Korn-Thoughtless(up 6 positions)
Thoughtless is the second chart hit from Korn's Untouchables CD. Untouchables has been called the record that introduces melody to Korn's sound. Thoughtless has a melody of sorts but it's hardly tuneful. The verses have hammering guitars. The chorus has a big rock anthem sound. Jonathan Davis' vocal takes on different tones that presumably match the different levels of anger he expresses on Thoughtless. Davis starts with a bit of falsetto playfulness mixed with his rage as he sings about pushing his mercy down, daring someone to take a swing at him so he can have a reason to put him on the ground. But he quickly shifts to a harsh bark: "why are you trying to make fun of me." Things get weird as Davis rants "got my monkey back against the wall." In between, Davis accuses others of "thoughtlessly scheming" to "tear me down" and sings about wanting to "kill and rape you the way you raped me." I'm somewhat fascinated by Thoughtless' surreal, over the top sound, especially Davis' venting of his enormous, barely controlled hostility. But Thoughtless' lack of nuance and endless barrage of noise and negativity make it unlistenably harsh for me.
Jennifer Lopez featuring Nas-I'm Gonna Be Alright(unchanged)
I'm Gonna Be Alright is another song that originally appeared on the J. Lo CD and reemerged in a significantly different form on the J To Tha L-O remix CD. The I'm Gonna Be Alright remix doesn't have the same pared down sound as the I'm Real and Ain't It Funny remixes but it does share the enjoyably laid back feel of those songs. The new mix of I'm Gonna Be Alright, like other J. Lo hits, is careful not to put too much focus on Lopez' thin, modest vocal. I'm Gonna Be Alright gets off to a good start with a strong, tough rap from remix veteran Nas(another remix with a more brittle beat and a more basic rap by 50 Cent isn't bad either). As on Ain't It Funny and Love Don't Cost A Thing, backup vocalists do much of the singing. Lopez' conversational voice humanizes the song and matches the song's deliberate, easy pace. I'm Gonna Be Alright is inconsequential dance pop but it's well made and nicely relaxed with a smooth bass dominated groove. After seeming to teasingly agree on the Ain't It Funny remix to the "you blew your chance when you had it" sentiment of P. Diddy's I Need A Girl, Lopez isn't as hard on I'm Gonna Be Alright's ex-boyfriend. Nas plays a jerk who reminds her of all the things he did for her but Lopez shows regret about leaving someone she still loves.
The Hives-Hate To Say I Told You So(unchanged)
Cutting away the fat that alternative rock has grown over the years, Swedish band The Hives act like it's still the late 70s and they've only just learned of the thrills of making fast, short rock songs with tight, hard guitar riffs. Hate To Say I Told You So sounds a little like songs by Black Crowes and Buckcherry and it also brings to mind other post punk songs like Blur's Song 2 and Sonic Youth's most compact work. But the most obvious influence seems to be The Stooges' Search And Destroy. Pelle Almqvist always comes across, in interviews, on stage and on record, as a very confident guy. He has no problem projecting Iggy Pop's in your face narcissism, singing about how he does "what I want 'cause I can" and how he wants to "be ignored by the stiff and the bored." Hate To Say I Told You So, which is featured on the Spider-man soundtrack as well as the band's Veni Vidi Vicious CD, recalls the thrill of simple, exciting punk inspired music.
New Found Glory-My Friends Over You(unchanged)
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.
Nelly featuring Kelly Rowland-Dilemma(up 11 positions)
Dilemma is the Nellyville CD's ballad. I'd have thought that doing a tame, kind of sensitive song would hurt Nelly's tough guy rep but I guess he's done enough songs objectifying women and establishing his gangsta cred that Dilemma won't hurt his image much. Nelly competently works in a much more restrained mode than usual. Like his rapping, Nelly's singing is easy and fluid but he's so quiet and subdued that he's upstaged by Destiny's Child's Kelly Rowland. Nelly doesn't get to express his usual arrogance but Dilemma does stroke his ego. Rowland plays a woman who's with another man but is crazy over Nelly and always thinks about him. Nelly's character plays it cool, listening and waiting for his cue to make his move. Nelly has followed Hot In Herre, his first #1 pop hit, with another sure hit. Dilemma is based on a Patti Labelle song written by Kenny Gamble and Bunny Sigler. It has a classic, relaxed sound with a crisp, easy beat. Rowland's good, straight forward vocal is nicely underlined by inobtrusive chiming synths. The repeated "oh" sample reminds me of the version of This Woman's Work by Maxwell, a smooth singer I'd never think I'd compare to Nelly.
Nickelback-Never Againbuy it!
Chad Kroeger's dreary chart dominance continues. Never Again, the third single from Nickelback's Silver Side Up CD, debuted on the top 50 while Kroeger's awful Hero was still #1. Never Again is one of Silver Side Up's harder rocking songs but, even with the big guitars, it suffers from the same deadly seriousness and lack of originality as Kroeger's previous hits. Never Again is another song that seems related to Kroeger's troubled youth. Like Too Bad, Never Again is about a dysfunctional home. This time instead of being absent, the dad is a physically abusive drunk. Kroeger is a kid afraid his mom is going to get killed. The happy ending has the mom grabbing a gun and pulling "the trigger just as fast as she can." As always, I don't question Kroeger's sincerity or right to express his pain but wish he could express himself in a more interesting, fresh way.
Our Lady Peace-Somewhere Out There(up 1 position)
Seeking an American commercial breakthrough, Canada's Our Lady Peace move into Creed/Goo Goo Dolls/Aerosmith territory for a string laden rock ballad that sounds like a hit. Somewhere Out There, from the Gravity CD, isn't my favorite Our Lady Peace song(the less sweeping ballad Clumsy probably is), but I find it less annoying than some rock ballads. Our Lady Peace singer Raine Maida has always been a rather serious, intense fellow so it's less jarring than for someone like Steven Tyler to hear Maida shift into mellow mode. Maida's hoarse, yearning singing doesn't have Scott Stapp's self important vanity and Somewhere Out There's sound isn't as bloated as on Creed's hits. Still, Somewhere Out There loses out by following a pop formula. I like Somewhere Out There's heartfelt verses but the song's personal touch is steamrollered when the big guitars and heavy orchestration come in. Somewhere Out There is about waiting "on a bed of nails" for the return of an old flame who transcended a feeling of being "lonely and out of place" by moving on to a new life.
Earshot-Get Away(down 7 positions)
Get Away is from the LA based band's Letting Go CD. Get Away has the intense, dramatic feel of Tool or A Perfect Circle. Singer/songwriter Will Martin does an agonized howl like Maynard James Keenan's. On the verses, Martin's vocal moves forward in jerks over an ominous, rumbling bass. Then on the chorus, Martin's wail gets tougher as the guitars begin to pound. Get Away's sound isn't very likable but it is big and powerful. On Get Away, Martin apparently complains about having to live through all kinds of tension and pressure because of all the sick and disturbing things that have come out since his partner started looking inside.
Vanessa Carlton-A Thousand Miles(down 4 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.
The Vines-Get Free(unchanged)
Get Free is from the Highly Evolved CD by the young band from Sydney, Australia. With a screaming lead singer and a basic, hard rocking sound, The Vines have a surface resemblance to another hot band from overseas: The Hives. While The Hives' Howlin' Pelle Almqvist goofs around and has fun, Vines frontman Craig Nicholls is very serious about his music. He openly emulates hero Kurt Cobain, especially in the band's older songs. The Highly Evolved CD also has songs similar to those of dreamier British bands like Coldplay and Doves but Get Free's Nirvana influence is clear. It reminds me of Breed, Stay Away and Scentless Apprentice as well as Big Bang Baby by fellow Nirvana fans Stone Temple Pilots. Get Free gets simple, exciting energy from Nicholls' unhinged yell, a slicing guitar line and a good, driving beat. On Get Free, Nicholls rages and drops fragments of desperation: "I'm gonna get free, right into the sun", "she never loved me, why should anyone?", "you know you're really alone" and "save me from here."
Mario-Just A Friend 2002(up 11 positions)
Just A Friend 2002 is from the Baltimore native's self titled CD. Mario, like Alicia Keys, who appears on the Mario CD, is on Clive Davis' J Records. Mario doesn't make the striking impression that Keys did but he does seem to have a strong voice, especially for a 15 year old. Just A Friend is a straight version of Biz Markie's 1989 hit. Biz Markie's off key goofing around is replaced by a Boys II Men style production. Sisqo producer Warryn Campbell created a good, sleek sound with crisp, solid beats, Mario's smooth vocal and good choral type female backup singers. The original was kind of thin so Just A Friend, with its very basic lyric about being rebuffed in trying to get closer to a woman, can't help but be a little repetitive and insubstantial but it goes by easily.
Counting Crows-American Girls(down 1 position)
American Girls is from Counting Crows' fourth studio record Hard Candy. Sheryl Crow sings harmonies on American Girls. Adam Duritz doesn't sing about what SPF he's using but American Girls, like Soak Up The Sun's, intentionally loosens things up and achieves a fun, summery feel. American Girls resembles previous good midtempo Crows songs like Rain King and Have You Seen Me Lately, with a little less rock heft than those songs. American Girls maintains its energy and buoyancy thanks largely to a good, driving beat and a nicely uncoiled guitar riff. Duritz can't help but show a little narcissism but American Girls avoids the heaviness of a lot of Counting Crows' music. Not surprisingly, the song's frothy tribute to how American Girls make "me feel so incredible" is largely ironic. American Girls bemoans the bad luck of meeting an emotionally fragile woman who leaves, taking "almost every thing from me." The lyric's unhappy ending doesn't negate the music's enjoyable, if slight, appeal.
Kylie Minogue-Love At First Sight(up 12 positions)
Kylie Minogue continues to proudly recreate Madonna's 80s sound. Love At First Sight, the second American hit from Minogue's Fever CD isn't as irresistable as Can't Get You Out Of My Head but it has the same intent: to be upbeat, very dancable and not particularly meaningful. With cheesy disco era synths, a steady beat and glossy, relentlessly cheery, electronically enhanced vocals, Love At First Sight largely does the job. Minogue and writer/producers Richard Stannard and Julian Gallagher want us to be reminded of dance pop classics. Good Times, Madonna's Holiday and, as the song fades out, Donna Summer's I Feel Love all come to mind. Love At First Sight is stupid, unoriginal, unmemorable and not particularly inspired but it is catchy and familiar enough to give Minogue another hit. On Love At First Sight, Minogue sings about how she was "thinking 'bout giving up" but then "everything went from wrong to right" when she met her baby.
Ashanti-Foolish(down 1 position)
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."
Box Car Racer-I Feel So(down 9 positions)
The Box Car Racer CD is a side project for Tom DeLonge and Travis Barker, the guitar player and drummer from Blink 182. Box Car Racer's members also include guitarist Dave Kennedy and bass player Anthony Celestino but Box Car Racer is clearly DeLonge's show. I Feel So is like Stay Together For The Kids and other Blink work that contrasts the band's usual fast, stupid, youthful rock songs with mid tempo songs that have a kid's earnestness. Like on Stay Together, DeLonge yells the chorus. But he also sings a quieter verse like Mark Hoppus did on Stay Together. Because the Blink boys seem to have the potential to move beyond their fun but limited main style, I'm encouraged by a song like Adam's Song or I Feel So which shows signs of growth. I Feel So still rocks. It has a good, big guitar sound on the chorus and DeLonge does his trademark bratty vocal. But I Feel So also has a sweet, simple sincerity. DeLonge's ability to convey adolescent confusion is impressive. He sings about wishing he was a better person, apparently so he would be better equipped to deal with a troubled relationship.
No Doubt-Hella Good(down 2 positions)
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.
Fat Joe featuring Ashanti-What's Luv?(unchanged)
What's Luv is the first mainstream hit for South Bronx native Joseph Cartagena. Fat Joe, like Ja Rule before him, has made the pop charts by placing his rough voice into a light hip hop setting. What's Luv is laid back and slight like Ja Rule's hits and perhaps even more engaging. What's Luv sounds like Ja Rule's Always On Time and the remixes of J. Lo's I'm Real and Always On Time, which is not surprising, considering that many of the same people were involved in making each record. Fat Joe's voice isn't polished but his parts are wrapped with a relaxed beat in a catchy, bubbly synth riff and surrounded by choruses with Ashanti's ultrasweet singing and Ja Rule's distinctively cocky voice. What's Luv's lyric doesn't say much beyond it's what's love got to do with it(as long as we trust each other) chorus. Fat Joe tells us he doesn't care if you've got a man or whether you're "the office type or like to strip" as long as you have "thick hips" and don't "talk too much." What's Luv is from Fat Joe's Jealous One Still Envy CD(his 1997 CD was called Jealous Ones Envy so he presumably will eventually get around to a CD called something like Jealous Ones Still Envy my Phat Heaviness).
John Mayer-Your Body Is A Wonderlandbuy it!
Your Body Is A Wonderland is the second chart hit from the Atlanta based singer/songwriter's Room For Squares CD. Like No Such Thing, Your Body Is A Wonderland is pleasant but innocuous. Mayer's admiration for a woman's looks is appealing. A bit of bravado accompanies Mayer's promise to take a while making love and discovering a woman's body but he generally avoids the objectification that often accompanies songs complimenting the female shape.
P. Diddy-I Need A Girl(down 7 positions)
I Need A Girl is from the P. Diddy & The Bad Boy Family CD. Rapping has never been P. Diddy's main talent. On I Need A Girl, the artist formerly known as Puff Daddy does a flat, speaking voice rap that's not particularly interesting or melodic. But I Need A Girl's draw is its content and P. Diddy's conversational style matches the lyric's confessional tone. It's fairly remarkable that P. Diddy, an extremely successful artist and entrepreneur who usually seems confident and in control, would present a slightly pathetic persona, worrying about women "usin' me" and pining for "a wife at home" "that could stand me" and "raise me a family." Even more striking is the verse regretting screwing up a relationship that closely resembles the one he had with Jennifer Lopez(he says it's not about J. Lo). He appreciates that she "took the whole ride for me" when "I caught a case" and regrets that because "I made her cry for me", she didn't stick around to have his child. I Need A Girl sounds like a lot of recent hits but it's a particularly enjoyable sounding version of a familiar formula. I Need A Girl has the lightweight but likably breezy sound of Usher's hits. Like songs including What's Luv and Ja Rule's hits, I Need A Girl matches a rough rapper with a much smoother singer. Usher provides a good vocal on the chorus. I Need A Girl splits vocals between P. Diddy, Usher and Loon but maintains a steady, relaxed groove, repeating a good, unobtrusive synth riff and beat.
311-Amber(up 4 positions)
After spending seven weeks on the top 50 in the spring Amber, the third single from 311's From Chaos CD, is back on the chart. It makes sense that Amber, with its very easy, lazy, summery feel, would do well in the hottest part of the year. 311's music is often pretty mellow. I'll Be Here Awhile, the CD's second single was laid back, genial and inconsequential. 311 are even more relaxed than usual on Amber but the mellow mood works. Amber has a likable hippie vibe that's consistent with the goofy "amber is the color of your energy" hook. 311's typical ska flavoring goes down especially easily thanks to good, crisp drumming and loose, jazzy guitar lines including one that has a rubbery preamped bounce. Nick Hexum's voice can be annoyingly innocuous but on Amber the way it floats effortlessly is just right. Amber is a tribute to a distant friend whose voice still "rings like a bell" who glides "through my head blind to fear."
Norah Jones-Don't Know Why(down 2 positions)
Come Away With Me is the debut CD by 23 year old Norah Jones, who is sitar legend Ravi Shankar's daughter but was raised in Texas by her mom. Come Away With Me has justifiably become a yuppie and boomer favorite. Like Cassandra Wilson, Jones starts from a jazz background but plays songs that can be categorized as folk, r&b and pop. Jones' voice even resembles that of country pop singer Shelby Lynne. Don't Know Why is a good showcase of Jones' unshowy but sultry charm. On Don't Know Why, Jones' voice is appealingly yearning and delicate. Jones' piano and rhythm section are easy and inobtrusive, adding to the song's understated poignance. Don't Know Why, written by Jones' guitar player Jesse Harris, has a classic simplicity. Jones sings that, while it makes her feel teary, empty and needing wine, she has to stay away from a guy who has never run to her.
Dirty Vegas-Days Go By(down 13 positions)
Days Go By follows Start The Commotion by becoming a hit dance song after appearing in a Mitsubishi commercial. Dirty Vegas is an British electronic dance group featuring producers/lead musicians Paul Harris and Ben Harris and singer Steve Smith. With a mechanical techno beat and a vocoder effect that's been used in lots of trashy eurodisco songs, as well as Cher's Believe, Days Go By is nothing new but it's well made and has a more substantial feel than many dance songs. Days Go By effectively matches its starkness and the iciness the vocoder gives Smith's voice to its tale of days long bouts of romantic obsession. Days Go By's beats and haunting synths get people on the dance floor and, like classic mixes of songs by people like New Order and Bjork, create an interesting, ominous atmosphere.
Soluna-For All Time(down 3 positions)
For All Time is the title track from the debut CD by four young Hispanic American women. For All Time has tight but bland harmonies. It's like a lesser version of light ballads like Wilson Phillips' You're In Love, Christina Aguilera's I Turn To You and Britney's From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart. For All Time was cowritten and produced by Steve Morales, who's worked with Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin. With a vocoder effect added to T Lopez' vocal seemingly indiscriminately, flowery strings and cheap sounding synths including a dated swirling effect on the chorus, the sound is pretty cheesy. For All Time is generally smooth but it's awfully tame. The lyrics are suitably innocuous, praising the guy who makes "my life complete" and "keeps me strong", vowing "there's no other one for me."
Weezer-Keep Fishin'buy it!
Weezer's self produced Maladroit CD doesn't always show Weezer at its best. Weezer's usual hooks are in fairly short supply, the sound could use a little polishing and too much time is wasted on pointless guitar rock. Still, it's a pretty good record with quite a few good songs. Musically, Keep Fishin' is so fun and buoyant that its goofy Muppet Show video is a great match. Brian Bell and Rivers Cuomo's good, chunky guitars are well supported by Pat Wilson's upbeat drumming. Loose backing vocals, including doo-wahs on the meter changing bridge, further enhance Keep Fishin's joyful mood. Not surprisingly, Cuomo's lyrics are not as happy as the music. He sings how not being with girl he loves and seeing how she's not getting her life together makes him sad.
Daniel Bedingfield-Gotta Get Thru Thisbuy it!
Gotta Get Thru This is the title track from Daniel Bedingfield's first solo CD. It follows Dirty Vegas' Days Go By, The Wiseguys' Start The Commotion and Kylie Minogue's singles as the latest dance hit out of England with at least a touch of techno flavor. 22 year old Bedingfield says he made Gotta Get Thru This in his bedroom with a computer and a mike. Gotta Get Thru This's sound is basic, with a steady beat and a decent repeated electronic riff, but it's pretty effective. Bedingfield's voice is obviously treated and enhanced. The result is thin and nasal but interesting, like a cartoonish version of 80s Michael Jackson. Like the music, Gotta Get Thru This' lyric is simple but does the job. Bedingfield repeats the title like a mantra that helps him to stop obsessing about a woman who broke his heart.