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All-Reviews.com Top 50 Songs*:
for the 3rd week of June, 2002

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

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  1. Chad Kroeger with Josey Scott-Hero    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Hero is from the Spiderman soundtrack. Hero has a big, anthemic tone appropriate for a big budget, wildly successful film about a mythic superhero. But Hero lacks the movie's sense of action and fun. It confirms my suspicion that a lot of today's pop rock stars are really mediocre folkies at heart. Hero asks questions common to folk songs about why peoples' passions lead to "killing and blood spilling" and offers its only solution in the fuzzy imagery of holding "onto the wings of the eagles." Hero plods along with little energy or imagination but, as on Nickelback's hits, Kroeger's humorless but very sincere delivery has its charm. He's down and doesn't expect a savior but still has the capacity to love. People love a solemn rock ballad so Hero's a slam dunk hit. But it's pretty tame, contrived and formulaic. Hero doesn't even have the rock drive of Nickelback's hits. It's not that different from the Hero songs done by Enrique, Mariah and many others. My favorite part of Hero is Josey Scott's participation. With his band Saliva, Scott sings cartoonish but hard edged rap inflected rock but he easily fits into Hero's serious mood. He overemotes his verse which includes the grammatically questionable claim that he was told "love will all save us."

  2. Jimmy Eat World-The Middle    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Amid all the dour, self pitying young men on alternative radio and now on the top of the pop charts, Jimmy Eat World's frothy, upbeat hit is especially welcome. Because they're energetic and very sincere and their music rocks hard and fast, Jimmy Eat World have been labeled an "emo-core" band. There's not much hardcore about The Middle's sound. It's just buoyant poppy fun. The Middle does rock but it keeps things light. With a tight, stuttering guitar, a steady bass line and Jimmy Adkins' sunny vocal, The Middle has a likable exuberance. The Middle's lyrics advise a girl to ignore the feeling that others are looking down on her, promising that "everything will be all right." The music carries a similarly optimistic spirit. The title track from Jimmy Eat World's fourth CD was close to the top 50 when September 11 came. Radio and the band's record company decided people didn't want to hear a hard driving rocker called Bleed American. Luckily, the CD also contains the irresistable The Middle, easily the best song on the earnest but not always enjoyable Bleed American CD.

  3. Puddle Of Mudd-Blurry    (unchanged)      buy it!
    On Blurry, the second single from Puddle Of Mudd's Come Clean CD, Wes Scantlin follows Staind's Aaron Lewis, a fellow Fred Durst protégé, in showing his mellow side. Blurry really strikes me as lame; another rocker showing his troubled, sensitive side. Blurry's verses have a fairly interesting atmosperic guitar effect but its melody is surprisingly similar to Duncan Sheik's adult pop hit Barely Breathing. On the chorus the band, of course, has to show they can rock so the guitar sound gets bigger and Scantlin's vocal approaches the fury he showed on Control. The young males can't get enough of songs about how awful a guy feels about being mistreated by his ex. On Blurry, Scantlin seems to want her back, singing about how meaningless things are after she left him. But he also rages at her, complaining about how she could "take it all away" and shove his pain in his face.

  4. Default-Wasting My Time    (unchanged)      buy it!
    It's depressing that, besides offering a watered down version of bands like Pearl Jam, Creed now seem to be inspiring a bunch of new, success hungry bands with their serious, literal minded rock. Wasting My Time, from the Fallout CD, is another overdone rock song. Dallas Smith has the requisite unnaturally deep, intense vocal. The Canadian band try to show that they're sensitive but can rock too. Wasting My Time is remarkably uninteresting, following the very familiar pattern of starting quietly with a meaningful guitar riff before letting the power chords crunch in on the chorus. The verses sound like With Arms Wide Open. The chorus is generic guitar rock. Wasting My Time's lyrics justify a breakup with a girlfriend.

  5. Red Hot Chili Peppers-By The Way    (up 18 positions)      buy it!
    Like Californication's Around The World, the title track from Red Hot Chili Peppers' new CD mixes the band's trademark styles. Unlike Around The World, By The Way is fun and likable and doesn't get too stupid. By The Way's verse has the mellow, serious sound of the band's recent hits. Its breaks have the Peppers' classic goofy, anarchic sound. The quieter parts remind me of Californication's Otherside. They avoid the heavy, humorless feel of some of the band's ballads. Anthony Kiedis' vocal, nicely underlined by John Frusciante's simple guitar strum, seems to have improved. He sounds more relaxed and comfortable than on some of the band's more serious songs and creates a little poignance as he sings about a "sad little girl singing songs to me beneath the marquee." The looser part, with Kiedis' wacky rap, Flea's heavy bass and Chad Smith's adroit drumming, resembles a Peppers song like Suck My Kiss. It would probably be annoying if it made up a whole song but here the playing around provides a nice contrast.

  6. Puddle Of Mudd-Drift And Die    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Puddle Of Mudd, Staind, Nickelback and other new rock bands have had huge pop hits. So I haven't done them justice by writing that their main appeal is to troubled male teens with limited musical taste. Obviously, self pitying smashes like Blurry, It's Been Awhile and How You Remind Me have broad appeal. I guess that appeal comes, for people seek meaning, from the fact that they sound they're about something. Whether what they sing about is actually interesting or well written, Wes Scantlin, Aaron Lewis and Chad Kroeger's expressions are sincere and intense. Their music has rock heft and is also melodic, catchy and easy to sing along to. I resist the new grunge label that others have given rock of the early 00s because the music is so much less interesting and powerful than the rock of the early 90s and because the music's commercial calculation should be antithetical to any reasonable definition of grunge. Still, the hitmakers of today have learned from their forefathers. Drift And Die, the third chart hit from Puddle Of Mudd's Come Clean CD, is another song that follows Kurt Cobain's model, starting with a quiet, intense verse then exploding into a rocking, screamed chorus. Scantlin starts with his acoustic guitar and serious, pained vocal. Towards the end, the band make a big, layered sound that's a good imitation of Pearl Jam's Even Flow. I don't like Scantlin's self righteous vocal as he nastily sings "go away from me" and complains how "ignorance spreads lies." Drift And Die doesn't seem quite as top of the charts ready as Barely Breathing soundalike Blurry. I can still imagine plenty of kids singing "as I drift and die" this summer.

  7. Eminem-Without Me    (up 1 position)      buy it!
    The anticipated first single from The Enimen Show is no disappointment unless you expect Marshall to suddenly become mature. Like most of Eminem's work, Without Me is a mix of good music, very strong rap technique and lyrics that are simultaneously smart, stupid, interesting, offensive and ridiculous. Musically, Without Me is as impressive as anything he's ever done. Without Me is a little like The Real Slim Shady but it's tougher and sharper. Dr. Dre has wisely dropped the broad, cartoonish sound he used on Slim Shady and other songs in favor of an austere sound that's mostly just a driving beat. Eminem's rap is amazingly tight. He doesn't seem to take a breath as the words race out of his mouth. Aided by Dre's menacing touches, Eminem is more aggressive and focused than ever but he still displays the distinctive personality and his words still flow smoothly. Without Me has Eminem's usual mix of rants, good jokes and idiocy. While his negative image is largely self inflicted and has undoubtedly sold records, Eminem's paranoia is somewhat justified. It's hard to argue with his premise that the same media that "try to shut me down" likes it when his controversial acts give them material. But Eminem shows the same anger over trivial grievances as substantial ones. Calling Moby a "36 year old baldheaded fag" seems like a strained effort to be provocative by obviously showing he's still homophobic. Given the issues he could address, dissing N Sync again seems like a waste. Eminem shows his skills at packing in a lot of topics so we also get Eminem cursing his mother out for suing him, his backhanded boast that he uses "black music so selfishlessly", "to get myself wealth" and a reference to Malcolm McLaren's Buffalo Girls. Without Me is another look at Eminem's often foolish, self centered worldview but also another interesting, musically compelling work.

  8. Creed-One Last Breath    (down 1 position)      buy it!
    One Last Breath, the third chart hit from the Weathered CD, starts pretty well as Scott Stapp sings with just a quiet guitar and then with subdued guitar, drums and strings. But inevitably, the sound intensifies and any subtlety is bludgeoned by heavy rock guitars and drums and Stapp's pained howl. On One Last Breath, Stapp uses his usual big, melodramatic imagery to tell us how bad his life's become. He's close to the edge and "I think I'm falling." He has cried out to heaven "save me" but apparently this time he's looking for help from a woman not God. People might be getting tired of Creed's bloated, ultraserious sound. Weathered's first single My Sacrifice fell off the chart much quicker than the hits from Human Clay. One Last Breath's familiarity is bound to get it significant airplay but, I bet, not as much as their previous hits. It's not their worst song but there's got to be a limit to how much people want of Stapp's self centered tales and Creed's generic, soaring music.

  9. Sheryl Crow-Soak Up The Sun    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Soak Up The Sun is the first single from Sheryl Crow's fourth studio record C'mon C'mon. While there were some signs on The Globe Sessions that she might be losing her touch, Crow has been able to put together an impressive string of hits by balancing, in varying degrees, pop simplicity and catchiness with a sense of rock craft and substance. The balance was best seen on substantial but still fun singles like Everyday Is A Winding Road. Soak Up The Sun's emphasis is on simplicity. It's reminiscent of, and even less complicated than, Crow's early good time hit All I Wanna Do. From its principle desire to "tell everyone to lighten up" to its dopey final line("I've got my .45 on so I can rock on"), Soak Up The Sun is proudly mindless. It has a schematic, get back to the chorus feel that will probably soon prove tiresome. But if Crow's playing dumb, at least she's playing it nicely with lines like "it's not having what you want, its wanting what you've got." Soak Up The Sun has a catchy singalong chorus and is likably modest. It's solidly constructed with a sturdy guitar riff. I like Crow's light, seemingly helium enhanced vocal on the "everytime I look around" bridge.

  10. Nickelback-Too Bad    (down 5 positions)      buy it!
    When How You Remind Me moved to the top of the pop charts, rock and alternative radio began to move on to a second song from the Silver Side Up CD. Too Bad alternates between mellow but dramatic verses and choruses with catchy rock guitar strumming. As on How You Remind Me, Chad Kroeger's vocals are heartfelt and the pain he describes is surely real. While he's not quite as self pitying as his trouble young white male rock contemporaries, Kroeger is very humorless and a little self important. Too Bad is serious, intense and well made but it doesn't have the mastery of Nirvana style rock dynamics that How You Remind Me, with its irresistable "Yeah"s and pounding power chords on the chorus, did. Too Bad is about dealing with feelings about the father who abandoned his family, leaving them "just trying to keep clothing on our backs."

  11. Dave Matthews Band-Where Are You Going    (up 2 positions)      buy it!
    The Dave Matthews Band recorded an album's worth of songs in 2000 with producer Steve Lillywhite. Unhappy with the results, the band started from scratch with producer Glen Ballard and a new set of songs and made the Everyday CD. DMB have returned to the songs from the Lillywhite sessions and rerecorded some of them for Busted Stuff, a CD produced by the band and Before These Crowded Streets engineer Steve Harris. They also wrote a few new songs including Where Are You Going. On Where Are You Going DMB do what they do best. Like Crash Into Me and Crush, Where Are You Going is a love song with relaxed, dreamlike music, a leisurely pace and an appealing Matthews' lyric. In an unassuming voice, Matthews sweetly tells a troubled woman "I have no answers for you", "but I do know one thing, where you are is where I belong." With subtle guitar, drums, piano and Leroi Moore's horn, Where Are You Going easily and likably floats by.

  12. Goo Goo Dolls-Here Is Gone    (down 1 position)      buy it!
    Ever since Goo Goo Dolls stumbled onto the path to success with Name, the one ballad among the post punk rockers on 1995's A Boy Named Goo, there's been no stopping them. They still play some rockers(though they're generally not as fast and rough as they used to be) but hits like Iris and Black Balloon, from their Dizzy Up The Girl CD, have made the sensitive rock ballad Goo Goo Dolls' trademark sound. Here Is Gone, the first single from the Gutterflower CD, shows they have the hit making formula down pat and are apparently going to use it for as long as they can. Here Is Gone is like Black Balloon with a touch of Slide's sleek pop rock sound. The music is lush and full with a good layered guitar sound. Here Is Now is well made but far too polished and predictable for my liking. In a heartfelt vocal, Johnny Rzeznik sings about a disappointing relationship that's doomed by his partner's fears and lack of control.

  13. Korn-Here To Stay    (down 1 position)      buy it!
    In the past, Korn has done some interesting hard rock with an ominous electronic atmosphere. Here To Stay, from the Untouchables CD, feels like a cut and paste rehash of Korn's previous work and that of many similar bands that, with dense music and troubled singers, have proliferated over the last few years. Jonathan Davis' angry bark is very familiar. So are Here To Stay's rumbling guitars and sinister synths. On Here To Stay, Davis sings about a self loathing that makes him "take my face and bash it into a mirror" so "I won't have to see the pain." He also tells us his hurt is turning "into hating". There's enough nastiness to Davis' venting that I find it hard to sympathize about his inner turmoil.

  14. Staind-For You    (down 4 positions)      buy it!
    You'd figure that even Staind's biggest fans would have had enough of Aaron Lewis self pitying bleating by now. The fourth chart hit from Break The Cycle has harder guitars and drums than It's Been Awhile and some of the CD's other songs but it's mainly another showcase for Aaron Lewis' anguished vocal about the pain he feels. Lewis tells his parents how "your insults and your curses make me feel like I'm not a person" and demands that they "do something" about the fact that he feels "fucked up." As always, I don't doubt that Lewis hurts or begrudge his right to express his emotions. But since I'm not a troubled 14 year old boy, I'm just not that interested. And I find For You's uneasy combination of bombastic, grinding rock and Lewis' crooning even less musically interesting than most of Staind's work.

  15. Jack Johnson-Flake    (unchanged)      buy it!
    The Hawaiian native/champion surfer turned LA singer/songwriter's first chart hit is charmingly laid back. Johnson sings on Flake, from the Brushfire Fairytales CD, about likable slackers who lose out or let people down because of "ties" or because "often times we're lazy." Flake has relaxed guitars and drums and Johnson's smooth vocal comfortably matches the song's mood. He doesn't seem to exert himself too much even as he reaches for high notes in the song's "please don't drag me down" conclusion. Ben Harper, whose music has an easy, sensual appeal similar to Johnson's, plays good atmospheric slide guitar on Flake.

  16. Papa Roach-She Loves Me Not    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Lovehatetragedy is the new CD by the northern California band whose lead singer, formerly known as Coby Dick, now wants to be known by his given name Jacoby Shaddix. Papa Roach broke through with the Infest CD. Like many rock hits, Infest's Last Resort and Broken Home had lyrics about a young mind troubled by a dark past and music, dictated by Dick's alternately yelled and rapped vocal, that mixed hard rock and hip hop. They didn't particularly stand out among similar songs on the radio. She Loves Me Not, which might turn out to be the rock song of the summer, is a big step forward. She Love Me Not's lyrics, about being torn apart by anxiety caused by a girl who continues to toy with his emotions, are typically serious and OK. But, unlike Papa Roach's previous hits, She Loves Me Not is more about the music than Shaddix' personality. Papa Roach has effectively tightened up their music on She Loves Me Not for a sound that's big but concise. She Loves Me Not has the rock heft and urgency of a Sevendust song without that band's heavy metal excess. Jerry Horton's tough, economical guitar playing and Dave Buckner's big drum sound give She Loves Me Not good force and momentum. Shaddix' vocal is nicely focused and unshowy.

  17. Hoobastank-Running Away    (up 2 positions)      buy it!
    Crawling In The Dark, Hoobastank's first chart hit, had a likable energetic chorus and modest lyrics about looking for the answer. Crawling In The Dark was also wildly derivative of other rock songs and after repeat listens, I soon found it uninteresting. Running Away, the second single from Hoobastank's self titled CD, regrets that a woman "never gave us chance to be" and ran away just when they were getting close. The lyrics have a charming humility("I don't want you to feel sorry for me") but the music is painfully over the top. At times, Running Away sounds like Incubus as it combines a touch of mystical synth sound with Doug Robb's sincere vocal. But, especially on the chorus, Running Away is a bombastic classic rock wannabe with big but meaningless guitar and drums. Running Away slowly drags along with a cliched arena sound.

  18. Unwritten Law-Seein' Red    (up 4 positions)      buy it!
    Unwritten Law's Elva CD is mostly fast, youthful, good natured, lightweight hip hop informed Sum 41 style hard rock. Seein' Red is not characteristic of the rest of the CD but it's not surprising that it's the song getting the record company push. Seein' Red is a sensitive rocker that fits solidly within the Staind/Nickelback model of what radio wants to play. Seein' Red is painfully predictable, following the standard pattern of meaningful, restrained verses that explode into hard rocking choruses. Over quiet guitar picking, Scott Russo does an earnest vocal. Seein' Red's "follow the leader" chorus is catchy. I like the scratchy little riff between the power chords. But the song keeps coming back to the crappy verse. A boring, cliched guitar solo doesn't help things either. Seein' Red is about Russo's anger at foolish lies he's been told. He alternates between mocking and giving someone a last chance to choose to make a relationship work.

  19. Godsmack-I Stand Alone    (down 2 positions)      buy it!
    I Stand Alone is from the soundtrack of the The Rock's film vehicle The Scorpion King. I don't hate I Stand Alone quite as much as some of the Godsmack music I've had to review over the last couple years. That's doesn't say much since their songs have been among my least favorite in the top 50. I Stand Alone is slower and less dense than some of Godsmack's music but, with a grinding guitar and a melody somewhat like Alive's, it's still pretty heavy and dark. I Stand Alone gives us another view of Sully Erna's nasty, paranoid worldview which places him alone among people trying to "take me down." On I Stand Alone, Erna howls a warning that he'll "break" someone who wants to "control me".

  20. Vanessa Carlton-A Thousand Miles    (unchanged)      buy it!
    A Thousand Miles is a slightly unwieldy but charming combination of breezy pop and more arty pretentions. 21 year old Vanessa Carlton has a likably modest, youthful voice that's similar to Michelle Branch's. Like Branch's hits, A Thousand Miles, from the Be Not Nobody CD, has a pleasant melody and sunny, optimistic sound that appeals to teenage girls too cool or too old for Britney. But A Thousand Miles also gives its pop ambitious accompaniment. There's a little too much going on but the big, slightly over the top music is appropriate for an expression of big, innocent emotions. Carlton plays smooth, flowery runs that show that Alicia Keys isn't the only young singer with keyboard skills. A Thousand Miles also has an orchestral arrangement with strings busily playing a riff that oddly resembles an old western tv show theme. It also has a bridge where Carlton and a guitar simulate a piece of Natalie Imbruglia's Torn. Carlton sings about missing a departed object of affection and wondering if he misses her.

  21. Ashanti-Foolish    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Ashanti Douglas is a talented songwriter who's already played prominent vocal roles on other artists' hits. Ashanti's vocal is one of my favorite parts of Fat Joe's What's Luv? and Ja Rule's Always On Time but I'm disappointed by Foolish, the first hit from her self titled CD. Foolish, like the other hits she's sung on, is produced by Irv Gotti. I understand why Foolish is a hit. It has a smooth, uncluttered sound and a crisp, inobtrusive beat. While I find some of the vocal too thin and whispery, Ashanti's singing mostly goes down easy. Unlike What's Luv? and Always On Time, which throw in elements of everything from hard hip hop to smooth soul and catchy pop, Foolish seems to be missing something. I find the main ornamentation of Foolish, a piano riff and shimmering percussion effect, repetitious and uninteresting. Ashanti sings on Foolish that love keeps her running back to her man even though she knows he's "treatin' me so bad."

  22. Incubus-Warning    (up 5 positions)      buy it!
    Incubus keep giving us likable, unremarkable atmospheric rock songs. Warning, third chart hit from the Morning View CD, is appealing. Warning is even more laid back than I Wish You Were Here and Nice To Know You but it has a similar vibe. On the verses, Brandon Boyd's vocal drifts along with some minimal guitar and sonic effects. The chorus, with Mike Einziger's electric guitar strumming, is harder and more focused, but the song retains it's dreamy feel. Warning is positive and spacy, advising that as you float "in this cosmic jacuzzi", "count your blessings", "don't ever let life pass you by" and love yourself. Warning seems intentionally inconsequential but it is quite appealing.

  23. Default-Deny    (up 7 positions)      buy it!
    Like their friends and fellow Canadian pop rockers Nickelback, Default are very serious and intense. Their music is even more generic and lacking in personality than Nickelback's. Like so many bands these days, Default sound like fans of Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains as they emulate those bands' big, ambitious guitar and drum sounds and add little of their own character. Dallas Smith, like Creed's Scott Stapp and so many others, is a deep voiced singer who delivers every proclamation with a fervent passion, as if every song is about a life and death matter and any hint of lightness or humor would detract from the vital importance of their message. Smith's voice is big and strong but it lacks of any subtlety or variety. On Deny, the second chart hit from the Fallout CD, Smith's voice, Jeremy Hora's power chords and Danny Craig's drums pound with sledgehammer obviousness. Deny has the big, yearning sound of Pearl Jam's Even Flow and a touch of Metallica's mix of heavy metal and mysticism around the edges. Nothing distinguishes it from the work of Default's predecessors. Deny's lyrics are of the "you ungrateful bitch" variety so popular with male teens. Smith tells the woman who split and left him in hell that after "I've done it all for you", "I'll never crawl to you."

  24. P. Diddy-I Need A Girl    (unchanged)      buy it!
    I Need A Girl is from the P. Diddy & The Bad Boy Family CD. Rapping has never been P. Diddy's main talent. On I Need A Girl, the artist formerly known as Puff Daddy does a flat, speaking voice rap that's not particularly interesting or melodic. But I Need A Girl's draw is its content and P. Diddy's conversational style matches the lyric's confessional tone. It's fairly remarkable that P. Diddy, an extremely successful artist and entrepreneur who usually seems confident and in control, would present a slightly pathetic persona, worrying about women "usin' me" and pining for "a wife at home" "that could stand me" and "raise me a family." Even more striking is the verse regretting screwing up a relationship that closely resembles the one he had with Jennifer Lopez(he says it's not about J. Lo). He appreciates that she "took the whole ride for me" when "I caught a case" and regrets that because "I made her cry for me", she didn't stick around to have his child. I Need A Girl sounds like a lot of recent hits but it's a particularly enjoyable sounding version of a familiar formula. I Need A Girl has the lightweight but likably breezy sound of Usher's hits. Like songs including What's Luv and Ja Rule's hits, I Need A Girl matches a rough rapper with a much smoother singer. Usher provides a good vocal on the chorus. I Need A Girl splits vocals between P. Diddy, Usher and Loon but maintains a steady, relaxed groove, repeating a good, unobtrusive synth riff and beat.

  25. No Doubt-Hella Good    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Like Hey Baby, Hella Good, the second single from the Rock Steady CD, immediately sounds like a hit. Unlike Hey Baby, I don't hate Hella Good. Even with crisp, tight production by reggae heroes Sly & Robbie, Hey Baby's beeping video game flash was way too gimmicky for me. Hella Good is cold, efficient, mechanical and carefully constructed for commercial consumption but it's more appealing to me. Maybe that's because Hella Good is so danceable. Maybe it's because it reminds me of the dance pop hits of my youth. I can't put my finger on exactly what song Hella Good reminds me of but its heavy beat and big, catchy synths bring to mind such irresistable hits as Prince's 1999, Madonna's Into The Groove, Queen's Another One Bites The Dust and Human League's Don't You Want Me. As with another undeniable recent smash, Kylie Minogue's Can't Get You Out Of My Head, Hella Good doesn't let any complicated ideas get in the way of the groove. With her confident, no nonsense vocal, Gwen Stefani just sings about how it feels really good to dance with someone you love.

Songs 26-50


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