Seether-Fine Again(up 15 positions)
Seether are the latest of many glum, post-grunge bands to hit the top 50 though the first to come from South Africa. On Fine Again, from Seether's Disclaimer CD, singer/songwriter Shaun Morgan sounds a lot like Puddle Of Mudd's Wes Scantlin, the most successful of the recent mopey Cobain clones. Morgan doesn't have Scantlin's arrogance and Morgan's lyric and delivery make it clear that his pain is real, not the showy posturing Scantlin sometimes engages in. Seether effectively use the grunge conventions. Morgan's intense emotion can pull you in, in a Lithium kind of way, as can the way the power chords underline his vocal. But Fine Again sounds so familiar and inferior to the music Morgan clearly loves that it's hard to stay interested. Also, Morgan's depression is apparently so deep that he can't vary his flat affect or Fine Again's fairly monotonous melody. Morgan can't even muster the cathartic wail that is often grunge's saving grace. Fine Again is about being told he should get over his breakup but feeling stuck in a world where every day is gray and the same and feeling "like I'm dying."
Avril Levigne-Sk8er Boi(up 7 positions)
Complicated was one of the biggest pop hits of 2002. The followup from the young Canadian's Let Go CD is another song that sounds like a hit on first listen. But Sk8er Boi isn't as novel or distinctive as Complicated. It's a standard pop rocker. Its central riff is stolen from last year's hit Flavor Of The Week. Sk8er Boi is unlikely to have Complicated's long chart life. Story songs soon become less interesting once you know how the story ends, especially when the story's not that great to start with. Sk8er Boi ends with Levigne taunting another about following the advice of her "stuck up" friends and blowing her chance to be with the guy who's now famous and going out with Levigne The presumably fictional lyric is obnoxious and less appealing than Complicated's tale of frustration. Still, Sk8er Boi's music is fast and fun. It has good energy and rocks harder than any of the hits by Levigne's rivals for the teen audience. And it's not the worst thing that North American girls have taken the confident, straight forward Levigne as a role model.
New Found Glory-My Friends Over You(unchanged)
The demand for fun, dopey, poppy guitar rock continues. Coral Springs, Florida's New Found Glory broke through with the fun, simple Hit Or Miss and have a similarly basic sound on My Friends Over You, the first single from the Sticks and Stones CD. My Friends Over You is like a less obnoxious version of SR-71's Right Now and it's not that far from Sum 41 or Blink 182. My Friends Over You is catchy and likable. It has a fairly clear sound, a positive feel and a restrained pace for a rocker. Chad Gilbert and Steve Klein create a good, varied guitar sound with crunching chords on the verses and a good hook on the chorus. Jordan Pundik's vocal isn't particularly impressive but at least it's unpretentious. Klein's lyrics apologize for leading a girl on but tell her their history makes it clear she's not worth as much as his friendships.
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band-The Rising(down 13 positions)
The Rising is Bruce Springsteen's first album of new songs since 1995's very subdued The Ghost Of Tom Joad and his first with the E Street Band since Born In The U.S.A. The Rising's title track reminds me of Glory Days or music from Bruce's last rock records(1992's Human Touch and Lucky Town) like Better Days, Leap Of Faith, Local Hero and, particularly, Human Touch. The Rising's big but fairly uncluttered sound and lofty, basic images create a classic feel. At 52, Bruce's voice is still strong and confident. Max Weinberg is still great at whacking the drums and making a huge sound. The Rising is nicely filled out with female vocals and a slide guitar sound. With its la la las and lyrics about rollin' down here "on wheels of fire", feeling "your arms around me" and a sky of love, tears, glory, mercy and fear, The Rising almost seems like self parody or Bruce's desperate attempt to recapture his early simple, evocative writing. But, as usual, Bruce makes imagery that would seem too much if done by others feel real and very heartfelt. With lots of religious allusions, Bruce sings about trying to overcome the "chain that binds me" and the "sixty pound stone" on his back through some sort of rebirth or perhaps by rising to heaven. Though The Rising feels like a nostalgic rehash, it's great to have Bruce back making stirring, ambitious, distinctive music like no one else.
No Doubt featuring Lady Saw-Underneath It All(up 2 positions)
In little more than a year, Gwen Stefani has totally turned around her image from the pathetic, pining for Gavin Rossdale thing she played on Return Of Saturn's Ex-Girlfriend and Simple Kind Of Life. Thanks to appearances on hits by Eve and Moby and the singles from the Rock Steady CD, she's reestablished herself as a cool, confident woman. Underneath It All's lyrics strike me as kind of sad wishful thinking. Stefani tries to convince herself that while her relationship "seems incomplete", her guy is really lovely and trying hard and understands her like no one else. Still, in her vocal and on the video, Stefani has an easy self assurance that belies the lyrics' insecurity. No Doubt have mixed a ska feel into their music for years. Sometimes, the music has been a bit too showy or frenzied. Underneath It All, written with Eurythmics' Dave Stewart, like Hey Baby, was produced by reggae legends Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare. It has a good, understated languor, with horns, subtle clavinet and synths, crisp but laid back drums and Shakespeare's rubbery bass. Jamaican dance hall diva Lady Saw nicely adds to the cool, poised feel.
Incubus keep giving us likable, unremarkable atmospheric rock songs. Warning, third chart hit from the Morning View CD, is appealing. Warning is even more laid back than I Wish You Were Here and Nice To Know You but it has a similar vibe. On the verses, Brandon Boyd's vocal drifts along with some minimal guitar and sonic effects. The chorus, with Mike Einziger's electric guitar strumming, is harder and more focused, but the song retains it's dreamy feel. Warning is positive and spacy, advising that as you float "in this cosmic jacuzzi", "count your blessings", "don't ever let life pass you by" and love yourself. Warning seems intentionally inconsequential but it is quite appealing.
Justin Timberlake-Like I Love You(up 11 positions)
The first single from teen pop's top hunkshows that Justin Timberlake can be successful outside N Sync but fails to show that he's developing a distinctive musical personality. On record and especially in the video, Like I Love You seems to be a Michael Jackson tribute. Timberlake mimics Jackson's look and moves but he doesn't have the gloved one's visual or vocal presence. Like I Love You, from the Justified CD, is apparently intended to introduce an adult, urban image for Timberlake. Timberlake does OK with the Jacko-like falsetto parts. Hovever, Like I Love You's spoken, tough guy parts are, if not quite ridiculous, a little silly, though his young fans undoubtedly find them cool and sexy. Otherwise, Timberlake's vocal is uninteresting but amiable, floating nearly unnoticably along with the beat. The Neptunes do their usual competent production. Like I Love You basically works as disposable dance pop. It's got a good crisp beat and a decent repeated guitar based riff. Like I Love You isn't helped by the Neptunes trademark beeping effects, which have almost always been annoying and now are annoying and cliched. The Neptunes try to give the very white Justin some edge by including a rap from Clipse(who happen to have the first record released by the Neptunes' new label). Clipse's rap doesn't work as well as Nelly's on N Sync's fun Girlfriend remix. It's pretty drab with cocky come ons("grab a friend, see I can have fun with two") that don't mesh with Timberlake's more polite approach. Like I Love You's lyric is mostly an inoffensive attempt to charm a woman and get her to drop "your front face" though the effort to be simultaneously tough and respectful results in some stinker lines like "you're a good girl and that's what make me trust ya."
Vanessa Carlton-Ordinary Day(up 4 positions)
Ordinary Day is the second single from Vanessa Carlton's Be Not Nobody CD. It's nice that young girls have at least three people making music for them that's not totally awful. They can choose between hip, popular Avril Lavigne, sincere, slightly arty Michelle Branch and Vanessa Carlton, the smart, confident nerd who never misses a piano lesson. I guess I credit the many kids who have picked Carlton's mildly ambitious music but her popularity is also a little strange to me. At the risk of using a critical cliche, Ordinary Day is quite ordinary. There's not much to it except a sense of artistic pretention. Carlton's interesting piano playing plays a less prominent role than on A Thousand Miles. Producer Ron Fair overdoes the strings as if he's orchestrating a third rate production of Oklahoma. I guess the kids feel like that liking a song like Ordinary Day means they're listening to something more serious and important. The most appealing thing about Ordinary Day is Carlton's vocal and persona. She has Tori Amos' honesty without Amos' affectations and with an appealing youthful openness. The lyrics are a sweet story of a boy "looking to the sky" who "asked if I would come along".
P. Diddy featuring Ginuwine-I Need A Girl Pt. 2(down 4 positions)
I Need A Girl Pt. 2 is from the We Invented The Remix CD. P. Diddy coproduced I Need A Girl Pt. 2 with Mario Winans. I liked I Need A Girl Pt. 1 for its breezy, smooth sound and Diddy's bizarre confession of loneliness but Part 2 is of much less interest to me. The music, with its synthetic steady beat and shiny synth riff, is OK but it's also an even more insubstantial, if perkier, variation on an already lightweight theme. The lyric is significantly less compelling than Part 1's apparent paean and mea culpa to J. Lo. P. Diddy's rap is standard issue. He tells us he wants a girl with potential wife credentials who's 5'5" with dimples and makes showy promises of being able to share 100 foot yachts and trips to San Tropez with his girl. Diddy's vocal is typically flat, uninflected and unmelodic. Loon's rap isn't great either with cliched images of lying in a bubble bath with a really big champagne glass and the questionable boast: "I'm smooth as Erik Estrada." Ginuwine and Winans do better with the singer role Usher had on Part 1 but they don't do much to change the song's generic feel.
DJ Sammy & Yanou-Heaven(down 6 positions)
Heaven is quite a stupid song. At least, unlike Bryan Adams' soaring, bloated original, the new version doesn't have any pretentions of meaning. Adams' stream of cliches("you're all that I want", "we were young and wild and free", "nothing can take you away from me" and "through the good times and the bad, I'll be standing there by you") glide by easily. With a familiar melody, a big, obvious beat and lyrics that can be understood by people for whom English is a second language, Heaven has all the hallmarks of an international dance pop hit. Apparently, DJ Sammy is a Spanish mixmaster/producer who worked on Heaven with Dutch singer Do. With its frantic, eager to please beat, Heaven sounds more suited to a high impact aerobics class than a dance club. But Heaven's upbeat tone and high energy techno synths undoubtedly get people on the dance floor.
Sheryl Crow-Steve McQueen(up 2 positions)
Steve McQueen, the second single from the C'mon C'mon CD shows that the empty headed feel of Soak Up The Sun was a strategy rather than an aberration. Soak Up The Sun at least had a likable, relaxed flow to it. On Steve McQueen, Crow awkwardly tries to show she can make stupid rock music as well as a guy. Steve McQueen grinding rock guitar sound is OK but everything else about is ridiculously dumb. Crow cops the ooh-oohs from Steve Miller's Take The Money And Run. Crow is usually a reliable singer but, especially on the chorus, she sounds shrill and as self satisfied as Lenny Kravitz watering down Americna Woman. Crow sings about wanting to "rock and roll this party" and ride a fast machine like Steve McQueen. Crow's social commentary about "rock stars in the White House" and pop stars who "look like porn" seems particularly lame.
Ashanti-Happy(up 7 positions)
Down 4 U fell just short of the top 50 but, generally, the Murder Inc. steamroller shows no sign of slowing down. The endless parade of easy, listenable but unambitious hits produced by Irv Gotti with vocals by Ja Rule and/or Ashanti is becoming increasingly mind numbing. Happy, the second single from the Ashanti CD, is pleasant enough. It's perkier than Ashanti's smash, Foolish. The music and Ashanti Douglas' voice are both sunny, smooth and inoffensive. But they also largely lack personality. Happy is extremely modest in its aspirations and execution. With its laid back feel, Happy resembles the "remix" version of Jennifer Lopez' I'm Real. But Lopez, while no great singer, had more presence and sexy attitude than Ashanti has in her competent, innocuous vocal. Happy repeats a vaguely annoying, chirpy synth riff and a wind blowing sound not much different from the effect in Foolish. Happy's backup singers are pretty good but they're forced to sing a melody line strangely reminiscent of the one from 80s easy listening megahit On My Own. After the obligatory Ja Rule introduction, Ashanti, in a fairly inane lyric, tells her man how he she's "so glad you fell in love with me" and that she "couldn't see me without you."
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers-The Last DJbuy it!
The Last DJ, the title track from Tom Petty's new CD, overstates things a little. There are still plenty of djs at college and independent stations who play "what they want to play" and say "what they want to say." And the fact that most stations are guided by the bottom line, rather than a quest for quality, is hardly news. The Ramones, Kinks and Elvis Costello long ago did songs about it. For at least the 25 years of Petty's career, commercial radio has rarely welcomed dj free expression. Market research and pandering play the role in music they do in the selling of movies, tv shows or political candidates though audience tastes sometimes force commercial radio to abandon its conservative instincts and play new, good or different kinds of music. The undeniable subtext of The Last DJ is the unlamentable fact that pop radio no longer plays the music of Petty and some of his contemporaries. The similarity of Last DJ to Petty's other music hardly argues against classic rock radio as the natural 2002 home for his music. Still, I agree it's sad that radio is controlled by large corporations and consultants who "celebrate mediocrity", pushing songs meant to sound like other hits and appeal to the lowest common denominator rather than good, smart or interesting music. And while The Last DJ is familiar, it's one of my favorite current songs. Petty's nasal whine is comforting and he sounds like he still has something to prove. The Heartbreakers' personnel has changed over the years but guitar player Mike Campbell is still giving Petty's songs some kick. Campbell keeps playing Rickenbacker riffs he stole from Roger McGuinn and The Byrds. He gives The Last DJ's verses texture and a good countermelody and adds urgency to the chorus with compact, crunching London Calling style chords. Longtime Heartbreaker Benmont Tench's piano helps fill out the sound and adds to Last DJ's vibrancy.
John Mayer-Your Body Is A Wonderland(unchanged)
Your Body Is a Wonderland is the second chart hit from the Atlanta based singer/songwriter's Room For Squares CD. Like No Such Thing, Your Body Is a Wonderland is pleasant and almost proudly inconsequential. Unlike No Such Thing, where Mayer tried so hard for whimsical cheekiness, Your Body Is a Wonderland mostly keeps things nicely understated. His voice, in a tone not much more forceful than a whisper, effectively communicates the song's sly confidence. His guitar playing is also unassuming but pretty cool. Its only flourish is a short Steely Dan style riff towards the end. A skinny young white guy can't help but seem a little leering singing a song about pleasuring a lady but his admiration of a woman's looks is generally appealing. A bit too much bravado accompanies Mayer's promise to take a while making love and discovering a woman's body but he generally avoids the objectification that often accompanies songs complimenting the female shape.
Goo Goo Dolls-Big Machine(unchanged)
Goo Goo Dolls keep putting out a mix of tame, soaring rock ballads and harder, but still poppy, rockers in an effort to maintain mainstream pop success and hold onto their older audience. Dizzy Up The Girl followed pop rocker Slide with lofty ballad Black Balloon. The first single from the Gutterflower CD was mellow Here Is Gone and the new one is mid tempo rock song Big Machine. Big Machine is a glossy rocker that's a lot like Slide with a little less concision, energy and distinction(I enjoyed how the drums came in right before the chorus on Slide). I still basically enjoy Big Machine. lt's totally forgetable but amiable. Johnny Rzeznik plays good guitar. Tight power chords alternate with a ringing guitar line that I like but reminds me of the one from 10,000 Maniacs' pleasant but hardly rocking Candy Everybody Wants. The lyrics have the "you're screwed up but I'm still sad you don't want to be with me" theme of songs by sensitive rockers like Weezer's Gone Fishin'. Rzeznik sings about waiting, torn in pieces for a woman who's "so vain" and living in a world moving "way too fast" where "nothing's real and nothing lasts."
P.O.D.-Satellite(up 6 positions)
Satellite is the title track and fourth chart hit from Payable On Death's breakthrough record. As radio gets deeper into the Satellite CD, the San Diego band's success becomes more mysterious and irritating to me. There were logical reasons P.O.D.'s previous singles were hits. Alive, with its supposed positivity, was the right song after 9/11. Youth Of The Nation had a hot topic(school shootings). Boom had a good, big beat and rock guitar sound. Satellite also has decent edgy, slashing guitars but the focus is on Sonny Sandoval's annoying vocal. Sandoval seems bad in lots of way. His attempts to project menacing toughness seem lame. He comes across to me as unpleasant and unskilled and a pale imitation of sharper rappers. Satellite is another religious paean. There's nothing particularly terrible about Satellite's lyrics. Sandoval tells us that His "love constricts my chest" and "now I can see" and asks God to "never take your eyes off me." As with Alive, I find Satellite uninteresting because Sandoval never goes beyond what God means to him to think of others. And maybe I'm close minded but Sandoval's harsh snarl doesn't seem like the best way to express his devotion. His singing strikes me as more about establishing rock cred and selling records than communicating with the Almighty.
Michelle Branch-Goodbye To You(up 6 positions)
The musical appeal of the previous hits from Michelle Branch's The Spirit Room CD was fairly modest but at least something was going on. Everywhere was a likable pop rocker. All You Wanted was a sweet rescue fantasy. Goodbye To You doesn't offer much. It's quite a routine ballad. It's different from Vanessa Carlton's string heavy Ordinary Day but, like that song, Goodbye To You's main asset is the singer's unaffected, natural style. Branch's singing with Santana on Game Of Love hints that she might loosen up in the future but, so far, sincerity and lack of pretension have been the keys to Branch's success. She outdoes even Carlton in those categories. Goodbye To You is like singles by people like Britney and Christina but at least it doesn't have the fakey, manufactured feel of some similar songs. Branch doesn't have the strongest voice but it sounds like a teenager's. As she quavers and reaches for high notes, her quirks and effort make the song feel real and adds to a sense of yearning. Goodbye To You doesn't add much to the breakup song genre but it keeps things simple and undoubtedly connects with girls in their early teens who feel like Branch is the only one who understands their heartache. Branch sings about the pain of trying to put a long relationship behind her.
Jack Johnson-Flake(down 1 position)
The Hawaiian native/champion surfer turned LA singer/songwriter's first chart hit is charmingly laid back. Johnson sings on Flake, from the Brushfire Fairytales CD, about likable slackers who lose out or let people down because of "ties" or because "often times we're lazy." Flake has relaxed guitars and drums and Johnson's smooth vocal comfortably matches the song's mood. He doesn't seem to exert himself too much even as he reaches for high notes in the song's "please don't drag me down" conclusion. Ben Harper, whose music has an easy, sensual appeal similar to Johnson's, plays good atmospheric slide guitar on Flake.
The Hives-Hate To Say I Told You So(down 11 positions)
Cutting away the fat that alternative rock has grown over the years, Swedish band The Hives act like it's still the late 70s and they've only just learned of the thrills of making fast, short rock songs with tight, hard guitar riffs. Hate To Say I Told You So sounds a little like songs by Black Crowes and Buckcherry and it also brings to mind other post punk songs like Blur's Song 2 and Sonic Youth's most compact work. But the most obvious influence seems to be The Stooges' Search And Destroy. Pelle Almqvist always comes across, in interviews, on stage and on record, as a very confident guy. He has no problem projecting Iggy Pop's in your face narcissism, singing about how he does "what I want 'cause I can" and how he wants to "be ignored by the stiff and the bored." Hate To Say I Told You So, which is featured on the Spider-man soundtrack as well as the band's Veni Vidi Vicious CD, recalls the thrill of simple, exciting punk inspired music.
Christina Aguilera-Dirrtybuy it!
She's done singles, a Spanish language record and a holiday record but Stripped is Christina Aguilera's first mainstream CD in the more than three years since the release of her smash self titled CD. There's a lot of talk about whether and how the teen stars of the late 90s can remain successul as they and their audiences get older. Christina Aguilera seems to have a good shot at longevity. Her voice is bigger and better than Britney's and she's not saddled with a young image. Aguilera was only 18 when Christina Aguilera was released but her big, brassy, confident voice often seemed more like a 40 year old's. With Dirrty, Aguilera has the bad fortune of seeming to repeat steps her young competitors took to seek continued success. Like Pink, Aguilera confidently announces that "my arrival" will "start the party." Like Britney's I'm A Slave 4 U, Dirrty has an edgy dance sound and a sweaty, steamy video and lyrics meant to introduce an overtly adult, sexy image. As with Justin's Like I Love You, Dirrty has a hot producer the artist succeeded with before and a state of the art but familiar R&B/dance sound. Dirrty doesn't measure up to Pink's great pop hit but Aguilera's strong voice and comfort with the hard dance pop form give her the edge over Spears and Timberlake. Dirrty and Like I Love You are both more grooves than songs but Aguilera is a better fit with the material. On Dirrty, Lady Marmalade producer Rockwilder creates a tough, exciting sound with a metallic beat, a booming bass sound and flashing keyboards. He also includes Redman's decent, driving rap. Dirty's downside is it's not a lot of fun. An obstacle to Aguilera's long term success could be her failure to establish a likable, warm persona. Aguilera's vocal on Dirrty is strong but, especially in a harsh, mechanincal setting, it's a little cold. Dirrty's lyric is a fairly familiar boast about how Aguilera is gonna get the place sweating and "shake the room" but it fits well with Dirrty's tight, steady sound.
The Vines-Get Free(down 10 positions)
Get Free is from the Highly Evolved CD by the young band from Sydney, Australia. With a screaming lead singer and a basic, hard rocking sound, The Vines have a surface resemblance to another hot band from overseas: The Hives. While The Hives' Howlin' Pelle Almqvist goofs around and has fun, Vines frontman Craig Nicholls is very serious about his music. He openly emulates hero Kurt Cobain, especially in the band's older songs. The Highly Evolved CD also has songs similar to those of dreamier British bands like Coldplay and Doves but Get Free's Nirvana influence is clear. It reminds me of Breed, Stay Away and Scentless Apprentice as well as Big Bang Baby by fellow Nirvana fans Stone Temple Pilots. Get Free gets simple, exciting energy from Nicholls' unhinged yell, a slicing guitar line and a good, driving beat. On Get Free, Nicholls rages and drops fragments of desperation: "I'm gonna get free, right into the sun", "she never loved me, why should anyone?", "you know you're really alone" and "save me from here."
Angie Martinez-If I Can Gobuy it!
I, like many in the New York area, haven't heard much of If I Can Go, the hit from Angie Martinez' Animal House CD. Martinez is a Hot 97 radio personality. Other stations have decided not to help a competitor, even if that means missing out on a hot song. It's Z-100's(among others') loss. If I Can Go is good, breezy dance pop with an easy, positive energy and a touch of a Latin feel. If I Can Go has a very catchy hook that repeats throughout over a crisp, simple beat. Producer Rick Rock smartly deploys the hook in different ways. A guitar riff is joined or replaced by a dramatic synth when emphasis is needed. Martinez doesn't seem to have great vocal skills but her hard, confident New Yorker voice helps give If I Can Go a tough edge. Lil' Mo effectively takes over when a real singer is needed. Sacario's quick, no nonsense rap is well integrated into If I Can Go. If I Can Go is about wanting to leave New York "with no cells and no trace" for a far away beach, if the guy who can "make you feel like you're right back in the ninth grade" can come.
Norah Jones-Don't Know Why(up 1 position)
Come Away With Me is the debut CD by 23 year old Norah Jones, who is sitar legend Ravi Shankar's daughter but was raised in Texas by her mom. Come Away With Me has justifiably become a yuppie and boomer favorite. Like Cassandra Wilson, Jones starts from a jazz background but plays songs that can be categorized as folk, r&b and pop. Jones' voice even resembles that of country pop singer Shelby Lynne. Don't Know Why is a good showcase of Jones' unshowy but sultry charm. On Don't Know Why, Jones' voice is appealingly yearning and delicate. Jones' piano and rhythm section are easy and inobtrusive, adding to the song's understated poignance. Don't Know Why, written by Jones' guitar player Jesse Harris, has a classic simplicity. Jones sings that, while it makes her feel teary, empty and needing wine, she has to stay away from a guy who has never run to her.
Chad Kroeger with Josey Scott-Hero(down 3 positions)
Hero is from the Spiderman soundtrack. Hero has a big, anthemic tone appropriate for a big budget, wildly successful film about a mythic superhero. But Hero lacks the movie's sense of action and fun. It confirms my suspicion that a lot of today's pop rock stars are really mediocre folkies at heart. Hero asks questions common to folk songs about why peoples' passions lead to "killing and blood spilling" and offers its only solution in the fuzzy imagery of holding "onto the wings of the eagles." Hero plods along with little energy or imagination but, as on Nickelback's hits, Kroeger's humorless but very sincere delivery has its charm. He's down and doesn't expect a savior but still has the capacity to love. People love a solemn rock ballad so Hero's a slam dunk hit. But it's pretty tame, contrived and formulaic. Hero doesn't even have the rock drive of Nickelback's hits. It's not that different from the Hero songs done by Enrique, Mariah and many others. My favorite part of Hero is Josey Scott's participation. With his band Saliva, Scott sings cartoonish but hard edged rap inflected rock but he easily fits into Hero's serious mood. He overemotes his verse which includes the grammatically questionable claim that he was told "love will all save us."
311-Amber(down 38 positions)
After spending seven weeks on the top 50 in the spring Amber, the third single from 311's From Chaos CD, is back on the chart. It makes sense that Amber, with its very easy, lazy, summery feel, would do well in the hottest part of the year. 311's music is often pretty mellow. I'll Be Here Awhile, the CD's second single was laid back, genial and inconsequential. 311 are even more relaxed than usual on Amber but the mellow mood works. Amber has a likable hippie vibe that's consistent with the goofy "amber is the color of your energy" hook. 311's typical ska flavoring goes down especially easily thanks to good, crisp drumming and loose, jazzy guitar lines including one that has a rubbery preamped bounce. Nick Hexum's voice can be annoyingly innocuous but on Amber the way it floats effortlessly is just right. Amber is a tribute to a distant friend whose voice still "rings like a bell" who glides "through my head blind to fear."