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.
DJ Sammy & Yanou-Heaven(down 4 positions)
Heaven is quite a stupid song. At least, unlike Bryan Adams' soaring, bloated original, the new version doesn't have any pretentions of meaning. Adams' stream of cliches("you're all that I want", "we were young and wild and free", "nothing can take you away from me" and "through the good times and the bad, I'll be standing there by you") glide by easily. With a familiar melody, a big, obvious beat and lyrics that can be understood by people for whom English is a second language, Heaven has all the hallmarks of an international dance pop hit. Apparently, DJ Sammy is a Spanish mixmaster/producer who worked on Heaven with Dutch singer Do. With its frantic, eager to please beat, Heaven sounds more suited to a high impact aerobics class than a dance club. But Heaven's upbeat tone and high energy techno synths undoubtedly get people on the dance floor.
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(unchanged)
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.
311-Amber(up 14 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."
Jennifer Lopez featuring Nas-I'm Gonna Be Alright(down 5 positions)
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.
Mario-Just A Friend 2002(up 3 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.
The Vines-Get Free(up 1 position)
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."
Vanessa Carlton-A Thousand Miles(down 1 position)
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.
Kylie Minogue-Love At First Sight(up 2 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.
Counting Crows-American Girls(unchanged)
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.
Daniel Bedingfield-Gotta Get Thru This(up 12 positions)
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.
Eve featuring Alicia Keys-Gangsta Lovin'buy it!
Eve's new CD is called Eve-Olution. Gangsta Lovin' has the same kind of easy, likably playful sound as Eve's first big pop hit Let Me Blow Ya Mind. Ja Rule/Ashanti producer Irv Gotti gave Gangsta Lovin' a good sound with a steady, relaxed beat and a catchy synth riff. Eve's rap is appealingly confident and straight forward. She's strong and subtly teasing as she tells a guy she's interested. Alicia Keys' vocal on the chorus is assisted by backing singers and hardly challenging but her smooth, laid back singing fits Gangsta Lovin's charming, breezy mood.
Weezer-Keep Fishin'(up 9 positions)
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.
Ashanti-Foolish(down 2 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."
John Mayer-Your Body Is A Wonderland(up 1 position)
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.
Sheryl Crow-Soak Up The Sun(down 28 positions)
Soak Up The Sun is the first single from Sheryl Crow's fourth studio record C'mon C'mon. While there were some signs on The Globe Sessions that she might be losing her touch, Crow has been able to put together an impressive string of hits by balancing, in varying degrees, pop simplicity and catchiness with a sense of rock craft and substance. The balance was best seen on substantial but still fun singles like Everyday Is A Winding Road. Soak Up The Sun's emphasis is on simplicity. It's reminiscent of, and even less complicated than, Crow's early good time hit All I Wanna Do. From its principle desire to "tell everyone to lighten up" to its dopey final line("I've got my .45 on so I can rock on"), Soak Up The Sun is proudly mindless. It has a schematic, get back to the chorus feel that will probably soon prove tiresome. But if Crow's playing dumb, at least she's playing it nicely with lines like "it's not having what you want, its wanting what you've got." Soak Up The Sun has a catchy singalong chorus and is likably modest. It's solidly constructed with a sturdy guitar riff. I like Crow's light, seemingly helium enhanced vocal on the "everytime I look around" bridge.
Eminem-Cleanin' Out My Closetbuy it!
Eminem knows that he has created enough interest that millions want to know about his history and grudges. Cleanin' Out My Closet, The Eminem Show CD's second single, is another account of the reasons he hates various people in his life. Eminem starts Cleanin' Out My Closet whining about being "protested and discriminated against." He congratulates himself for not leaving his daughter like his "faggot father" left him and for "taking them bullets out of that gun" instead of killing his ex-wife. But Eminem mostly focuses his anger on his mom. We learn that Debbie popped prescription pills, made little Marshall a "victim of Munchausen syndrome(making him "believe I was sick when I wasn't") and that when her brother died, said she wished it was her son who died. Eminem is pretty unappealing, asking for sympathy but showing none for a woman who, even according to his account, went through some very tough times. But like him or not, it's hard to argue against the idea that he provides great theatre, at least giving the impression that he's allowing us a glimpse into a unique, troubled mind. On The Eminem Show, Eminem, assisted by Jeff Bass, has generally replaced his mentor Dr. Dre as his music's producer. The quality of Eminem's tracks vary but he did a good job on the singles. Cleanin' Out My Closet doesn't have Without Me's energy. Eminem cleared out the sound on Cleanin' Out My Closet, keeping the focus on his lyrics. The tapping percussion and Bass' playing create a stark, haunted feel consistent with recounting stories of a dark past. Eminem's technique isn't as impressive as his breathless, nonstop rap on Without Me but he has no trouble keeping his audience's attention with a style that's simultaneously casual, confident and troubled.
Chuck Prophet-Summertime Thingbuy it!
Chuck Prophet used to be the guitar player in the 80s paisley underground band Green On Red. Summertime Thing is from his No Other Love CD. On Summertime Thing, Prophet successfully creates an easy, summery bluesy rock feel with relaxed but evocative keyboards and slide guitar. Prophet does a good job vocally of playing the cool delta bluesman, confidently asking a friend to "take off your clothes and jump into the river."
Norah Jones-Don't Know Why(unchanged)
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.
Unwritten Law-Up All Nightbuy it!
Seein' Red showed Unwritten Law's sensitive side. On Up All Night, the second chart hit from the Elva CD, the Southern California band is back in a rocking mode. Like many of their punky pop contemporaries, Unwritten Law combine a bunch of influences into a accessible mix. Like Sum 41's hits, Up All Night has hard rock guitars and crisp, fluid drums but it's more serious minded than the lighthearted songs of Sum 41, The Offspring or New Found Glory. Strangely for a song about smoking cigarettes and weed and sittin' back relaxin', Scott Russo angrily spits out his vocal like he thought he was in Bad Religion. The chorus is catchy but Russo's voice is flat as if bad singing was an indication of authenticity. Jagged guitar and bass lines on the verses give Up All Night an edge that could belong to punk or ska. Up All Night has some rock power but it's not a lot of fun.
No Doubt-Hella Good(down 7 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.
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.
Fat Joe featuring Ashanti-What's Luv?(down 8 positions)
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).