Coldplay-Yellow(down 10 positions)
Coldplay follow Travis as a successful British band that's aware of their harder alternative predecessors but choose a mild, polite image and make smooth, pleasant music. Yellow is a sweet love song, a tribute to a woman who makes the stars shine and a list of things he'd do for her. The sound, with strings and a steadily strummed electric guitar, is rich and inviting and becomes more dense and intense. Chris Martin's voice is vulnerable and yearning, like Radiohead's Thom Yorke's, but Martin's lacks eccentricity and anguish. Its unpretentious thinness has an appealing honesty.
Now the new Staind CD is out, rock radio, after playing the 1999 Family Values Tour live version of Outside for more than five months, is playing the Break The Cycle version. There's not much difference. The studio mix adds a touch of keyboards and, unsurprisingly for the genre, electric guitars come in on the chorus. Outside is still mostly Aaron Lewis' acoustic and his intense vocal. As usual, Lewis' singing is appealingly heartfelt as he sings about his troubled mind but he's also very serious and a little overwrought. Outside is about the guy who torments him being as screwed up inside as he is.
The second single from the Awake CD is similar to the title track but even harsher and less appealing. Singer Sully Erna is a devout Wiccan and Greed has a bit of a spiritual sound but the song is just nasty, not exotic. The guitars thump and thud as Erna howls, "hey little bitch, be glad you finally walked away or you may have not lived another day." Amid the despicable misogyny we're supposed to empathize with Erna for feeling smothered and in need of help.
Sugar Ray-When It's Overbuy it!
When It's Over is from Sugar Ray's new self titled CD. It wasn't that long ago that Sugar Ray mostly played fast, anarchic ska/metal/dance music. Since then they've found big success by easing to a genial pop sound, especially on 14:59's hits: Every Morning, Falls Apart and Someday. Sugar Ray's sound is likable, even if it's unexciting. Sugar Ray has Someday's charming, unassuming feel. It's well constructed with a pleasant beat and good, subtle keyboards and guitar. Mark McGrath's voice is a little flat and not great but it fits with the music's mood. He's amiable even as he mourns a lost relationship, idealizes his ex, denies it's over("can I still come over") and feels sorry for himself.
Nelly Furtado-I'm Like A Bird(unchanged)
I'm Like A Bird, from the Canadian singer's Whoa Nelly! CD, sounds like a pop/easy listening hit but it also has a nice, trippy edge. Especially on the verses, the sound is cool and a little jazzy. Furtado's voice is loose and playful. The beat is chunky but the feel is appropriately light. The chorus, cushioned by backing vocals and synths, is more standard pop but Furtado keeps things buoyant and appealing. She sings that, even though she's in love, she's eventually going to have to move on.
Blink 182-The Rock Show(up 7 positions)
I would have thought that, after the lukewarm reception to 2000's Mark, Travis and Tom Show CD, Blink 182 would try something new and let their sound evolve a little. Still, there's a value to Blink 182's fast, fun, unpretentious punky pop. They're less gimmicky and more likable than current competitors like New Found Glory and Sum 41. The Rock Show, from the Take Off Your Pants and Jacket CD, is a nice, simple reminiscence of a girl and thinking "everything's better when she's around."
Stabbing Westward-So Far Away(up 1 position)
Stabbing Westward established themselves, along with Korn and Tool, by making dense, gothic, nearly industrial music. So Far Away, from the band's self titled fourth CD, isn't exactly light but the sound is fairly clear rather than murky. So Far Away is fairly routine contemporary rock. It's very serious and soaring without the pretension of, say, Creed. The filtered guitar is piercing but Christopher Hall's vocal is straight forward if uninteresting as he sings about wanting to "find a way to smash these walls" that separate him from his love. The chorus("every time I touch you it feels so far away') is almost catchy.
Blues Traveler-Girl Inside My Head(down 2 positions)
John Popper put out a solo record and bass player Bob Sheehan died but Blues Traveler has stayed together. Bridge is Blues Traveler's first CD in four years. Girl Inside My Head was written by Popper and new bassist Tad Kinchla. Popper inevitably plays a little harmonica but the song doesn't have much edge. Maybe it has something to do with Popper losing 180 pounds. The music, with a psychedelic pop guitar line by Chad Kinchla, has an easy groove and amiable feel but it's pretty innocuous. The lyrics are also a little wimpy. Girl Inside My Head is about a guy making himself crazy, thinking about how to present himself to a woman, unsure whether to let her know what he's like or to play the "jungle cat."
Dido-Thank You(down 5 positions)
Dido's No Angel CD has become a huge hit nearly two years after its release. First, the atmospheric Here With Me slowly approached near hit status. Then, Eminem's use of a piece of Thank You on Stan brought attention. Now, Stan is out of the top 50 after four weeks on the chart and Thank You has easily topped its peak position. Like David Gray, another slow building success from Britain with an adult audience, Dido's charms are subtle. I find Dido's music less interesting than Gray's but No Angel does have a sleek appeal. The use of percussion and electronica effects is tasteful and minimal but it does give Thank You a good texture that makes it more than just easy listening. Dido's vocals are fluid and smart and add edge to the smooth sound. Thank You's lyrics about how "just to be with you is having the best day of my life" are sappy but Dido's story of a love that "reminds me that it's not so bad" even when everything seems to be going wrong, is sweet.
Dream-This Is Me(up 2 positions)
Except in self confidence, the young women of Dream, the latest addition to Sean Combs' show biz empire, are unremarkable in every way. They've become MTV stars despite looks, dancing skills and voices that are, at best, mediocre. Perhaps the youth of America relate to stars who are unthreateningly ordinary. Dream vaguely recall the Spice Girls' glamorized averageness, with less personality. With a big beat and vague, smooth synths This Is Me, from It Was All A Dream, slips by innocuously. Dream are a little like N Sync with an even more lightweight sound and thinner voices. On This Is Me, Dream play the supportive girlfriend trying to convince a guy that she'll love him faithfully and that she's nothing like the girl who stole his heart and then broke it.
Sum 41-Fat Lip(up 6 positions)
Fat Lip, from the All Killer No Filler CD, is fairly fun but totally derivative punky pop. Fat Lip alternates between an early Beasties style mix of rap and rock guitar and mindless power pop. The rhymes, like "I like songs with distortion, to drink in proportion, the doctor said my mom should have had an abortion", are cocky and dopey. With Deryck Whibley singing about being "sick of always hearing act your age" and of liking to have "fun at other people's expense", the other half of Fat Lip is basically a rehash of Blink 182's What's My Age Again. The song also throws in some lame rebellion("I'll never fall in line, become a victim of conformity") but the song's appeal comes from its fast, high spirited energy.
Dave Navarro-Rexallbuy it!
Trust No One is the former Jane's Addiction and Red Hot Chili Peppers guitar player's solo debut CD. Rexall starts like a Chili Peppers psychedelic rock ballad. The atmosphere gets thicker and by the end it has a dense, bleak Korn/Tool type sound. Navarro has the guitar chops to carry off the transition. His voice is competent and pleasant but he doesn't modulate his vocal to match the song's dynamic shift. In general, Rexall is interesting but not that striking. Rexall is about the gap between the positive appearance and sad reality of a relationship and Navarro's agitation as it dies. He sings "I'm running out of room" and repeats "I hate my life."
Matchbox 20-Mad Season(down 2 positions)
Mad Season's title track and thrid hit is like its first single Bent. It's a mellow rock song that's a little draggy but also has some edge and atmosphere. Kyle Cook's guitar line is cool and langorous. Like on Bent, Rob Thomas does a self pitying vocal about how screwed up he is("I'm lost and I'm hopeless, bleeding and broken/though I've never spoken I come undone") and asks for a woman to save him("are you gonna help me out, you need to be together now, I need you now").
Eve 6-Here's To The Night(up 1 position)
It's a cliche of contemporary rock for an otherwise tough band to include a slow song or two on their CD in an attempt at pop success. Here's To The Night stands out jarringly among the otherwise tough, somewhat unpleasant rock songs on Eve 6's Horrorscope CD. With its strings and pleasant but empty pop sound, Here's To The Night probably fits more comfortably on pop or easy listening radio. It resembles an 80's rock ballad like John Waite's Missing You. Max Collins tries to sounds to like a sensitive male but the lyrics, like many of Horrorscope, are pretty backward about women. Collins tells the woman he lied to, "don't let me let you go."
Lifehouse-Sick Cycle Carousel(up 7 positions)
Like on Hanging By A Moment, the megahit from Lifehouse's No Name Face CD, Jason Wade does a variation on Eddie Vedder and Creed's Scott Stapp without Vedder's substance but also lacking Stapp's pretension, as he sings about wanting to break a sick cycle. Wade is only 20 but he has that deep, serious, prematurely old voice that's been almost mandatory for rock singers of the last decade. He's also too young to be writing defeated lyrics like "if shame had a face, I think it would like mine." Sick Cycle Carousel's lofty, yearning chorus is like that of Pearl Jam or Live songs like Run To The Water or In Hiding without attaining the transcendence those bands can reach. Sick Cycle Carousel is earnest and pleasant sounding but not too interesting.
Jessica Simpson-Irresistible(up 5 positions)
Irresistible is terrible, even by teenpop standards. Irresistible, the title track from Simpson's new CD, is a rehash of songs that weren't so good the first time. The music is very synthetic synthy dance pop. On the verses, Simpson's voice has Britney's pinched, processed quality. On the chorus, Simpson tries, largely unsuccessfully, for a big Christina Aguilera sound while the music mimics Genie In A Bottle, even adding a touch of Latin guitar sound. On Irrestistible, Simpson is the swooning woman who's "weak with desire." I find the lyrics on the chorus unlistenably banal: "he's irresistible, up close and personal, now inescapable, I can hardly breathe."
Shaggy-Angel(down 3 positions)
A song with Shaggy thanking a girl, to the tune of Angel Of The Morning, for giving her love, over a riff copped for Steve Miller's The Joker, is not promising. However, as on the silly, very un-politically correct It Wasn't Me, Shaggy's charm overcomes a lot. Shaggy's cocky even when he's supposed to be humble("I called and you heeded, mission completed") and it's hard to believe him suddenly realizing his girl should be treated like a queen but his confident, deep Jamaican rap and easy charm("she was there through my incarceration, I wanna show the nation my appreciation") explains why women would want to believe him. As on It Wasn't Me, Angel wisely pairs Shaggy with a smoother singer though Rayvon's Angel Of The Morning chorus is sickly sweet. Angel, from the Hotshot CD, has a clear sound with a strong, steady beat and the Joker riff works pretty well.
Fuel-Innocent(down 8 positions)
The promise of Fuel's last CD, Sunburn, is unfulfilled as they follow the first single from the Something Like Human CD, the ever so intense power ballad Hemorrhage, with the even less interesting musically and more commercially calculated Innocent. The lyrics are self pitying garbage. Singer Brett Scallions sings of a complicated life with "smiles all confiscated", complaining that "when we were innocent", "never were we told we'd be bought and sold." Innocent has many of the standard, contrived elements of a hit rock ballad. It starts with meaningfully strummed acoustics and builds with tasteful drums and soaring guitars while Scallions strains to show emotion.
Fuel-Hemorrhage(down 3 positions)
Fuel broke through with Shimmer, from their Sunburn CD. That song had a hard rock sound and was catchy but didn't seem too gimmicky. Hemorrhage, from the new Something Like Human CD, doesn't have Shimmer's light touch. With its dramatic strings and acoustic guitar, Hemorrhage is calculated to be a smash hit rock ballad. Brett Scallions is ever so intense as he sings Carl Bell's bombastic lyrics asking her not to leave love bleeding in my his hands, as if Elton John and many others hadn't thought of the image before.
For the first song from the Lions CD, other formats chose the stirring, gospel tinged Soul Singing but rock radio is happy with the silly if fairly fun Lickin'. Lickin' doesn't pretend to be anything but dumb rock boogie. The dopey lyrics warn a "queen of the underage" who's "got me ranting and raving" that "you gonna catch a lickin'" The music pulls a goofy 70's trick by underlining the vocals on the verse with fuzzy guitar and keyboards. The chorus is standard Black Crowes with Rich Robinson's jamming guitar and Chris Robinson's cocky Mick Jagger-as-soul singer vocals.
N Sync-Popbuy it!
Looking to cash in as many times as possible before their fans grow out of them, N Sync are back with a single from their soon to be released Celebrity CD very shortly after the 2000 No Strings Attached CD left the airwaves. Pop is a defense of N Sync's music. They sing about being "sick and tired of hearin' all these people talk about" their music "and when is it gonna fade out." They claim "what we're doing is not a trend/we got the gift of melody/we gonna bring it 'til the end." They're looking for respect and "tired of feelin' all around me animosity."
Samantha Mumba-Baby Come Over(down 3 positions)
Like Samantha Mumba's first hit, the title track from her Gotta Tell You CD, Baby Come Over is a simple but appealing song that alternates between a rough verse and a catchy, sunny chorus. Baby Come Over is familiar dance pop but it has a breezy charm. Ringing synths and beats create an upbeat feel on the chorus and the verses are sleek and kind of sexy. The lightweight lyrics match the music. Having checked "your records", Mumba succumbs to a guy's request "to be more than just your friend."
Rehab-It Don't Matterbuy it!
Rehab is Danny Boone and Brooks. They met as recovering addicts in an rehab center. It Don't Matter is from the Southern Discomfort CD. As with fellow Atlanta area rappers Outkast, who clearly influenced Rehab, it's good to hear Rehab's smooth grooves on the radio. It Don't Matter has a dark subject matter but the sound is cool and inviting with an easy beat and appealingly relaxed samples and guitar. The singers provide a good contrast between angry rap and smooth, reflective singing. It Don't Matter is about feeling like "depression's my only friend." The lyrics refer to "another day of feeling nothing", thinking "everything's beautiful as long as I ain't there" and hoping to lift "my pain into the air."
Madonna-What It Feels Like For A Girl (unchanged)
The third single from Madonna's Music CD has become a hit despite MTV's refusal to play its violent video, directed by Madonna's husband Guy Ritchie, depicting a woman's crime spree. What It Feels Like opens with a sample from the movie The Cement Garden which mirrors the lyric's mix of softcore titillation and genuine attempt to sympathize with the plight of a girl who's "strong inside" but encouraged to be weak. Madonna's vocal wisely doesn't tease. It's restrained and pleasant. The music, by Bjork collaborator Guy Sigsworth, has a simple beat and is good, relaxed and atmospheric.
In her solo career since The Story broke up, Jonatha Brooke has moved away from being just a folkie. Her Steady Pull CD tries a range of musical styles. Linger is an appealing, catchy folk rocker. Linger is about seeing signs that a relationship is doomed in lots of little things but still being conflicted about leaving. Brooke sings about "hoping you will follow" and "praying that you won't."