Eric Clapton-Superman Inside(down 1 position)
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.
Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya & Pink-Lady Marmalade(up 9 positions)
As it did 25 years ago, Lady Marmalade brings to my mind a junior high school kid showing off naughty words she's learned to her friends in French class. The new version, from the soundtrack of the movie Moulin Rouge, closely tracks Labelle's original and is fairly pointless. It seems like the main purpose of the remake is to provide an excuse for its young singers to play dress up in a sexy video. The funk rock backing is fairly similar to the original's. Only Lil' Kim's good, tight rap adds something new. Her tough, bottom line attitude is far from the 70s record's romanticized tale of a prostitute who helps a guy have a brief, transcendental escape from "his gray flannel life." The production moves efficiently, giving each of the confident young women a chance in the spotlight. Mya is the least distinctive. Pink isn't the greatest singer, but she's self assured and full of personality. Christina Aguilera is typically showy and over the top.
Oleander-Are You There?(down 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 ."
Nelly-Ride Wit Me(up 1 position)
Nelly's second top 50 hit has his trademark easily flowing sound and fast, relaxed rap. Ride Wit Me is even smoother than Country Grammar's title track and has a good, likable feel, except for the dopey yelled "must be the money" interruptions. Ride Wit Me has another cocky, kind of silly rap celebrating getting high, girls glad to satisfy and being able to mock people who said he was a failure, with his dough and Benz.
Nelly Furtado-I'm Like A Bird(up 2 positions)
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.
Shaggy-Angel(down 5 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-Hemorrhage(down 13 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.
Linkin Park-Crawlingbuy it!
Linkin Park's first rock hit was noisy and nasty but its stomping "one step closer to the edge and I'm about to break" hook was stirring and catchy. Crawling, the second single from the Hybrid Theory, has higher pretentions. It's a Korn style mix of synth atmospherics and hard rock. Linkin Park's sound is engineered to appeal to disaffected male youths. Crawling has a touch of Mike Shinoda's rap, meaningful, troubled lyrics on the verses and Brad Delson's big guitars and Chester Bennington's unpleasant, full throated yell on the chorus. The lyrics, similar to those of many recent rock songs about troubled males, are pretty bad. Bennington complains about being controlled by a lack of contol and of "crawling in my skin."
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.
Blues Traveler-Girl Inside My Head(up 6 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 new bassist Tad Kinchla, brother of guitar player Chad, and Popper. Girl Inside My Head is about a guy making himself crazy, thinking about a woman he lusts after. He's not sure whether he should let her know what he's really like or play the "jungle cat" and worries that she might actually be nice to him.
A Perfect Circle-The Hollow(down 5 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.
Lenny Kravitz-Again(down 2 positions)
It's galling to me that someone's decided that Lenny Kravitz's uninspired Hendrix and Sly Stone retreads deserve a greatest hits CD. Still, this new song isn't as annoying as most of his work. It has a nice groove with a good bass and drums high in the mix. Kravitz' vocals are typically complacent and his lyrics are pretty terrible as he sings about hearing a cry in his soul and about never having "a yearning quite like this before" and wondering if he'll ever see his "sacred gift of heaven" again. Kravitz also pulls off an awful, cliched rock guitar solo in the middle. However, while Again is pretty insubstantial, it has a appealingly easy mood.
Weezer-Hash Pipe(up 7 positions)
It's been five years since the release of Pinkerton, a good, fun pop rock CD that sold disappointingly. Weezer should regain some of their audience with Hash Pipe, the first single from their Green Album. It rocks harder than anything they've done before. Weezer previously mixed rock guitars, poppy hooks and a sense of humor. On Hash Pipe, they just want to rock. Brian Bell and Rivers Cuomo make a big, menacing guitar sound. Cuomo starts the song singing a hook like Lita Ford's Kiss Me Deadly in a forceful falsetto, as if he wants to be Robert Plant or Geddy Lee. He generally sings without his earlier tentativeness. The only humor comes from the sense that the band must be goofing in so strongly embracing arena rock and wacky lyrics like "these players come to get me 'cause they like my behind." With its whoa-oohs on the chorus, Hash Pipe sounds great. The band create the exhilaration of good hard rock without too much excess.
MTV's now playing a remix of Stutter. The second pop hit from the My Name Is Joe CD needed a little more edge. Stutter is inoffensively sleek with bland verses. The chorus is better but repetitive, telling us over and over that he can tell she's lying because when she's replying, she stutters. Joe has a decent, smooth voice but Stutter only really comes alive on Mystikal's angry, attitude filled rap.
S Club 7-Never Had A Dream Come True(down 2 positions)
The marijuana arrest of some of the S Club kids is the most interesting thing about this boring, squeaky clean British addition to the Radio Disney crowd. The lyrics, about having trouble moving on after the end of a once prefect relationship, aren't awful, just familiar. Jo O'Meara tries to add a little soul and her singing isn't as bad as Britney's on the similar From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart. But the music is bland even for the genre. The violins are ladled on and the dramatic drums and keyboards should be backing a bad easy listening lounge act. Never Had A Dream Come True was first an English single benefitting a children's charity. It was later added to S Club 7's 7 CD.
U2-Walk On(down 4 positions)
Walk On, the second chart hit from All That You Can't Leave Behind, shows how U2 have returned to the sincerity and idealism of their 80's work but express it in a more subtle, mature way. Walk On is a tribute to Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her brave struggle against the repressive Burmese government. Bono's admiration is clear as he sings, "you could have flown away, a singing bird in an open cage who will only fly for freedom." But Walk On avoids the stridency of the band's early political songs. Bono's vocal is appealingly restrained. The music, with The Edge's glistening guitar line, has a quiet beauty as well as a solid Larry Mullen beat.
Dream-This Is Mebuy it!
Except in self confidence, the young women of Dream, the latest addition to Puff Daddy's show biz empire, are mediocre in every way. They've become MTV stars despite looks, dancing skills and voices that are, at best, average. Perhaps the youth of America like their stars unthreateningly ordinary. Dream vaguely recalls 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 sound a little like N Sync with an even more lightweight sound and thinner voices.
New Found Glory-Hit Or Miss(down 1 position)
Fast, three chord power pop isn't as hot as it was at its 80's peak but it's still around and still fun if done with good energy and not too much seriousness. New Found Glory resemble Green Day, the model for the recent breed of post punksters, and Blink 182 as they have a good, dopey time with a likable, very simple song. Hit or Miss, from the band's self titled CD, is a bittersweet reminisence of a recently ended relationship. Jordan Pundik fondly remembers "the time we realized Thriller was our favorite song" but also sings that for her it was "simple to lie."
The Wallflowers-Letters From The Wasteland(down 1 position)
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."
Poe-Hey Prettybuy it!
On her 1995 Hello CD, Poe sometimes seemed more concerned with gimmicky attention grabbing than actually making good music. Hey Pretty, from Poe's second CD Haunted, is also based on a contrivance but it's so striking that it's hard to resist. Hey Pretty is based on a passage from House Of Leaves, a book by Poe's brother Mark Danielewski. On the verses, Mark reads a tale of an encounter with a temptress in a BMW. Poe's attitude filled vocal is well used on the chorus as she plays the woman inviting the guy to take a ride into her world. The atmospheric synths and beat complete the song's cool, seductive mood.
Samantha Mumba-Baby Come Over(unchanged)
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."
Stabbing Westward-So Far Awaybuy it!
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 very serious, soaring rock 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 through these walls" that separate him from his love. The chorus("every time that I touch you, it feels so far away") is almost catchy.
K-Ci & Jojo-Crazy(unchanged)
Recently, smooth African American love men have been seriously outnumbered at top of the pop charts by R&B divas and white teen pop singers. K-Ci & Jojo Hailey, brothers who were formerly members of Jodeci, return to the charts with a soul ballad from their X CD. They're one of three groups that entered the top 50 within a week in January with a very mellow song about a guy who's nothing without his woman and is willing to do anything for her. K-Ci & Jojo seem like better singers than 98 Degrees and BBMak but their delivery is ridiculously overemotive. The pathetic lyrics apologize for being a fool, beg for her to come back and repeat how obsessed he is with her. Crazy has easy listening backing with a restrained beat and tasteful piano though the chorus tries to spice things up by distorting the voices with a silly vocoder effect. Crazy is also on the Save The Last Dance soundtrack. It's had incessant play on MTV which, not coincidentally, produced Save The Last Dance.
Shawn Colvin-Whole New You(down 2 positions)
The title track for the Whole New You CD isn't as striking as Colvin's fluke smash hit Sunny Came Home but it's another nice addition to her body of smart, tuneful adult pop rock singles like Steady On and Round Of Blues. Colvin gives a friend a pep talk, advising "shake the loneliness and shine the light." Whole New You has a good, easy feel with understated but effective guitar and keyboards. The chorus is likable and it's probably not Colvin's fault that it reminds me of Starship's 80's relic Nothing Gonna Stop Us Now.
Old 97's-King Of All The World(unchanged)
Old 97's are usually modest twangers, respectful to their country rock roots and not too showy. King Of All The World, from the Satelite Blues CD, finds the band getting off on the thrill of power chords. Rhett Miller is appealingly exuberant, paying tribute from the road to a woman "who turned the power on" when he was "in a real bad way" and hoping "to go back to the world when I was the king of all of the world." Guitar players Ken Bethea and Miller give the song a good, stomping energy.