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All-Reviews.com Top 50 Songs*:
for the 5th week of May, 2004

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

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  1. Hoobastank-The Reason    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Out Of Control, the first chart hit from The Reason, didn't last long on the chart. It looked like Hoobastank might disappear for lack of anything to distinguish them from other sensitive hard rockers. But Hoobastank guaranteed themselves a longer shelf life, taking the logical step for a rock band seeking a larger pop audience: putting out a big rock ballad. The Reason CD's title track is the California band's biggest hit. In a compliment and an insult, The Reason has been called the prom theme of 2004. The Reason connects with high school kids' heightened but basic emotions. It's expertly constructed. Doug Robb's vocal is very sensitive. With gentle picking on the verses and power chord strumming on the chorus, Dan Estrin's guitar provides decent variety and dynamics. The Reason effectively reaches a climax with ladled on strings and Robb's heartfelt cry: "the reason is you." The Reason's strengths are its weaknesses. I understand how its emotional approach sweeps people up but The Reason is quite bland. It's very predictable, familiar and a bit heavy handed in its button pushing. The Reason reminds me a lot of Cheap Trick's The Flame, among others. The Reason is basically criticism proof. No matter how banal The Reason is, if people feel that it expresses their emotions who am I or anyone else to say they're wrong. I do feel that the same emotions could be expressed in a more musically interesting way. Robb's lyric is sappy but sweet. He admits that he's made mistakes that put her through pain but he wants a woman to know that she gives him a reason to "continue learning" and "change who I used to be."

  2. Lenny Kravitz-Where Are We Runnin' ?    (up 1 position)      buy it!
    Dig In, from Lenny Kravitz' 2001 Lenny CD, was a pretty perfect piece of psychedelic rock. It was tight and fun. It showed its influences but sounded fresh. Where Are We Runnin', from Kravitz new Baptism CD, is a lot like Dig In but not as perfect. Where Are We Runnin' isn't as developed as Dig In. It's really just a couple of guitar riffs. In some ways, Where Are We Runnin' is just an uninspired classic rock pastiche. As on many Kravitz songs, Sly Stone's anarchic spirit is present. But, especially when Kravitz does a spoken part, the odor of BTO's stale 70's hit Takin' Care Of Business is there too. The start of each verse also resembles ZZ Top's Sharp Dressed Man. Where Are We Runnin' isn't very original but it is mostly enjoyable. Where Are We Runnin' is an unpretentious retro rocker. It doesn't have the attitude of some Kravitz songs. Like Dig In, Where Are We Runnin' has a big, buoyant beat. It also has a fun, fuzzy metallic guitar sound. Where Are We Runnin' is a little like Are You Gonna Go My Way. It doesn't have that song's energy but it also doesn't have that song's sense that Kravitz is showing off that he can replicate his guitar heroes' moves. Where Are We Runnin' is short, simple decent guitar rock. On Where Are We Runnin', Kravitz decides that a life "chasin' the money" in the fast lane is "cloggin' up our soul" and that "we need some time to clear our heads."

  3. Maroon 5-This Love    (down 1 position)      buy it!
    Maroon 5 used to make bouncy alternative pop as Kara's Flowers. When their records didn't sell very well, they retooled and came back, with nearly the same personnel, as Maroon 5. The makeover worked. This Love is Maroon 5's second big hit from their debut Songs About Jane CD. Harder To Breathe was slick pop with a good hook but it struck me as cynical and cold. This Love was also carefully constructed with an eye on the pop charts but it's a little looser and warmer. This Love reminds me of the perky 70s pop of The Partridge Family and others. This Love's scratchy guitar riff, keyboards and steady beat give it a bouncy sound. Adam Levine's singing is a bit narcissistic but it's mostly relaxed and playful. Levine sings that a relationship with a girlfriend who acts like love is "a game, pretending to feel the same then turn around and leave again" is taking its toll. But on This Love's buoyant bridge he vows to keep making "sure everything's alright", " 'cause I know that's what you want me to do." This Love is disposable but very well made and charming pop.

  4. Jet-Cold Hard Bitch    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Are You Gonna Be My Girl, the big hit from Jet's Get Born CD, seems like a tribute to late 60s/early 70s psychedelic rock by bands like The Faces and The Stones. With crunching guitar reminiscent of fellow Australians AC/DC, Cold Hard Bitch shows a different, harder side of Jet's music. Jet only want Cold Hard Bitch to be big, tough, stupid hard rock and they reach that goal. Nic Cester shows that he's knows, from repeat listens to You Shook Me All Night Long and Highway To Hell, how to play tight, blugeoning power chords. Cam Muncey has the voice to carry off Cold Hard Bitch. His ragged but assertive howl is strong enough to fight with the guitars and have enough left for a Daltreyesqe climactic wail. Cold Hard Bitch has the stirring power of good simple arena rock. It's effective but dopey. Cold Hard Bitch brings to mind The Darkness' ridiculously faithful reenactments of 70s rock. The Darkness make their songs, especially I Believe In A Thing Called Love, work by lovingly mocking the music they skillfully bring back to life. Muncey's punctuating yeahs and the too provocative to be serious title imply that Cold Hard Bitch is a bit of a goof. But the joke isn't as fun or inclusive as The Darkness'. Cold Hard Bitch is best appreciated as well made, no frills head banging rock. Cold Hard Bitch's title is apparently meant as a compliment. Muncey sings that at first she was "just a kiss on the lips" then "I was on my knees" waiting for her.

  5. Blink 182-I Miss You    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Blink 182's self titled new album is a nice step forward towards a more complex, adult sound. Sometimes when they mix their trademark youthful, rocking style with a darker, more cerebral feel, Blink 182's songs aren't as smart as they want to be and the new seriousness results in less catchy melodies. A few of the songs, like Go, Asthenia and Always, are just fun, fast rockers that could have been on earlier Blink records. But much of Blink 182 shows growth and is enjoyable. Feeling This effectively incorporates hip hop into Blink 182's sound. All Of This has great percussive atmosphere and a sly, deadpan guest appearance by The Cure's Robert Smith. I Miss You has impressive depth and power. It's nicely restrained and muted, showing subtlety not normally associated with Blink 182. Blink 182 play acoustic instruments on I Miss You. Mark Hoppus plays stand up bass. Travis Barker's drumming is typically quick and precise. His subdued pounding gives a brooding song direction and, using brushes, adds texture. I Miss You's verse loops a quiet scraping guitar sample. The chorus has a haunted feeling. A striking organ adds a spooky, old fashioned sound. Chimes and simple piano complement the stark soundscape. Hoppus' flatter, less showy voice introduces I Miss You's mournful tone. Tom DeLonge then takes over. He doesn't have his usual exuberance but his bratty voice singing "don't waste your time on me, you're already the voice inside my head" suggests a more complicated situation than do Hoppus' solemn miss yous. I Miss You is a good, complex song that ranks with Blink 182's best singles.

  6. Velvet Revolver-Slither    (up 1 position)      buy it!
    Velvet Revolver was put together by former Guns N' Roses guitar player Slash, bass player Duff McKagan and drummer Matt Sorum. They tried different singers then got together with Stone Temple Pilots' Scott Weiland for Set Me Free, for the Hulk soundtrack. The guys got along and after STP broke up, probably because of Weiland's drug use, Weiland was available for a full time gig. Weiland was invited, even if that meant interrupting recording for Weiland's court dates and rehab stay. Slither indicates that Velvet Revolver's members are working pretty well together. Slither, from the band's Contraband CD, is no nonsense hard rock with a classic feel. Slash is Slither's star, making all sorts of exciting sounds. Slash plays a memorable, tough central riff that, along with Sorum's dependable pounding and Dave Kushner's chunky, driving rhythm line, keeps Slither racing forward. Slash's fun, showy solo is reminiscent of ones he did on songs like Sweet Child O' Mine. While he can be a jerk and a screwup, Weiland is a good rock singer. Weiland stays focused and shows his ability to do be tough and slithery. He doesn't have Axl Rose's flamboyance. After Slash's solo, you half expect Rose's piercing shriek and it's a bit of a disappointment when, instead, you get Weiland sounding a bit like The Cult's Ian Astbury in a bad mood. Slither might not reach the same transcendence as Guns N' Roses' best songs but it is tight, vibrant hard rock. On Slither, Weiland sings about someone who destroys him, keeps him under her finger and cuts the rope and brings him to his knees. Weiland still sees "pleasure in my mind" and a chance to "wash away the sins of you and I."

  7. Linkin Park-Lying From You    (up 1 position)      buy it!
    Male teens can't get enough earnest, troubled screeds. Meteora is another multiplatinum record for Linkin Park. Lying From You is Meteora's fourth chart hit. Lying From You is nothing new for Linkin Park. Mike Shinoda rapping is again pretty mediocre. Maybe the white kids appreciate the fact that he tries really hard and the fact that, unlike talented rappers, he has an awkward delivery that makes him sounds like one of them. Chester Bennington's howling is more interesting and skilled but it's the same old raving. His rage has long since lost its shock value. Bennington wailing "youuuuu" is so unsurprising and so much like his rants on other songs that it seems like self parody. Lying From You's sci-fi synths and guitars, processed with post production help from Pro Tools software, also sound kind of familiar but at least they lend a sense of drama to a song that's otherwise has a fill in the blanks sameness. Lying From You is about a person who faked a persona to make a relationship work. He "can't pretend I'm who you want me to be." Partly to protect her from "the criminal I am", he decides "I wanna be pushed aside."

  8. Jet-Are You Gonna Be My Girl    (down 2 positions)      buy it!
    Jet follow The Vines as a band from Australia making hard hitting rock and roll. Jet differ from The Vines in seeming less ambitious, pretentious and obnoxious. On Are You Gonna Be My Girl, from the Melbourne band's Get Born CD, Jet are a band having a good time. With their hand claps and tambourines, Jet very obviously borrow from rocking mid-60s British bands like Rolling Stones, Faces and The Who but they seem natural rather than studied or showy. Unlike Black Crowes, for instance, Jet don't seem to show off their resemblance to their heroes. Nic Cester and Cam Muncey give Are You Gonna Be My Girl great energy, mixing up a stomping rhythm guitar line with a good, twisty lead. Muncey has plenty of charisma and a strong voice with a good rock and roll edge. He easily holds his own against the guitars' force and the song doesn't flag when he sings on his own while the guitars take break. Are You Gonna Be My Girl encourages comparisons to lots of different songs. Towards the end, the guitars have the "channelling The Stooges" feel of Strokes songs like Last Nite. Are You Gonna Be My Girl doesn't sound original but it is fun and energetic. Are You Gonna Be My Girl has an appropriately simple, retro lyric. Muncey tells a girl that "you look so fine" that "I really wanna make you mine."

  9. 311-Love Song    (unchanged)      buy it!
    The Cure haven't released a new record in four years but they and Robert Smith are red hot. Smith sings lead on a good song from Blink 182's new record, the Hewlett Packard advertisements featuring Pictures Of You are all over the tv and 311's cover of Love Song is a hit. The soundtrack for Adam Sandler's 50 First Dates features covers of 80's new wave songs, including Love Song and Friday I'm In Love, mostly done by reggae and ska acts. Love Song also marks another comeback for 311, whose 2003 Evolver record disappeared fairly shortly after it was released. They always find a way of coming back when it looks like their career has faded. 311's version of Love Song is pretty much what you'd expect from the amiable, laid back LA based guys who got together in Omaha in 1980. They keep the original's melody and guitar riffs and add a ska skank, crisp beat and mellow vibe. 311's Love Song works both as a faithful, well played tribute to the original and as smooth, easy to listen stoner music. It's not exciting or daring but it sounds good. The only surprise about Love Song is that guitar player Tim Mahoney sings lead. There's no sign that Mahoney is much of a singer. You can hear him struggling to hit notes. But Mahoney's unpolished vocal gives the song a personal feel. I can imagine the slick, glib job Nick Hexum, 311's regular singer, would have done. It's not a pretty picture. 311's Love Song isn't remarkable but it is charming. Love Song is notable as about the most positive song The Cure ever did. Smith avoided his usual doubt and ambiguity to write a very sweet, simple love song. The song just says that a woman makes him feel home, whole, young, fun, free and clean again and that he'll always love her. Its universality and lack of pretension and the sincerity Smith and Mahoney bring to it keep it from being cliched or maudlin.

  10. A Perfect Circle-The Outsider    (up 1 position)      buy it!
    It's difficult for me to imagine listening to an entire Maynard James Keenan CD in one sitting. It's hard for me to make it through each dark song of thick guitars, booming drums and Keenan's howling and raging. The Outsider isn't A Perfect Circle's best song but it's another example why, with APC and Tool, Keenan is one of the best of the many angry young white rock guys. Keenan and APC co-founder Billy Howerdell, who produced and wrote The Outsider, know how to create a dramatic sound. The music gains force by moving slowly, with layers of guitars in place all along the way. Keenan's vocal warily moves forward in irregular spurts, as if he's trying to keep things in but his rage forces him to blurt things out and then work himself into a frenzy. Band member Josh Freese, who's also a very in demand studio drummer for everyone from Avril Lavigne and Kelly Clarkson to The Offspring and Good Charlotte, heightens The Outsider's tension with his pounding. The Outsider has a potent, focused sound, which loses appeal only because we've heard it before. The Outsider's lyric is more problematic. The targets of Keenan's rage are usually better chosen than on the nasty, angry Outsider, where Keenan seems more mean than troubled. It can be frustrating to deal with a depressed person who seems to talk about suicide just to get attention but The Outsider crosses the line from frustration to callousness. Keenan tells a girlfriend, who's given in to her "reckless dark desires", that he doesn't "wanna watch you" "throw it away like this." Just to make it clear that "I'm over this", he calls her a medicated, "narcissistic drama queen" and a "suicidal imbecile." Keenan finishes The Outsider with the sweet thought: "if you choose to pull the trigger, should your drama prove sincere, do it somewhere far away from here."

  11. Godsmack-Running Blind    (down 1 position)      buy it!
    The Other Side is a seven song acoustic ep that includes new songs and new versions of older Godsmack songs. The Other Side seems like an attempt to show that Godsmack are serious artists like Alice In Chains and Nirvana, who released similar acoustic records. Knowing that Staind and others scored top 40 hits with restrained, introspective rock, Godsmack may also be trying to cross over from modern rock to pop radio. Current fans may appreciate the new spin on Godsmack's sound, but it's unlikely it will gain the band a lot of new fans. Running Blind's problem is Sully Erna. I prefer quiet Sully to howling Sully but Erna really isn't suited to doing mellow and thoughtful. Though it's hard to feel sympathy for someone who regularly makes offensive, obnoxious music and has millions of young male fans, Running Blind kind of makes me feel sorry for Erna. I assume he really is trying to make a sensitive statement, he just has no idea how to do it. He doesn't have an empathetic, vulnerable voice. Instead of sounding depressed or sad, Erna still sounds pissed off. He also sounds like he might have a bad stomachache. Erna's cliched songwriting doesn't help. Erna doesn't come up with any imagery that hasn't been used repeatedly in songs by troubled young guys. He has "broken wings" and is "crawling on my knees" and looking for something "to keep me from drowning." Apparently, Sully took a woman for granted thinking: "if I showed you I could fly, wouldn't need anyone by my side." Running Blind's music is fine. With earnestly strummed guitars and quiet percussion, it has all the trappings of a decent MTV Unplugged performance. Tony Rambola plays a pretty good acoustic guitar solo. But Erna's rigid, cold vocal keeps Running Blind from being interesting or appealing.

  12. Shinedown-45    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Shinedown are another band playing derivative neo-grunge rock. 45 is from the Florida band's Leave A Whisper CD. 45's lyric is melodramatic even by the standard of rockers about troubled young guys. Brent Smith sings about a young man who "slowly fell apart", his "heart swallowed by pain." Smith's character is an always condemned young man who thinks "nobody knows what I believe." Since he has "no real reason to accept the way things have changed", he's "staring down the barrel of a .45."

  13. Beyonce-Naughty Girl    (up 3 positions)      buy it!
    Beyonce Knowles continues her impressive run with Naughty Girl, the fourth hit from her Dangerously In Love CD. Naughty Girl apparently won't match Crazy In Love and Baby Boy, which went to #1 on the pop charts, but after a dip with Me, Myself and I, it brings Beyonce back near the top of the top 40. Naughty Girl was produced by Beyonce with Scott Storch who did Baby Boy, Pink's Family Portrait, Justin Timberlake's Cry Me A River and Christina Aguilera's Fighter and Can't Hold Us Down. Naughty Girl doesn't have a lot of heart but it sounds good. Like Baby Boy, Naughty Girl uses exotic sounds to give a good but not great song more edge. Beyonce and Storch constructed a sensual sound that matches Naughty Girl's come ons. Over a brittle beat, Naughty Girl repeats a tense riff with icy synth interjections for additional tension. Backing vocals join Beyonce for whispered enticements. Naughty Girl is obviously inspired by Donna Summer's Love To Love You Baby, which Naughty Girl liberally quotes. It's always a bit of a tease when a pop star claims she's available for sex. But Beyonce is different from Summer. Summer always seemed to believe the fantasy that she wanted to sleep with you. On Naughty Girl, as usual, Beyonce seems somewhat distanced and calculated. She makes it clear that she's a tease. A mediocre rap (including a line about wanting a naughty girl not a good one and one about wanting a relationship not a one night stand) by Houston's rising star Lil' Flip emphasizes that Naughty Girl is a performance, not a depiction of a real erotic encounter. But Beyonce's juxtaposition of seduction and reserve still works. Beyonce does a very sexy vocal. Beyonce does a pretty good sales job, kind of sounding like she means it when she sings about "feeling sexy" and wanting to "hear you say my name." But while saying "the rhythm's got me feelin' so crazy", she's leaves no doubt that she's in control and she'll decide if "I just might take you home." Though it's product from an artist who makes it clear that she makes her decisions with her brain, not her hormones, Naughty Girl is charged and alluring.

  14. Mario Winans featuring Enya and P.Diddy-I Don't Wanna Know    (up 3 positions)      buy it!
    Mario Winans' family have been among the biggest stars in gospel music for more than two decades. Mario left that world to pursue a career in r&b. Winans has appeared on hits by other people, including P. Diddy's I Need A Girl Pt. 2, but I Don't Wanna Know is his first hit as a lead singer. Among the showy, heavily produced songs on the radio, I Don't Wanna Know's stark, subdued sound stands out. A big part of I Don't Wanna Know's appeal comes from its haunting, elegant backing track. I Don't Wanna Know uses a sample from Enya's Boadicea(which Fugees also used on Ready Or Not). I Don't Wanna Know works because Winans' sad, restrained singing matches the backing track. I Don't Wanna Know is best when the muted Enya sample matches Winans' simple, unshowy vocal. It's worst when P. Diddy shows up. Winans records for Diddy's Bad Boy label. That's the only explanation for using P. Diddy's rap. Diddy destroys I Don't Wanna Know's delicate sound. He sounds even more awkward, complacent and unmelodic than usual. Hopefully, Diddy's Broadway acting is smoother and subtler. I Don't Wanna Know's stark arrangement, with a big, simple beat and sadly atmospheric backing, brings Bruce Springsteen's poignant Philadelphia to mind. Winans' sincere reading of the title reminds me of James Ingram's sappy but sweet I Don't Have The Heart. I Don't Wanna Know presents Winans as sad and pathetic. Because a yes would be too painful, Winans can't bring himself to ask his girlfriend if she's cheating. If she's "playin' me", he'd prefer that she'd "keep it to yourself." P. Diddy doesn't have time for such delicacy. He says he knows "my love you abusin'." His strategy for keeping a woman is reminding her that he "put you in the SUV", and gave her so much ice, "I made you freeze." Except for P. Diddy's intrusion, I Don't Wanna Know works. I Don't Wanna Know makes Winans sound like a loser but it has a striking, appealing sound.

  15. Usher-Yeah    (down 1 position)      buy it!
    Yeah, from Usher's Confessions CD, is pretty good dance music. The problem with Yeah is that I feel like I've heard it before. Yeah very closely resembles Get Low. That similarity is not surprising, since Yeah was cowritten and co produced by Get Low vocalist/writer/producer Jonathan "Lil' Jon" Smith. Yeah has a good, catchy synth riff but that riff is nearly identical to Get Low's. Yeah doesn't have Get Low's raucous energy. It has a more polished sound than Get Low. Usher's vocal is fine if fairly innocuous. Yeah is apparently an attempt to give Usher, whose previous hits have been fairly mild, a harder image. Still, Yeah needs some flavor and benefits from Lil Jon's interjections and Ludacris' edgier, less controlled vocal. In a lyric that apparently alludes to his breakup with TLC's Chilli, Usher sings on Yeah about being seduced, somewhat reluctantly, in a club by a "shorty" who turns out to be "best of homies" with Usher's girl. Ludacris takes over at the end and abandons the plot line. In his verse, he brags about his Jag, his Rolls, his three hundred thousand dollar pinky ring and about how he "won't stop 'til I get 'em in they birthday suits." Ludacris' rap is stupid and typical but he gives Yeah some excitement to go with its killer riff. Yeah is well made and sounds fine but it doesn't do much to improve Get Low. In a reminder of the benefits of a familiar sound and a known star with a pretty face, Yeah is an even bigger hit than Get Low was.

  16. Seether featuring Amy Lee-Broken    (up 18 positions)      buy it!
    Last year two songs from Seether's 2002 Disclaimer CD, Fine Again and Driven Under, were rock radio hits. Thanks to an appearance by Amy Lee, Evanescence's hot goth pop rocker, the South African band have their first mainstream hit. A new version of Broken, a Disclaimer song, is on the soundtrack of The Punisher. It's also on Disclaimer 2, which adds previously unreleased tracks to the original CD. Broken is more proof that there's a mediocre folk rocker lurking inside many of today's mediocre hard rockers. Broken is another shameless grab by a rock band for an emotive hit. Broken reminds me of Evanescence's monster hit Bring Me To Life. It doesn't have that song's rap metal elements but it similarly piles on sounds meant to guarantee a hit. Broken has a cliched rock ballad opening: a sensitively picked acoustic guitar. Shaun Morgan soon comes in with a subdued and earnest but intense vocal. The genre's conventions dictate that the sound must keep growing. By Broken's conclusion, Morgan and Lee pour their hearts out and violins play with a ferocity that's overdone even by rock ballad standards. Broken also makes me think of Bother, Stone Sour's hypersensitive 2003 hit. Broken isn't quite as drab and dour as that song. Morgan's pinched, showy singing isn't good or interesting but Lee makes him seem a little better. As on Evanescence's music, Lee is overdramatic but she is a good singer who gives Broken more warmth that the usual introspective rock ballad. Like so much contemporary rock, Broken has a troubled protagonist. Broken does convey a desire to move past the trouble. Broken's character wants to steal his partner's pain away, tell her "I love the way you laugh" and be open but he doesn't have the strength yet. He's even worse "when you're away." Lee sings in the more optimistic second verse, "the worse is over" now that he's with someone who can take his pain away and "there's so much left to learn and no one left to fight. Broken isn't much different from so many rock ballads. It's alternatively boring and bombastic but it's got a bit of heart and it's not the worst the form can offer.

  17. Usher-Burn    (up 5 positions)      buy it!
    I feel that Usher Raymond's music isn't quite good enough to justify its remarkable success. Nonetheless, Usher's impressive roll continues. Yeah!, a competently made and fairly exciting but unamazing and not very original dance song, spent a number of weeks at number one on the pop chart. Burn, the second single from the Confessions CD, returns Usher to the style that brought him many of his hits. Burn is a slow jam with a sensitive vocal. Before releasing Confessions, Usher ended his relationship with TLC's Chilli. Burn is one of Confessions' many breakup songs. Usher tells a woman that he doesn't want to leave her but "it's better for me to let it go now than hold on and hurt you." Though he claims it's best for both of them, he blames her because "I don't think you're gonna change" and admits he's doing it because "I'm hurting baby" and "there's so many other things I gotta deal with." Burn's twist is that by the second verse, they're apart and he's decided he's "made a mistake" and he'll "be burnin' 'til you return." Burn suffers by moving up the pop charts along with Mario Winans' I Don't Wanna Know, another slow, quiet jam with a wounded lover. Burn is well made but not as striking or original as I Don't Wanna Know. Burn, cowritten and produced by Jermaine Dupri and Brian Cox, sounds good. It has a crisp, unobtrusive beat. Burn's music and effects add flavor but stay inobtrusive and fit the song's sad, subdued mood. Usher's singing is pretty good. He shows emotion but doesn't go over the top. Still, Burn is a bit superficial and predictable and it's hard to be too concerned about Usher's dilemmas.

  18. D12 featuring Eminem-My Band    (unchanged)      buy it!
    D12(aka The Dirty Dozen) originally formed in the early 90s. D12's main claim to fame is that in the mid 90s, before becoming a huge solo star, Eminem was a member. Eminem has stuck by D12 and continued to work with them. D12's Devil's Night CD did pretty well but didn't approach the sales of Eminem's solo work. Not surprisingly, D12's pop breakthrough comes on a song focusing on Eminem doing a showy performance. On Eminem Show's Hailie's Song, the most notable previous song where he sang instead of rapped, Eminem did some very sincere singing but started by saying "I can't sing." Eminem seems considerably more confident on My Band, from the D12 World CD, jokingingly whining/singing the chorus. His singing is pretty awful but, like much of what Eminem does, it's strangely compelling and hard to ignore. My Band starts with a spoken section where Eminem sounds like he's doing Ed Norton. Eminem raps a verse in a voice that's less dramatic and more like his speaking voice than usual. As usual, Eminem's rapping is thick with words and theatrics. His technique is typically remarkable as he playfully races through his rap, quick but always in control. He easily slips into a caricature of a groupie crying "dude you fuckin' rock", "won't you please let me suck your cock." My Band presents a slightly parallel world where, rather than the star helping out his rap friends, Eminem is the lead singer of a boy band. The lyric has fun with the dynamics between the pop idol and formerly equal bandmates. Eminem, playing the clueless star, is very funny. He claims to be confused about how "everybody's all jealous" of his devoted female following and the fact the he gets to "do my a capellas." He accuses bandmates of "tryin' to steal the light from me" and "pulling a knife on me 'cause I told him Jessica Alba's my wife to be." My previous impression of D12's other members was pretty terrible. On My Band, their contributions vary from not atrocious to pretty good. They comfortably play the envious colleagues. Swifty McVeigh does an OK hard rap, complaining that "we in a van and in a tour bus" and about a small dressing room and being confused for another member of the group. Kuniva and Kon Artis's verse is an amusing skit. They call Eminem "a punk ass thinkin' he the shit" for "takin' on a flick" and get dissed by him as a group interview becomes a solo. They complain that "our mics are screwed up and his always sound best." When Eminem asks "you got something to say", they clam up, then blame each other("I was 'bout to talk right after you.") Proof does a decent, fast rap, asking why "he get 90 and we only get 10 percent." Bizarre is My Band's coolest and second most entertaining rapper, bragging about his "big ass stomach" and listing the Eminem videos where "I was in the back." Eminem has long had a problem with boy bands. Boy bands have been in decline for a while but Eminem keeps taking shots, mocking the heartthrob emoting "girls why can't you see you're the only one for me and it just tears my ass apart to know that you don't know my name." My Band ends on an appropriately goofy note with Eminem affecting an odd Indian accent as he claims "my salsa makes all the pretty girls want to dance." As with many Eminem songs, My Band has stupid parts but it's packed with interesting bits. Generally, it's quite hilarious. Beneath the kidding around about the spot Eminem and D12 hold in the success food chain, My Band also expresses a sense of affection between Eminem and his old rapping friends. Eminem produced My Band. The recurring, vaguely spooky riff sounds like ones Eminem and Dr. Dre have used before but it's very effective. My Band's music is catchy and the way it matches the notes of Eminem's singing nicely reinforces the song's amusing central theme of a world revolving around Eminem.

  19. Beastie Boys-Ch-Check It Out    (up 6 positions)      buy it!
    Ch-Check It Out is on To The 5 Boroughs, Beastie Boys' first new CD in six years. The Beasties are in their late 30s and have been recording for more than two decades. On Ch-Check It Out, they still seem like kids, goofing around, having a good time and trying to impress us with their rhymes as if they have something to prove. Ch-Check It Out is notably old school. It resembles previous hits like Intergalactic and So What Cha Want and shows little connection with contemporary rap. Ch-Check It Out sounds like a typical Beasties song but it's a well made one. A good, steady beat and a repeated, emphatic sound effect establish an exhilarating context for the barrage of raps. The raps are tightly edited and the rappers come on fast and confidently. Ch-Check It Out's energy never flags. Ch-Check It Out's lyrics are mostly willfully silly boasts but they're also fresh and funny enough to be consistently enjoyable. MCA, his voice sounding rougher than ever, opens by reminding us "I didn't retire." He threatens to snatch up detractors "with the needle nose pliers." Mike D still comes on like a prankish, showing off kid. He oddly brags "like Lorne Greene, you know I get paid" and compares himself to a Caprese salad with basil and to Nick at nite("with classics rerunning that you know all right"). Ad Rock thanks his friends and family for putting him in check "when I think I'm too good" and says "I'm no better than you, except when I rap." But he also works "magic like a magician" and has class "like pink champale." Ch-Check It Out is nothing new but it's a very fun statement that The Beasties still matter and are still making exciting music.

  20. The Offspring-Can't Get My Head Around You    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Can't Get My Head Around You isn't as unpleasant and irritating as Hit That, the first chart hit from The Offspring's Splinter CD, but it reinforces the feeling I got from Hit That: The Offspring really don't seem to have anything else to say, musically or lyrically. Head Around You sounds like other Offspring songs, especially Gotta Get Away, a similar but better song. Head Around You is pretty fast. With Dexter Holland racing through his vocal and Noodles playing speedy, varied guitar parts, Head Around You gains decent momentum. Noodles nicely mixes up different hard rock lines. But besides being familiar, Head Around You isn't very appealing. The reason for that is singer Dexter Holland. Holland's vocal is so harsh and unlikable that you don't want to know what he's ranting about, you just wish he'd shut up. Head Around You's lyric also makes Holland seem kind of like a jerk. He can't understand why someone doesn't see the hole "inside your soul." He complains that "you've managed to bring me down too" and accuses the person of faking. Sounds like the person needs help, not an account of how their problems are hurting Dexter. At least, Can't Get My Head Around You is pretty short and its music is decent and energetic. But we've heard it before when Holland was less annoying.

  21. J-Kwon-Tipsy    (up 3 positions)      buy it!
    Jerrell "J-Kwon" Jones follows Nelly and Chingy as the latest St. Louis rapper with a big hit. 18 year old J-Kwon was supposedly living on the streets, having run away from home in Bellville, Missouri, when he was discovered by the Trackboyz producing team. An audition with Jermaine Dupri(famous for producing hit records and being Janet Jackson's boyfriend) led to J-Kwon getting signed to Dupri's So So Def label. The Trackboyz, Mark Williams and Joe Kent, have worked on hits including Nelly's Air Force Ones and Work It. They produced most of J-Kwon's Hood Hop CD. Trackboyz created a sound on Tipsy that Dupri is said to have described as a fusion of hip hop and a We Will Rock You style rock sound. Tipsy's music, with its crashing big beat, is compelling and stirring. Tipsy's beeping synth noises, which invite comparisons to The Neptunes' production style, give Tipsy a bit of flavor and complete the song's full, powerful sound. Scoring a big hit with the first single from his first CD, J-Kwon has immediately established himself as one of rap's most promising young stars. J-Kwon's voice has a confidence and strength that's remarkable for someone just starting out. His presence is impressive as he slowly and patiently works his way through his rap in a way that says he knows he's good. I like Tipsy's sound. My only beef is with its subject matter. At the risk of sounding like an old fool, I think it would be a better world if teenagers weren't making music, purchased by younger teenagers, presenting a positive view of getting drunk and living a thug life. Tipsy's has pretty typical hip hop lyrics but it's a bit disturbing to hear them from someone so young. Besides celebrating getting drunk, J-Kwon tells us, in a lyric he wrote, about having and threatening someone with a gun, smoking "my blunt", "gettin' head", having a woman "feelin' on my johnson" and needing two condoms.

  22. Modest Mouse-Float On    (up 13 positions)      buy it!
    Float On is a breakthrough hit for Modest Mouse, who formed in Issaquah, Washington more than a decade ago. Modest Mouse's Good News For People Who Love Bad News is a good and interesting CD. Isaac Brock uses different voices, including odd ones, and writes lyrics that are often wacky and bizarre. The rock songs on Good News take all sorts of forms. Without actually sounding like Pavement, they bring to mind that band's(as well as Flaming Lips' and Pixies') unpredictable, exploring rock. On a couple songs, Brock sounds like Talking Heads' David Byrne. Float On is the CD's closest Heads soundalike. Like a good Talking Heads song, Float On is weird but also sounds good and has an irresistible groove. Brock does the Byrne thing of sounding overwhelmed and a little crazy but also communicating a sense of wonder. With Brock's deliberate diction and Benjamin Weikel's shuffling beat keeping the song marching forward, Float On's strange, joyful ride reminds me of Road To Nowhere. Terrific, compact guitar riffs give the song added momentum. Spacy sonic effects accentuate the song's dreamlike feel. Float On has a great opening line. After backing into to a cop car, Brock decides that "sometimes life's OK" when the cop just drives off. Determining that the good comes with the bad, Brock looks on the bright side. "A fake Jamaican took every last dime" with a scam but Brock says "it was worth it just to learn some sleight of hand." Brock's cockeyed optimism mixes with Float On's gleeful music to produce one of the best singles of the year.

  23. Black Eyed Peas-Hey Mama    (up 4 positions)      buy it!
    Where Is The Love, which featured Justin Timberlake's good, unshowy vocal on the chorus, was one of the biggest hits of 2003. Where Is The Love has a majestic quality. It sounds like classic r&b. The subsequent singles from the Elephunk CD have been significantly less substantial. As someone who knew Black Eyed Peas from Where Is The Love and Request Line, their Macy Gray collaboration, I've been surprised by Shut Up and Hey Mama, the silly followups to Where Is The Love. Both have a lightweight, chattery quality and give a lot of prominence to new Black Eyed Pea Stacy "Fergie" Ferguson. Fergie doesn't bring a lot of soulfulness or substance. But lead Pea William "Will.I.Am" Adams, who produced and cowrote Hey Mama and Shut Up, has to be held responsible for Hey Mama's dopeyness. Hey Mama is an knowingly stupid song with not much on its mind beyond asking a woman to "move your booty." With lines like "don't wanna squeeze triggers, just wanna squeeze tits" and "we drop bombs like we in the middle east", Hey Mama is moronic but basically harmless. The rappers' unrelenting perkiness sometimes gives me a headache. The other side of the song's empty headedness is that Hey Mama is unpretentious. Hey Mama is just about having a good time. With steady, good percussion, Hey Mama has jittery energy and good spirits. I don't find Hey Mama as irritating as some people do but it is pretty damn annoying.

  24. Jessica Simpson-Take My Breath Away    (down 1 position)      buy it!
    Jessica Simpson's cover of Take My Breath Away wasn't originally on her In This Skin CD but, taking advantage of Simpson's ever growing stardom, a new version of In This Skin, with Take My Breath Away and a cover of Robbie Williams' Angels, has been released. Take My Breath Away was written by disco king Giorgio Moroder(who's also back on the charts as Beyonce quotes Love To Love You Baby). It was originally recorded by Berlin and, partly thanks to inclusion on the Top Gun soundtrack, was their biggest hit. Take My Breath Away has been covered a bunch of times. It's a favorite of mediocre lounge singers for probably the same reasons that Jessica and her people chose it. Many people are familiar with Take My Breath Away from seeing Top Gun or hearing Berlin's version on the radio. Some probably have an emotional or romantic connection with the song. Take My Breath Away is a sturdy song which builds to a big finish and allows a female singer to do a big, dramatic performance. Simpson does a standard reading, pretty closely tracking the vocal by Berlin's Terri Nunn. Most of Simpson's singing is quite annoying. In the song's quieter first half, her voice is pinched, mannered and unappealing. She actually does better in the song's more challenging second half, holding her notes and stretching them out in a showy but fairly impressive way. Still, Simpson's singing doesn't add anything interesting or new to the original. I guess it's meant to show that Simpson can sing. She kind of can, but not any better than lots of contestants in local talent shows. The new version of Takes My Breath Away is pretty pointless. It has very bland elevator music style backing, with stiff drum machine beats and sterile synths. Like her edible body products, Simpson's cover of Take My Breath Away is a product meant to take advantage of Simpson's hot name, good looks and sexy/innocent image. Besides its familiarity, I don't see any reason for covering Take My Breath Away. It's an easy listening classic but it's also kind of a sappy bore. Take My Breath Away is filled with overheated romance novel imagery. It depicts lovers in a foolish game, "on this endless ocean" and knowing no shame. The singer returns to a "secret place inside" and watches "in slow motion" as he turns and says the song's title. The lyric also has crashed mirrors, fate, anticipation and guys seen "through the hourglass" and slipping away in time.

  25. Lostprophets-Last Train Home    (down 4 positions)      buy it!
    It was inevitable that the hard but atmospheric sound that has dominated American rock radio the last few years would make it overseas. Welsh band Lastprophets join Linkin Park, Hoobastank and so many others in their generation of serious post-grungers. Perhaps they belong in the slightly better company of AFI, Story Of The Year(Last Train Home mixes nicely with Girl's Not Grey and Until The Day I Die) and The Used, whose music resembles the intense, hard rocking Last Train Home. Much of Last Train Home is kind of generic. Last Train Home doesn't stand out much from many similar songs. Singer Ian Watkins' voice has power and emotion but it also has the humorlessness and self importance of many of his colleagues. Last Train Home is still pretty good. Watkins is a strong singer who seems to have some charisma. Last Train Home gets decent tension from a mix of guitar sounds, which range from hard to melodic, interesting, angular drumming and a simple, vaguely menacing piano line. Last Train Home has a catchy chorus that flows into an appealing heartfelt bridge. On that bridge, Last Train Home transcends its formula and reaches an appealing early U2 type idealism as Watkins alternates with hollered backing vocals charmingly chanting "we sing." Last Train Home is impressively big and ambitious and it also has sweetly endearing parts. On Last Train Leaving, Watkins sings about trying to "forget the sorrow" of a love that's disappeared, primarily by deciding to "sing without a reason."

Songs 26-50


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