Evanescence-My Immortal(up 8 positions)
My Immortal is the least irritating of the three chart hits from Evanescence's hugely successful Fallen CD. Bring Me To Life had rock guitar, rapping, goth touches and a big, atmospheric production. It gave the impression that the band was trying to please everyone and gave me a headache. On My Immortal, Evanescence are the sappy but effective folkie pop band I always thought they were under the rock trappings. It will be interesting to see if Evanescence can survive and thrive now that Ben Moody, who co-founded the band and cowrote all the songs on Fallen, has left. Whether she goes solo or stays with the band, singer Amy Lee will probably do fine. Lee has striking looks and a good voice. My Immortal again shows Lee to be a Tori Amos/Sarah McLachlan fan. My Immortal is reminiscent of simple, emotional, piano based Amos songs like Silent All These Years. Evanescence is unable to stay in a delicate Amos type mode for a whole song. My Immortal is more cliched than a good Tori Amos song. Its strings and the way the drums and guitars crash in for a climactic last run through the chorus make it more formulaic. But My Immortal generally maintains an appealing delicacy. Lee's singing is strong and not too showy. Her voice and simple piano playing easily carry the song. Evanescence have a preference for big, dramatic images. While it could be about an old boyfriend, My Immortal's lyric is apparently about being haunted by the memory of a dead lover whose "presence still lingers." The overripe emotion of Evanescence's songs, which millions have taken to, is too much for me. Heavy strings and Lee's painfully sincere vocal make My Immortal a bit precious. But Lee's intensity, her riveting presence and a direct, stripped down sound make My Immortal compelling.
Christina Aguilera-The Voice Within(up 3 positions)
Christina Aguilera isn't as good at working the media as Britney but she's a bit better at making hits. The Voice Within is the fifth smash from her Stripped CD which, when it was released more than a year ago, many predicted would be a flop. Since Aguilera has a big voice and loves to show it off, it was only a matter of time until her record company released a big, soaring ballad of the sort Whitney and Mariah topped the charts with a decade ago. The Voice Within was produced and co-written by Glen Ballard. Ballard did Alanis Morissette's hugely successful Jagged Little Pill CD but the credit on Ballard's lengthy resume that might be most appropriate in the case is his work in Wilson Phillips' short lived hit making career. The Voice Within doesn't have the intimate, personal feel of Beautiful, Stripped's first single, but it's pretty good. The Voice Within is like I Turn To You, the cliched but fine and fairly stirring single from Aguilera's first record, and maybe a little better. Aguilera's is a skilled singer and she doesn't go over the top until the inevitable intense climax. The Voice Within starts nicely with just Aguilara's voice and a piano. It remains appealing as drums come in. Unfortunately, the big ballad formula demands that the sound grow. So Ballard adds strings, bigger keyboards and showy choir-like backing vocals, all of which force Aguilera into vocal gymnastics. In that mode, Aguilera is technically impressive but her showiness undermines the personal feeling her voice and the lyric communicate earlier in the song and reinforces a feeling that The Voice Within isn't very original. Still, for a lofty ballad, The Voice Within isn't bad. It's a bit more generic than Beautiful but, like Beautiful, The Voice Within has a theme that, while inconsistent with Aguilera's self centered image, is sweet. The familiar lyrics add to a sense that The Voice Within is a rehash of other songs with a similar theme but the message is still nice. Aguilera tells a "young girl" that in troubled times, if she believes in herself, she can find the "strength that will guide your way."
Red Hot Chili Peppers-Fortune Faded(down 14 positions)
Red Hot Chili Peppers continue to deal with how to make rock music as you reach middle age. It's good that they realized they'd seem silly if they kept making the kind of raucous music they made in the 80's. Their music these days is, mostly decent and competently made. But while it's pleasant and tasteful, it usually lacks much spark and can be plain boring. Fortune Faded, a new track on the Greatest Hits CD which covers the band's music since 1989, is more listenable, unexciting music. The best thing about Fortune Faded is John Frusciante's sleek processed guitar riff. Otherwise, with power chords, Flea's thumping bass and Chad Smith's pounding drums, Fortune Faded has the trappings of a rock song but little of the energy and surprise that can make one good. It passes by easily but uneventfully and repetitiously. Anthony Kiedis' vocal doesn't grab you. Especially for a guy who developed an image by doing things like playing concerts naked, his singing is mannered and bland. The lyric tell us that the reasons for his fading fortune include a "medicated state of mind" and the fact you can quickly find you've overstayed your welcome in a show biz world that's a "hell of an elevator."
Britney Spears-Toxicbuy it!
Britney Spears seemed to be in danger of being more famous for being famous than for being a singer but, after a bunch of singles with mediocre chart performances, she has her biggest hit since 2000's Oops! ...I Did It Again. Britney's lack of a distinctive voice or musical image have allowed each of the producers who worked on her In The Zone CD to move in a different direction and put their imprint on their song. Britney contributed to Toxic's success by being the hot babe in the video but credit for Toxic's sound should largely go to its writer Cathy Dennis, who also did Kylie Minogue's Can't Get You Out Of My Head. Like Dennis' previous megahit, Toxic has a sleek, synthetic, cool sound. Like many producers, Dennis placed Britney's cold, thin voice in an icy synth and beats world. Toxic doesn't overuse Britney's singing. Britney's brittle vocal is on the verses but I'm guessing that on the chorus and anywhere else where there's decent singing, it's Dennis, whose Touch Me(All Night Long) was a dance pop hit in the 80's. Toxic has lots of synths and a stiff, effective beat but its futuristic sound is also fun and fast, with strings creating a goofy sense of drama. Toxic's lyric tells a guy that he's dangerous and makes her high She's addicted to him and needs a hit.
Lostprophets-Last Train Home(up 11 positions)
It was inevitable that the hard but atmospheric sound that has dominated American rock radio the last few years would make it overseas. Welsh band Lastprophets join Linkin Park, Hoobastank and so many others in their generation of serious post-grungers. Perhaps they belong in the slightly better company of AFI, Story Of The Year(Last Train Home mixes nicely with Girl's Not Grey and Until The Day I Die) and The Used, whose music resembles the intense, hard rocking Last Train Home. Much of Last Train Home is kind of generic. Last Train Home doesn't stand out much from many similar songs. Singer Ian Watkins' voice has power and emotion but it also has the humorlessness and self importance of many of his colleagues. Last Train Home is still pretty good. Watkins is a strong singer who seems to have some charisma. Last Train Home gets decent tension from a mix of guitar sounds, which range from hard to melodic, interesting, angular drumming and a simple, vaguely menacing piano line. Last Train Home has a catchy chorus that flows into an appealing heartfelt bridge. On that bridge, Last Train Home transcends its formula and reaches an appealing early U2 type idealism as Watkins alternates with hollered backing vocals charmingly chanting "we sing." Last Train Home is impressively big and ambitious and it also has sweetly endearing parts. On Last Train Leaving, Watkins sings about trying to "forget the sorrow" of a love that's disappeared, primarily by deciding to "sing without a reason."
Headstrong is from the California band's self titled major label debut. Headstrong holds some hints that Trapt could be more interesting than other nu-metal bands. The sound isn't as cluttered or murky as that of some of their contemporaries. The verses are pretty good. Chris Brown's vocal is smooth and quick with a rapper's sensibility. The vocal is nicely underlined by Simon Ormandy's light, loose guitar. The chorus is effective but less interesting as Brown and Ormandy's trade short, jagged thrusts of guitar. Brown's angry croon is awfully familiar. In the end, not much distinguishes Headstrong from intense rap metal by Linkin Park, Papa Roach and many others. Headstrong is competently made but not particularly likable or interesting. Headstrong apparently announces a break with an ambitious musical associate who won't change his wrong ideas.
Eamon-F**k It(I Don't Want You Back)(up 3 positions)
Eamon is a 19 year old singer from Staten Island. F**k It, from his I Don't Want You Back CD, started with airplay on a few stations and slowly became a big hit. I loved F**k It when I first heard it and it was called Nothing Compares 2 U. To me, F**k It sounds a lot like Sinead O'Connor's 1990 Prince penned hit. The comparison is kind of a compliment. With its simple, stark synth & basic beats backing, F**k It evokes the same obsessive sense Nothing Compares 2 U did. F**k It makes it clear, like a good breakup song should, that Eamon would love to have her back. Eamon's singing has a wounded feel that makes his pain sound real. Eamon will likely be a one hit wonder. He's apparently not a great singer; his voice benefits from a bit of electronic tweaking. He doesn't seem so smart; the interviews I've seen present him as an extremely regular guy. But with F**k It, Eamon has made a lasting contribution to the ranks of songs about heartbroken guys. F**k It's lyric is a very typical lament about having loved and trusted a woman who cheated on him. F**k It also has the typical "happy" ending of being able to turn her down when she comes back for another chance. I know he's upset but he still shouldn't call her a "hoe".
Blink 182-Feeling This(down 1 position)
Not long ago, Blink 182 were proudly one of the stupidest successful bands around. Since then, younger bands like Sum 41 and Simple Plan, who seem like fans of Blink 182's fast, fun rocking pop, have supplanted the band in terms of pop success and dopeyness. It's a bit depressing that, as they hit 30, Blink 182 seem to be trying to keep up with the new kids. Feeling This, from the band's self titled new record, sounds like an attempt by Blink 182, who rarely showed much interest in rap or hip hop in the past, to emulate the rap rock sound of Sum 41 and other lesser immature rock bands. The good news is that they do a really good job. Feeling This has a good flow and a lot of likable personality. Anchored by Travis Barker's big, flexible, no nonsense beat, Feeling This shifts tempos and textures but stays interesting. Feeling This is a good showcase for Blink's vocalists. Their contrasting styles fit together nicely. In his bratty voice, Tom DeLonge is the nihilist reveling in the moment, exclaiming excitedly "show me the way to bed" and "I love all the things you do." The more reflective Mark Hoppus makes it clear that the encounter is a thing of the past that's sadly fading into memory. When you think that the genial traded vocals are all the song is about, Hoppus comes up with a skilled, fluid, unshowy rap. With DeLonge's fast, varied guitar lines, Feeling This keeps driving forward. Throughout, Feeling This retains a loose hip hop flow and maintains a good balance of enthusiasm and smarts.
Sarah McLachlan-Fallen(down 7 positions)
It's been more than six years and Sarah McLachlan has had a baby since the release of Surfacing, her last studio record. But surprisingly little about McLachlan's sound has changed. Fallen, the first single from McLachlan's Afterglow CD, sounds a lot like Building A Mystery and other McLachlan songs. It's disappointing that McLachlan hasn't changed her style at all. She can come across as self satisfied and could use an edge. The same sound is bound to have less impact when repeated. Still, while Fallen is familiar and unsurprising, the formula it follows is a good one. Fallen is listenable and quite insinuating. Fallen shares with Building A Mystery a patient pace that creates a good dramatic feel. It's carefully constructed, with strings, piano and electric guitar deployed in a fairly discrete manner that creates a modest kind of excitement. McLachlan's voice is clear and controlled with a touch of sensuality but, as with her music, you can wish that McLachlan didn't seem so comfortable with her singing and took more chances. On Fallen, McLachlan sings, in fairly melodramatic terms, that she's "sunk so low" after messing up a relationship where she got "caught up" in an offer with a cost that "was so much more than I could bear."
A Perfect Circle-The Outsiderbuy it!
It's difficult for me to imagine listening to an entire Maynard James Keenan CD in one sitting. It's hard for me to make it through each dark song of thick guitars, booming drums and Keenan's howling and raging. The Outsider isn't A Perfect Circle's best song but it's another example why, with APC and Tool, Keenan is one of the best of the many angry young white rock guys. Keenan and APC co-founder Billy Howerdell, who produced and wrote The Outsider, know how to create a dramatic sound. The music gains force by moving slowly, with layers of guitars in place all along the way. Keenan's vocal warily moves forward in irregular spurts, as if he's trying to keep things in but his rage forces him to blurt things out and then work himself into a frenzy. Band member Josh Freese, who's also a very in demand studio drummer for everyone from Avril Lavigne and Kelly Clarkson to The Offspring and Good Charlotte, heightens The Outsider's tension with his pounding. The Outsider has a potent, focused sound, which loses appeal only because we've heard it before. The Outsider's lyric is more problematic. The targets of Keenan's rage are usually better chosen than on the nasty, angry Outsider, where Keenan seems more mean than troubled. It can be frustrating to deal with a depressed person who seems to talk about suicide just to get attention but The Outsider crosses the line from frustration to callousness. Keenan tells a girlfriend, who's given in to her "reckless dark desires", that he doesn't "wanna watch you" "throw it away like this." Just to make it clear that "I'm over this", he calls her a medicated, "narcissistic drama queen" and a "suicidal imbecile." Keenan finishes The Outsider with the sweet thought: "if you choose to pull the trigger, should your drama prove sincere, do it somewhere far away from here."
Counting Crows-She Don't Want Nobody Near(up 2 positions)
It's the season for greatest hits CDs by vaguely hip yuppie favorites from the early 90's. Counting Crows join Sheryl Crow, No Doubt, Red Hot Chili Peppers and REM in the top 50 with a new track from a compilation record. Of those acts, Counting Crows had the shortest time at the top and the steadiest decline from their commercial peak. They've been unable to put out singles as striking as Mr. Jones, which introduced Counting Crows to the world, or Long December, the band's last big hit. But while Counting Crows no longer top the pop charts, they still get play in the less expansive world of adult alternative radio and they have retained a decent following with solid, unspectacular music. She Don't Want Nobody Near, from Films About Ghosts: The Best Of Counting Crows, is a good example of the band's significant, if modest, charms. She Don't Want Nobody Near doesn't have much personality. It basically just drifts forward but it's a nice ride. Crisp drumming, tough, evocative guitar and varied sounds, including piano and a mandolin, give the song good momentum. Adam Duritz' voice is strong, as usual. He can seem narcissistic but on She Don't Want Nobody Near, Duritz is a good team player, fitting in nicely with the song's melody and controlling his mannerisms. She Don't Want Nobody Near is about a woman who, after too many guys just disappear, decides she doesn't want to get too deep into relationships where the guy could "see what she looks like when she's down."
Beyonce featuring Sean Paul-Baby Boy(down 4 positions)
Beyonce Knowles' impressive streak of huge hits, first with Destiny's Child and now as a solo artist, continues with Baby Boy, the second single from Beyonce's Dangerously In Love CD. Baby Boy has a sound destined to make it a smash but it's not nearly as appealingly as Dangerously In Love's first hit Crazy In Love. On Crazy In Love, Beyonce abandoned her usual cool, controlled persona for a song with a joyful, liberating sound. On Baby Boy, Beyonce reverts to a professional, slightly calculated voice. Scott Storch, who's worked on hits including Christina Aguilera's Fighter, wrote and produced Baby Boy with Beyonce. Baby Boy has a good, slightly exotic sound with eastern guitar sounds and an emphatic synth that adds to the song's excitement. Baby Boy features popular collaborator Sean Paul(I prefer Breathe, his similar but warmer duet with Blu Cantrell). Paul helps increase Baby Boy's intensity with a confident but focused rap that keeps the song moving forward and avoids the silly narcissism that mars some of Paul's work . Beyonce's singing is OK. She has some of the sensuality the lyric requires but she'd be better if she seemed looser and less studied. Baby Boy's lyric is a fairly routine tribute to a guy who she can't stop thinking about who fulfills her fantasies.
Guster appeared on MTV2's Album Covers show, playing the songs on the Violent Femmes' first record. Their precise versions showed that Guster are good musicians with a taste for jagged, idiosyncratic music that's surprisingly for a band with such a genial, clean cut sound. The faithfulness of the covers, the refusal to deviate in any significant way, also was a reminder of the lack of surprise and edge in Guster's music. Careful, the second chart hit from Guster's Keep It Together CD, is another example of Guster's likable, fairly predictable style. Careful is well played and inviting. It has warm harmonies and Ryan Miller's lead vocal is appealingly unpretentious. Guster have largely stuck with the simple acoustic arrangements that first got people's attention. Their shiny jangles and strums are clean and crisp. Brian Rosenworcel gives Guster's music good texture with good quiet, varied percussion that avoids standard rock drummer pounding. Careful's downside is that it's awfully like a lot of Guster's other songs. Its sound is so smooth and easy to take that it's kind of boring. Like Amsterdam, Careful has a dark lyric that belies its sunny music. Careful warns a girlfriend who walks out "when I asked you to stay" that she'll "hurt yourself" in a world where "others lie." Miller tells her he's the one who tells her the truth and she'll be "back again" to him.
Fuel-Falls On Me(up 10 positions)
Pop radio has embraced Falls On Me, the first single from Fuel's Natural Selection CD, so it's returned to the top 50. My opinion of Falls On Me hasn't improved. It still seems like another lame attempt to reach a larger audience with an intense, overblown rock ballad. Fuel's Hemorrhage(In My Hands) provided a prime example of the emotive hit. Following a similar blueprint, Falls On Me has recaptured Hemorrhage's success. Falls On Me isn't as overdone as Hemorrhage but it's pretty boring amd obvious. The Hemorrhage similarity begins early as Falls On Me starts with quiet, meaningful strumming then Brett Scallions does a quiet, meaningful vocal. Predictably, big guitars soon come in. They're not so bad. Falls On Me has a decent sound. It's fairly catchy and has emphatic bursts of drums and guitar but Falls On Me has no spark or excitement. Scallions' pretentious, self important vocal doesn't help. Neither does Falls On Me's familiarity. Besides Hemorrhage, Falls On Me echoes Collective Soul's Heavy with a nearly identical hook: "all of your weight falls on me." Carl Bell's lyric apparently thanks a woman for breaking "my disease", so "I can breathe."
Story Of The Year-Until The Day I Die(up 10 positions)
St. Louis' Story Of The Year are the latest success from the world of emo and screamo. Story Of The Year's debut Page Avenue CD was produced by Goldfinger's John Feldmann, who also produced the debut by screamo kings The Used. Until The Day I Die has a sweet lyric. Marsala vows that even if he sometimes hates her, he'll always be devoted to his love, he'll always "take the fall for you" and that if she died right row, he'd die too. Until The Day I Die strikes me more as worthy than actually enjoyable but there is a lot to like about it. Dan Marsala's screamed intensity is a little cliched. His endlessly full lunged, serious vocal gets a little boring. It could use a little variation besides an end of song howl which, having been done by so many bands, seems more inevitable than cathartic. Still, Marsala's passion feels very real and, if you let yourself get swept up, it can be invigorating. Until The Day I Die is well constructed. Until The Day I Die is energized by Josh Wills' good pounding drums, a nice repeated guitar riff on the verses and Ryan Phillips and Phillip Sneed's effective lattice of power chords and driving guitar riffs on the chorus. It has a good galloping, crunching finish. Until The Day I Die isn't startlingly novel but it is exciting, well played and charmingly sincere.
Jack Johnson-Taylor(down 5 positions)
Jack Johnson's On And On CD's stay on adult alternative radio has been extended, partly thanks to Taylor's funny video featuring Ben Stiller as a clueless director set on doing a bizarrely literal video for the song. Except for the video, not much distinguishes Taylor from other songs in Johnson's genial, unassuming oeuvre. Johnson's modesty and refusal to pander to his audience with obvious commercial flourishes are charming. The flip side of Johnson's reserve are a sameness and lack of surprise. Taylor opens and closes with Johnson's skilled, unshowy acoustic guitar solos. In between, guitar, bass and drums create a good ska gallop. The music is so quiet and unobtrusive that you hardly notice it but it has the same propulsive momentum as the music of earlier ska bands like The English Beat. Johnson's likable vocals have a smooth, easy flow though he'd be more interesting if he showed some excitement once in a while. Johnson often writes spare lyrics evoking scenes of people slowly dealing with existential crises. In Taylor, the crises are more serious than usual. Taylor, who used to be "a good girl" working the night shift, is now "working on the streets" pretending she's "two thousand miles from here." Poor Peter Patrick "thinks that singin' on Sunday's gonna save his soul" and take him out of a life where he's "got nothing."
Godsmack are still one of my least favorite bands. But I don't dislike Realign, the fourth chart hit on the Faceless CD, as much as most of Godsmack's music. That's largely because Realign is less about Sully Erna's cold, self righteous singing than usual. Realign has a big, pretty good hard rock sound. Realign's verses are fairly typical, unpleasant Godsmack. With Erna snarling, they sound like Awake, Straight Out Of Line and other songs. The chorus is more enjoyable. Tony Rambola plays a good rising set of chords and Erna's vocal is relatively restrained. Realign, especially in Erna's vocal, is not very likable but, at least, it's not as nasty and combative as some of the band's songs. Realign is about trying to get out of a life of apathy, confusion and "decisions made from desperation" where Erna's fears came alive.
Dave Matthews-Save Me(up 1 position)
I understand that, after playing with his band for more than a decade, Dave Matthews wanted to try something different. But artistically, it was a bad idea to ditch the DMB to make the solo record Some Devil. On Some Devil Matthews, a lover of jam songs, worked with similarly minded people like Phish's Trey Anastasio and made music that misses the energy Matthews' band brings to his songs. It also doesn't seem like his new partners pushed him to find the beautiful languor the Grateful Dead achieved. Save Me isn't pretentiously meaningful and draggy like Some Devil's first single Gravedigger, which quickly fell out of the top 50. Save Me is pleasant but so vague that it's hardly noticeable. Save Me's video shows Matthews, Anastasio and company having a good time making the song but only some of that sense of fun makes the record. Save Me does have an easy, loose feel. It moves at a relaxed, meandering pace. Crisp but unshowy drumming lets the pure sounds of the sticks and the kit resound. Save Me's guitar and keyboard doodling are pretty innocuous but they fit in fine with the song's laid back feel. Vocally Matthews is, typically, cocky, competent and unremarkable. He largely avoids the mannerisms can mar his singing. Save Me does have good, soulful backing vocals that finish the song nicely. Save Me tells Matthews' story of meeting a man who's walking through the desert for 40 days with only his faith to nourish him. Matthews asks the man to save him and is to told to "try savin' yourself."
Norah Jones-Sunrisebuy it!
Especially in a downloading world where sales are down, Norah Jones is a goddess of the music business. Her debut Come Away With Me CD has sold more than eight million copies in the US alone. Feels Like Home, her followup, sold one million copies the week it came out and two million in its first month. The consensus regarding Feels Like Home is that it's fairly cautious. Jones is apparently most comfortable in a mellow mode. It does seem like there's more going on in Feels Like Home than there was on Come Away With Me, which was well played and sounded good but, at its worst, had a polite, boring, elevator music quality. On Feels Like Home, some of the songs have an alt country feel but Jones' music still generally fits somewhere between jazz, lite pop and country. Feels Like Home is a bit more confident and personal. As before, the saving grace of Jones' music is her supple, quite amazing voice. Jones' singing nicely carries Sunrise, one of the best things she's done. Jones shows confidence in eschewing a big beat and letting Sunrise's arrangement stay muted. Good, quiet playing twists around Jones' voice. Sunrise has an unshowy jazzy looseness with a mandolin and an unobtrusive, throbbing bass. Jones even plays a good little piano solo. Sunrise has Jones' typical modesty but it's also warm and relaxed. Like much of Jones' music, Sunrise is easy listening but it's not pandering and button pushing. Sunrise is charming. It sounds like Jones and friends are having good, if subdued, fun. Sunrise, written by Jones with bass player and boyfriend Lee Alexander, is about a couple spending a relaxed day in bed with a broken clock stuck at 9:15. Jones shows mild surprise that "we've made it through another day."
Good Charlotte-Hold On(up 1 position)
Hold On is the fourth single from Good Charlotte's The Young and the Hopeless CD. Good Charlotte have recently established that they're not just empty headed punks. Boys and Girls was fun, smart power pop. Hold On is also slower than the punky pop Good Charlotte made their name playing. Hold On is less interesting musically than Boys and Girls but fine. The verses are genial, generic guitar pop like Lifehouse's Spin(which I quite like) and Hanging By A Moment. The simple singalong chorus, introduced by big drums that tell you something important is about to happen, is even more anthemic than Good Charlotte's The Anthem, which mocked but also used tricks that make a catchy rock hit. Especially in the context of a poignant lyric, Drummer Chris Wilson and guitar players Benji Madden and Billy Martin's varied, muscular approaches create a big, powerful sound. Hold On's biggest draw is its lyric. Hold On, which has a moving video featuring people who lost friends and family to suicide, tries to convince kids that even if "no one seems to care" and you feel "pain you can not bare", life will get "better than you know." The further Good Charlotte moves away from punk, the more Joel Madden's voice is tested. On Hold On, he's often off key and a bit whiny but his sincere delivery overcomes some of his technical shortcomings. He's also helped by Hold On's sweeping music, which maintain an optimistic atmosphere. Hold On is pretty basic but its music is effective and its message to troubled adolescents is terrific.
Melissa Etheridge-Breathebuy it!
I vaguely recally a time when Melissa Etheridge's music showed a bit of imagination and rock and roll energy. But for a while she's been churning out overwrought, sub-Springsteen crap with an adult contemporary radio friendly gloss. On Breathe, from her Lucky CD, Etheridge again tries too hard for emotion power. Etheridge goes into a fists clenched intensity after only a few bars and Breathe has nowhere to go. Breathe stays in a heavy, anthemic mode and lacks any nuance, subtlety or shifts in dynamics. Breathe is carefully produced but, with strings and big drums, it tries for pathos with a blugeoning, sledgehammer sound that keeps coming back to a formulaic chorus. Breathe is obvious easy listening disguised as personal rock music. The shame about Breathe and similar songs is that Etheridge clearly has real, sincerely felt emotions but she expresses them in a hackneyed, impersonal way. Breathe is about missing a former partner. Etheridge sings about longing for home, "a feeling buried in you."
Beyonce-Me Myself and I(unchanged)
The exhilarating Crazy In Love justifiably won Beyonce Knowles Grammy awards but her subsequent singles have been less remarkable. Me, Myself and I was cowritten and produced by the in demand Scott Storch(Pink's Family Portrait, Justin's Cry Me A River, Christina's Fighter). Me, Myself & I has a smooth sound. Its wah-wah riff gives it a bit of texture and a 70's retro feel. But that riff gets a little annoying because nothing else in the song stands up to it. Beyonce singing is smooth and fluid. Her controlled vocal fits Me, Myself & I's sleek, easy sound but gives, as she often does, the impression of holding back and not fully engaging. That impression is supported by the lyric's icy resolve. My, Myself & I's has the same message of self reliance and determination Beyonce has given us since early in her Destiny's Child career. Beyonce apparently describes two different bad relationships. In one, the guy cheated "with loose women." In the other, he was "so controlling." Claiming "there ain't no need to cry", she says she realizes that she can only trust herself and that she's "gon' be my own best friend." She sounds like she's reading from a self improvement book as she vows "I will never disappoint myself." Beyonce's focused, cynical ambition is, obviously, part of why she's a big star but, on Me, Myself & I, it's kind of sad. Beyonce's limited faith in others is apparently based on real, sad experiences but, to me, her chilliness limits her appeal. Me, Myself & I is well made, pleasant listening but it's not very likable.
Finger Eleven-One Thing(unchanged)
Finger Eleven are a band from Burlington, Ontario, Canada whose music usually fits within the alt-metal category. They made their latest record with Disturbed producer Johnny K. Bands generally establish their cred with a few hard rock hits before they have their big rock ballad hit but Finger Eleven's first song to get substantial airplay is a "hold up your lighters" song. I'm not a big fan of rock ballads so I don't love One Thing, the single from Finger Eleven's self titled third CD. One Thing is very familiar resembling, among others, Poison's Every Rose Has Its Thorn. One Thing is too drab and earnest for me but it is an effective rock ballad. With a spare sound of spooky synths, simply whacked drums and sensitive acoustic guitar, One Thing has the emotional power people want. Scott Anderson's singing is a bit boring but very sincere. Considering the context, he and the song don't get too showy or emotive. I don't understand why rock fans are suckers for mushy, ultraserious ballads but they are and the sappy One Thing isn't the worst.
Howie Day-Perfect Time Of Day(down 10 positions)
Howie Day is a young singer/songwriter from Bangor, Maine. Day gained attention as a writer with a personal style and as a virtuoso musician who played solo and make all sorts of sounds come out of his acoustic guitar at the same time. The spare, haunting Ghost from Day's debut Australia CD fell just short of making the top 50. On Stop All The World Now, the first CD Day has recorded for a major label, the music has a smoother, fuller sound but it's less distinctive. Perfect Time Of Day is fine. It sounds good and Day's yearning vocal is appealingly heartfelt. It also sounds like it could have been made by any of the many earnest singer/songwriters(mostly named Josh) around these days. Perfect Time Of Day's tasteful mix has a big, unshowy beat, fairly subdued synths and not much guitar. Perfect Time Of Day would be better if it had some jagged edges or idiosyncracies. Maybe it's time to go back to being the guy on his own who makes lots of different guitar sounds. Perfect Time Of Day, presumably a love song, is about appreciating the beauty of the moment.
Dido-White Flag(down 5 positions)
White Flag is more polite, ambient music from Dido Armstrong. Dido originally broke through after piece of her song Thank You was used on Eminem's Stan. White Flag, from Dido's Life For Rent CD, is another pleasant song that could use a more exciting context. It begs for a big beat remix. Dido wrote White Flag with her regular song writing partner, her brother Rollo, and Rick Nowels, who's worked with mellow artists like Clay Aiken and Belinda Carlisle. With its atmospheric synths and muted beats, White Flag is sleek and cool but kind of drab. It's perfect yuppie background music. It has a touch of style that differentiates it a little from other easy listening. White Flag is a bit of a bore but I enjoy its smooth ride. Though she could show a little more life(her delivery of the start of the verses is painfully slow), Dido's voice is clear, straight forward and good. She and the song have a British reserve that I find fascinating. On White Flag, Dido quietly proclaims that she won't give up hope that a seemingly dead relationship can be revived.