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All-Reviews.com Top 50 Songs*:
for the 2nd week of June, 2003

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

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  1. Evanesence-Bring Me To Life    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Evanescence is a Little Rock, Arkansas band started by former camp buddies Amy Lee and Ben Moody. Bring Me To Life is on the Daredevil soundtrack and Evanescence's Fallen CD. It was inevitable that someone would take the pop metal sound that's dominated rock music the last couple years and make it more glossy and even poppier. Bring Me To Life strikes me as one of the silliest hits of recent times. It brings to mind a bizarre mix of Linkin Park and the bloated Meat Loaf influenced hits Bonnie Tyler had in the early 80s. Bring Me To Life is also a touch gothic. Singer Amy Lee comes on like a spacier Sarah McLachlan though, to McLachlan's credit, she's never been as overdramatic as Lee is. With sweeping strings, crunching guitars, vaguely ominous synths and guest vocalist Paul McCoy playing Mike Shinoda(Linkin Park's rapper), Bring Me To Life throws in everything but the kitchen sink to make a hit. I can imagine how Bring Me To Life's over the top style could work on the soundtrack of a movie about a superhero but out of that context, it's ridiculously overblown. Bring Me To Life is fairly bad poetry. Lee appreciates how a guy can "see into my eyes like open doors leading you into my core" and asks him to wake her numb, soulless, sleeping spirit and "save me from the nothing I've become."

  2. Audioslave-Like A Stone    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Audioslave follow Cochise, the very enjoyably over the top, heavily Led Zeppellin influenced headbanger with a good, very subdued song. Who would have thought that the union of members of two hard rocking 90s bands would create a mellow, restrained hit? Rage Against The Machine weren't known for rock ballads but their musicans sound surprisingly comfortable playing a radio friendly midtempo rocker. Chris Cornell previously eschewed his usual Robert Plant inspired shriek on Soundgarden songs like Fell On Black Days and his solo record so his participation is some what less surprising, but his smooth vocal on Like A Stone is still notable. Like A Stone sounds like various mainstream rockers but it still has power. Like A Stone's sprawling pace and Cornell's controlled, strong singing give Like A Stone an epic, spell binding appeal. Guitarist Tom Morello does a good job providing a low key, textured background with a slight sense of menace. He also gets to shine with a solo that's not as hard as his Rage playing but shows a good sense of flair and drama, as his processed guitar twists around the notes. Like A Stone's lyric is a tale of devotion. Cornell sings about being obsessed by a long ago relationship. He apparently takes solace in the hope that if we're good, we'll lay to rest anywhere we want to go, so he'll eventually be reunited "in your house." Like A Stone is a bit formulaic and sappy but it's also quite gripping.

  3. Trapt-Headstrong    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Headstrong is from the California band's self titled major label debut. Headstrong holds some hints that Trapt could be more interesting than other nu-metal bands. The sound isn't as cluttered or murky as that of some of their contemporaries. The verses are pretty good. Chris Brown's vocal is smooth and quick with a rapper's sensibility. The vocal is nicely underlined by Simon Ormandy's light, loose guitar. The chorus is effective but less interesting as Brown and Ormandy's trade short, jagged thrusts of guitar. Brown's angry croon is awfully familiar. In the end, not much distinguishes Headstrong from intense rap metal by Linkin Park, Papa Roach and many others. Headstrong is competently made but not particularly likable or interesting. Headstrong apparently announces a break with an ambitious musical associate who won't change his wrong ideas.

  4. Staind-Price To Play    (up 1 position)      buy it!
    I'm curious about Staind's new 14 Shades Of Grey CD. After having enormous success, is Aaron Lewis still in the whiny, self pitying mode that sold millions? Price To Play brings some reason for optimism. It's fairly dark but not as draggy as Break The Cycle's hits. On the other hand, for better or worse, Price To Play is less distinctive than Staind's earlier hits. Lewis' accounts of pain, caused by his father's neglect and inner demons, were irritating but at least you knew what he was talking about. Price To Play has a vague lyric blaming an unnamed you for causing destruction by taking without giving and blaming without empathizing. The music also doesn't have much personality. Price To Play has the typical nu-metal mix of verses with crunching guitars and glossy, hook filled choruses. Price To Play is better than most recent grunge pop hits. 14 Shades Of Grey was produced by Josh Abraham, who also did Break The Cycle and Chocolate Starfish and The Hot Dog Flavored Water(with Staind's mentor Fred Durst). Price To Play is pretty tight, without the hard rock showing off, narcissism or obvious commercial calculation that ruins most successful work by Staind's fellow grunge fans. Guitar player Mike Mushok and drummer Jon Wysocki create a big sound but Price To Play doesn't get too murky or showy. The catchy chorus has a bed of guitars with nice sounding chord changes. Durst's natural reticence works well on the chorus. He creates decent edge by singing fairly slowly and avoids the ranting others might resort to(though the end of the song has someone doing the obligatory tortured wail). Price To Play isn't ground breaking but at least it sounds good and isn't too pretentious.

  5. Linkin Park-Somewhere I Belong    (down 1 position)      buy it!
    Linkin Park's new Meteora CD comes two and a half years after the release of Linkin Park's 8 million selling Hybrid Theory CD. Somewhere I Belong indicates that the band didn't use the time to develop new dimensions to their music and instead have done safe retreads of their hugely successful work. Somewhere I Belong showcases the vocal styles that established Linkin Park's identity but doesn't do much with them. Mike Shinoda's rap is particularly drab, stiff and uninteresting. Chester Bennington has more presence, working his trademark shriek but while he's intense, he's stuck in the same tone, never really going nuts like he has before. His lack of modulation makes his rage seem like meaningless griping. Somewhere I Belong doesn't grab your attention like Linkin Park's previous hits did. Shinoda is almost amateurishly wan while Bennington's parts are repetitive and don't go anywhere. The band again worked with producer Don Gilmore. The chorus is catchy with Brad Delson's guitar crunching into a hard but sleek wall of sound. But Somewhere I Belong lacks personality. The insistent blend of hard rock interjections and glossy pop brings to mind Nickelback's terrible hit How You Remind Me. The good news about Somewhere I Belong is that instead of just griping about emotional pain, the lyrics take responsibity and refer to wanting to heal. But maybe that calmer attitude explains Somewhere I Belong's lack of intensity.

  6. Chevelle-Send The Pain Below    (up 3 positions)      buy it!
    Send The Pain Below is the second chart hit from the Wonder What's Next CD by the band comprised of three born again Christian brothers from Chicago. The Red was a bit monotonous but it had a good, insinuating guitar riff and had a long run on rock radio. Send The Pain Below is less distinctive. It has the Creed feeling of being a pastiche of Pearl Jam and other grunge bands. At least singer Pete Loeffler doesn't come across pretentiously like Creed's Scott Stapp. He's thoughtful in an unshowy way as he sings about his ability to suppress his emotional pain. His low key guitar playing is appropriate to the lyrics' stark emotion. At times, the match of restrained but intense singing and basic, booming sustained chords remind me of Radiohead's Creep. But generally, Send The Pain Below doesn't have Creep's depth. It's so downbeat that it's hard to distinguish from the other songs where young men share their hurt. The similarity to other songs is accentuated towards the end when Loeffler goes into a Korn/Trust Company style rant("I can't feel my chest,drop down"). Send The Pain Below's message is oddly common in similar songs: you hurt me when you manipulated when we were together and I miss you. Send The Pain Below has an intensity that can be compelling but it's ultimately too indistinctive and humorless to keep my interest.

  7. Foo Fighters-Times Like These    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Dave Grohl has become an elder statesman of modern rock. 2003 started with songs he played on by Foo Fighters, Nirvana and Queens Of The Stone Age in the top 10 and the hits keep coming. Times Like These is the second top 50 hit from Foo Fighters' One By One CD. Times Like These isn't quite as good as All My Life but it has a superficial charm and is one of the better songs on a fairly bad CD. It's got the unremarkable competence that marks so much Foo Fighters music. The most striking thing about Times Like These is its guitar riff, copped from The Cult's She Sells Sanctuary, which gives the song some excitement(and, along with the lyrical allusion to Husker Du's New Day Rising, a 1985 vibe). Otherwise, Times Like These is innocuous but fine. Grohl's voice seems even less skilled than usual. It's hard to argue with the lyrics' message that, even in a screwed up world, you have to live and love. But it ain't exactly deep and reminds me of the lame post September 11 claims that the terrorists win if we don't do things(go shopping, take that flight, go ahead with the Emmys).

  8. Coldplay-Clocks    (down 2 positions)      buy it!
    Coldplay's singles from the A Rush Of Blood To The Head CD sound great in any context but they're especially striking on modern rock radio. Amid angry, testosterone fueled songs, the beauty of Coldplay's music is particularly welcome. Clocks has a wonderful dreamy feel. Strings and a synth provide an airy cushion while Chris Martin plays a simple but insinuating piano line. On some parts of Rush Of Blood, Martin is pretentious or annoyingly meandering but on Clocks, even as the song moves at a leisurely pace that accentuates its hypnotic appeal, Martin's vocal stays focused. Martin's typical sense of yearning works well on Clocks. Martin is apparently singing, as he does on many Coldplay songs, about a woman to whom "nothing else compares" who doesn't want to be with him and about being willing to wait for her to change her mind. He sings "you've put me down upon my knees", leaving him to "beg and plead" and "curse missed opportunities" but seems to retain a bit of hope.

  9. Coldplay-The Scientist    (up 1 position)      buy it!
    In My Place and Clocks, the first two chart hits from Coldplays A Rush Of Blood To The Head CD, were intricate and breathtakingly beautiful. The Scientist isnt as remarkable but its good. Once again, in a world of big guitars and drum machines, its refreshing to hear a song on the radio thats thoughtful and musically low key. On The Scientists first verse, only Chris Martins piano accompanies his voice. The uncluttered sound accentuates Martins sweetness as he tells a woman how lovely you are, reflects on the shame of breaking up and wishes they could go back to the start. Strings, Jon Bucklands strumming and Will Champions drums come in but the sound remains simple and unshowy. The result is likable and poignant. Martin has played the sensitive, heartbroken but ever hopeful spurned lover too many times but he is charming on The Scientist. Martins vocal is natural. The fact that he doesnt overplay the songs emotion helps make his sadness appealing.

  10. 3 Doors Down-When I'm Gone    (down 2 positions)      buy it!
    Kryptonite, Three Doors Down's breakthrough single off their The Better Life CD, wasn't brilliant but it was at least spirited and gave some sense that the Mississippi band weren't run of the mill rockers. When I'm Gone Away From The Sun is very run of the mill. It's another offering from the intense, humorless school of Creed and their brethren. Brad Arnold's clenched teeth, tough guy delivery is a bore. When I'm Gone definitely isn't fun. Everything about it is meant to show how serious the band is. The power chords pound and When I'm Gone slowly slogs forward. The lyric isn't awful but it's a lot like those by other sensitive hard rockers and its vulnerability is undercut by his vocal's self righteous tones, making his needy requests sound like orders. Arnold tells his love he lives in darkness burdened with secrets. He's partly redeemed by the depth of his love but he's very dependent, needing her to "hold me when I'm scared" and love him even when he's gone.

  11. Matchbox 20-Unwell    (up 1 position)      buy it!
    Unwell is the second single from the More Than You Think You Are CD. It's an improvement over Disease, a lame attempt at a rocker and pale imitation of Smooth, Rob Thomas' Santana collaboration. Unwell has the soothing, easy, well crafted sound that helped make the band big. The chorus is catchy and hard to resist. But generally, Unwell is bland. It's so tastefully innocuous that it barely registers. A banjo in the beginning and end adds a little flavor but Unwell could use a lot more. It doesn't help that Unwell, like Disease, is another tale of how screwed up Thomas is. Especially now that Matchbox 20 is an established, very successful band, Thomas' repeated tales of woe are increasingly tiresome. Unwell is more optimistic than some of them. Thomas thinks "I'm headed for a breakdown and I don't know why" but he also feels like he'll soon get things together.

  12. Metallica-St. Anger    new to music chart      buy it!
    St. Anger is Metallica's first record of all new material since the Load and Reload records of '96 and '97. St. Anger's title track is a bit of a mixed bag. Metallica distinguish themselves with a confident, free flowing sound that puts to shame the cautious, imitative rockers Metallica have influenced. I like St. Anger's fast parts. Lars Ulrich's ridiculously fast drums, aided by Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield's big, stomping guitars, whip up a great frenzy of energy. I often find James Hetfield's incredibly intense wail overwrought and a little silly. In my mind, the problem is compounded on St. Anger by Hetfield's account of inner pain. Hetfield sings about having anger "round my neck", wanting "my anger to be healthy" and wanting to "set my anger free." Hetfield's turmoil is undeniably real but, since so many lesser bands have exploited their struggle to control their rage, the self centered lyrics make Metallica less interesting than they've been in the past. The rapped interjections of "it's rushing out" help maintain St. Anger's striking momentum but they also invite comparisons to the rap metal bands who borrowed from Metallica in creating cynically commercial music. Still, St. Anger is one of the best rock songs of recent times. St. Anger gets great rock force from guys singing and playing hard and fast. St. Anger is also admirably ambitious. Its distinct, everchanging segments stir up a fun, anarchic spirit.

  13. Jack Johnson-The Horizon Has Been Defeated    (unchanged)      buy it!
    The Horizon Has Been Defeated is on the former pro surfer/filmmaker's new On and On CD. Like his buddy Ben Harper, Johnson backs up his cool, confident style with a mix of various musical sources. On The Horizon Has Been Defeated, Johnson's laidback flow is supported by a soulful groove with a reggae taste. The lyrics feature Johnson's easygoing philosophizing. At 27, Johnson has decided that "as we grow older", "things can go bad" but we're less likely to run away because the horizon has begun to fade and look less tempting. He also muses on a world where "machines become our hands" and reminds us that we're just animals with "fancy shoes" and "too many tools."

  14. Cold-Stupid Girl    (up 2 positions)      buy it!
    Jacksonvilles Cold have always seemed like just another hard rocking band with a serious, intense singer and an unoriginal, hard rocking sound. Stupid Girl, from the Year Of The Spider CD, doesnt do much to change that impression. Scooter Ward does a tough guy vocal, ranting out his ambivalence(wanna love ya, wanna bug ya) about a girl whos leaving him. The surprise fact is that Weezers Rivers Cuomo co-wrote and played guitar on Stupid Girl. Its unclear whether Ward or Cuomo, whos often written about being unlucky in love, contributed the self pity(Im a loner, Im a loser) but its a safe bet that Cuomo had a lot to do with Stupid Girls catchy chorus. The chorus simplifies the lyrics to shes going away, whats wrong with my life today. The sound is seductively smoothed out with an appealing wash of power chords. Unfortunately, Stupid Girl keeps returning to verses with standard hard rock theatrics and Wards silly barking and draggy enunciation. Stupid Girl is half fun, dopey arena classic and half, lame routine modern rocker.

  15. Train-Calling All Angels    (up 7 positions)      buy it!
    When they first broke through, Train at least presented themselves as a rock band. As Train's career has progressed, it's become clear that their music is made for easy listening radio. Drops Of Jupiter showed Train's gift for making music appropriate for elevators, dentist offices and yuppie background music. With its slathering of strings, Drops Of Jupiter was smooth and soothing but also sickly sweet. My first impression of Calling All Angels, the first single from the My Private Nation CD, was that it was more fairly empty lite rock. But further listens have shown that the sound has impressive depth. Calling All Angels is similar to Something More, from the Drops Of Jupiter CD. Something More clearly resembled psychedelic late period Beatles. Calling All Angels also has a layered, carefully constructed sound that is even more rich and rewarding. Unlike Something More, where the band didn't seem to know where to go after introducing their musical ideas, Calling All Angels continues to grow in power as it moves towards its conclusion Brendan O'Brien, who has produced dozens of good rock records by artists including Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen and Matthew Sweet, played on and produced Calling All Angels. I like the patient pace, Scott Underwood's big beat and the piano that fills out the striking soundcape. Calling All Angels reaches a majestic conclusion with a blanket of joyful voices. Calling All Angels isn't perfect. Pat Monahan's vocal generally matches the song's hopeful, optimistic tone but he can also sound like a mediocre mannered rock singer, especially when repeatedly invoking the "I won't give up if you don't give up" hook. The lyric's attempts at social commentary like "my tv set just keeps it all from being clear" and "football teams are kissing queens and losing sight of having dreams" are pretty lame. The whole idea of calling for a sign of angelic presence in troubled times is pretty sappy. But the positive, yearning music goes beyond the lyric in creating an appealing feeling.

  16. Seether-Driven Under    (up 3 positions)      buy it!
    Seethers Fine Again, a decent Nirvana knockoff featuring Shaun Morgans serious, intense vocal, had a long run on rock radio. Morgan is even more serious and intense on Driven Under, the second chart hit from the South African bands Disclaimer CD, and the song is even less fun. Fine Again was kind of catchy, with some resemblance to the annoying but undeniably hooky How You Remind Me. Driven Under just drags and plods along. Seether get a little distinction from the apparent realness of the pain in Morgans voice. But Driven Under is generic contemporary rock. Its got the humorless, showily meaningful sound of so many other bands. The big, hard rocking guitars predictably crunch in on the chorus. Driven Under is apparently about confronting a girlfriend(do you think that I am blind). The surprising response is that she has a gun that she presumably used before on another guy and is now ready to use on Morgan.

  17. Jason Mraz-The Remedy    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Jason Mraz is a young singer/songwiter from Virginia who made his way to San Diego. The Remedy is from Mraz' Waiting For My Rocket To Come CD, which was produced by John Alagia, who's worked with Dave Matthews and John Mayer. Mraz wrote The Remedy with The Matrix(Lauren Christy, Graham Edwards and Scott Spock), who wrote Avril Lavigne's hits. The Remedy is cute and catchy but it doesn't measure up to Lavigne's best work. The Matthews/Mayer connection is apt since Mraz is another cocky, glib young white guy though, to be fair to Matthews and Mayer, Mraz is glibber and his music seems less substantial. The Remedy is pleasant and boomer friendly but its relentless cheerfulness is too much. On its "I won't worry my life again" chorus, The Remedy's catchiness is undermined by a slick shallowness worthy of a TV commercial. Mraz does a white hipster rap on the verses of a sort that gave Barenaked Ladies and others hits but has fallen out of favor on the pop charts the last couple years. The Remedy's music is appropriately perky with a bouncy bass and guitar and cheap sounding synths.

  18. Three Doors Down-The Road I'm On    (up 2 positions)      buy it!
    It's depressing that Matchbox 20 is apparently influencing other bands and even more depressing that some of those influenced are making even worse music than Matchbox 20. On The Road I'm On, from 3 Doors Down's Away From The Sun CD, Brad Arnold does the Rob Thomas troubled, tough but sensitive thing but he's not as talented as Thomas. His vocal is heavy and totally lacking in nuance. On the verses, Arnold's vocal is underlined by Matchbox like portentous guitars but instead of achieving the meaningful sound the band seeks, The Road I'm On is both overdone and lacking in substance. Power chords come in on the chorus and there's a guitar solo but there's no imagination or rock energy. The Road I'm On rocks marginally harder than a typical Matchbox 20 song but doesn't create any more excitement. The Road I'm On is boring and lame. Nothing distinguishes it from many recent serious rock ballads. Road I'm On's lyrics are fine. Arnold sings about two kindred spirits who "feel helpless", find life "hard to move in" and are "trying to find out where you belong." 3 Doors Down have some of my least favorite recent videos. When I'm Gone's video was a pathetic attempt to exploit patriotism as the Iraqi war approached. When I'm Gone's lyric is a needy, self pitying plea for a girlfriend to adore and think of Arnold every second of the day. The video unmistakably attempts to give the false impression that the song is a request for a partner to be supportive while the guy's away at war. The Road I'm On video is pretty awful too. With no war to exploit, 3 Doors Down tie into a hot movie(2 Fast 2 Furious) and a hot sport(stock car racing) with a video featuring NASCAR stars Dale Earnhardt Jr.(of the cult of Earnhardt) and Tony Stewart(famous as a great driver and bad boy) dangerously drag racing through a town in SUVs. At the risk of sounding like my mom, aren't they worried about kids trying to imitate that behavior.

  19. Justin Timberlake-Rock Your Body    (down 1 position)      buy it!
    Rock Your Body, the third hit from the Justified CD, is a mindless but fun dance song. It's Justin Timberlake's best single so far. Timberlake and writer/producers The Neptunes(Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo) have worked out a partnership sure to produce hits. The teen idol provides the hunkiness and Williams and Hugo bring the great grooves. Following Like I Love You, where Timberlake was encouraged to do a slavish Michael Jackson imitation, Rock Your Body seems to comfirm that Williams and Hugo had Jackson in mind when they wrote and arranged songs that made Justified. Rock Your Body particularly brings to mind the great dance beats and chunky groove of Jackson's Off The Wall. Rock Your Body's big bass and scratchy guitar also resembles the sound, made by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers on songs like Good Times, that was borrowed in tons of dance songs(even Queen's Another One Bites The Dust). Timberlake's voice is just one of the parts that Williams and Hugo used to construct Rock Your Body. Timberlake's vocal is largely unremarkable and nearly unnoticable. It's often hard to know where his singing ends and the very effective backing vocals begin but, at least, Timberlake, doesn't get in the way of the groove. Credit for Rock Your Body and its easy, likable flow should go to its producers. Rock Your Body's lyric is basically Timberlake's request to a girl to not walk away and instead give him a chance to seduce her on the dance floor.

  20. Godsmack-Straight Out Of Line    (down 9 positions)      buy it!
    Straight Out Of Line is from the angry Boston based hard rockers' Faceless CD. The CD's title is a great straight line but, unlike a lot of their interchangable nu-metal contemporaries, I don't think Godsmack's music lacks personality. I just find it really unpleasant. Straight Out Of Line is a fairly typical Godsmack song. I suppose Godsmack are effective at creating an edgy sound the kids can relate to. Sully Erna bellows his rage at his enemies while the band creates a dark, ominous mood. Tony Rombola's guitar threateningly rumbles, slashes and booms. On Straight Out Of Line, Erna complains about unnamed people(maybe critics) who "lie to me" and force him to "justify my ways." I understand that Godsmack's music speaks to troubled young male rock fans but it just strikes me as nasty.

  21. R. Kelly-Ignition    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Apparently, accusations of having sex with a minor and possessing child porn won't kill your career if you know how to put together good pop hooks. The Ignition remix, from Kelly's Chocolate Factory CD, is a great testament to Kelly's skills. Kelly's vocal quickly darts around the lyric and mixes up speeds to create different moods while staying very cool. The music has the smooth confidence of a soul classic with easy, fluid keyboards and a relaxed handclap beat. Kelly smartly uses backing singers, creating a moment of excitement with their toot toots and beep beeps. Kelly's lyric is pretty awful. The title comes from a charming sexual metaphor promising "to take my key and stick it in the ignition." Kelly's comeons have the usual brags about an opulent lifestyle and compare a girl to his Lexus and a football coach("the way you got me playin' the field"). Luckily, Ignition sounds so good that you don't focus on its silly words.

  22. Sean Paul-Get Busy    (up 1 position)      buy it!
    Sean Paul Henriquez has moved from having dancehall hits in his native Jamaica to international stardom. Get Busy is from Sean Pauls Dutty Rock CD. Pauls loose, goofy rap has its charm. His admonitions for the ladies to shake their booties and get it on with him are harmless. His easy confidence and lack of self consciousness roll over your resistance. But Pauls cocky, lady loving Jamaican is such a stereotype that Get Busy is largely a novelty song. Get Busys saving grace is its infectious music. Get Busy was produced by dancehall veteran Steven Lenky Marsden, who suddenly has two big pop hits. As he did on Wayne Wonders No Letting Go, Marsden used a dawali rhythm on Get Busy. The diwali rhythm, produced by irregular handclaps accompanied by quietly ringing synths, creates a joyful noise and supplies a lot of Get Busys charm. Paul contributes by moving fast and keeping up with the buoyant spirit. Pauls lyric is dopey and innocuous but the musics energy makes Get Busy breezy fun.

  23. White Stripes-Seven Nation Army    (up 1 position)      buy it!
    White Stripes have followed the surprise million selling White Blood Cells CD with the even more successful Elephant. Seven Nation Army is their biggest radio hit so far. Like White Blood Cells, Elephant is a very good record that throws all sorts of ideas together. Singer/songwriter Jack White alternates(sometimes in the same song) between sincere and cynical and between goofy pop and serious, intense power chord laden hard rock. White's songs are unified by a seemingly natural weirdness and a good sense of a hook. White Stripes are still just guitar player Jack and drummer Meg White but Jack varies the sound and keeps it interesting. Unlike most of White Stripes' music, Seven Nation Army has a bass line(apparently played on a processed guitar). The verses, with Meg banging and Jack playing the big, basic bass line, give Jack space for his odd, strangely compelling vocal. Instead of shifting to a chorus, Seven Nation Army adds an electric guitar that basically tracks the bass line but creates a squealing intensity as the song dissolves into a fun jam before returning to another verse. Seven Nation Army is great, partly because its recurring riff is so good and memorable. Seven Nation Army has the kind of weird lyric that adds to White Stripes' charm. Sounding crazy and paranoid but also like he might have a point, Jack alternately promises to fight and ignore an unnamed enemy. He finally decides to avoid the struggle, go to Wichita and "work the straw." On Seven Nation Army, White Stripes music is again unpolished, odd and powerful.

  24. Kelly Clarkson-Miss Independent    (up 3 positions)      buy it!
    Miss Independent, the first single from the Thankful CD, is a good move for the American Idol '02 winner. Clarkson could probably get a few more hits sticking with the big, emotive ballads that are so popular with American Idol's audience. But Clarkson undoubtedly realizes if she wants a long career, she'll need to connect with the majority of Americans who aren't fans of the easy listening American Idol sound. So, like balladeers including Whitney and Celine, Clarkson is sure to alternate dance pop with her slow, dramatic songs. Miss Independent indicates that Clarkson has taken Christina Aguilera as a role model for her dance pop. Clarkson was pushed in that direction by producer Rhett Lawrence. Lawrence wrote Miss Independent with Aguilera. When it didn't make Aguilera's Stripped CD, Lawrence brought it to Clarkson who supposedly, with Lawrence, reworked it. Miss Independent still sounds just like a Christina Aguilera song(it's odd to hear it back to back with Aguilera's Fighter) and not a great one. Still, in my mind, anything is an improvement over big, showy, empty, generic ballads like Clarkson's first hit: A Moment Like This. Miss Independent is better than Fighter, simply because it doesn't overdo things. The backing is relatively restrained and functional. The verses get good edge from a steady riff with the sound of a tight electric guitar strum and a crisp angular beat. The chorus, with chords crunching in under Clarkson's singing, is very familiar but it is effectively dramatic, Clarkson's vocal doesn't show much distinctive personality but it stays strong, twisting around and not getting overwhelmed by the song's electronics. Miss Independent's lyric doesn't really match Clarkson sweet, regular gal image. It reads more like an attempt, like Beautiful, to redefine Aguilera's unlikable persona. Miss Independent is about a woman who, after working hard at projecting a harsh aura of self sufficiency, drops her defenses and falls hopelessly in love.

  25. Christina Aguilera-Fighter    (up 1 position)      buy it!
    Christina Agulera made great progress in fixing her image problems with Beautiful, the second hit from her Stripped CD. Beautiful allowed Aguilera, who had developed a narcissistic, weird persona, to present herself as needy and empathetic with all her fans who have self image problems. On Fighter, Aguilera reverts to an image of self interest and unpleasant ambition. Aguilera has an undeniable vocal gift. But her voice is so big that she can seem like she's just showing off. On Beautiful, Aguilera benefitted from the fairly light touch and commercial sense of producer Linda Perry. On Fighter, producer Scott Storch not only doesn't restrain Aguilera's showboating tendencies but encourages her to go way over the top. Fighter is strewn with a big hard rock guitar sound that totally lacks subtlety. Fighter soon becomes a showdown between the guitars and Aguilera's voice that results in a shrill, headache inducing mess. Aguilera seems to be referring to a boyfriend who used her but, with its references to cheating and greed and cheating, Fighter could just refer to a record company rep who dared challenge her. Either way, Fighter's gritted teeth confidence and bombastic sound hardly has Beautiful's charming vulnerability. Many may have been surprised by Beautiful's expression, written by Perry, of self doubt. It will be news to few that Fighter, written by Aguilera, declares that Aguilera is determined to succeed.

Songs 26-50


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