Disturbed-Stupify(down 2 positions)
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.
A Perfect Circle-Three Libras(up 10 positions)
The chart hits from A Perfect Circle's Mer De Noms keep moving Maynard James Keenan farther from Tool's harsh, dense sound. Three Libras has a Led Zeppelin style rock guitars go to the Renaissance festival sound. It's a mellow rock ballad that's a little silly but appealingly sincere. Keenan sings rather that screams. The electric guitars kick in eventually but most of the song has an acoustic feel. Keenan sings "it's difficult not to feel a little disappointed"about being passed over, presumably romantically. He sings that he did his best but "you don't see me at all."
Madonna-Music(down 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.
Creed-Are You Ready?buy it!
Are You Ready is the fourth chart hit from Creed's Human Clay CD. As always, Scott Stapp sings as if he's got brilliant ideas no one's ever thought of. But Are You Ready's thoughts are: Seek and you'll find, remember where you come from and life is hard and unpredictable. Are You Ready has the band's usual lack of subtlety in Stapp's singing and its rock guitars.
Janet Jackson-Doesn't Really Matter(down 3 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."
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."
Orgy-Fiction(She Dreams In Digital)(up 6 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.
8Stops7-Question Everything(down 10 positions)
In the hands of today's hard rockers the rock ballad, especially when it involves a white young male trying to figure out what it all means, is a form that's doomed to an overdone combination of wildly dramatic singing and big guitars to keep the young males interested. Question Everything is the followup to Satisfied, 8Stop7's chart debut from the In Moderation CD. The music isn't as overblown as it could have been. Evan Sula-Goff's vocals are very serious but appropriate for a song about deciding how to deal with an intolerant, unloving as he nears death and is no longer an imposing force.
98 Degrees-Give Me Just One Night(Una Noche)(up 1 position)
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."
Everlast-Black Jesusbuy it!
Black Jesus is from Everlast's Eat At Whitey's CD. On What It's Like and Ends, Everlast preached about the hardships faced by needy and troubled people. Black Jesus is a natural extension of that persona, with Everlast toying with the image of being a messiah. Everlast's dramatic, unadorned presentation is striking. However, I find him self important and repetitive, especially after a few listens when his message becomes clear.
Toni Braxton-He Wasn't Man Enough(down 5 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.
Soul Decision-Faded(up 2 positions)
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."
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.
Wheatus-Teenage Dirtbag(down 5 positions)
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.
Pink-Most Girls(up 3 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.
Godsmack-Bad Religion(down 9 positions)
Rock radio continues to die, as it targets an audience that mainly consists of teenage males. Godsmack is a prime example of what's wrong with the format. Their hard guitar rock is murky, unexciting and pretentious. Their lyrics are a weird combination of self pity, mysticism and self aggrandizement. On Bad Religion, the latest AOR hit from their self title CD, Sully Erna sings about how he's different from other people, that the pressure he faces is making him insane and that no one understands what he has to deal with.
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.
Britney Spears-Lucky(down 10 positions)
Even Spears' preteen worshippers might start losing interest if Spears and her svengali Max Martin keeps making lightweight music like this one from her Oops! I Did It Again CD. I don't know if it's supposed to be a joke or show her self awareness but it's a bizarre idea to have Spears sing about the empty life of a media created young star with a perfect smile. The beat is solid and the sound is sleek but the end result is pretty boring. Spears' vocals sound electronically enhanced as she sings about how Lucky "cries in her lonely heart."
Sting-After The Rain Has Fallen(unchanged)
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.
Nine Days-Absolutely(Story of a Girl)(down 9 positions)
Absolutely, the first single from the Madding Crowd CD, is frothily enjoyable if somewhat lightweight. Like recent pop hits All Star and the Friends theme, Absolutely bursts with irresistable energy and sounds like a summertime hit. Absolutely isn't really the story of a girl. The details are fairly limited in the lyrics about a sad woman who "cried a river and drowned the whole world." But the chorus about absolutely loving her when she smiles is simple and nice. The fast guitar riffs are steady and energizing, with split second breaks creating great tension.
Nelly-Country Grammar(up 2 positions)
Country Grammar is the title track of Nelly's hugely successful CD. Country Grammar stays far away from weighty matters. Nelly celebrates his St. Louis hometown, the joys of riding down the street in his Range Rover and lighting up blunts. He glorifies the thug life, rapping about his "street sweeper", cocked and ready to let go and paying tribute to "the niggas left in the slamma." It doesn't make me happy that the kids, black and white, are eating Nelly's rap up. But you have to assume a lot of the appeal comes from the vicarious thrill of experiencing an exciting street life from the comfort of your home. And most fans probably just like the easy groove, with a good clean beat and simple backing and Nelly's relaxed, rhythmic style.
Rage Against The Machine-Testify(down 2 positions)
Testify, the third chart hit from the Battle of Los Angeles, debuted on the top 50 as the band was playing a protest concert outside the Democratic Convention. One of the pleasures of the convention coverage was watching anchors trying to explain the band. Despite the impression some of the reporters gave, the band are idealistic and somewhat simplistic but they know what they're talking about. Testify is about coverage of the Gulf War. They argue that the killing of Iraqis was all about oil profits and that the media put a soothing face on atrocities but had a responsibility to expose the dark side of U.S. actions. As always, the passion of the lyrics and Zach DeLaRocha 's singing grabs you but Tom Morello's big but melodic guitar sound keeps things appealing.
Jonny Lang-Breakin' Me(down 7 positions)
Usually it's Jonny Lang's guitar playing that's a little overdone. On Breakin' Me, the latest radio track from the teenager's Wander This World CD, it's the lyrics and singing that are over the top. The guitar on Breakin' Me is decent and restrained but a cutesy piercing piano line is irritating. The singing isn't bad, it just lacks subtlety, especially in conjuction with overwrought lyrics that repeatedly beg a woman to take him back. He's on his knees, with "nothin' left to hold to", unable not to love the woman he left.
Bon Jovi-It's My Lifebuy it!
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.
Counting Crows-All My Friendsbuy it!
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.