than the other instrumental MTV is playing these days, Crystal Method's showy, annoying Name Of The Game.
Eve 6-Here's To The Night(down 8 positions)
It's a cliche of contemporary rock for an otherwise tough band to include a slow song or two on their CD in an attempt at pop success. Here's To The Night stands out jarringly among the otherwise tough, somewhat unpleasant rock songs on Eve 6's Horrorscope CD. With its strings and pleasant but empty pop sound, Here's To The Night probably fits more comfortably on pop or easy listening radio. It resembles an 80's rock ballad like John Waite's Missing You. Max Collins tries to sounds to like a sensitive male but the lyrics, like many of Horrorscope, are pretty backward about women. Collins tells the woman he lied to, "don't let me let you go."
Melissa Etheridge-I Want To Be In Love(unchanged)
The descriptions of Melissa Etheridge as a female Springsteen used to seem somewhat appropriate but, especially as her career has entered its VH1 phase, it's clear that while she shares Bruce's sincere intensity she sorely lacks his rock and roll energy and detailed, evocative writing. I Want To Be In Love, from Etheridge's Skin CD, is typically earnest but unremarkable. She doesn't do justice to the transcendent love she wants to feel by expressing it with cliched images about climbing highest mountains, wrestling with demons and looking for a heart of gold . The music is sleek but vague with a pleasant beat and tasteful keyboards. The main thing I Want To Be In Love has going for it is Etheridge's passionate vocal.
Smash Mouth-I'm A Believerbuy it!
For a guy with very modest vocal skills, Steve Harwell has done incredibly well, wisely carving out a niche of vaguely retro, genial music. The producers of Shrek, the most successful movie of 2001, made a good call in asking Smash Mouth to contribute to the soundtrack. With their optimistic, catchy, lightweight music, Smash Mouth are right for a feel good cartoon and unlikely to offend anyone in the audience, no matter how young or old. Smash Mouth wisely didn't try a hard, beat filled 21st version or a note for note reenactment, instead opting for a perky, vaguely mod, horn filled 60s sound. Still, they don't come close to the tight perfection of the Neil Diamond penned original, one of the Monkees' many pop rock gems.
Afro Celt Sound System-When You're Falling(unchanged)
Afro Celt Sound System was founded by Simon Emmerson, who brought in African and Irish musicians to experiment with different forms of rhythm based sounds. When You're Falling, from the group's third record Further In Time, features guest singer Peter Gabriel, a long time fan of world music. Nearly nine years after his last record, Us, it's nice to have Gabriel back on the radio, showing he doesn't have to be ponderous and overly serious when he's working with good material. Gabriel anchors When You're Falling with the same kind of passionate but controlled vocal he used for Biko, In Your Eyes and Come Talk To Me. The group's backing vocals, evocative, exotic percussion and string instruments create a joyful mood. When You're Falling is a tribute to woman who's "a fallen angel with your wings set in light."
311-You Wouldn't Believe(down 7 positions)
311 have maintained the same basic formula, mixing rock, ska and hip hop. You Wouldn't Believe, the first single off their From Chaos CD, sounds like Down, 311's commercial and artistic high point, and their other music, with Douglas Martinez' raps interspersed between Nick Hexum's crooned vocal lines. Still, You Wouldn't Believe, about a guy having a tough time after getting dumped, is a good example of the band's formula. It's enjoyable, with skittery, ska drums, and tough, with good guitars and a focused sound.
Pete Yorn-Life On A Chain(down 1 position)
Pete Yorn falls somewhere in the folk rock category but his music is distinctive, with good rock energy. His Musicforthemorningafter is one of 2001's best debut CDs. Starting with Yorn's voice filtered, Life On A Chain has a good, light guitar sound and a simple, big beat. Yorn sounds a little like Eddie Vedder but he mostly sounds confident and cool, even as he sings about still feeling chained to the wife he threw away who was "the sunshine heading my front line."
Incubus-Wish You Were Herebuy it!
Incubus follow their mellow megasuccess Drive with a song reminiscent of the other singles from Make Yourself. Wish You Were Here, the first single from the Morning View CD, has Pardon Me's record scratching and Stellar's spacy atmosphere. The lyrics have Drive's sincere, slightly sappy, decency. Brandon Boyd sings that even in an idyllic setting, it's not the same without you. Wish You Were Here is good sounding, if unremarkable, with big guitars beefing up a basically poppy song.
Willa Ford-I Wanna Be Bad(up 1 position)
I Wanna Be Bad, from Ford's Willa Was Here CD, surpasses Christina and Britney at their worst in its desperate use of sexuality and mechanical music. The lyrics are silly comeons("boy, say the time and place, 'cause you make me wanna misbehave.") The music is empty, dopey disco. I prefer the dance remix, where you can concentrate on the synths and big, fast bass drum beats, rather than the lameness of the song.
System Of A Down-Chop Sueybuy it!
Finally, after so many serious, self pitying, soundalike bands have dominated rock radio, a hard rock band has a hit that sounds different and shows a sense of humor. With tough guitars and hardcore fast drums, Chop Suey, from the Toxicity CD, has the chops necessary to keep the headbangers happy but it's also refreshingly weird. Serj Tankian's over the top vocal takes Chop Suey all over the map, starting as a punk rant, slowing down for a meaningful croon that may be mocking his self important contemporaries("I don't think you trust in my self righteous suicide") and eventually shifting to a spacy, gothic conclusion.