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All-Reviews.com Top 50 Songs*:
for the 3rd week of September, 2003

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

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  1. Trapt-Headstrong    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Headstrong is from the California band's self titled major label debut. Headstrong holds some hints that Trapt could be more interesting than other nu-metal bands. The sound isn't as cluttered or murky as that of some of their contemporaries. The verses are pretty good. Chris Brown's vocal is smooth and quick with a rapper's sensibility. The vocal is nicely underlined by Simon Ormandy's light, loose guitar. The chorus is effective but less interesting as Brown and Ormandy's trade short, jagged thrusts of guitar. Brown's angry croon is awfully familiar. In the end, not much distinguishes Headstrong from intense rap metal by Linkin Park, Papa Roach and many others. Headstrong is competently made but not particularly likable or interesting. Headstrong apparently announces a break with an ambitious musical associate who won't change his wrong ideas.

  2. Staind-So Far Away    (unchanged)      buy it!
    I kind of liked Price To Pay, the first single from Staind's 14 Shades Of Grey CD. It wasn't great but it was a decent rocker with more energy than the draggy, self pitying hits from the Break The Cycle CD. Price To Pay didn't last on the charts so the second single is a return to the oppressively empty, self important sound that's worked before. The good news is that, in contrast to Break The Cycle's tales of pain emanating from an abused past, So Far Away's lyric is cautiously upbeat. The bad news is that the music doesn't reflect Aaron Lewis' new optimism. So, as before, Lewis slowly rolls through the lyric, enunciating so we can fully experience his emotion. I still don't get why rock fans are interested in this overblown junk. It's lame and predictable. So Far Away has the standard pattern of verses with a quiet acoustic guitar leading into a bombastic chorus with big power guitars chords and slowly, seriously pounded drums meant to connote meaning. Things get even gloppier as strings underline Lewis' vocal when he gets really intense. Maybe the music is supposed to communicate Lewis' concern that he "must be sleeping." Lewis' voice remains dour and lugubrious and the pace is consistently glacial even as Lewis sings about moving away from struggle, not being ashamed of who he is and being able to smile and face the day.

  3. The Ataris-The Boys Of Summer    (unchanged)      buy it!
    The Ataris are back on the chart with another piece of nostalgia from their So Long, Astoria CD. They follow In This Diary, Kris Roe's misty eyed recollection of a fun summer of his youth with a cover of Don Henley's longing look back at an ideal romantic period. The Ataris do a predictable but solid version, playing it harder and faster and reminding us that the original was pretty good. I bet cover bands did a similar version when Boys Of Summer was first a hit. Roe's innocent, youthful(he was 6 years old when Boys Of Summer came out in 1984) voice matches the song's hopeful tone as he vows to "get you back." The Ataris keep the original's arrangement including Mike Campbell's great, memorable guitar part and the haunting/kind of goofy atmospheric sound effects. The Ataris don't show much originality but they have good energy and force.

  4. Linkin Park-Faint    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Faint, the second chart hit from Linkin Park's Meteora CD, is easily my favorite Linkin Park single so far. It gets off to a great start with a very good, distinctive riff and a sped up beat. Things take a bit of a turn for the worse when Mike Shinoda begins his flat, dull rap but at least he moves fast and doesn't slow Faint's momentum too much. Chester Bennington's raging howl is typically over the top(does a guy whose record sold more than 8 million copies have any right to scream, "I won't be ignored"?) Even if Bennington's anger is goofy, he gives the song power and fits well into Faint's supercharged atmosphere. Faint's chorus, which takes the song's fast, slippery beat and adds Bennington's wail and a wall of guitars, maintains the song's energy and has a catchy hook. Faint depicts an internal struggle about an unresponsive girlfriend. Shinoda plays the wimpy ego, whining about being lonely and unconfident, complaining about his emotional scars and pleading "'cause you're all I got." Bennington is the unrestrained, pissed off id demanding "you're gonna listen to me."

  5. Audioslave-Show Me How To Live    (unchanged)      buy it!
    The hits from Audioslave's self titled debut CD show that the former Rage Against The Machine musicians are surprisingly adept at the sort of classic rock influenced rock radio friendly songs singer Chris Cornell made with Soundgarden. Cochise was a big, fun Led Zeppellin pastiche and Like A Stone was an effectively dramatic, sprawling rock ballad. Show Me How To Live is another trip into Led Zeppellin territory. It doesn't have the over the top thrill of headbanger Cochise but it still works pretty well. The distinctiveness(and political edge) of Rage Against The Machine's music is largely missing on the Audioslave CD. Show Me How To Live is fairly generic, if effective, hard rock that sounds like a Soundgarden song. Tom Morello's tough, grinding guitar line and Brad Wilk's big basic beat give Show Me How To Live a good, gritty rock and roll edge. Chris Cornell always sounds pretty much the same and he's, typically, a little overdramatic. But the other side of his overblown vocal is that he provides a rousing, theatrical feeling that separates him from his intense, serious competition. Show Me How To Live is an unremarkable, solid hard rocker. Dealing with the "ringing in my head", Cornell demands to "my creator, you gave me life now show me how to live."

  6. Nickelback-Someday    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Nickelback are back with The Long Road CD, making the same kind of ultraserious, overblown, cliched arena rock that brought them the megahit How You Remind Me. On Someday, Chad Kroeger and friends stuck to the formula that worked. Someday isn't quite as bombastic as How You Remind Me but it's otherwise incredibly similar. You can sing "this is how you remind me" and other parts of that song over portions of Someday. The appeal of Someday, and Nickelback's music in general, is lost on me. Kroeger's voice is so stiff and humorless that he's just a bore. He intones his thought about his relationship playing out "like a paperback novel" with gravity and emphasis to make sure you catch the brilliance of his simile. Someday's music and playing are coldly competent but lack any surprise or originality. Familiar hard rock riffs repeat over and over again. On Someday, Kroeger asks a partner to stay in a screwed up relationship, promising he's "gonna make it alright."

  7. 3 Doors Down-Here Without You    (unchanged)      buy it!
    3 Doors Down's savvy, radio friendly strategy has, oddly, placed them among the top pop acts. Here Without You, the third chart hit from the Away From The Sun CD, is poised to surpass its very successful predecessor When I'm Gone and become(including Kryptonite, from their Better Life debut) their third megasmash. 3 Doors Down's popularity is both confusing and unsurprising. On the one hand, frontman Brad Arnold isn't particularly handsome, charismatic or much of a singer. The band totally lacks distinctiveness. 3 Doors Down's songs(with the possible exception of Kryptonite) aren't very interesting or orginal. There's no sign that the band has extraordinary musical talent. On the other hand, 3 Doors Down seem to know their limitations and they know how to make familiar, accessible music. Usually, the most obvious comparison is to Matchbox 20 though Rob Thomas is, at least, a slightly better and more interesting singer and more distinctive songwriter than Arnold. On Here Without You, the model seems to be Creed's lofty, dramatic and very popular rock ballads, especially With Arms Wide Open. Arnold doesn't show the narcissism of Creed singer Scott Stapp but all the other elements are present. Here Without You starts with quiet guitar and Arnold's impassioned vocal. While drums eventually come in to add a touch of a rock feel, the song never gets loud in a way that might offend lite radio listeners. I suppose 3 Doors Down deserve points for avoiding the bombast of some rock ballads(including When I'm Gone) but while Arnold isn't too showy, the stiffness of his voice keeps Here Without You from achieving beauty or subtlety. Producer Rick Parashar also worked with humorless, radio friendly Nickelback, who are even stiffer and less likable than 3 Doors Down. Parashar follows rock ballad conventions here, adding a layer of strings that build as the song approaches an overdramatic, cloying climax. People love rock ballads and Here Without You isn't the worst one. 3 Doors Down smartly built an emotional song destined to be a hit but it really is a calculated, soulless piece of garbage. Here Without You's lyric is similar to When I'm Gone's but it's not quite as unappealing as that song's needy plea for his girlfriend to always think loving thoughts of him. Arnold is again away from his beloved. He wants her to be comforted by the fact that he's thinking and dreaming about her.

  8. A Perfect Circle-Weak and Powerless    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Maynard James Keenan is apparently going to keep alternating records by his bands, Tool and A Perfect Circle. A Perfect Circle's new CD is Thirteenth Step. A Perfect Circle's sound is a little artier and marginally less dark, heavy and hard rocking than Tool's but Keenan's music is always pretty dark. Weak and Powerless, written by Keenan and bandmate Billy Howerdel, isn't fun by it effectively communicates a gloomy mood without excess. Keenan's vocal is direct and downbeat but, unlike so many of his rock contemporaries, he doesn't showily wallow in his misery. Josh Freese's angular drumming and an array of edgy guitar sounds, including a cold, metallic sound, complete Weak and Powerless' tortured feel but also keep the song from dragging. Keenan sprinkles troubled images throughout Weak and Powerless to illustrate how he's "weak and powerless over you."

  9. Audioslave-Like A Stone    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Audioslave follow Cochise, the very enjoyably over the top, heavily Led Zeppellin influenced headbanger with a good, very subdued song. Who would have thought that the union of members of two hard rocking 90s bands would create a mellow, restrained hit? Rage Against The Machine weren't known for rock ballads but their musicans sound surprisingly comfortable playing a radio friendly midtempo rocker. Chris Cornell previously eschewed his usual Robert Plant inspired shriek on Soundgarden songs like Fell On Black Days and his solo record so his participation is some what less surprising, but his smooth vocal on Like A Stone is still notable. Like A Stone sounds like various mainstream rockers but it still has power. Like A Stone's sprawling pace and Cornell's controlled, strong singing give Like A Stone an epic, spell binding appeal. Guitarist Tom Morello does a good job providing a low key, textured background with a slight sense of menace. He also gets to shine with a solo that's not as hard as his Rage playing but shows a good sense of flair and drama, as his processed guitar twists around the notes. Like A Stone's lyric is a tale of devotion. Cornell sings about being obsessed by a long ago relationship. He apparently takes solace in the hope that if we're good, we'll lay to rest anywhere we want to go, so he'll eventually be reunited "in your house." Like A Stone is a bit formulaic and sappy but it's also quite gripping.

  10. White Stripes-Seven Nation Army    (up 1 position)      buy it!
    White Stripes have followed the surprise million selling White Blood Cells CD with the even more successful Elephant. Seven Nation Army is their biggest radio hit so far. Like White Blood Cells, Elephant is a very good record that throws all sorts of ideas together. Singer/songwriter Jack White alternates(sometimes in the same song) between sincere and cynical and between goofy pop and serious, intense power chord laden hard rock. White's songs are unified by a seemingly natural weirdness and a good sense of a hook. White Stripes are still just guitar player Jack and drummer Meg White but Jack varies the sound and keeps it interesting. Unlike most of White Stripes' music, Seven Nation Army has a bass line(apparently played on a processed guitar). The verses, with Meg banging and Jack playing the big, basic bass line, give Jack space for his odd, strangely compelling vocal. Instead of shifting to a chorus, Seven Nation Army adds an electric guitar that basically tracks the bass line but creates a squealing intensity as the song dissolves into a fun jam before returning to another verse. Seven Nation Army is great, partly because its recurring riff is so good and memorable. Seven Nation Army has the kind of weird lyric that adds to White Stripes' charm. Sounding crazy and paranoid but also like he might have a point, Jack alternately promises to fight and ignore an unnamed enemy. He finally decides to avoid the struggle, go to Wichita and "work the straw." On Seven Nation Army, White Stripes music is again unpolished, odd and powerful.

  11. Godsmack-Serenity    (up 7 positions)      buy it!
    Serenity is the second chart hit from Godsmack's Faceless CD. He has a lot of competition but I continue to find Godsmack's Sully Erna one of the most unappealing popular singers around. In Serenity, written by Erna and guitar player Tony Rambola, Erna sings about closing his eyes, taking a deep breath and "cradling your inner child" but his delivery is typically antagonistic. Erna doesn't rant or yell on Serenity. But his odd moan has a forboding, threatening quality that doesn't fit the the lyric or music. Serenity's music is interesting. Godsmack largely eschew rock band insturumentation. They make decent use of eastern sounds and percussion and create a textured, atmospheric feel. But, like on Godsmack's Voodoo, the mystical appeal of the music is steamrollered by Erna's negative energy. His intensity prevents Serenity from achieving a sense of serene spirituality. Rather than calming, Serenity puts me on edge.

  12. Santana-Why Don't You & I    (up 10 positions)      buy it!
    The success of Carlos Santana's two comeback CDs has got to be one of the oddest recent stories in pop music. Santana doesn't sing or write most of the songs. His contribution is mostly a bit of guitar doodling, his name and a hippie/classic rock vibe. The key to Santana's late career resurgence is the idea, originally hatched by Clive Davis, of pairing him with singer/songwriters who are less than half his age and popular with the kids. Santana's teammates seem to be getting steadily younger. The Shaman CD's first single teamed Santana with prototeen Michelle Branch. Why Don't You & I teams Santana with Alex Band, the 22 year old singer from The Calling. Why Don't You & I is very lightweight bubblegum pop but it is charming. Band's vocal is almost unbearably sunny but it fits the song's upbeat feel and is much more appealing than his showily earnest singing on The Calling's hit Wherever You Will Go. There's nothing new to Santana's playing but he has a great sense of crowd pleasing sounds. His easy riffs help the verses' breezy mood. Crunching power chords alternate with Santana's jamming to make the chorus irresistably catchy and Santana's solo is smart, tight and unshowy. The surprise about Why Don't You & I is that it was written by Nickelback's Chad Kroeger, who sings the album version. Light and fun are not words I associate with the normally lugubrious, overly meaningful Mr. Kroeger but Why Don't You & I has a nice light touch. Why Don't You & I's "heads we will and tails we'll try again" line is cute. So are the sweetly deployed cliches images(perfect for Mr. Band's youthful persona) of being "a lovesick puppy" with a stomach "filled with the butterflies" "bouncing round from cloud to cloud" and "walking around with little wings on my shoes".

  13. Smile Empty Soul-Bottom Of A Bottle    (up 1 position)      buy it!
    Bottom Of A Bottle is on the self titled CD by the Santa Clarita, CA band. Smile Empty Soul singer/guitarist/songwriter Sean Danielsen has a good grasp of the kind of sleek hard rock that's crossed over to the pop charts. Bottom Of A Bottle has a chorus, with Danielsen ranting over a big guitar sound, that reminds me of Linkin Park's In The End. But Bottom Of A Bottle is pretty unpleasant stuff. It's presumably meant to be a cautionary tale but the "I do it for the drugs" hook is still pretty nasty. The glib, showily harsh quality of Danielsen's singing undercuts any sympathy the song creates for its troubled protaganist. Danielsen sings that in a "scared and lonely" life, drugs and alcohol make him feel alive and loved.

  14. Fuel-Falls On Me    (up 1 position)      buy it!
    Falls On Me, from Fuel's Natural Selection CD, is another lame attempt by a band to reach a larger audience with an intense, overblown rock ballad. Fuel provided a prime example of the emotive hit with their Hemorrhage(In My Hands). Falls On Me is clearly an attempt to recapture Hemorrhage's success. Falls On Me isn't as overdone as Hemorrhage but it is pretty boring and obvious. The Hemorrhage similarity is pushed early on as Falls On Me starts with quiet, meaningful strumming then Brett Scallions does a quiet, meaningful vocal. Predictably, the big guitars soon come in. They're not so bad; Falls On Me has a decent sound. It's fairly catchy and has emphatic bursts of drums and guitar, but Falls On Me has no spark or excitement. Scallions' pretentious, self important vocal doesn't help things. Neither does the fact that Falls On Me is very familiar. Besides Hemorrhage, Falls On Me echoes Collective Soul's Heavy with a nearly identical hook: "all of your weight falls on me." Carl Bell's lyric apparently is about how a woman can break "my disease" so he can breathe.

  15. John Mayer-Bigger Than My Body    (up 5 positions)      buy it!
    I feel like John Mayer has the potential to be interesting but his hugely successful Room For Squares CD was too mild and inoffensive for my liking. There were encouraging signs for Mayer's new Heavier Things CD. When he won a Grammy, he conceded that his music had not yet justified his rapid rise to stardom and promised "to catch up." Heavier Things' title also seemed like an acknowledgement that Mayer's music has been a bit light and an assurance that the new CD would be a little more substantial. Heavier Things is something of a mixed bag. Some of the music is a bit harder but the vibe is generally mellow. The CD's title presumably refers to the generally depressed, kind of self pitying nature of the lyrics. Bigger Than My Body is one of Heavier Things' more upbeat songs. It's quite charming. Bigger Than My Body has No Such Thing's easy, smooth feel but it's not as annoyingly whimsical and it has more going on musically. Mayer is a talented guitar player but he often seems too modest to show his skills. Bigger Than My Body has a good, distorted guitar effect. It also has a nice, simple piano line. Mayer's whispery, self effacing vocal can be cutesy but it fits nicely with Bigger Than My Body's steady flow. Bigger Than My Body shows Mayer's tendency for safe, easy listening music but it also shows his ability to be endearing in an unforced way. Bigger Than My Body's lyrics are cautiously optimistic. Mayer sings that his wings have been clipped but "someday I'll soar."

  16. Black Eyed Peas-Where Is The Love?    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Black Eyed Peas are a LA based group, led by Will.I.Am, who have made music that combines various forms of hip hop and rock and usually has a positive message. Black Eyed have flirted with success before. Request Line(featuring Macy Gray), from the Bridging The Gap CD, was a minor hit as was Long Beach All Stars' Sunny hours, which had a rap by Will.I.Am. Black Eyed Peas have broken through in a big way with a smash hit that brings to mind classic R&B reflections on the state of the world by Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder as well as more recent ones by Arrested Development, Outkast and Fugees. Where Is The Love, from the Elephunk CD, has a good, light touch. Justin Timberlake helps out, doing a good job singing the chorus in a sweet falsetto. Strings give Where Is The Love a majestic, hopeful feel. The verses are helped by a simple skipping riff under the raps. Black Eyed Peas' three rappers each take a verse. They all have distinctive voices and, even while bemoaning various problems, they don't contradict the theme that the situation can be helped with love. The first verse urges people not to just focus on terrorism but to work on the hatreds that exist within our country. The second verse starts with the fairly standard idea that love is better than dropping bombs then refers to a war going on for a secret reason. The third verse attacks a world where "most of us only care about money makin'" and "wrong information is always shown by the media." Regardless of the specifics of the words, Where Is The Love's easy flow and upbeat vibe make it one of the summer's best singles.

  17. Train-Calling All Angels    (down 5 positions)      buy it!
    When they first broke through, Train at least presented themselves as a rock band. As Train's career has progressed, it's become clear that their music is made for easy listening radio. Drops Of Jupiter showed Train's gift for making music appropriate for elevators, dentist offices and yuppie background music. With its slathering of strings, Drops Of Jupiter was smooth and soothing but also sickly sweet. My first impression of Calling All Angels, the first single from the My Private Nation CD, was that it was more fairly empty lite rock. But further listens have shown that the sound has impressive depth. Calling All Angels is similar to Something More, from the Drops Of Jupiter CD. Something More clearly resembled psychedelic late period Beatles. Calling All Angels also has a layered, carefully constructed sound that is even more rich and rewarding. Unlike Something More, where the band didn't seem to know where to go after introducing their musical ideas, Calling All Angels continues to grow in power as it moves towards its conclusion Brendan O'Brien, who has produced dozens of good rock records by artists including Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen and Matthew Sweet, played on and produced Calling All Angels. I like the patient pace, Scott Underwood's big beat and the piano that fills out the striking soundcape. Calling All Angels reaches a majestic conclusion with a blanket of joyful voices. Calling All Angels isn't perfect. Pat Monahan's vocal generally matches the song's hopeful, optimistic tone but he can also sound like a mediocre mannered rock singer, especially when repeatedly invoking the "I won't give up if you don't give up" hook. The lyric's attempts at social commentary like "my tv set just keeps it all from being clear" and "football teams are kissing queens and losing sight of having dreams" are pretty lame. The whole idea of calling for a sign of angelic presence in troubled times is pretty sappy. But the positive, yearning music goes beyond the lyric in creating an appealing feeling.

  18. Nelly-Shake Ya Tailfeather    (up 1 position)      buy it!
    P. Diddy assembled tracks from an all star lineup for the Bad Boys II soundtrack. I'm guessing that Nelly didn't sweat too much over his contribution. Shake Ya Tailfeather has the same sprawling, steady, easy but tight form of many of Nelly's singles from Country Grammar to Air Force Ones. Shake Ya Tailfeather is nothing new and it doesn't have much distinctive personality but it is well constructed and it shows Nelly's skills. As on many of Nelly's songs, annoying elements are side by side with likable ones. Shake Ya Tailfeather features the tomahawk chop chant that's irritated fans of teams playing the Braves for years. You'd figure that Nelly, who's always championing his St.Louis hometown, would be loathe to coopt the theme of the Cards' rival. Especially on the first verse, Shake Ya Tailfeather showcases Nelly's considerable rapping talents. He's fast with a light touch, and a lot of presence. With handclaps, synth interjections and a steady flow, Shake Ya Tailfeather's backing track has energy to match Nelly's vocal. The music and Nelly's interjections maintain an appealing feel even when lesser rappers take over. P. Diddy, who does the second verse, isn't as drab and flat as he can be. He keeps the song moving but his confident rap isn't very exciting. It would be nothing without its accompaniment. Murphy Lee from St. Lunatics, who's contributed to Nelly's CDs, does the third verse as comic relief, sharing his love of big booties and grass. It's nothing special but fine. Shake Ya Tailfeather's familiarity made it a big hit but it also is a good example of how Nelly's rapping and music can be irresistable. Even for a Nelly song, Shake Ya Tailfeather's lyric, mostly about wanting to see the ladies dance, is pretty slight. Nelly comes on to a girl then disses her. The rappers say each others names a lot. Nelly says he likes girls of all ethnicities then asks one to "take it off" and "take that ass to the floor."

  19. Beyonce' featuring Jay-Z-Crazy In Love    (down 2 positions)      buy it!
    I've never been a big Beyonce Knowles fan. She always seemed competent but coldly ambitious as she solidified her success and control of Destiny's Child. I doubt that she's become a different person but on Crazy In Love, from her solo debut Dangerously In Love CD, Knowles is more likable than usual. Knowles produced Crazy In Love with Rich Harrison, who's also worked with Mary J. Blige and Kelly Rowland. There isn't much new to their sounds but they use them to create a very fun result. Crazy In Love is very effectively constructed. It has an irresistable momentum, never taking a break as it keeps the good time sounds coming. The verses get a great jittery energy from a fast cymbal driven sound. Beyonce's vocal effectively slides quickly around the beat. The chorus takes the excitement a notch higher with a horn sample from the Chi-lites' Are You My Woman?(Tell Me So) which, along with a pounding beat, maintains the song's buoyant spirit as Beyonce repeats her joyful proclamation that she's crazy for the guy who's doing love no one else can. The rap by Beyonce's apparent boyfriend Jay-Z sounds like it was spliced into the song afterwards but Jay-Z's confident, fast moving, good natured boasts fit easily into one of the most enjoyable singles of the summer.

  20. Christina Aguilera-Can't Hold Us Down    (up 4 positions)      buy it!
    Can't Hold Us Down, the fourth single from Christina Aguilera's Stripped CD, is another declaration of Aguilera's determination to overcome the obstacles she claims life throws at her. As on Beautiful, Aguilera is smart enough to couch her promise to overcome society's preconceptions in a broader context. On Beautiful, Aguilera could claim to represent all young women who don't fit a traditional definition of beauty. On Can't Hold Us Down, Aguilera says she's singing for all "my girls all around the world who've come across a man who don't respect your worth." Can't Hold Us Down doesn't have the subtlety, musically or lyrically, that writer/producer Linda Perry brought to Beautiful. Can't Hold Us Down was cowritten and coproduced by Scott Storch, who also did Fighter which, with a steadily wailing rock guitar having a decibal competition with Aguilera's shrill proclamation of self confidence, had the subtlety of a jackhammer. Can't Hold Us Down isn't as aggressively annoying as Fighter but it's not very interesting. Can't Hold Us Down's backing track is fairly lifeless, with an unchanging, flat beat and nothing to the music beyond an OK, repeated chiming effect. Aguilera is, typically, a bit of a vocal showoff but she gets your attention and shows her skills by quickly and fluidly snaking around the lyric. While she's never relaxed, Aguilera's singing has a bit of the playful, retro feel of Blu Cantrell's Hit Em Up Style. The world can always use another good song urging women to stand up for themselves. But Aguilera is hardly Aretha Franklin. Can't Hold Us Down's thoughts are pretty familiar and not that inspiring. Can't Hold Us Down's universal hopes get tied up with Aguilera's petty complaints about how people slander her "for popularity." But it can't be bad for young women to be encouraged to state their opinions and "respect your worth." Lil' Kim, Aguilera's Lady Marmalade teammate, adds a little more flavor and raspy attitude to Can't Hold Us Down though it's not her best work. Kim's rap fits with the lyric's general useful though not particularly original or insightful feel, complaining about double standards regarding how men and women can act towards the oppositie sex and declaring that "the table's about to turn."

  21. 311-Creatures    (unchanged)      buy it!
    A while ago it seemed that 311, whose biggest hit was 1995's Down, was fading away, making pleasant but predictable and unimportant music. Recently they've shown some staying power, producing decent variations on their stoner ska rock theme. Last year's mellow, blissed out Amber, from their From Chaos CD, was 311's biggest hit in a while. Creatures, from the new Evolver CD, is another likable single that has 311 rocking a little harder than usual. As on their best songs, 311 keep things interesting on Creatures by mixing the band's disparate elements without overemphasizing any of them. Nick Hexum's loose, spacy croon has a smooth charm but on its own it can be vapid. So Creatures combines Hexum's voice with Tim Mahoney's tough, tight guitar. Creatures also has bursts of fun, silly synth effects, S.A. Martinez' concise, effective rap, Chad Sexton's hard, crisp drumming and good, full harmonies. The result is an enjoyable free flow. Creatures never gets stuck. It varies its flavors as it moves inobtrusively from section to section. Creatures isn't particularly great or ambitious but it is an easy, good time. Creatures' lyric is fairly silly. It's about the pros and cons of being energetic and living an exciting life and the fun of going nuts and having a volatile personality.

  22. Justin Timberlake-Senorita    (up 4 positions)      buy it!
    Justin Timberlake has impressively moved on from being a member of a very successful singing group to being even more successful as a solo artist. Even more impressive is that Timberlake has escaped N Sync's squeaky clean, lightweight pop image and built some cred as an r&b singer. A lot of credit for Timberlake's makeover has to go to The Neptunes(Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo), who wrote and produced seven songs on the Justified CD including Like I Love You, Rock Your Body and Senorita. Senorita, Justified's fourth hit, is insubstantial and not that impressive but it(along with Timberlake's nice contribution to Black Eyed Peas' Where Is The Love) helps solidify the idea of Timberlake as a respectable artist. Unlike some of Timberlake's previous singles, Senorita doesn't show a need to overwhelm us with overdone instrumentation or breathless Michael Jackson imitations. Senorita is a smooth ride with relaxed confidence. The Neptunes again show their skill at putting together an appealing song. Senorita's chief asset is a very likable, easy keyboard riff. Senorita is also helped by a minimal percussive beat and touches of horns. Timberlake is once again aided by good, well placed backing vocals. Timberlake's singing seems fine. He's pretty charming, though I could do without the cocky guys/ladies finale. Senorita has a typical lyric. Timberlake tries to convince a woman that the guy who upsets her "doesn't love ya" and offers his "real love" in exchange.

  23. Dave Matthews-Gravedigger    (unchanged)      buy it!
    Some Devil is Dave Matthews' first solo record. It seems like a mistake for Matthews to work without his band. Their fine, loose playing goes a long way in making Matthews' light, charming songs more interesting and substantial. Some Devil is apparently Matthews' attempt to show that he's not just the leader of a good jam band but also a serious songwriter. Matthews usually has trouble when he takes himself too seriously(e.g. Beyond These Crowded Streets' first single Don't Drink The Water). Hyperseriousness is Gravedigger's problem. Matthews meant Gravedigger as a thoughtful meditation on death and tragedy but it came out maudlin and ridiculously self important. Gravedigger starts OK with music a little like that of U2's One and clanging drums that add to a dissonant undertone. The music grows in pretension before reaching a too big climax with crashing drums and soaring strings. Matthews does a serious, dour, quietly angry vocal. His singing fits with the song's well intentioned but heavy handed feel. Matthews shows his empathy with his doomed characters, spitting out their tales. A "ring around the rosy" section, reminscent of Crash Into Me's "I'm the king of the castle", feels stupid in Gravedigger's drab context. Gravedigger's video is even more overdone than the song, leaving no overwrought image unshown. The lyric has Matthews contemplating the sad stories of people commemorated on grave stones. We get the woman who lost her children in the war, the little boy who "rode his bike like the devil until the day he died" and Matthews' wish that "when you dig my grave, could you make it shallow so that I can feel the rain." Gravedigger is too much bleakness with too little point.

  24. Chingy-Right Thurr    (up 1 position)      buy it!
    Apparently Nelly is so huge that even people who kind of sound like him are destined to have hits. Chingy(born Howard Bailey Jr.) is, like Nelly, from St. Louis. The local dialect seems to include a relaxed slur. So where Nelly had Hot In Herre, Chingy has Right Thurr. Right Thurr, like Nelly's music, has a confident, sprawling, repetitive quality. That's basically where the similarity ends. Chingy doesn't have Nelly's unbelievable fast, easy rapping skills or high energy backing. Chingy's mentor is Ludacris, who is the executive producer of Chingy's debut Jackpot CD. Right Thurr has the broad, jokey quality of some of Ludacris' music. Right Thurr is solidly constructed. It's comfortable with a good, steady beat, repeated synth riff and Chingy's easy rap. Chingy has a good time and his joy is infectious. On the verses, he sounds a little like Eminem in a mischievous mode. The downside is that Right Thurr is really repetitious. Nothing happens to keep your attention as the same riff repeats over and over again. Chingy's repeated, mannered enunciation of the title also gets a little tired. Generally, Right Thurr is genial but slight.

  25. Jane's Addiction-Just Because    (down 12 positions)      buy it!
    Perry Farrell has returned to two of his most successful projects. Lollapalooza, the concert tour that Ferrell co-founded, is back for the first time in six years. In time for that Jane's Addiction, with original members Farrell, Dave Navarro and drummer Stephen Perkins, have released Strays, their first record of all new songs since 1990's Ritual de lo Habitual. Jane's Addiction were quite huge but Farrell's intervening work, with Porno For Pyros and on a solo record, was often obscure. Jane's Addiction are smart to reintroduce themselves with a song that gets your attention and announces that they still matter. Farrell and Navarro are also aware that alternative rock music got harder while Jane's Addiction was away. Navarro, who was a Red Hot Chili Pepper and put out a solo record during Jane's break, drives Just Because forward with an attacking, ringing guitar line that sounds a lot like The Edge's on Pride(In The Name Of Love). Farrell tones down his vocal mannerisms. He still has distinctive phrasing, stretching out certain words but his personality doesn't overshadow the song as he does battle with Navarro's slashing. Just Because lacks the eccentricities that originally set the band apart from other groups but it's fun and it rocks. Just Because's lyric is apparently a warning that a relationship might be over because Farrell's partner never does things just because she feels like it.

Songs 26-50


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