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.
Sisqo-The Thong Song(unchanged)
The Thong Song is from the Unleash the Dragon CD by the Dru Hill singer. The nation's latest novelty hit is silly and insubstantial but fairly unpretentious. The song could do without its lame introduction justifying the song as "letting all the ladies know what guys talk" but the sexism of the song is so obvious and good natured that it's hard to hate. The music is fast, light, energetic and rhythmic. The lyrics are just an excuse to keep getting back to the catch phrase, "let me see that thong."
Staind-Home(down 5 positions)
Despite their tough music and attitude, a lot of today's young hard rockers, like Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit, want us to know they have a soul and women can hurt them. On Home, the rock ballad from Staind's Dysfunction CD, Aaron Lewis sings about sacrificing everything for a woman and being totally vulnerable to her: afraid to be alone, afraid she'll leave him when he's gone. It seems a little wimpy but the band makes sure they'll still appeal to the rock kids with crisp drums and power chords on the chorus breaking through the otherwise stark musical setting and heartfelt vocals.
Enrique Iglesias-Be With You(up 4 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.
Eric Clapton & B.B. King-Riding With The Kingbuy it!
B.B. King is one of Eric Clapton's guitar heroes. While they've worked together before, Riding With The King is the first full length record they've done together. The title track is a good choice to introduce the new record. It sounded like a blues classic when John Hiatt wrote it and recorded it as the title track of his 1983 album. King status as a king of the blues can't help but give the song added resonance.
Eminem-The Real Slim Shady(up 8 positions)
On the first single from the Marshall Mathers Lp, Eminem is, as usual, obnoxious, self pitying but also pretty funny. Real Slim Shady is getting played on alternative radio while Forgot About Dre, also produced by Dr. Dre with a similar light but sinister nursery rhyme type backing track, isn't. Is it because of Eminem's color? Regardless, Real Slim Shady is fun. Despite his dopey demeanor and accent, Eminem is a pretty fluid rapper and Real Slim Shady is fast with good momentum. Eminem is conflicted, excited about the prospect of lots of Eminem wannabes "who could be workin' at Burger King, spittin' on your onion rings" yet so insecure about the possibility of a white rap usurper that he needs to repeatedly tell us that he's the real thing. He rightly says he doesn't care about those who say that Will Smith has hits without swearing but whines about an unfair world where Tom Green can be dirty and he can't. He disses and distances himself from Britney and Christina, refusing to admit that he, like them, owes much of their career to image and MTV. Eminem's a fascinating character, bursting with ideas, some foolish, some insightful.
Destiny's Child-Say My Name(unchanged)
The pop charts are dominated these days by groups of pretty, smooth singing white boys and black women. Destiny's Child have already had big r&b hits with Bills, Bills, Bills and Bug a Boo from their Writing's On the Wall CD. Say My Name is their biggest pop hit. It is cool and smooth but doesn't really go anywhere with the idea that a lover, who's "acting kind of shady", should say her name to prove that he's not playing around with another woman. The song mixes things up a couple of times by speeding up and changing the beat but mostly it seems like endless repetition of the title.
Christina Aguilera-I Turn To You(up 4 positions)
Turn To You is the third hit from Aguilera's self titled CD. It makes it clear that, while she has often been compared to Britney Spears, she sees her role models and future competition in more respected pop singers like Mariah and Whitney. Aguilera gives showy Carey-like demonstrations of high her vocal range can go and pulls them off pretty well. While Turn To You isn't as gimmicky as her dance pop hits, her voice is still better than the material. The song has an appealingly minimal feel but also a few lyrical clunkers like, "for the strength to be strong." I'm not an expert in such things but doesn't Turn To You sound awfully familiar, just like Celine Dion's Because You Loved Me and a bunch of other pop ballads.
N Sync-Bye Bye Bye(down 6 positions)
From the upcoming No Strings Attached CD, Bye Bye Bye has a decent energy but is still pretty slight. Its lyrics, telling an unworthy suitor to hit the road, are slightly bold for today's teen idols, whose songs are usually about pining for a girl or celebrating how great their girl is.
Sonique-It Feels So Good(down 1 position)
It Feels So Good, from the CD Hear My Cry, is reminiscent of the golden age of disco. It has an efficient, synthetic beat and dramatic string effects made by keyboards, but not much personality. The lyrics are extremely simple, a fairly dopey tribute to her love which keeps her alive, makes her smile when she's down, takes her higher, etc.
Santana-Maria Maria(down 1 position)
Like Smooth, Maria Maria, the third hit from the huge Supernatural CD, successfully mixes two different styles. Product G & B smoothly sing a soul ballad about a girl like the one in West Side Story while Santana plays cool, relaxed Spanish guitar. With a clean, chunky beat, Maria Maria creates an easy, sexy Latin groove.
Savage Garden-Crash and Burn(up 5 positions)
Crash and Burn is the second hit from the Affirmation CD from the very polite Australian easy listening kings. With Crash and Burn, Savage Garden is closer than ever to elevator music. The song is innocuous, inoffensive and totally without edge. The bland vocals assure that you're not alone and if you need to fall apart, I'll mend your broken heart and lots of other lifeless cliches.
Pink-There You Go(up 8 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.
Mighty Mighty Bosstones-So Sad To Say(up 2 positions)
So Sad To Say is from the Bosstones' new Pay Attention CD. Dickie Barrett's singing, while enthusiastic and likable, is always rough and his range is limited. Most of the band's songs sound somewhat similar; So Sad To Say is a little like the band's hit The Impression That I Get and the Rascal King from Let's Face It. Still, it's a lot of fun. So Sad To Say is about bitterness about getting dumped. Barrett sings, "you'll get what you deserve." Luckily, the band doesn't let the anger of the lyrics dampen the exuberance of the music. Horns and short, tight guitar lines create an energetic, good time mood.
Vitamin C-Graduation(Friends Forever)(up 4 positions)
If there was any doubt that pop radio is almost exclusively targeted these days towards teenage and preteen girls, the success of this trifle from Vitamin C's debut CD is a clear indication. We're probably stuck with this song until the end of June, especially now that local stations have begun to play versions with local kids talking about their graduation. Graduation has a good clean beat but everything else, from the cheesy mock grandeur of synths trying to sound like strings to the treacly harmonies on the chorus, is silly. Singer Colleen Fitzpatrick is having more success as Vitamin C than she did as a modern rocker in the band Eve's Plum but her singing, including some bad rap, is pretty awful.The lyrics, about remembering the times we had together and promising to be friends forever, no matter how our lives change, are as deep as a note written in a yearbook.
The Jayhawks-I'm Gonna Make You Love Me(up 2 positions)
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.
Rage Against The Machine-Sleep Now in the Fire(down 12 positions)
On Sleep Now in the Fire, as usual, Zack de la Rocha delivers a heartfelt rant against the world's evils. With hyberbolic flair, the lyrics refer to a society willing to ruin the world to satisfy its desires and punish those who don't follow the greedy plan. Rage's passionate political beliefs make them distinctive but their music helps attracts the millions even when their message is a little over the top. Tom Morello's fast, driving guitar makes Sleep Now in the Fire great rock.
Dynamite Hack-Boyz N The Hoodbuy it!
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.
Backstreet Boys-The Onebuy it!
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."
Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals-Steal My Kisses(unchanged)
Steal My Kisses is a particularly light, fun piece from Harper's Burn To Shine CD. Harper presents himself as a good natured rascal, persisting in working on a hard to get lady. The music keeps the mood easy with a loose electric guitar.
Nickelback-Leader Of Menbuy it!
Nickelback is a hard rocking band, like Creed, led by a serious, intense singer. Leader of Men, from the State CD, is another rant about society's evils and hypocrisy, asking "do you think I could drink something that's so hard to swallow." The music starts with appealingly restrained guitar but predictably builds into a big, guitar heavy onslaught.
N Sync-It's Gonna Be Mebuy it!
It's Gonna Be Me sounds like No Strings Attached's first single Bye Bye Bye. It's got a little bit of a harder dance edge but it's still genial and unthreatening. The words are more standard than the breakup lyrics of Bye Bye Bye, trying to convince a women who's had a bad experience that all men aren't bad and he's not like that. It's Gonna Be Me is pretty slight but the young girls are bound to make it another big hit.
The Deftones-Change (In the House of Flies)buy it!
The first chart hit from the White Pony CD is hard edged, serious rock. The band seems to be smarter and more interesting than many of their contemporaries but nothing on Change shows much ambition beyoned a desire to rock.
AC/DC-Stiff Upper Lip(down 1 position)
With Brian Johnson's gravity defying screech and the dopey lyrics about keeping a stiff upper lip and shooting from the hip, the title track of the new AC/DC CD comes close to self parody. Still, their fans will probably be happy. It sounds like AC/DC and a it's got a rockin' boogie guitar.
Neil Young-Razor Lovebuy it!
Razor Love is from Neil Young's new acoustic Silver and Gold CD. Razor Love is a nice, restrained song about Young's empathy for a woman who's down on her luck. Harmonica, piano and Young's thin, vulnerable voice create a moving setting as Young sings of his faith in and "love that cuts straight through" for someone he hasn't always supported. Razor Love is sad and slightly rambling with Young throwing out a few broader observations about how you "gotta look out for the greedy hand" and that "imagination is my best friend."