Madonna-Don't Tell Me(down 3 positions)
Don't Tell Me, the second single from the Music CD, was written by producer Mirwais Ahmadzai and a pop music odd couple, Madonna and her brother in law, atmospheric folk rocker Joe Henry. The lyrics are pretty familar. Telling Madonna to stop loving her man is like telling "the rain not to drop", the wind not to blow" and "the sun not to shine." Henry's minimal, twisted writing style isn't too evident, except maybe towards the end: "tell the bed not to lay, like the open mouth of a grave/not to stare at me, like a calf down on its knees." Don't Tell Me is pretty insubstantial but it has a good, easy mood. The sound is clear and simple with acoustic guitar, solid beats, strings and some silly sonic effects to spice things up. Madonna's vocals are pleasant and not too bad.
Uncle Kracker-Follow Me(up 8 positions)
Uncle Kracker(aka Matt Shafer) was Kid Rock's DJ. He co-wrote some of the hits from Devil Without A Cause and Kid Rock produced Uncle Kracker's Double Wide CD. Sugar Ray lead singer Mark McGrath appears in the Follow Me video. Like Sugar Ray did on their pop hits Someday and Falls Apart, Uncle Kracker restrains his harder dance music instincts on Follow Me. Uncle Kracker seems more calculated and less sincere but Follow Me has an undeniable appeal. Follow Me has a doo wop feel and good, very minimal instrumentation from fingersnaps and light drumming and keyboards. Follow Me is pleasant and innocuous though its lyric is fairly annoying. Uncle Kracker tries to convince his girl that a lack of commitment is good("We'll be alright if you don't ask me to stay") and boasts, "I make you feel free" and"I can guarantee, you won't find nobody else like me."
Eric Clapton-Superman Inside(up 2 positions)
I'm indifferent to Clapton's new age lyric about "gettin' closer to peace of mind" and finding the Superman inside but his "need to let it out" is matched in the music's buoyant mood. The new Reptile CD has good musicians including Billy Preston and Paul Carrack on keyboards. Superman Inside has the kind of loose, rollicking piano Preston did for the Rolling Stones. Clapton's recent singles have been so mellow and serious that it's good he's doing the kind of fun song he hasn't done much since Forever Man. Superman Inside has a big sound with slide guitar, backing vocals and Clapton confident's lead.
Matchbox 20-If You're Gone(down 13 positions)
The second single from Matchbox 20's Mad Season is wimpy but nice. I'm not a big ballad fan but If You're Gone is one of my favorite mellow songs of the year. Rob Thomas' singing is often overdramatic but here it's nicely understated. The music, with inobtrusive guitar and keyboards, fits the sad, resigned song as Thomas sings, "I think I've already lost you." But the song also has some hope. Thomas has finally been roused to action and is willing to try harder: "I think I can need this in my life." Horns rising at the end of the song match the cautiously optimistic feeling.
Oleander-Are You There?(up 1 position)
Are You There?, from the California band's Unwind CD, is fairly standard radio rock. It starts with very, big angry guitars then settles into familiar power chords augmented by a weird electronic effect. Thomas Flowers isn't a tough rock and roll singer like some of his peers. His voice is kind of thin. The lyric isn't as obnoxious as in some contemporary rock. Flowers is vulnerable, singing about needing support "when I feel too far away from where I want to be" and wondering if there's anybody there "who doesn't just pretend to care ."
Limp Bizkit-My Way(up 3 positions)
My Way is the third chart hit from Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water. It sounds like Rearranged, Take A Look Around and a lot of Limp Bizkit's other music. The music, though familiar, is pretty good with an edgy, forboding mood on the verses and good rock energy on the chorus from Wes Borland's fast, hard guitar and John Otto's dynamic beat. But, as usual, Fred Durst messes things up with his mediocre talent and stupid attitude. Durst's thin voice is barely adequate on the verses then he does his distinctive hoarse yelp on the chorus. The lyrics are a typical paranoid Durst rant similar to Rearranged's. He resents a woman looking down on him, pathetically demands respect("it's my way or the highway") and convinces himself "you'll be the one who's left missing me."
The Offspring-Want You Bad(down 7 positions)
The second single from the Conspiracy Of One CD follows the colorful silliness of the rock/hip hop hybrid Original Prankster, with a returns to The Offspring's punk pop signature sound. Want You Bad is also stupid, a dopey male fantasy, but it's very energetic with fast, fun guitars and drums. With his typical yell, Dexter tells his girl "you're too nice" and advises her to get tattoos and mistreat him.
U2-Beautiful Day(down 9 positions)
After spending much of the 90's making cynical, edgy and more dance oriented music, U2 return to the purer sound of their Unforgettable Fire/Joshua Tree era for a great single from the new All That You Can't Leave Behind CD. Beautiful Day starts like a New Order dance song but quickly shifts to the band's classic sound with The Edge's chiming guitar and Adam Clayton's percolating bass. Beautiful Day is about appreciating life. Even if "you're out of luck and the reason that you had to care", you're not a hopeless case so don't let the beauty get away. The music parallels the optimistic lyrics with Bono and The Edge's optimistic, yearning lead and backing vocals.
A Perfect Circle-The Hollow(up 3 positions)
Tool's new CD is coming out soon but Maynard James Keenan's side project keeps getting radio play. After moving even farther away from the Tool signature sound with the folky Three Libras, Mer De Noms' third chart hit sounds like its first, Judith. The guitars aren't quite as big and the atmosphere isn't as angry and oppressive as on a typical Tool song but The Hollow is still serious with a sweeping sound and Keenan's dramatic vocals. Billy Howerdel creates a good, metallic guitar sound. Keenan sings about someone with a constant need to satisfy his libido. The Hollow is fairly interesting but not too different from Keenan's usual tales of obsession. It lacks his usual climactic payoff and doesn't really go anywhere.
Cold-No One(up 4 positions)
On No One, from Cold's 13 Ways to Bleed On Stage CD, Scooter Ward is another serious singer with Vedder-like intensity. At least, with a fluid sound, loose drumming and bass playing and a subtle guitar, Cold's Pearl Jam/STP imitation has pretty music. Ward sings about being left alone "with no one sent to get me", feeling "like I'm being erased." He apparently isn't dealing well with a breakup and is "so sick of this terrible instinct."
Dream-He Loves U Not(down 3 positions)
Everyone wants a piece of the lucrative teen pop market. Puffy Combs is among those behind the latest package of young females. He Loves U Not, from the CD It Was All A Dream, has a familiar sound that basically guaranteed its success. On He Loves U Not, Dream sound like Christina Aguilera without Aguilera's vocal personality or a white Destiny's Child without their sleek sound. He Loves U Not also resembles N Sync's It's Gonna Be Me. It has efficient, basic music with a big, stuttering beat. The singing and lyrics have a youthful simplicity young girls can handle. The girls claim not to care about another girl who is trying to take a boyfriend since they know he only loves her.
Josh Joplin Group-Camera One(down 5 positions)
Camera One is from the band's Useful Music CD. Camera One is serious but catchy, kind of like old Peter Gabriel or Genesis but a little more obvious. With production by Jerry Harrison, Camera One sounds good. Camera One is another cynical tale about how pursuit of a Hollywood dream can have disappointing results. Joplin's tale is hardly subtle as he dramatically intones that "you're playing you now."
Voices, the second hit from the Sickness CD, isn't quite as unpleasant as Stupify but I still find it unappealingly nasty. David Draiman angrily roars that he's "gonna talk about some freaky shit now" then asks "are you breathing now?" and says "someone's gonna die." Voices is probably about Draiman's troubled mind. It ends with some garbage about feeling "the subliminal need to be one with the voice and make everything all right" but Voices' imagery is still distasteful. The heavy, atttacking guitars creating a menacing, though powerful, atmosphere.
David Gray-Babylon(down 3 positions)
The Welsh singer/songwriter has had a loyal following for a while but it's grown significantly thoughout 2000. It's reassuring that, after spending four months at the low end of the top 50, Babylon, from the White Ladder CD, has found a wider audience. Unlike so much popular music, Babylon isn't gimmicky or pandering. It's quiet, thoughtful and very good. Gray presents an appealingly humble and unassuming persona. He owns up to his mistake in a relationship, admitting he's "been a fool to ever open up my heart to all that jealousy, that bitterness, that ridicule." Gray asks his partner to "let go your heart, let go your head and feel it now." The music is good and minimal with a little acoustic guitar, atmospheric keyboards and a steady beat.
American Hi-Fi-Flavor Of The Weak(up 6 positions)
American Hi-Fi are another band like Presidents of the USA and Weezer with a fondness for fun, somewhat silly rocking pop artists from the late 70s like The Knack, Kiss and Pat Benatar. Flavor Of The Weak, from the band's self title debut CD is a good time with a simple sound and big power chords. The lyrics are appropriately basic. A teen wishes he could make his unrequited love see that her boyfriend "don't know anything about her, he's too stoned" and that he'll soon dump her.
Spacehog-I Want To Live(up 8 positions)
Since having an alternative hit with the fun, spacy In The Meantime from 1995's Resident Alien CD, Spacehog's main claim to fame has been that Royston Langdon is Liv Tyler's boyfriend. I Want To Live is a good return to form. I Want To Live is from the Hogyssey CD, which was produced by Paul Ebersold, who did Three Doors Down's The Better Life. Spacehog still are doing the 70s glam thing. On I Want To Live, Langdon channels David Bowie and Bryan Ferry, sounding both ultraserious and self mocking. The music is solid and fairly ungimmicky with a steady beat, big, solid guitars and a positive feel. I Want To Live is apparently about a young woman feeling "faceless and lonely" but trying to escape her problems.
ATC-Around The World(up 2 positions)
It makes sense that the totally edgeless Around The World, from ATC's Planet Pop, is a big international hit. You don't need to know English to mindlessly sing along with the La La La La Las and it's best not to understand the rest of the stupid lyrics. The music is familiar generic Europop. The drum machine makes it easy for the undemanding to dance. Around The World resembles the dopey synth pop song Blue without that song's endearing quirks.
Mya-Free(up 5 positions)
Free was added to later printings of Mya's Fear Of Flying CD after appearing on the Bait soundtrack. It's now the CD's second pop hit. Free was cowritten and produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and has the fun, frothy feel of the lighter work they did with Janet Jackson like When I Think Of You. Free is extremely lightweight dance pop but it has good energy and an effective beat. Mya easily slides quickly through the silly classified ad like lyric which advertises her attributes: "I got a four wheel drive, 5' 5", brown eyes" , "I'm free, single, sexy and sweet, makin' my own money." She "may let you share my fantasy" but she doesn't want a man "tryin' to tie me down" or "a playa who got kids all over town" with "his curl juice drippin' all over my Mercedes seat" or "a man who thinks he looks better than me."
Outkast-Ms. Jackson(down 4 positions)
Outkast's Stankonia was justifiably one of the most critically acclaimed CDs of 2000 and Ms. Jackson is one of the best songs getting heavy play on MTV. Ms. Jackson has a cool, easy groove with a simple, piano effect. Two good, contrasting rappers work on a baby's mama's mama. Big Boi barely contains his anger through a fast, dextrous rap, complaining about paying the bills for his baby but never getting to be with her. Andre 3000's rap is looser. He hopes his relationship will last forever then realizes how long forever is. Ms. Jackson finds some basis to the stereotype of the irresponsible estranged African American dad, but humanizes the character.
Saliva-Your Diseasebuy it!
Your Disease, from the Memphis band's Every Six Seconds CD, covers a lot of the bases of hard modern rock to create a sound that its target audience must find irresistable. Like Limp Bizkit, Saliva mixes hard guitars with rap. Over Soundgarden style hard guitars, Josey Scott does a slow Kid Rock style white trashy rap with some truly awful lines("like the Bee Gees cry, I'm just stayin' alive). The chorus is catchy metal pop that would make Def Leppard proud. Your Disease's lyric is familiar junk: "it feels like paradise", "I want to take you down, but your soul cannot be found" and "there's nothing here for free."
Destiny's Child-Survivorbuy it!
It's hard to argue with the premise of the title track of Destiny's Child's new CD. The group's history has been like a version of the TV show. Members have been regularly booted and Kelly Rowland and leader Beyonce Knowles have emerged as tough, very wealthy survivors. I like the way Knowles twists and scats around the cheesy synth string effects but her vocal and, especially, the lyric have a nasty edge. Like on Independent Women, the boasts about success cross the line to being a mean taunt. The lyrics specify the many ways "now that you're out of my life I'm so much better", mocking the unnamed person who thought she'd be weak, broke, scared and helpless with the facts that she's wiser, tougher and, most importantly, has sold nine million. The song bizarrely says they're better than compromising their christianity by dissing the person in interviews or on the internet but apparently doing so in a hit song is OK.
Papa Roach-Between Angels and Insectsbuy it!
On Between Angels and Insects, Papa Roach again seem less commercially calculating than their modern rock peers. They're serious and intense if a little simplistic. After songs about a troubled mind on Last Resort and a youth's troubled home life on Broken Home, Papa Roach move into Rage Against The Machine territory for the third chart hit from the Infest CD. Over big, hard guitars, Coby Dick alternates between tortured singing and an angry rap. He tells us "take your money, burn it up like an asteroid/possessions are never gonna fill the void." He gives us a philosophy lesson. He doesn't need possessions " 'cause everything is nothing and emptiness is in everything."
Janet Jackson-All For Youbuy it!
With the often used riff from Chic's Good Times as its base, the title track from Janet Jackson's All For You CD has the feel of light, easy early 80's disco like Diana Ross' Upside Down. It has a taste of Jackson's Escapade and even Kool & The Gang's Celebration. I preferred Jackson's image before she became an ever smiling good girl and sometimes her singing on All For You is too sickly sweet. Mostly, she has a fluidity similar to her brother's. The lyrics encouraging a guy to "be yourself", "come on talk to me" and "tell me I'm the only one", promising "I'll let you sit right next to me" seem unlikely but, with the exception of silly, harder beats towards the end, All For You goes down pretty easily.
The Deftones-Digital Bath(down 2 positions)
Digital Bath, the second chart hit from The Deftones' White Pony CD, is about an intense relationship. Like Change, Digital Bath is effectively spooky and atmospheric. For most of the song, the guitars and Chino Moreno's vocals hold back their fury and drums and keyboards create an edgy but restrained sound. It's powerful when the guitars are unleashed and Moreno lets out an anguished cry, "tonight, I feel like more."
The Wallflowers-Letters From The Wasteland(unchanged)
Breach, the Wallflowers third CD, is a tastefully made and quite boring set of songs. Letters From The Wasteland is another restrained adult rocker that sounds like Sleepwalker or One Headlight but has a gloomier mood. It has decent energy with good guitar and drums but doesn't really go anywhere. Letters From The Wasteland employs dark imagery to describe getting dumped. In a typically uninflected vocal, Jakob Dylan sings, "I wake up sick as you abandon me into these fields of rank and file" and of being "in this smoke filled waiting room with incarcerated love sick fools."