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All-Reviews.com Top 50 Songs*:
for the 4th week of January, 2004

*based on airplay at alternative, pop and rock radio stations a cross the nation (reviews by LarryG)

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  1. Linkin Park-Numb    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Numb is the third chart hit from Linkin Park's Meteora CD but the first to get a big push at top 40 radio. Presumably Faint, which had a great, exciting riff, was considered too edgy for the mainstream. I like Numb, with its controlled sound, better than the songs featuring Chester Bennington's over the top screaming or Mike Shinoda's mediocre rapping but Numb isn't exciting or very interesting. Numb is better than average Linkin Park. Its spooky synth line effectively communicates its protagonist's turmoil. The way the guitars slam in on the chorus seems appropriate to the song's anger and less overdone than usual. Numb has a hook that resembles In The End and Crawling from Linkin Park's first CD but it benefits from a touch of restraint. Bennington still rages but with a lessened intensity that's right for a declaration of numbness. Bennington's straight forward singing on the verses isn't particularly good but it is charmingly sincere. Numb is fine. It's just ordinary and a little boring. With Numb's easily understood angst, Linkin Park continue delivering angry male rock to a wide suburban audience. Well intentioned and serious, Numb will appeal to teens looking for a meaningful sound they can relate to. But its solemn soul searching does nothing for me besides make me think if she makes you so unhappy, you should probably break up. Bennington sings in Numb about feeling smothered in a relationship with someone who sees his every step as a mistake and wants him to be "what you want me to be."

  2. Jet-Are You Gonna Be My Girl    (up 1 position)      buy it!
    Jet follow The Vines as a band from Australia making hard hitting rock and roll. Jet differ from The Vines in seeming less ambitious, pretentious and obnoxious. On Are You Gonna Be My Girl, from the Melbourne band's Get Born CD, Jet are a band having a good time. With their hand claps and tambourines, Jet very obviously borrow from rocking mid-60s British bands like Rolling Stones, Faces and The Who but they seem natural rather than studied or showy. Unlike Black Crowes, for instance, Jet don't seem to show off their resemblance to their heroes. Nic Cester and Cam Muncey give Are You Gonna Be My Girl great energy, mixing up a stomping rhythm guitar line with a good, twisty lead. Muncey has plenty of charisma and a strong voice with a good rock and roll edge. He easily holds his own against the guitars' force and the song doesn't flag when he sings on his own while the guitars take break. Are You Gonna Be My Girl encourages comparisons to lots of different songs. Towards the end, the guitars have the "channelling The Stooges" feel of Strokes songs like Last Nite. Are You Gonna Be My Girl doesn't sound original but it is fun and energetic. Are You Gonna Be My Girl has an appropriately simple, retro lyric. Muncey tells a girl that "you look so fine" that "I really wanna make you mine."

  3. Outkast-Hey Ya    (up 1 position)      buy it!
    Outkast invited talk of a breakup by releasing a double CD that's basically two solo records. Big Boi's Speakerboxxx is a tight disc with a state of the art sound and touches of the inventiveness, intelligence and oddness that have long distinguished Outkast from other hip hop acts. Andre 3000's The Love Below, which features Andre mostly singing instead of rapping, is much less consistent. It has lots of goofing around, stupid jokes and undeveloped grooves as well as some good jokes, some irresistible grooves and a positive, good natured vibe. Big Boi and Andre 3000 claim to have no breakup plans and their strategy has paid off with two hits, Big Boi's sleek The Way You Move and Andre 3000's immensely entertaining Hey Ya.. Hey Ya is a strong candidate for best single of 2003. It brings to mind the giddy fun of British invasion pop(a connection reinforced by its wry video with an Ed Sullivan type audience filled with screaming young African American women) and the groove and joyful, trippy vibe and attitude of P-Funk and Sly and The Family Stone. But the most obvious comparison is with Prince's exhilarating, genre busting early 80s workouts . For Hey Ya, Andre 3000(aka Andre Benjamin) assembled sounds guaranteed to create a bouncy, positive feel. Hey Ya has a steady acoustic guitar strum, a tight, brittle beat, a goofy wah wah bass effect, a bubbly cheesy beeping synth, hand claps and Andre's sweet backing vocals and playful lead. The result is wacky, uplifting and as good a time as pop music can supply. On Hey Ya, Andre 3000 contemplates questions about his relationship including does his baby want to mess around with others and only avoid doing so to keep him from walking and whether love is an exception to the rule that nothing lasts forever. But he's more concerned with sustaining Hey Ya's buoyant mood. So the lyric also includes information like "don't want to meet you daddy, just want you in my Caddy" and "don't want to meet your mama, just want to make you cumma."

  4. Audioslave-I Am The Highway    (up 1 position)      buy it!
    Audioslave, the eponymous debut CD by the band comprised of Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell and Rage Against The Machine's musicians, is a solid record that's been smartly marketed to rock radio. Hard rocking tracks reminiscent of the band's earlier music(Cochise and Show Me How To Live) have been alternated with sweeping rock ballads to show the record's appeal to fans of the band's previous work and a broader audience. And they've all been pretty good. It make sense that I Am The Highway, Audioslave's fourth chart hit, is being played after Like A Stone, the record's other big, sprawling slow song, has been given time to fade into memory. From its deliberate pace to the way Cornell sings "I am the night" with almost exactly the same phrasing he used to sing "I wait for you alone", I Am The Highway is a lot like Like A Stone. And while, like Like A Stone, it's quite evocative and powerful, it falls a bit short of its predecessor. I Am The Highway's chief asset is Chris Cornell heartfelt's vocal. Cornell's singing is invariably over the top but, in a flip, ironic world, his seriousness can draw you in. So the sincerity of Cornell's recitation of I Am The Highway's overheated title metaphor for his life on the road is a little goofy but the intensity of Cornell's effortlessly strong voice is fascinating. The ex Rage musicians can mostly be appreciated for their restraint in playing an arrangement that would largely be appropriate for a lounge act but they do quietly add to I Am The Highway's cool atmosphere. Tom Morello keeps his guitar playing simple and plays an appropriately reflective solo. I Am The Highway is undoubtedly too subtle for many Rage fans. It's a little slow for my tastes but I do appreciate its controlled yet dramatic mood.

  5. Nickelback-Figured You Out    (up 5 positions)      buy it!
    Figured You Out, the second chart hit from The Long Road CD, is a rocker from the terrible, numbingly serious and boring but very successful Canadian band. The lyric is a laborious effort that eventually shows Chad Kroeger's moralistic streak by inventing a decadent lifestyle then condemning it. Kroeger's character(I assume Mr. Perfect isn't writing from personal experience) first revels in a wild life of sex and drugs then decides he hates it and blames the person who brought him into it.

  6. Three Days Grace-I Hate Everything About You    (up 2 positions)      buy it!
    I Hate Everything About You is on the self titled debut CD by the band originally from Norwood, Ontario, Canada. Three Days Grace are the umpteenth band to use the dynamic perfected by Nirvana. Three Days Grace seem like lots of angry, hard rocking bands. Everything About You is better than many similar songs because it's clean and focused. The fairly stripped sound has a purity of emotion and expression. The verses stick to a good, tense guitar riff. On the chorus, singer/guitar player Adam Gontier's howl is raw and heartfelt. Still, Everything About You is familiar and unsurprising. I preferred the crunching power chords alternating with raging voice thing when Kurt Cobain did it on Smells Like Teen Spirit and other better, more exciting songs. On I Hate Everything About You, Gontier recognizes the thrill and pull of a turbulent relationship but feels he's better without it.

  7. No Doubt-It's My Life    (up 4 positions)      buy it!
    No Doubt say they're not breaking up. But singer Gwen Stefani has established a personality apart from the band and is embarking on an acting and solo music career. We probably won't see much new No Doubt product in the foreseeable future. The band has maintained some presence by releasing The Singles 1992-2003, which includes a new recording, a cover of Talk Talk's It's My Life. It's My Life was a good choice for a cover. It's familiar but not so much so that a lot of people won't accept a new version. It's also a good song and one the band, clearly fans of 80's new wave, knew. No Doubt's arrangement stays very close to the one by Talk Talk leader/singer/writer Mark Hollis. Since the original song was striking and evocative, No Doubt's fidelity is a good thing. No Doubt keep the good, chunky bass line, the dramatic, melodic synth line and even most of the bird-like atmospheric flourishes that surrounded the choruses. Befitting a recording coming nearly two decades after the original, the 2003 version is slightly sleeker and smoother than the charmingly clunky 1984 one was. The main difference is the singing. Stefani and Hollis both are theatrical and a bit hysterical. But where Hollis' self pity was adorably heartfelt, Stefani, as she sometimes does, mostly seems whiny. Stefani does have a star quality that grabs your attention. As a Talk Talk fan(I highly recommend the Collection or Very Best compilation), I prefer the original but while it's not as personal, No Doubt have done a good, faithful cover. It's My Life is about wondering how far to go into a difficult relationship but deciding to stay in it for love's thrill.

  8. The Offspring-Hit That    (up 1 position)      buy it!
    The Offspring keep going and it becomes increasingly unclear why they should bother. It's been 10 years, and feels even longer, since The Offspring hit their artistic peak with the Smash CD. Smash's best single Come Out And Play was a bit obnoxious but it had good rocking energy and a slightly anarchic spirit. The Offspring showed a bit of imagination on the Americana CD and its hip hop exploiting/mocking Pretty Fly For A White Guy but The Offspring's music has mostly brought diminishing returns from an overused formula. The Offspring's later music has served the purpose of exposing singer/writer Dexter Holland as a right wing jerk on songs like Why Don't You Get A Job. Hit That, from the new Splinter CD, isn't as confrontational as that song. Hit That is about a woman who takes care of a baby and the father who is "out having fun" and failing to show responsibility. Holland's sympathy with the woman is appealing but he undermines it by having the woman decide to emulate the baby's father by "chasing guys for fun" and apparently abandoning the kid. Holland's observations of phenomena like kids "who raise themselves" aren't particularly insightful. Hit That's sound slightly deviates from The Offspring's standard. The band errs on the verses by shifting the musical focus from Noodles' guitar, their strength, to a cheesy, irritating synth. Things improve on the chorus with a big, playful guitar sound. But Hit That has nothing new and interesting to offer and Holland's self confident, untuneful rant limits its appeal.

  9. Puddle Of Mudd-Away From Me    (down 2 positions)      buy it!
    Puddle Of Mudd's hits from their Come Clean CD had all the annoying traits of the neo-grunge music that dominated rock radio and crossed over to the pop charts a couple of years. The music was cynical, taking the commercially appealing aspects of early 90s rock without adding anything original or personal. Wes Scantlin's lyrics were self pitying but his singing seemed narcissistic. It's an indication of how much I disliked Puddle Of Mudd's earlier work that, while I don't really like Away From Me, it feels like an improvement. Away From Me, the first single from Puddle Of Mudd's Life On Display CD, sounds a lot like Come Clean's Control. Scantlin's vocal isn't the nasty rant that made Control unpleasant but also helped set it apart and made it a hit for the angry rock kids. Scantlin's voice still has an mean snarl but Away From Me doesn't seem to be quite as much about Scantlin's singing as previous POM songs. Away From Me is a pretty tight, focused rocker. It has a good, big, steady, unshowy guitar sound that crunches home in a fairly catchy chorus. Away From Me is competent hard rock but Scantlin's unlikable presence limits its appeal. Away From Me is good and familiar enough to give it a run on modern rock radio but its mediocrity, the shifting of popular tastes(I hope) and the lack of charm of POM's front man will prevent it from reaching further success. On Away From Me, Scantlin plays a pathetic character, obsessively worrying that his woman is "f—ing someone else" and "always afraid" that she's leaving.

  10. Staind-So Far Away    (down 8 positions)      buy it!
    I kind of liked Price To Pay, the first single from Staind's 14 Shades Of Grey CD. It wasn't great but it was a decent rocker with more energy than the draggy, self pitying hits from the Break The Cycle CD. Price To Pay didn't last on the charts so the second single is a return to the oppressively empty, self important sound that's worked before. The good news is that, in contrast to Break The Cycle's tales of pain emanating from an abused past, So Far Away's lyric is cautiously upbeat. The bad news is that the music doesn't reflect Aaron Lewis' new optimism. So, as before, Lewis slowly rolls through the lyric, enunciating so we can fully experience his emotion. I still don't get why rock fans are interested in this overblown junk. It's lame and predictable. So Far Away has the standard pattern of verses with a quiet acoustic guitar leading into a bombastic chorus with big power guitars chords and slowly, seriously pounded drums meant to connote meaning. Things get even gloppier as strings underline Lewis' vocal when he gets really intense. Maybe the music is supposed to communicate Lewis' concern that he "must be sleeping." Lewis' voice remains dour and lugubrious and the pace is consistently glacial even as Lewis sings about moving away from struggle, not being ashamed of who he is and being able to smile and face the day.

  11. Incubus-Megalomaniac    (up 5 positions)      buy it!
    After mellow hits like Drive and Wish You Were Here, Incubus show they can still rock on Megalomaniac, the first single from their new CD called A Crow Left Of The Murder. On the verses, Brandon Boyd does a familiar smooth croon but, supported by Jose Pasillas' pounding drums, he's focused and not too laid back. On the chorus, Boyd shows off a new, pissed off voice. Ranting like Johnny Lydon, Boyd grabs your attention, sounding committed and a bit crazed. Incubus have done a bunch of songs alternating between mellow and harder sections but Megalomaniac is tighter than most. It doesn't drag, staying interesting even in its quieter parts. Part of the credit goes to guitar player Mike Einzinger, who does his usual solid, versatile job, ranging from spacy, jazzy doodling to big, tough power chords. Megalomaniac is a bit overdramatic and not that well developed but I like its intensity and Boyd's kooky passion. Megalomaniac's video suggests a political bent but the angry lyric is a fairly unspecific diatribe at someone Boyd hears "on the radio" who permeates "my screen" and has delusions of greatness and of being the "only one." Boyd vents violent fantasies and asks him to "step down."

  12. Sheryl Crow-The First Cut Is The Deepest    (unchanged)      buy it!
    The First Cut Is The Deepest was written by Cat Stevens in the late 60s and has been covered a bunch of times. It's a pained warning to a new lover that, after having your heart torn apart, it's hard to love again. I keep thinking that Sheryl Crow's cover is some sort of joke. Crow has given The First Cut a bizarre sunny, California style reading. Crow's voice is never very soulful but she can be appealingly smooth and playful. She usually writes and records songs that match her singing. The First Cut is a mismatch. The new First Cut, undoubtedly a hit because people are familiar with Rod Stewart's version and with Crow's easy voice, is quite bad. Crow apparently picked The First Cut as a new track for her Very Best of Sheryl Crow compilation because she knew it and liked it but didn't take the time to figure out what it's about. Crow's relentlessly superficial vocal is supported by similarly bland backing with strings and professional, generic sounding guitar.

  13. Trapt-Still Frame    (unchanged)      buy it!
    When I first heard Headstrong, the first single from the California band's self titled major label CD, I thought that they could stand out from other nu-metal bands. I saw that Chris Brown did quick, confident vocals that had a fluid hip hop sensibility and that Simon Ormandy had a versatile guitar style that allowed him to move from heavy metal crunching to light, artier playing. Still, I thought that Headstrong was like a lot of other rap metal and didn't foresee that it would become one of the most successful rock songs of the year. Obviously, a lot of people were impressed by the catchy, stomping chorus and the way Brown shifted from loose verses to an enraged scream. At the risk of being wrong again, I don't think Still Frame is remarkable. Brown has a strong voice and his raging isn't as silly or annoying as that of some of his fellow troubled rockers. Still Frame is a smooth ride. The sound flows easily from section to section with a fairly subtle guitar sound that has some decent variations. But Still Frame doesn't have much personality. It passes by innoucuously. The most noticable part is the chorus but Brown's "please help me because I'm breaking down" chant and the crunching guitars that underline it are very familiar from similar angry, confused rock songs. Brown sings on Still Frame about feeling lost and like he's losing it and "falling farther away from where I want to be."

  14. Red Hot Chili Peppers-Fortune Faded    (up 1 position)      buy it!
    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."

  15. Staind-How About You    (up 3 positions)      buy it!
    I regret my dismissive slam of So Far Away, the hit second single from Staind's 14 Shades Of Grey CD. Repeat listens reveal a delicate beauty to So Far Away's waltz. So Far Away is a poignantly gloomy song about feeling happier. Aaron Lewis' lyric expresses amazement at his emotional upswing. I still don't love So Far Away. It's too draggy and heavy for me. But especially juxtaposed with Nickelback's awful, heavy handed Someday, which was #2 to So Far Away's #1 for six weeks, it's not bad. How About You doesn't have So Far Away's 1-2-3, 2-2-3 elegance but it does resonate. Lewis uses his affinity for minor keys to give a rocker a sense of drama and depth. The verses create stark intensity by matching Lewis' warily rolling voice with a big beat and not much else. On the chorus, Mike Mushok's large, slicing guitar underlines Lewis' voice. Slowly climbing chords push the reticent Lewis to use a higher, harder voice. After So Far Away's guarded trip into happiness, Lewis is back to his usual downbeat self on How About You. How About You expresses disappointment with a musician friend's foolish lyrics, superficiality and lack of empathy for those less fortunate. Rather than anger, Lewis' vocal expresses weary resignation. Lewis' refusal to drop his guarded, pessimistic persona is a bit ridiculous. But his slow, wobbly, deliberate delivery is striking and unique. When Lewis' voice is combined with decent, challenging music, the result can be compelling. How About You doesn't totally overcome its front man's dourness but it is an interesting, thoughtful song that's also a decent rocker.

  16. Outkast-The Way You Move    (up 3 positions)      buy it!
    Outkast's popularity has grown the last few years. They made our top 50 with Stankonia's Ms. Jackson and The Whole World, from the Big Boi and Dre Present collection. Still, I thought Outkast, who seem more interested in doing what they want than in selling records, were a bit too weird to become big pop stars. So it's a bit of a surprise that Outkast are currently the biggest pop stars around. Outkast dominated the Grammy awards winning, among others, Album of the Year and The Way You Move immediately followed Hey Ya, which spent a bunch of weeks at #1, to the top of the pop charts. Outkast's huge success is especially remarkable since the duo seemed on the verge of breaking up when they released their two CD set, which is really two solo records. Andre 3000 and Big Boi are almost totally absent from each other's disc. Hey Ya is on Andre 3000's weird, silly, inconsistent but fun The Love Below, which doesn't fit under any musical label. The Way You Move is on Antwan "Big Boi" Patton's Speakerboxx, which has a variety of sounds but is mostly tight, danceable hip hop. The Way You Move is a great example of Speakerboxx's smart, state of the art sound. The Way You Move is brilliantly constructed. With its crisp hand clap like drum machine beats and Big Boi's remarkably adroit rap, The Way You Move is slick and efficient. It also gets a retro, human feel from real horns playing a catchy riff and Sleepy Brown's falsetto singing, which doesn't have the Marvin Gaye style sexiness he shoots for but does add warmth to a very polished song. Big Boi's incredibly quick rap deserves special credit. Among raps I've heard recently only Jay Z, on Change Clothes, is comparable in terms of being fast, relaxed and in control and Big Boi is even more impressive. He squeezes in a ton of words and never lets us see him sweat. Big Boi tells us that "Outkast is everlastin', not clashin'", expresses his love for all women, especially the "big girls", and admires a woman's move while the room watches his. In the last few months, Outkast has given us Hey Ya, one of the most fun singles of the last year and The Way You Move, one of the coolest.

  17. 3 Doors Down-Here Without You    (down 3 positions)      buy it!
    3 Doors Down's savvy, radio friendly strategy has, oddly, placed them among the top pop acts. Here Without You, the third chart hit from the Away From The Sun CD, is poised to surpass its very successful predecessor When I'm Gone and become(including Kryptonite, from their Better Life debut) their third megasmash. 3 Doors Down's popularity is both confusing and unsurprising. On the one hand, frontman Brad Arnold isn't particularly handsome, charismatic or much of a singer. The band totally lacks distinctiveness. 3 Doors Down's songs(with the possible exception of Kryptonite) aren't very interesting or orginal. There's no sign that the band has extraordinary musical talent. On the other hand, 3 Doors Down seem to know their limitations and they know how to make familiar, accessible music. Usually, the most obvious comparison is to Matchbox 20 though Rob Thomas is, at least, a slightly better and more interesting singer and more distinctive songwriter than Arnold. On Here Without You, the model seems to be Creed's lofty, dramatic and very popular rock ballads, especially With Arms Wide Open. Arnold doesn't show the narcissism of Creed singer Scott Stapp but all the other elements are present. Here Without You starts with quiet guitar and Arnold's impassioned vocal. While drums eventually come in to add a touch of a rock feel, the song never gets loud in a way that might offend lite radio listeners. I suppose 3 Doors Down deserve points for avoiding the bombast of some rock ballads(including When I'm Gone) but while Arnold isn't too showy, the stiffness of his voice keeps Here Without You from achieving beauty or subtlety. Producer Rick Parashar also worked with humorless, radio friendly Nickelback, who are even stiffer and less likable than 3 Doors Down. Parashar follows rock ballad conventions here, adding a layer of strings that build as the song approaches an overdramatic, cloying climax. People love rock ballads and Here Without You isn't the worst one. 3 Doors Down smartly built an emotional song destined to be a hit but it really is a calculated, soulless piece of garbage. Here Without You's lyric is similar to When I'm Gone's but it's not quite as unappealing as that song's needy plea for his girlfriend to always think loving thoughts of him. Arnold is again away from his beloved. He wants her to be comforted by the fact that he's thinking and dreaming about her.

  18. Nickelback-Someday    (down 12 positions)      buy it!
    Nickelback are back with The Long Road CD, making the same kind of ultraserious, overblown, cliched arena rock that brought them the megahit How You Remind Me. On Someday, Chad Kroeger and friends stuck to the formula that worked. Someday isn't quite as bombastic as How You Remind Me but it's otherwise incredibly similar. You can sing "this is how you remind me" and other parts of that song over portions of Someday. The appeal of Someday, and Nickelback's music in general, is lost on me. Kroeger's voice is so stiff and humorless that he's just a bore. He intones his thought about his relationship playing out "like a paperback novel" with gravity and emphasis to make sure you catch the brilliance of his simile. Someday's music and playing are coldly competent but lack any surprise or originality. Familiar hard rock riffs repeat over and over again. On Someday, Kroeger asks a partner to stay in a screwed up relationship, promising he's "gonna make it alright."

  19. Baby Bash-Suga Suga    (down 2 positions)      buy it!
    Baby Bash is from Tha Smokin' Nephew CD by the California born/Texas based rapper. Suga Suga was co-written by Baby's Texas buddy Frankie J, whose Don't Wanna Try was a hit earlier this year. Suga Suga is one of the more surprising hits of the year, passing songs by bigger names on its way to the top of the pop charts. Everything about is smooth and appealing. With relaxed beats and a good looped guitar riff, Suga Suga is a very easy ride. Baby Bash's rapping on the verses and Frankie J's singing on the chorus flow nicely into each other. Both are cool, confident and alluring. Suga Suga also has a sped up tape sound that adds some flavor but don't disturb Suga Suga's cool flow. Suga Suga is very well constructed. I feel like it's good rather than great and don't totally understand how it's become such a big hit but there's no question that Suga Suga is seductive and very easy to listen to. Suga Suga has a pretty basic lyric. Frankie J thanks his girl for lifting him and wonders how she got so fly.

  20. Switchfoot-Meant To Live    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Switchfoot, a band formed in San Diego by the Foreman brothers, are the latest artists to cross over from the Christian music world to success on the pop charts. Switchfoot have tried out some different sounds and seem to have decided on a grungy rock style. I'm naturally prejudiced against the many recent bands who borrow the big but melodic guitar rock sound of Nirvana and their contemporaries but, on Meant To Live, Switchfoot do a pretty good job. Meant To Live's guitar line is largely lifted from Smells Like Teen Spirit(especially Kurt Cobain's guitar's tic as he leaves the chorus). It also sounds like Smashing Pumpkin's Cherub Rock . But Meant To Live doesn't show the commercial cynicism or over the top hostility of a lot of the music by today's grunge fans. Jonathan Foreman makes a big, pure guitar sound that reminds me of interesting mid 90s atmospheric guitar rockers Hum. Meant To Live, from Switchfoot's The Beautiful Letdown CD, isn't as showy as much contemporary rock. Foreman's vocal avoids the nastiness and vanity of the many modern rock singers obsessed by unfaithful girlfriends and/or a world that doesn't understand them. He also doesn't haven't have the self righteousness of a faith obsessed singer like Creed's Scott Stapp. Besides encouraging the idea of not replaying "the wars of our fathers"(good luck on that), the lyric doesn't give many specifics on how we can "live for so much more." Given the band's religious focus and the lines about how everything "screams for second life" and about wanting "more than this world's got to offer", Meant To Live seems like a call to get in touch with a higher power.

  21. Limp Bizkit-Behind Blue Eyes    (unchanged)      buy it!
    After irritating millions, Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst seemed to have ensured a steady career decline. But like Kid Rock, Durst has enough commercial savvy that he can't be counted out. At least Kid Rock's pointless cover of Feel Like Makin' Love didn't go anywhere but Behind Blue Eyes, the second single from Limp Bizkit's Results May Vary CD, is Limp Bizkit's biggest pop hit ever. Limp Bizkit's version of the Who classic is pretty terrible. Limp Bizkit's cover obviously owes much of its success to the familiarity of the original and to a video where Durst acted out the fantasy of making out with Halle Berry. You'd figure Limp Bizkit would, at least, add a groove or a big guitar drive to Behind Blue Eyes. But Durst does a mellow, smug, serious, boring version of Pete Townsend's tale of hiding anger behind a placid facade. Durst is known for venting rage on record and in real life. Strangely, he removes the original's raging, rocking bridge. The part where Roger Daltrey howled at us to crack open his fist when it clenches, tell him some bad news when he smiles and put your finger down his throat if he swallows anything evil has the original's most interesting writing. In its place, Durst gives us an odd section where he spells out L-I-M-P and says discover a lot. The Who's Next version is a bit self indulgent and overdramatic but it's also a heartfelt, powerful epic. Limp Bizkit's is about self pity, narcissism and showing that Durst can sing(which he really can't).

  22. Simple Plan-Perfect    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Simple Plan scored a hit with I'd Do Anything, punky pop that was basic and dopey enough for preteens to understand and love. On Perfect, the third hit from the Canadian band's debut No Pads, No Helmets... Just Balls CD, they've basically done the same thing with angst rock. It's hard to hate Perfect. Singer Pierre Bouvier sounds very sincere as he relates the pain inflicted by an unsupportive dad. Bouvier isn't as pretentious as older, deeper voiced singers, like Staind's Aaron Lewis, who've told a similar tale. But Perfect has little appeal for someone over 16. Bouvier's youthful voice and Perfect's simple, unremarkable lyric are best appreciated by kids. For an emotional rock ballad, Perfect shows admirable restraint. Perfect's first half has minimal backing. A good wash of power chords are limited to introducing the verses. The downside of Perfect's stripped down portions is that they focus attention on Bouvier's bratty vocal, which is more appealing than usual but still a bit annoying. Towards its end, Perfect's music becomes more that of a generic mellow rocker but the guitar is still pretty good if not particularly original. Perfect is about regretting that it's too late to try to fix a relationship with a father who was never satisfied with what his son did.

  23. Kelis-Milkshake    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Kelis got some attention with Caught Out There, a striking, impossible to ignore song featuring Kelis screaming "I hate you so much right now." Kelis couldn't even get her second record released in the U.S. but her third CD, Tasty, has yielded her first big pop hit. With its attention grabbing spare sound, eastern rhythms and sassy sexual imagery, Milkshake qualifies as a novelty hit song but Milkshake is a good, interesting song. With so many guys rapping about their docile sexual conquests, it's good to hear a song with a woman who's sensual but confident and very much in control, even if the song was written and produced by The Neptunes(Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams), who have done hits for everyone including Britney, Justin, Usher, Nelly and Snoop Dogg. With her eccentric look and loopy but smart and confident musical persona, Kelis is a bit like Macy Gray but she comes off as slightly less gangly and odd. Without specifying what her milkshake is there's no doubt that, while it "brings all the boys to the yard", she decides who gets a taste. On Milkshake, Kelis teases another woman and offers to teach her "techniques that freak these boys." Milkshake draws you in with its exotic bongos and bells. It nicely alternates Kelis' unpolished, distinctive voice with a smoother female vocal. The distinctive, unusual things about Milkshake could make it annoying after repeat listens but it's good to hear a strong woman and a different sound amid similar sounding, male dominated music.

  24. Chevelle-Closure    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Closure is the third chart hit from the band comprised of Pete Loeffler and his two brothers. The Wonder What's Next CD gives some reason to hope that Chevelle could be an interesting, solid rock band for many years. Their sound is big and tough but not overbearing or plodding. They don't show the narcissism, lack of originality or commercial pandering of many modern rock bands. Pete Loeffler is serious about his music but not pretentious. That seriousness is Chevelle's main problem right now. They're overly self conscious and lack variety. Loeffler's single mindedness gives Chevelle's music power. But on The Red, Loeffler's humorless, repetitive delivery made most of the song drab. His ranting at the end seemed forced and like that of too many superficial raging rockers. Closure is a worthy followup to the tight and driving if monochromatic Send The Pain Below. Send The Pain Below's thoughtful, focused approach merited comparison to early Radiohead. Tool is usually a more obvious influence. On Closure, Tool similarities are even clearer than usual. Moving slowly and intently, Loeffler reaches a pure, unshowy intensity similar to Maynard James Keenan's. Loeffler's guitar sound is big and dramatic without much excess. Closure's downside is the same lack of variation and excess seriousness. The song's impact is also lessened by the fact that the word closure has become such an overused piece of pop psychology, used to describe the resolution of the most minor personal crisis. But Loeffler's fury makes it clear that he has felt substantial pain and that he gained real catharsis from realizing "you will never belong to me."

  25. Ludacris featuring Shawnna-Stand Up    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Ludacris never made the top 50 before December 2003. He came closest with Roll Out My Business, from his Word Of Mouf CD, which fell just short in 2002. Now Ludacris is all over the chart, also appearing on Chingy's Holidae Inn and Usher's Yeah. Stand Up, from the Chicken N Beer CD, is fairly standard rap. Ludacris goes to the club, shows off his diamonds, smokes "that Cheech and Chong", makes sure he's treated with proper respect and looks for a "thick young lady to pull." Still, Stand Up was well designed to expose the brash young man from Atlanta, whose given name is Christopher Bridges, to a larger audience. Ludacris' voice, while strong, is unremarkable but he has great presence. Ludacris' huge self assurance makes him a compelling figure. He's always in control, moving steadily with a natural, ungimmicky rap. He's confident that the momentum created by his forceful and theatrical but unthreatening voice will keep people's attention. Stand Up's simple but effective backing track shows similar confidence. Stand Up's verses stick to a crisp beat and good bass sample. The chorus' catchy "when I move you move" hook is well underlined by a good riff. On Stand Up, as usual, Ludacris doesn't have much more on his mind than having a good time. But Stand Up is a good showcase for his raunchy but basically harmless rap.

Songs 26-50


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