Orgy-Fiction(She Dreams In Digital)(up 1 position)
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.
Incubus-Stellar(down 6 positions)
Like Pardon Me, Incubus' hit from the Make Yourself CD, Stellar is hard rock with a bit of an unusual edge. Stellar has jazzy, psychedelic verses that give way to harder, guitar driven choruses. Brandon Boyd sings about being amazed by his lover asking, how do you do it, and equating having sex with her with the sensation of being in outer space.
The Deftones-Change (In the House of Flies)(down 5 positions)
The Deftones like guitar noise as much as their hard rock contemporaries but they do seem to have a little more imagination. Change, from the White Pony CD, has big guitars but the dense sound also has an interesting trippy feel that matches the lyrics about watching someone turn into a fly.
Madonna-Music(down 1 position)
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.
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.
Christina Aguilera-Come On Over (All I Want Is You)(down 2 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."
Blink 182-Man Overboard(unchanged)
Enema Of The State's fun, fast pop is still selling but Blink 182 is already back with a new CD, The Mark, Travis and Tom Show. Man Overboard sounds a lot like Enema Of The State's Dumpweed, as well as kind of like a fast version of Peter Schilling Major Tom(Coming Home). Once again, Blink 182's music is pretty light but energizing, unpretentious and solidly constructed. Man Overboard is about being sad that things can't be worked out, but deciding that a friend has screwed up too many times.
The Offspring-Original Pranksterbuy it!
Original Prankster is from The Offspring's new Conspiracy Of One CD. Though it doesn't have the same lyrical hook, Original Prankster has the same musical elements that made Americana's Pretty Fly(For a White Guy) irresistable. Dexter Holland's unstoppable wail gives Original Prankster a punk sensibility, Noodles' guitar gives it rock heft and a great beat gives it a dancable energy. The band definitely don't take themselves too seriously, adding idiosyncratic percussion and goofy extraneous vocals.
Destiny's Child-Jumpin' Jumpin'(down 3 positions)
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.
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."
Linkin Park-One Step Closer(up 3 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."
98 Degrees-Give Me Just One Night(Una Noche)(down 3 positions)
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."
Fastball-You're An Ocean(down 16 positions)
You're An Ocean is from the Harsh Light Of Day CD. On the hits from the All The Pain Money Can Buy CD, Fastball were good natured purveyors of upbeat, not terribly deep pop rock. You're An Ocean has a familiar light and happy feel, thanks to Billy Preston's rollicking piano and Miles Zuniga upbeat guitar solo, which is like the ones David Lindley did for Jackson Browne. Tony Scalzo sings about being vulnerable in "a stormy sea of love and emotion." He's in suspended motion with his heart in his hands but he'd still "buy whatever you would sell."
Nelly-Country Grammar(up 1 position)
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.
Janet Jackson-Doesn't Really Matter(down 7 positions)
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."
Union Underground-Turn Me On Mr. Deadman(down 3 positions)
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.
Matchbox 20-Bent(down 5 positions)
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.
Papa Roach-Broken Homebuy it!
Together with the Last Resort video, which depicts their fans as sad and alienated, Broken Home establishes Papa Roach as the band most likely to relate to today's troubled teen. Broken Home is even edgier than Last Resort. Broken Home doesn't have that song's inviting beat and hip hop momentum. It's more about harsh guitar. Coby Dick screams most of the words, only segueing into a Last Resort style rap at the end. Broken Home is musically and lyrically simplistic but at least it's not the macho posturing of so much radio friendly rock about tormented young males. Dick's pain sounds real as he sings about being caught between two battling parents, blaming himself and crying because he has no one to confide in.
Sting-After The Rain Has Fallen(down 3 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.
Bon Jovi-It's My Life(up 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.
David Gray-Babylon(down 2 positions)
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.
Samantha Mumba-Gotta Tell Youbuy it!
Mumba is the latest young female getting the big record company push. Gotta Tell You is the title track from Mumba's CD. Gotta Tell You is fairly routine dance pop. The lyrics are O.K. Mumba sings about wanting her guy to get more involved in their relationship. She doesn't want to love him if he doesn't love her. On the verses, Mumba's voice is hard and unappealing but at least somewhat distinctive. On the choruses, thanks to backing vocals and heavy, generic production, the song turns into catchy, perky Britney-style pop. Mumba's personal story of a black Irish teen who became a pop star is undoubtedly more interesting than the song.
Mark Knopfler-What It Is(unchanged)
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."
Radiohead's new Kid A CD is interesting and annoying, ambitious and self indulgent. The songs are often spacy and atmospheric and don't really go anywhere but Optimistic is fairly linear. It's a little like OK Computer's Paranoid Android with a little more juice. Unlike some of the Kid A songs, which have no guitar, Optimistic has a good direct, scratchy Jonny Greenwood guitar line which keeps the song moving. It also gets good texture from forboding percussion. Thom Yorke's vocals are compellingly tortured and not too idiosyncratic. Yorke starts the song with gloomy images of vultures circling and big fish eating little ones and evokes a unconcerned world. Presumably ironically, Yorke tells us it's good enough if you do the "best you can."
Limp Bizkit-My Generation(unchanged)
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.