Britney Spears-Oops! . . . I Did It Again(unchanged)
The title track from Spears' new CD is nearly a remake of Baby One More Time. It's another piece of pleasant, light dancable synth pop with a little bit of a hard edge. Spears still shows no particular signs of being much of a singer. The lyrics perpetuate the image of Spears being both childlike and a mature temptress as she sings "I'm not that innocent." Oops is about teasing a boy, getting lost in the game and playing with his heart, making him believe they're more than just friends. There's nothing wrong with it except for a lack of depth or substance the preteens are unlikely to mind.
Pink-There You Go(up 2 positions)
Pink is the latest female artist to have a CD released by LaFace records, who also make TLC's records. There You Go, from Pink's debut CD Can't Take Me Home, starts out sounding just like No Scrubs. Pink doesn't equal TLC's cool ease but There You Go has a decent groove and she has a fairly distinctive personality, even if song isn't particularly distinctive. The words are designed to make a female audience feel good, getting the last laugh and taunting a formerly neglectful boyfriend who's now coming back begging for her.
Vertical Horizon-Everything You Want(down 16 positions)
The title track and second chart song from Vertical Horizon's CD has striking guitar effects but is otherwise pretty generic sensitive rock. Matt Scannell is ever so serious singing about a woman who's never satisfied with a man. His tone is so bitter that it's not much of a twist at the end when he reveals himself to be the he who is everything she wants.
Blink 182-Adam's Song(down 1 position)
Just when you thought Blink 182 were only dopey, if fun, rockers, the poignant third single from Enema of the State shows they've got some smarts. Tom DeLonge plays an innocent young man looking back at his life after his impulsive suicide. Like all the band's music, Adam's Song still rocks. But it has a more restrained and fully produced sound. As usual, the closest comparison is Green Day, who similarly broadened their sound with Time Of Your Life but Adam's Song has its own simple, distinctive sound.
Pearl Jam-Light Years(up 14 positions)
Pearl Jam's fans from their days when they were more of a classic arena rock band continue to lose interest but Pearl Jam keeps making interesting music. Light Years, from the Binaural CD, is another quiet, intense rock ballad, somewhat in the vein of Wishlist. Eddie Vedder's lyrics and vocals about trying to make sense of a friend's death are sad but Light Years still has a decent rock and roll heft, especially towards the end. It's probably too unassuming to be a hit but it has more life than the CD's very subdued first single Nothing As It Seems. Vedder's magnetic persona and the band's good, light touch are on display and Light Years can subtlely grab you.
Steve Earle-Transcendental Blues(up 7 positions)
Transcendental Blues is the title track from Earle's new CD, another rich, melodic and searching work from one of our greatest songwriters. He takes something from country and rock but could give a damn about labels. Earle's voice sounds rougher and wearier than ever. Transcendental Blues is unpolished and understated but it has grit and a good guitar line. Earle is appealingly humble as he sings about wanting to live on a higher plane.
Aaliyah-Try Again(up 3 positions)
With its edgy but inobtrusive beat and keyboards and Aaliyah's confident presence, Try Again, from the soundtrack of the movie Romeo Must Die, is very cool hip hop with a good, smooth sound. Aaliyah presents herself as an appealingly strong woman. Wary of being thrown a line, keeps a guy on his toes, making it clear she's into him like he's into her but not wanting to be used and discarded. She asks to wait and see, looking for him to earn her trust and hinting that his persistence will pay off even if she "might be shy on the first date."
Enrique Iglesias-Be With You(down 3 positions)
Be With You is pretty generic, if effective, dance music. Iglesias' voice rides fairly effectively with the cold, steady beat though he sounds a little uncomfortable when his singing is rushed(perhaps electronically) to keep up with the beat. Iglesias is generally presented as a macho guy. I don't get why the lyrics make him seem like such a pathetic loser. Iglesias sings about his tears, how his life is meaningless without her and how the sound of her voice could save his soul.
Joe-I Wanna Know(up 5 positions)
I Wanna Know is from the My Name Is Joe CD. Joe's singing is pleasant and appealingly smooth, if unremarkable, as he croons over easy beats. However, the main reason for I Wanna Know's success has got to be the lyrics, which set him up as the ideal sensitive man. Joe plays a man trying to convince a woman that unlike her current, undeserving guy, he understands what she's worth. He lays it on pretty thick, telling her that she takes his breath away and knocks him off his feet and that he'd do whatever he could to please her.
Limp Bizkit-Take a Look Around(up 1 position)
The second hit from M:I-2 is a good time musically. Rock guitars and keyboards riff on the Mission Impossible in a fairly predictable but enjoyable way and the music has a good beat and good energy. Fred Durst's rap also keeps things moving. Durst hasn't always been the most positive character so it's questionable whether he has the right to bemoan the fact that "hate is all the world has even seen lately." Of course, Durst's real concern isn't hatred in the world but people hating him. He's got a point about critics giving him a hard time but for someone who presents himself as a tough nonconformist who doesn't care what people think, it's a little inconsistent that he lets the criticism get to him.
Indigenous-Little Timebuy it!
Little Time is from Circle, the second CD from the family band who are members of the Nakota nation. Mato Nanji's guitar work isn't original. On Little Time, from the Circle CD, his guitar style is copped from Jimi Hendrix. Still, more so than young blues rock contemporaries like Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shephard who often try to prove how much they resemble their heroes, Nanji sounds like he's relaxed and creating his own sound. While his voice is derivative of his predecessors, it's also strong and real. The lyrics of the love song, with a storm coming, "the darkness inside my mind" and standing still when the wind is blowing, are somewhat cliched but Nanji's Native American background gives them added resonance.
Backstreet Boys-The One(unchanged)
It might be unfair to compare since Backstreet Boys are down to the fourth single from the Millennium CD, but they get their butts kicked in the latest battle of the preteen idols by N Sync. N Sync's latest, It's Gonna Be Me, isn't great but it's better than this piece of garbage, which is cheesy in every way from its cheap sounding beat to its awful lyrics. The boys sing a string of cliches about taking her from darkness to light and bad rhymes like"I'll be the light where you can run to make it all right."
Bush-Warm Machine(down 4 positions)
Bush haven't gotten worse or significantly changed their sound but the audience for their derivative rock has largely left them. Even their quite good last single, the ballad Letting The Cables Sleep, went nowhere. The third chart hit from the Science Of Things CD somewhat resembles the record's The Chemicals Between Us, without that song's energy. Grinding guitars create a good, tense mood but the cryptic lyrics and Gavin Rossdale's icy vocals, while creating a sense of forboding, don't make the song very interesting or enjoyable.
Macy Gray-I Try(down 6 positions)
Gray's On How Life Is was justifiably one of the most highly acclaimed records of 1999. There's a good smooth groove nearly throughout and the songs are very well made. Gray's raspy childlike voice takes some getting used to but she does communicate a joyful sense of wonder. I Try is actually a sad story. Gray sings that "we should be together but we're not." She's a prisoner of his love and her world crumbles when he's not near. However, the music and her voice soften the troubled lyrics. Keyboards with chiming and string effects create an understated elegance.
On the likably relaxed Heavy Things, from the Farmhouse CD, the band invites the Grateful Dead that have followed Phish for years. Trey Anastasio's vocals, singing about the things coming down on him and referring to women he's known, have a Garcia-like modesty and he finishes the song with a nice loose guitar solo. With good harmonies and keyboards, the skilled band creates a positive vibe.
Dynamite Hack-Boyz N The Hood(unchanged)
The thing about a jokey song is that once you get the joke, unless the music is great, repeated listenings can mean diminishing returns really quickly. The joke of Boyz N The Hood, from the band's Superfast CD, is that the acoustic, mellow and very white sounding band is actually singing gangster rap. It's not the worst joke. The music is comically restrained and pristine, like an especially quiet Weezer song. But the joke is pretty obvious, not to mention fairly racist. After you figure out, yes he really is saying that, there's not much more point to Boyz N The Hood.
BBMak-Back Here(up 3 positions)
As if we don't have enough bland boy groups, now we're importing them. The British trio sound particularly pleasant, clean cut and inoffensive, unless you're offended by their repeatedly calling a girl "baby." The harmonies aren't great and at worst, they threaten the innocuous blissful serenity of Savage Garden. Back Here, from the Sooner or Later CD is decent enough, starting with acoustic guitars and working up to an O.K. beat. The lyrics are an amiable plea for forgiveness, as a guy admits he was wrong and says nothing's been the same since she's been gone.
Bon Jovi-It's My Lifebuy it!
Since his record sales fell in the 90's and his movie career has gone pretty well, you'd figure Jon Bon Jovi wouldn't have to make awful music like It's My Life anymore. However, he's done such a good job of recreating his You Give Love a Bad Name era sound, if it's not a huge hit, the only possible explanation would be that popular tastes have changed a lot. It's My Life has the same overproduced sound of the band's hits. It's got too much background vocals and keyboards and a pretty bad heavy metal guitar solo. Jon's vocals are an unmelodic choked yell. The lyrics are truly terrible. Bon Jovi sings about his heart being like an open highway. He throws together lines from nearly every defiant rock song: "I ain't gonna be just a face in the crowd", "it's now or never" and "I want to live while I'm alive." He even throws in an allusion to Frank Sinatra and My Way.
Travis-Why Does It Always Rain On Me(down 2 positions)
Travis have replaced Oasis as the biggest pop band in the U.K. To an extent, Travis seem like the anti-Oasis. Oasis are always internally feuding and seem obnoxious and arrogant. Except when their lyrics are dissing Oasis and others, Travis came across as polite and unassuming. Oasis' music is often based on electric guitar and psychedelic era Beatles. Travis is much mellower. Their Man Who CD is pleasant but hardly rocking. Why Does It Always Rain On Me, based around an acoustic guitar and violin, is typical of the Travis sound. The singing and lyrics are sad and sincere. Fran Healy sings that he can't stand himself and is unable to find peace even when "everybody says everything's alright." He seems serious when he asks if his luck is bad because he lied when he was 17.
Kid Rock-American Bad Ass(up 3 positions)
Kid Rock's new CD is called The History of Rock, assumedly an allusion to his belief, repeatedly voiced in American Bad Ass that he has brilliantly synthesized different types of music into his style. American Bad Ass does nicely mix hard rock guitar and drums with Kid Rock's yelled rap. However, Kid Rock's rapping is the weak link. Boasting is the norm in the genre but Kid Rock's bragging, saying he's the chosen one and comparing himself to Johnny Cash, Grandmaster Flash and The Clash hardly seems justified. He seems insecure, needing to tell us his last record sold seven million and constantly referring to his previous work, claiming "they call me cowboy." There are moments of decent humor like when he flaunts his 30 pack of Stroh's but Kid Rock's attempts to seem tough are generally lame. It seems more accurate when he says he "rocks with Liberace flash."
The Jayhawks-I'm Gonna Make You Love Me(unchanged)
The Jayhawks' last CD, 1997's Sound of Lies, was brilliantly textured and thoughtful but it was also slow and sad. The very good new Smile CD is a happier affair. Singer/songwriter Gary Louris' mood seems to have been lifted by romantic bliss. Louris is charmingly persistent on the buoyant new song. Acknowledging that "I'll never be all you want me to be", Louris is charmingly persistent in his pursuit of his "perfect lover". I'm Gonna Make You Love Me has a nice light country rock tone and a taste of the breathtaking harmonies that lift Smile, especially in its first half. Louris has done a good job of including new keyboard player/backup singer Jen Gunderman in his intricate arrangements.
Right Now is from the band's debut Now You See Inside CD. SR-71, named for a military stealth aircraft, are the latest band to follow Green Day in making fast, punky pop. Right Now has appealing energy and a good guitar riff. However, its appeal is limited by its mediocre vocals and dopey lyrics. Especially in Mitch Allan's bratty singing, Right Now is reminiscent of the sloppy, speedy mindlessly fun songs the Goo Goo Dolls do when bass player Robby Takac gets to sing lead. The male teens will probably appreciate the immature tale of a guy who used to worship his girlfriend and "hang on every word" but now, feeling taking advantage of, he's just going to use her until something better comes along.
Mandy Moore-I Wanna Be With Youbuy it!
The title track from Moore's I Wanna Be With You CD shows her to be even blander than her young female competition. I Wanna Be With You is a pretty wimpy, treacly ballad that uses strings and other lulling effects to create a smooth sound. Moore's vocals are pleasant but light and breathy as she sings about being head over heels over a boy. Girls with crushes will undoubtedly relate to Moore singing about not being able to think of "anything but you" and being happy for whatever attention he'll give her.
Counting Crows-Mrs. Potter's Lullaby(unchanged)
This Desert Life has sold a fraction as many units as Counting Crows' two previous records. It's fallen off the top 200 selling records chart and there's no reason to believe Mrs. Potter's Lullaby will get it back on. Still, Mrs. Potter's Lullaby is a likable relaxed rocker in the vein of Mr. Jones, Rain King and Daylight Fading. The song's easy mood makes the nearly eight minutes of Adam Duritz' collage of musings on circuses, Hollywood and his personal problems pass quickly. The music has a smooth Allman Brothers style country rock vibe with relaxed guitar and piano.
Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise-Babybuy it!
The Blackwater Surprise are one of the best stories in rock. A group of young musicians led by brothers Michael and Andrew Nehra discovered Bradley, who's now 50, after he'd been playing for years. Baby, from the Time To Discover CD, is a bluesy ballad with a nice, relaxed musical mood. Bradley is very cool as he gently seduces a woman. Bradley has the same cocky swagger as Prince at his best as he convinces a woman that it's alright if she stays tonight, telling her he'll be her lover and her friend.