Macy Gray-I Try(unchanged)
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.
Blink 182-Adam's Song(down 2 positions)
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.
Korn-Make Me Bad(down 8 positions)
Confused kids can relate as Jonathan Davis sings on Make Me Bad, like on Falling Away From Me, about his troubled mind. He sings of the lack of compassion he faces and feeling his reason leaving as he obsesses about the object of his desire. Make Me Bad, from the Issues CD, has the rush of a good hard rock song with big, tough guitars. It's harder and less distinctive than the atmospheric Falling Away From Me.
Enrique Iglesias-Be With You(unchanged)
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.
Bush-Warm Machine(up 19 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.
N Sync-It's Gonna Be Me(up 3 positions)
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.
Nickelback-Leader Of Men(unchanged)
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.
Christina Aguilera-I Turn To You(unchanged)
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.
Sisqo-The Thong Song(down 3 positions)
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."
Pink-There You Go(unchanged)
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.
Staind-Home(down 8 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.
Papa Roach-Last Resortbuy it!
Papa Roach is the latest hip hop informed hard rock band with an anguished young male. Coby Dick's yelling that he's suffocating on Last Resort, from the Infest CD, does nothing for me but the kids might appreciate him singing about how he's "losing my sight, losing my mind, won't somebody tell me I'm fine" and how he can't go on living this way. The assautive guitar is harsh but strong and incisive.
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."
Vitamin C-Graduation(Friends Forever)(down 2 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.
Don Henley-Workin' It(down 19 positions)
Workin' It is from Inside Job, Henley's first studio album in more than a decade. Judging by Workin' It, the new music wasn't worth the wait. Workin' It is a tired diatribe. Henley, who made millions making easy rock with the Eagles, delivers the shocking news that we live in a society where "packaging is all there is" and corporate America tries to sell us things we don't really need. Workin It' is similar to Dirty Laundry, an earlier Henley protest song. The music here is big and overproduced but is pretty draggy and unmelodic and definitely doesn't rock.
Destiny's Child-Say My Name(down 5 positions)
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.
Travis-Why Does It Always Rain On Mebuy it!
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.
Dynamite Hack-Boyz N The Hood(down 4 positions)
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.
The Jayhawks-I'm Gonna Make You Love Me(down 3 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.
Sonique-It Feels So Good(down 2 positions)
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.
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.
Santana-Maria Maria(down 7 positions)
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.
Limp Bizkit-Take a Look Aroundbuy it!
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.
Savage Garden-Crash and Burn(down 1 position)
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.
Kid Rock-American Bad Ass(down 5 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."