Stupify is from Disturbed's Sickness CD. Stupify starts with a promise of a mix of hard rock and rap like Rage Against The Machine and Limp Bizkit. It soon degenerates into an unpleasant rage from singer David Draiman, who calls himself a sick animal. The harsh, menacing mood is apparently the appeal of Stupify but the sound certainly doesn't have the full, overwhelming power of bands like Nine Inch Nails. The hard edged guitars and electronics seem a little thin at times. The first verse is an excuse for Draiman to repeatedly spit out a profanity that Gordon Gano of Violent Femmes used more interestingly on Add It Up, telling us he just wanted to have sex once. Because of Draiman's nasty delivery, I don't really care that he lives his life in a daze, his sense of reality slipping and that he's breaking down.
Orgy-Fiction(She Dreams In Digital)(up 2 positions)
Orgy's hard rock/industrial bludgeoning of New Order's Blue Monday may have been my least favorite single of 1999. Fiction, from their new Vapor Transmission CD, isn't as offensive but it's nearly as stupid. The music and lyrics are both cheesy sci-fi. Over hokey electronics, Jay Gordon sings about a robot girl he created who's gone haywire. "Now that control is gone", "my finger's on the kill switch." Whatever. Orgy take the big guitar, big atmosphere sound of bands like Korn and do it in the least interesting way possible.
Madonna-Music(up 2 positions)
The title track from Madonna's new CD shows that an incredibly stupid song can be a hit if it's got a good beat and it's sung by a star. The broad, silly 70's tinged video for Music makes it clear that Madonna knows the song is dopey. That knowing irony, even combined with the occasional clever line like "music makes the bourgeoisie want to rebel", still doesn't stop Music from being a little annoying. You're supposed to be reminded of disco's mindless fun by the simple words: "hey mister d.j., put a record on, I want to dance with my baby." French studio wiz Mirwais Ahmadzai does a good job of laying down the beats and adding the house effects.
Christina Aguilera-Come On Over (All I Want Is You)(up 3 positions)
After showing off her pipes on I Turn To You, the ballad by songwriter to the stars Diane Warren, Aguilera is back to light dance music on the fourth single from her debut CD. Come On Over is a little less gimmicky than her previous hits. The strength and maturity of Aguilera's big soulful voice show that comparisons to Mariah and Whitney are more appropriate than those to Britney. Come On Over is smooth and pleasantly perky. She again is the very available fantasy girl she first played on Genie In a Bottle, telling a guy that she "never felt this way before" and "you've got all I'm looking for."
Pink-Most Girls(up 5 positions)
Most Girls isn't quite as interesting as There You Go, Pink's feisty take on the TLC sound. Most Girls, from her Can't Take Me Home CD, is more routine, but it has an effective groove. The lyrics don't totally ring true but Pink continues to show personality. She sings that, unlike other "flygirls", she's more interested in a real love than a "g" with the "mean green" who gives his girl diamond rings.
Destiny's Child-Jumpin' Jumpin'(unchanged)
Destiny's Child's Writing's On The Wall CD has produced a ton of R & B hits. Jumpin' Jumpin' is their second big pop hit after Say My Name. I found Say My Name repetitive and draggy. Jumpin' Jumpin' is considerably more lively. It has a nonstop, frantic energy with a good, crisp beat and staccato keyboard notes underlining the vocals. Jumpin' Jumpin' is hardly weighty but it has a positive feel to go with its lyrics inviting men and women to leave their partners for a night and go to a happening club.
Blink 182-Man Overboardbuy it!
Blink's 1999 CD Enema of the State was fast, poppy fun. Blink 182 is already back with a new one, The Mark, Travis and Tom Show. Man Overboard is about alternating between having had enough of a friend and wanting to work things out.
Janet Jackson-Doesn't Really Matter(unchanged)
Janet Jackson became a multiplatinum act in the late 80's thanks to the Control record and the tough, no nonsense image she presented with songs like What Have You Done For Me Lately and Nasty. Since then I've found Jackson(now simply calling herself Janet) a little fakey when she's tried to present herself as the innocent girl next door. Still, she is appealing on Doesn't Really Matter as her nearly whispered vocals glide easily over the pleasant, light dance music of the song from the Nutty Professor II soundtrack. The saccharine lyrics match her sweet, too good to be true character from the movie. Janet sings, it "doesn't really matter what the eye is seeing, 'cause I'm in love with the inner being." and "what matters is you're nutty, nutty, nutty for me."
98 Degrees-Give Me Just One Night(Una Noche)(unchanged)
Give Me Just One Night was probably an attempt to jump on the Latin pop bandwagon. The craze was probably peaking just as the group was recording their Revelation CD. Still, the song has a good, jumpy beat, an uncluttered arrangement and an easy energy. There's a chance that Give Me Just One Night's sound could be too sophisticated for the group's pre-teen following but the girls will probably love the cocky persona the dopey lyrics project. Nick Lachey confidently sings, "your lips keep telling me you want me", "I know that deep inside you need me" and "no one else can make it right."
Eve 6-Promise(down 11 positions)
In a rock world dominated by classic rock retreads, overblown gothic rock and harsh rap hybrids, Eve 6's music is refreshingly straight forward. They're not original or brilliant though not quite as mindless as similar bands like Lit. Promise, from their Horrorscope CD, is a solid, modest rocker. It's not as irresistably hook filled as their radio hit Inside Out. Promise, like Leech and Tongue Tied from their debut, is likable power pop. Max Collins makes modest promises to his girlfriend, swearing he won't try to mess with her head or let her down, won't mind if she decides to leave and won't look her in the eyes and lie. The big guitar chords help the promises go down easily.
Soul Decision-Faded(up 1 position)
Faded is from the Canadian trio's Nobody Does It Better CD. They're being promoted to the preteens as the latest hunky boy band but Faded isn't that bad. It sounds like a George Michael dance song with a decent, synthetic beat. They try a little too hard to seem black and cool but they basically have the sound down. The parents might not be too happy about the boys trying to convince a girl "it's time we went a bit further."
Matchbox 20-Bent(down 1 position)
It's hard to imagine, but since Matchbox 20's debut CD Yourself or Someone Like You sold eleven million copies and Smooth was the biggest single of 1999, Rob Thomas is probably the most successful rock singer around these days. With its appealingly familiar, slightly adventurous and mildly rocking sound, Bent, the first single from the Mad Season CD, keeps the string of success going. Thomas' lyrics are typically cliched and his vocals emotive as he again plays the beleaguered male. At least he's not dreaming of pushing a woman around and taking her for granted as he asks his lady to pick him up, dust him off and be his breath so he can walk. The music does have a good atmospheric edge and restrained mood.
Union Underground-Turn Me On Mr. Deadmanbuy it!
Turn Me On Mr. Deadman is from the An Education in Rebellion CD.Trent Reznor might have a suit against Union Underground for copyright infringement. Especially early on, Turn Me On Mr. Deadman closely resembles a harsh Nine Inch Nails song like The Perfect Drug, with its jagged beat and anguished vocals, which are whispered then screamed. But where Reznor's anger and self loathing seemed real, Union Underground's hostility is contrived and theatrical, like on a Powerman 5000 song. It's pretty funny that on a familiar sounding song, Union Underground criticize rock conformity, mocking sell out rock and roll millionaires and the simple minded audiences who lap up their music.
Linkin Park-One Step Closer(up 8 positions)
One Step Closer is from the Hybrid Theory CD. Like Korn, Limp Bizkit and Papa Roach, Linkin Park are an angry band who mix a hip hop sensibility to their heavy metal but they're even less appealing than those bands. The sound is nasty with yelled vocals and harsh guitar chords. One Step Closer is about another young white guy so troubled that he "can't take this anymore." It's not specified, but the lyrics probably refer to a woman: "everything you say to me, takes me one step closer to the edge and I'm about to break."
Country Grammar is the title track of Nelly's hugely successful CD. On Country Grammar, Nelly celebrates his St. Louis hometown and the joys of riding down the street in his Range Rover and lighting up blunts. He glorifies the thug life, rapping that his "street sweeper" is cocked and ready to let go and paying tribute to "the niggas left in the slamma." I'm not happy that kids, black and white, are eating Nelly's rap up. But for many, the thrilll of gangsta rap is in vicariously experiencing an exciting street life from the comfort of your home. And the main reason for Country Grammar's success is probably the relaxed singsong catchiness of the rap, based on a children's chant, and the easy groove, good, clean beat and simple backing.
Sting-After The Rain Has Fallen(up 2 positions)
After his 1996 Mercury Falling CD tanked, there was reason to believe that Sting's pop gifts had faded and been replaced by a boring maturity. Then the atmospheric, textured Desert Rose, from his Brand New Day CD, gave him his first hit in seven years. After The Rain Has Fallen gives further proof that his skills are intact. After The Rain Has Fallen has a good, state of the art dance beat. The very catchy chorus is reminiscent of his If I Ever Lose My Faith In You. The story of a princess and a palace thief is about love being more important than property.
The teens were bound to love this story of a school kid who gets pushed around. Teenage Dirtbag is on the soundtrack of the movie Loser as well as Wheatus' self titled CD. The song and the movie have similar plots. Brendan Brown sings that the girls don't know who he is and the guys in the school give him a hard time. Like the movie, the song has a happy ending. The song's ending is probably supposed to be a fantasy as the girl of his dreams likes him after all and shares his love for Iron Maiden. Wheatus resemble Weezer in combining power chords and a nerdy persona. But Brown, with his twerpy, high pitched voice which he doesn't have to change much to play the song's female, is a little more of a smart ass and doesn't seem to sincerely feel his character's pain like Weezer's Rivers Cuomo does.
Lenny Kravitz-Againbuy it!
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.
Babylon, from Gray's White Ladder CD, is a very nice introduction for the Welsh singer/songwriter to a larger audience. Gray presents an appealing humble and unassuming persona. He owns up to his mistakes in his relationship, admitting he's "been a fool to ever open up my heart to all that jealousy, that bitterness, that ridicule." He asks for another chance, singing "the love that I was giving you was never in doubt" and asking his partner to "let go your heart, let go your head and feel it now." The music is good and minimal with a little acoustic guitar, piano and a steady beat.
Toni Braxton-He Wasn't Man Enough(down 6 positions)
Toni Braxton has had most of her success with big ballads. The first hit single from The Heat, Braxton's first CD in four years, is an attempt to show that she's kept up with the times. He Wasn't Man Enough is a sleek dance song with a good, light groove. But it isn't the best showcase for Braxton's vocal talents. She's stuck in a low, mannered tone. The song does do a good job of weaving her voice with more energetic backing vocals. He Wasn't Man Enough is basically the musical version of a catfight. Songwriter/producer Rodney Jerkins makes Braxton seem pretty nasty. The lyric quickly makes the point that Braxton's old flame's new girl doesn't have to worry that Braxton is still interested since she let him go. Braxton's dis of the guy is so harsh that it makes her look bad as she repeatedly sings that he begged her to stay.
Dandy Warhols-Bohemian Like You(down 8 positions)
Bohemian Like You, from the Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia CD, is one of the best singles of the year. The band have previously shown their ability to create a psychedelic groove. On Bohemian Like You, the band build a great wall of sound with fuzzy guitars, retro organs and, of course, a tamborine. Courtney Taylor is appropriately deadpan for the funny lyrics about trying to convince a downtown girl that he's right for her since he waits tables and plays in a band too.
Bon Jovi-It's My Life(down 2 positions)
His record sales fell in the 90's and his movie career has gone pretty well. You'd figure Jon Bon Jovi wouldn't have to make terrible music like It's My Life anymore. However, He and Richie Sambora have done such a good job of recreating the You Give Love A Bad Name era sound that, even with a different pop audience, It's My Life was bound to be a hit. Like Bon Jovi's 80's hits, It's My Life, from the Crush CD, is wildly overproduced. It's got too much background singing and keyboards and Sambora's bad heavy metal guitar solo. Jon's vocals are an unmelodic choked yell. While the safely rebellious theme will appeal to many, the lyrics are truly terrible. Bon Jovi sings about his life being an open highway. He throws in every predictable defiant rock song line: "I ain't gonna be just a face in the crowd", "it's now or never" and "I want to live while I'm alive." He even alludes to Frank Sinatra and My Way.
Mark Knopfler-What It Isbuy it!
Since the huge success of Dire Straits' 1985 Brothers In Arms record, Mark Knopfler has kept a fairly low profile, working on soundtracks and not trying to be too commercial in his subsequent Dire Straits and solo work. What It Is is from Knopfler's new Sailing To Philadelphia CD. What It Is is reminiscent of Knopfler's great work before Money For Nothing. It's a distinctive, textured rocker like Making Movies' Tunnel Of Love. Knopfler's guitar playing is seemingly effortless as he unshowily sprinkles interesting riffs. His assuming voice easily twists around the shifting meters. What It Is is nicely detailed with vignettes about a small Scottish town and lots of observations including the fact "everybody's looking for somebody's arms to fall into."
Counting Crows-All My Friends(down 1 position)
All My Friends, the third chart hit from This Desert Life is a melodic, contemplative ballad like Raining In Baltimore or Long December, though without the latter's emotional heft. Pedal steel guitar, piano and drums, while restrained, keep the song moving but All My Friends is more about strings and Adam Duritz' serious vocals. The sound is lush and adult but also a little boring. You'd figure Counting Crows hired Cracker's David Lowery to produce This Desert Life so they could roughen up their sound but their latest CD is tasteful but mostly lacking in edge. All My Friends is more self pity from Adam Duritz. All his friends and lovers "leave me behind." He takes some of the blame but Duritz' indecision isn't that interesting, especially when it's already been the topic of so many of his songs.
Limp Bizkit-My Generationbuy it!
My Generation was one of two singles released in advance of Limp Bizkit's new Chocolate Starfish & The Hotdog Flavored Water CD. My Generation shows Limp Bizkit's skill at mixing hard rock guitar and a good hip hop groove. However, as it goes along, My Generation gets harsher and less appealing, dissolving into a bridge just like Rearranged's. As usual, Fred Durst's rap is not particularly skilled and the lyrics are mostly interesting in showing Durst's narcissism. Durst claims to be a spokesman for his generation but he really seems to be talking about himself. His insights about today's youth are limited to: we don't give a f--- if you talk shit about is.