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All-Reviews.com Top 50 Songs*:
for the 2nd week of May, 2002

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

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Jimmy Eat World-The Middle    (up 1 position)      buy it!
    The title track from the Arizona based band's latest CD was close to the top 50 when September 11 came and radio stations and Jimmy Eat World's record company decided people didn't want to hear a hard driving rocker called Bleed American. The second single from Bleed American is much lighter poppy punkish fare. Jimmy Eat World's sound has been called "emo-core". If that means they're sincere and energetic and make fast, clean rockers, I guess it's an accurate label.With a tight, stuttering guitar, a steady bass line and Jimmy Adkins' sunny vocals, 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Linkin Park-In The End    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Linkin Park's first two singles from the Hybrid Theory CD   communicated youthful turmoil with raging hard rock and Chester Bennington's loud, nasty yell. In The End is less harsh and confrontational as the band move into Limp Bizkit territory. In The End is effective but very familiar, closely tracking Limp Bizkit's angry but catchy mix of rap, hard rock and vaguely sinister keyboards. Linkin Park have a slight advantage over Limp Bizkit since Mike Shinoda's rap, while fairly simplistic, isn't as stupid as Fred Durst's typical rant. Shinoda and Bennington alternate vocals, looking back bitterly at a failed relationship.

  6. Nickelback-Too Bad    (unchanged)      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."

  7. Staind-For You    (unchanged)      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.

  8. P.O.D.-Youth Of The Nation    (unchanged)      buy it!
    I got more angry feedback about P.O.D.'s hit Alive, which I called self righteous and silly, than about any other song I've ever written about. My beef with Alive is that, while many have adopted it as an uplifting anthem, it's really just about how good Sonny Sandoval feels and how bold he is for proclaiming his religious devotion. I'm not a big fan of the second hit from P.O.D.'s Satellite CD either. On Youth Of The Nation, Sandoval attempts to speak for others, briefly describing a school shooter and a couple of his victims. Sandoval is well intended but his ideas aren't particularly insightful: it can be tough to be a kid these days and the random loss of a child's life is especially tragic. Perhaps the only surprise is the thought that one of the victims would feel for his attacker ("maybe this kid was reaching out for love" "or maybe this kid just wanted to be hugged"). The music, with a beat, guitar, keyboards and backing vocals, has an appropriately ominous mood, but it's pretty generic modern rock. Sandoval's tough guy hip hop vocal and lyrics about "the sound of a gat" and taking "two to the chest" seem inconsistent with the general themes of innocence and sympathy. And the Another Brick In The Wall style kids chorus finale, with the idea that the band is speaking for a generation, seems presumptuous and exploitative.

  9. Sheryl Crow-Soak Up The Sun    (up 1 position)      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. Korn-Here To Stay    (up 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.

  11. Chad Kroeger with Josey Scott-Hero    (up 10 positions)      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."

  12. 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.

  13. Puddle Of Mudd-Drift And Die    (up 2 positions)      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.

  14. Godsmack-I Stand Alone    (down 1 position)      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".

  15. Pink-Don't Let Me Get Me    (down 1 position)      buy it!
    The former Alicia Moore tells us on Don't Let Me Get Me that since school, when she dated teachers and got into fights, she's done things that get her in trouble and make her hate herself. The context of the song is Pink's decision to toss the sleek dance pop sound of her Can't Take Me Home CD for the more rocking arrangements on Missundaztood. Pink seems genuinely conflicted. She knows that slick music and marketing made her a star and sounds genuine as she refers admiringly to Britney("she's so pretty"). Still, she resents the advice of Arista exec LA Reid to change "everything you are" and finds the music that made her successful irritating. Don't Let Me Get Me also avoids the calculated, synthetic sound of her first CD's hits but it isn't as striking a departure as the buoyant, raucous B-52's influenced Get The Party Started. Pink and her Missundaztood collaborator ex 4 Non Blonde Linda Perry have constructed a song with a pleasant, adult sound. Especially towards its end, when a yearning guitar kicks in, Don't Let Me Get Me reminds me of Natalie Imbruglia's Torn. Its crisp if unexciting beat and compact synth riff also brings to mind the kind of restrained synth pop hit that was common in the mid 80s.

  16. System Of A Down-Toxicity    (unchanged)      buy it!
    It's probably not the main effect they're shooting for but I like System Of A Down because they're fun. Their powerful music and Serj Tankian's singing can shift in a moment from thoughtful to manic, creating an unpredictability that's nearly absent in contemporary rock. Toxicity's verses, with forboding guitar and Serj's brooding vocal, explode into choruses of Serj's rant and big guitars and drums. As Toxicity, the title track and second hit from the band's latest CD, reaches its conclusion, it becomes even more chaotic, finishing with fast hardcore style thrashing guitar and drums and Serj's bizarre chant: "when I became the sun, I shone life into the man's heart." I like System Of A Down's passion and the fact that their songs are about more than their petty personal problems. I'm not exactly sure what Toxicity is about but I guess it has something to do with capitalism and the fact that even if big business thinks it owns and can ruin the world it can't control the world's natural disorder.

  17. Unwritten Law-Seein' Red    (unchanged)      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.

  18. Michelle Branch-All You Wanted    (unchanged)      buy it!
    I assume that a large number of Michelle Branch's fans are girls in their early teens who have outgrown or are too cool for Britney or Christina. Branch's songs have the feel of schoolgirl poetry and are probably heavily influenced by Alanis and Jewel's youthful, searching and intense work. All You Wanted doesn't have the rocking energy of Everywhere, the first hit from Branch's Spirit Room CD, but it has a similar sincere charm. Branch isn't a great singer but her voice has an open, innocent appeal. All You Wanted's music, with a steady, perky beat and good sprinklings of rock guitar is simple, modest and likable. All You Wanted is a sweet story of volunteering to "save" someone who seemed to have everything together but needs "someone to show you the way."

  19. Ashanti-Foolish    (up 4 positions)      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."

  20. Fat Joe featuring Ashanti-What's Luv?    (unchanged)      buy it!
    What's Luv is the first mainstream hit for South Bronx native Joseph Cartagena. Fat Joe, like Ja Rule before him, has made the pop charts by placing his rough voice into a light hip hop setting. What's Luv is laid back and slight like Ja Rule's hits and perhaps even more engaging. What's Luv sounds like Ja Rule's Always On Time and the remixes of J. Lo's I'm Real and Always On Time, which is not surprising, considering that many of the same people were involved in making each record. Fat Joe's voice isn't polished but his parts are wrapped with a relaxed beat in a catchy, bubbly synth riff and surrounded by choruses with Ashanti's ultrasweet singing and Ja Rule's distinctively cocky voice. What's Luv's lyric doesn't say much beyond it's what's love got to do with it(as long as we trust each other) chorus. Fat Joe tells us he doesn't care if you've got a man or whether you're "the office type or like to strip" as long as you have "thick hips" and don't "talk too much." What's Luv is from Fat Joe's Jealous One Still Envy CD(his 1997 CD was called Jealous Ones Envy so he presumably will eventually get around to a CD called something like Jealous Ones Still Envy my Phat Heaviness).

  21. Moby-We Are All Made Of Stars    (up 14 positions)      buy it!
    Moby's new CD is called 18, reportedly because the songs are based on music Moby was listening to in the early 80's when he was that age. You have to go back a few years earlier to We Are All Made Of Stars's most obvious influence: David Bowie's 70's work; most specifically Heroes. We Are All Made Of Stars has Heroes' patient pace and soaring guitar line. As on Heroes, an icy musical atmosphere contradicts the lyrics' optimism. In a distanced, filtered voice, Moby sings about being part of an unstoppable, growing movement that heralds the future. We Are All Made Of Stars also brings to mind Bowie's Starman, futuristic synth songs like Gary Numan's Cars and Porcelain from Moby's great 1999 Play CD. Nothing about We Are All Made Of Stars quite strikes me like the "this is goodbye"s of Porcelain's stark masterpiece of a dream evocation and the music isn't as original as on many of Play's brilliant constructions. Still, I find We Are All Made Of Stars' contrast between cold, synthetic verses and a warmer chorus, where Moby's earnest vocal overcomes the dark, mechanical mood, compelling and moving.

  22. Shakira-Underneath Your Clothes    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Before she made the Laundry Service CD, Colombian pop star Shakira Mebarak apparently studied American pop. Especially in its first half, Underneath Your Clothes sounds a lot like The Bangles' Eternal Flame. Like that song, Underneath Your Clothes is corny but gets real poignance from a sincere vocal and solemn backing. With subdued drums and keyboards, Underneath Your Clothes maintains has a serious tone. However Shakira's singing, with her tendency to pinch certain vocal lines and add little yodels to others, can't help but spice things up. The lyrics also find a slightly new and odd way to express a standard love song idea. Instead of beneath the surface or in his heart or soul, she finds her man's "endless story" and the place where she gets credit for "being such a good girl" underneath his clothes. With Penny Lane style horns, Underneath You Clothes achieves a goofy majesty.

  23. Nickelback-How You Remind Me    (down 14 positions)      buy it!
    How You Remind Me, from Nickelback's Silver Side Up CD, is practically a Nirvana sampler. You can play name that tune as it resembles Come As You Are, Lithium and countless other songs. Chad Kroeger is ever so serious and humorless as he sings about being "sick inside without a sense of feeling" after a breakup. Still, How You Remind Me works because it makes good use of familiar tools. Like Nirvana, Nickelback use the thrill of rock dynamics, shifting from quiet verses to choruses with sweeping power chords. How You Remind Me has a big, tight sound. The lyrics have the self pity of a lot of recent rock but avoid the nastiness and excess of many of Nickelback's contemporaries.

  24. Vanessa Carlton-A Thousand Miles    (up 2 positions)      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.

  25. Jennifer Lopez-Ain't It Funny    (down 6 positions)      buy it!
    Ain't It Funny, the fourth single from the J. Lo CD, is pleasant, innocuous dance pop. With a touch of Latin flavor, Ain't It Funny is similar to Madonna's La Isla Bonita but its rigid beat and repetitive shape mean it's less interesting. Lopez' voice is slightly less hidden in electronics than usual. Lopez' vocal on Ain't It Funny sounds like her speaking voice. It's thin and a little whiny but at least it sounds fairly real, at least until the studio vocal pros take over for the slick, familiar chorus. Ain't It Funny is about trying to overcome differences and memories of romantic failure to make a relationship with a seemingly perfect guy work. Like I'm Real, Ain't It Funny has been rereleased in a "remix" featuring Ja Rule which is nearly a totally different song. With a minimal beat and sly, relaxed synths, the new version of Ain't It Funny, available on the new J To Tha L-O remix CD, is significantly better and more interesting than the generic dance pop of the original though it is hampered by a similarity to the I'm Real remix. Lopez is comfortable with a cool, restrained vocal which doesn't show her limitations as much as when she sings all out. Her confident singing matches the new lyrics. Unlike the original where she anxiously hopes that things can work out with her guy, the remix finds her taunting a guy who played around when they were together with the fact that he blew his chance. Lopez has found a dynamite formula: releasing a record with perky, heavily produced dance pop versions of her songs that appeal to mainstream pop stations then releasing sleek, minimal versions that establish her cred with urban R&B audiences. The best part is she gets a lot of people to buy both records.

Songs 26-50


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