Blink 182-Adam's Song(unchanged)
Just when you thought Blink 182 were only dopey, if fun, rockers, the poignant third single from Enema of the State shows they've got some smarts. Tom DeLonge plays an innocent young man looking back at his life after his impulsive suicide. Like all the band's music, Adam's Song still rocks. But it has a more restrained and fully produced sound. As usual, the closest comparison is Green Day, who similarly broadened their sound with Time Of Your Life but Adam's Song has its own simple, distinctive sound.
Macy Gray-I Try(up 1 position)
Gray's On How Life Is was justifiably one of the most highly acclaimed records of 1999. There's a good smooth groove nearly throughout and the songs are very well made. Gray's raspy childlike voice takes some getting used to but she does communicate a joyful sense of wonder. I Try is actually a sad story. Gray sings that "we should be together but we're not." She's a prisoner of his love and her world crumbles when he's not near. However, the music and her voice soften the troubled lyrics. Keyboards with chiming and string effects create an understated elegance.
Santana-Maria Maria(down 1 position)
Like Smooth, Maria Maria, the third hit from the huge Supernatural CD, successfully mixes two different styles. Product G & B smoothly sing a soul ballad about a girl like the one in West Side Story while Santana plays cool, relaxed Spanish guitar. With a clean, chunky beat, Maria Maria creates an easy, sexy Latin groove.
Counting Crows-Mrs. Potter's Lullaby(up 4 positions)
This Desert Life has sold a fraction as many units as Counting Crows' two previous records. It's fallen off the top 200 selling records chart and there's no reason to believe Mrs. Potter's Lullaby will get it back on. Still, Mrs. Potter's Lullaby is a likable relaxed rocker in the vein of Mr. Jones, Rain King and Daylight Fading. The song's easy mood makes the nearly eight minutes of Adam Duritz' collage of musings on circuses, Hollywood and his personal problems pass quickly. The music has a smooth Allman Brothers style country rock vibe with relaxed guitar and piano.
Filter-The Best Things(unchanged)
Take a Picture was a dreamy, meditative departure from Filter's normal sound. The Best Things, the third hit from the Title of Record, is more traditional Filter fare. Richard Patrick doesn't seem like a very nice guy but his band knows how to create a big, compelling sound. Patrick obviously learned how to create exciting, assaultive music when he worked with Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails. The Best Things, which is also featured on the new The Crow: Salvation soundtrack, has a barrage of guitars and percussion. Patrick brags about how he differs fron the norm: "the best things in life aren't for me" and puts down others: "you got a green light but you're going nowhere."
Metallica-No Leaf Clover(down 8 positions)
Metallica's music is pretty overblown under any circumstances. Playing with an orchestra in the concerts recorded on the S & M CD would seem to play to their worst, most bombastic instincts. Somehow, while it's way too much and a little silly, the band does find some beauty and meaning in the new setting. No Leaf Clover is pretty pretentious musically but it also has some melodic appeal. The lyrics have the band's typical pessimism. The message is that when things seem to be going well, your luck is bound to change: "that light at the end of the tunnel is just a freight train coming your way."
Destiny's Child-Say My Name(down 3 positions)
The pop charts are dominated these days by groups of pretty, smooth singing white boys and black women. Destiny's Child have already had big r&b hits with Bills, Bills, Bills and Bug a Boo from their Writing's On the Wall CD. Say My Name is their biggest pop hit. It is cool and smooth but doesn't really go anywhere with the idea that a lover, who's "acting kind of shady", should say her name to prove that he's not playing around with another woman. The song mixes things up a couple of times by speeding up and changing the beat but mostly it seems like endless repetition of the title.
Foo Fighters-Breakdown(up 1 position)
Breakdown is the third chart hit from There Is Nothing Left To Lose. It's not quite the pop masterpiece that the brilliantly buoyant Learn To Fly is but it's more fun than the very heavy Stacked Actors. Breakdown most closely resembles the band's fast, exhilarating Monkey Wrench. It isn't complex, just nonstop, hard rocking fun. The lyrics, about Dave Grohl's problems with his therapist, aren't very interesting but the energy of the music is undeniable.
Sonique-It Feels So Good(down 3 positions)
It Feels So Good, from the CD Hear My Cry, is reminiscent of the golden age of disco. It has an efficient, synthetic beat and dramatic string effects made by keyboards, but not much personality. The lyrics are extremely simple, a fairly dopey tribute to her love which keeps her alive, makes her smile when she's down, takes her higher, etc.
Metallica-I Disappearbuy it!
I Disappear is from the Mission Impossible 2 soundtrack. Their S&M live CD loosened up their sound a little and added some melody with the help of a symphony orchestra. I Disappear is a return to their typical humorless, harsh guitar driven sound. The lyrics are as depressing as ever with James Hetfield's angry vocals about how he suffers and that there's "no mercy left for me." It's a tough life apparently. "Just as soon as I belong then it's time I disappear."
Faith Hill-Breathe(down 4 positions)
The title track from the country star's Breathe record is her pop breakthrough. It's not surprising that this glossy country pop ballad is a hit but Breathe is particularly empty musically and lyrically. Hill has no desire to seem like a liberated woman. She spends the whole song swooning about her man and how she's never been this swept away. The music starts decently with an acoustic guitar but soon builds into big, boring soaring choruses.
Sisqo-The Thong Song(up 7 positions)
The Thong Song is from the Unleash the Dragon CD by the Dru Hill singer. The nation's latest novelty hit is silly and insubstantial but fairly unpretentious. The song could do without its lame introduction justifying the song as "letting all the ladies know what guys talk" but the sexism of the song is so obvious and good natured that it's hard to hate. The music is fast, light, energetic and rhythmic. The lyrics are just an excuse to keep getting back to the catch phrase, "let me see that thong."
Enrique Iglesias-Be With You(down 3 positions)
Be With You is pretty generic, if effective, dance music. Iglesias' voice rides fairly effectively with the cold, steady beat though he sounds a little uncomfortable when his singing is rushed(perhaps electronically) to keep up with the beat. Iglesias is generally presented as a macho guy. I don't get why the lyrics make him seem like such a pathetic loser. Iglesias sings about his tears, how his life is meaningless without her and how the sound of her voice could save his soul.
Sting-Desert Rose(down 3 positions)
Desert Rose is a fairly high point in the mellower baby boomer stage of Sting's career. The title track from Sting's Brand New Day was a ridiculously optimistic look ahead to a new millennium. Desert Rose has more to it with good atmosphere from big percussion, Middle Eastern instruments and an introduction sung by an Arabic singer. There's not that much substance under the atmosphere and Sting can't help seeming like he's just dabbling in other cultures but the song, about being in the desert and dreaming of rain and dreaming of love as time rolls through his hands, has a nice, hallucinogenic feel.
Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals-Steal My Kisses(down 3 positions)
Steal My Kisses is a particularly light, fun piece from Harper's Burn To Shine CD. Harper presents himself as a good natured rascal, persisting in working on a hard to get lady. The music keeps the mood easy with a loose electric guitar.
Britney Spears-Oops! . . . I Did It Againbuy it!
The title track from Spears' new CD is nearly a remake of Baby One More Time. It's another piece of pleasant, light dancable synth pop with a little bit of a hard edge. Spears still shows no particular signs of being much of a singer. The lyrics perpetuate the image of Spears being both childlike and a mature temptress as she sings "I'm not that innocent." Oops is about teasing a boy, getting lost in the game and playing with his heart, making him believe they're more than just friends. There's nothing wrong with it except for a lack of depth or substance the preteens are unlikely to mind.
AC/DC-Stiff Upper Lip(down 1 position)
With Brian Johnson's gravity defying screech and the dopey lyrics about keeping a stiff upper lip and shooting from the hip, the title track of the new AC/DC CD comes close to self parody. Still, their fans will probably be happy. It sounds like AC/DC and a it's got a rockin' boogie guitar.
Christina Aguilera-I Turn To Youbuy it!
Turn To You is the third hit from Aguilera's self titled CD. It makes it clear that, while she has often been compared to Britney Spears, she sees her role models and future competition in more respected pop singers like Mariah and Whitney. Aguilera gives showy Carey-like demonstrations of high her vocal range can go and pulls them off pretty well. While Turn To You isn't as gimmicky as her dance pop hits, her voice is still better than the material. The song has an appealingly minimal feel but also a few lyrical clunkers like, "for the strength to be strong." I'm not an expert in such things but doesn't Turn To You sound awfully familiar, just like Celine Dion's Because You Loved Me and a bunch of other pop ballads.
Limp Bizkit-Break Stuff(down 2 positions)
Break Stuff is my favorite of the three chart songs from the Significant Other CD. The song is about Fred Durst having "one of those days" and being in a bad mood and, of course, relations with women are at the heart of his hostility. Still, Break Stuff doesn't have the same detailed misogyny as Nookie and Rearranged. More importantly, with big guitars and a big hip hop beat, Break Stuff has great energy and momentum.
Tracy Chapman-Telling Stories(down 2 positions)
On her new CD, Chapman shows her weakness of often taking things a little too seriously. She relaxes a little on the title track. A nice loose electric guitar keeps things moving. Telling Stories also shows the positive side of Chapman's seriousness. Her writing and singing is characteristically simple, direct and poignant as she tells how a lie can be better than the truth.
Marc Anthony-You Sang To Me(down 1 position)
You Sang To Me is the second hit from Anthony's self titled CD, the first primarily English language solo record for the Latin music star. Like on I Need To Know, the more danceable first single, Anthony comes across as a sweet, decent guy. You Sang To Me is a pleasant, if unremarkable, love song. Synths create an easy mood and there are touches of acoustic guitar and an accordion towards the end. You Sang To Me is about falling in love with a long time friend. Anthony is very sincere as he sings about how she "showed me what life needs to be."
Bob Dylan-Things Have Changed(unchanged)
Dylan's renaissance, which began with his Time Out of Mind CD, continues with this track from the Wonder Boys soundtrack. Dylan continues the persona he used on Time Out of Mind of the cranky old guy who's known heartache so many times that he's almost giving up on love. He sings of being a "worried man with a worried mind" who "used to care but things have changed." But the flip side of the persona is not worrying about looking foolish, dreaming of love "as time slips through my hands", feeling "like falling in love with the first woman I meet." Dylan seems to be have fun with the light, jaunty musical tone with a loose vocal over an relaxed slide guitar and easy bluesy mood.
Melissa Etheridge-Enough of Me(unchanged)
Like Angels Would Fall, the first single from the Breakdown CD, and most of Etheridge's recent music, Enough Of Me is sincere, emotional and heartfelt but not particularly enjoyable. Etheridge used to rock. Now she makes glossy, overblown pop that just drags. It seems to me that unless you're really interesting in Etheridge's persona, her screaming how she gave everything(her soul, every ounce of control, her skin, her original sin, her shame, her eternal flame) for her lover who has left her is not that interesting.
Guster-Fa Fa(Never Be The Same)buy it!
Never Be The Same is the followup to the near hit Barrel of a Gun from the band's Lost & Gone Forever CD. Like Dave Matthews and Phish, Guster have apparently listened to some Grateful Dead and like a loose, hip groove. Guster's sound is more minimal, largely based around acoustic guitars but it also has good texture. Never Be The Same has flute, bongos, chimes and horns. Guster's sound is interesting but the lack of a rock and roll charge limits its appeal. The music is more interesting than the lyrics, about a woman who's never satisfied, "always saying something you swear you'll never say again" who'll always end up where she was before.
Savage Garden-Crash and Burnbuy it!
Crash and Burn is the second hit from the Affirmation CD from the very polite Australian easy listening kings. With Crash and Burn, Savage Garden is closer than ever to elevator music. The song is innocuous, inoffensive and totally without edge. The bland vocals assure that you're not alone and if you need to fall apart, I'll mend your broken heart and lots of other lifeless cliches.