A Perfect Circle - The Hollow
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: # 26 (April 2001) buy it!
Tool's new CD is coming out soon but Maynard James Keenan's side project keeps getting radio play. After moving even farther away from the Tool signature sound with the folky Three Libras, Mer De Noms' third chart hit sounds like its first, Judith. The guitars aren't quite as big and the atmosphere isn't as angry and oppressive as on a typical Tool song but The Hollow is still serious with a sweeping sound and Keenan's dramatic vocals. Billy Howerdel creates a good, metallic guitar sound. Keenan sings about someone with a constant need to satisfy his libido. The Hollow is fairly interesting but not too different from Keenan's usual tales of obsession. It lacks his usual climactic payoff and doesn't really go anywhere.
A Perfect Circle - Judith
Weeks on Chart: 23 Peak: # 7 (July 2000) buy it!
A Perfect Circle was formed by Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan and Tool guitar tech Billy Howerdel. A Perfect Circle's debut CD is called Mer De Noms. Judith's music is similar to much of Tool's. It's slightly less dense but it's still grinding, jagged and intense. Keenan has always reminded me of Sugar and Husker Du's Bob Mould in the way his anger seems so uncontrollable that he seems on the verge of a breakdown. On Judith, Keenan's screaming vents his rage at christianity. He tries to talk a woman out of an attitude where she feels she's brought on her problems through her sins, yelling "it's not like you killed someone."
A Perfect Circle - The Outsider
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: # 10 (May 2004) buy it!
It's difficult for me to imagine listening to an entire Maynard James Keenan CD in one sitting. It's hard for me to make it through each dark song of thick guitars, booming drums and Keenan's howling and raging. The Outsider isn't A Perfect Circle's best song but it's another example why, with APC and Tool, Keenan is one of the best of the many angry young white rock guys. Keenan and APC co-founder Billy Howerdell, who produced and wrote The Outsider, know how to create a dramatic sound. The music gains force by moving slowly, with layers of guitars in place all along the way. Keenan's vocal warily moves forward in irregular spurts, as if he's trying to keep things in but his rage forces him to blurt things out and then work himself into a frenzy. Band member Josh Freese, who's also a very in demand studio drummer for everyone from Avril Lavigne and Kelly Clarkson to The Offspring and Good Charlotte, heightens The Outsider's tension with his pounding. The Outsider has a potent, focused sound, which loses appeal only because we've heard it before. The Outsider's lyric is more problematic. The targets of Keenan's rage are usually better chosen than on the nasty, angry Outsider, where Keenan seems more mean than troubled. It can be frustrating to deal with a depressed person who seems to talk about suicide just to get attention but The Outsider crosses the line from frustration to callousness. Keenan tells a girlfriend, who's given in to her "reckless dark desires", that he doesn't "wanna watch you" "throw it away like this." Just to make it clear that "I'm over this", he calls her a medicated, "narcissistic drama queen" and a "suicidal imbecile." Keenan finishes The Outsider with the sweet thought: "if you choose to pull the trigger, should your drama prove sincere, do it somewhere far away from here."
A Perfect Circle - Three Libras
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: # 14 (Nov. 2000) buy it!
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."
A Perfect Circle - Weak and Powerless
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: # 4 (Nov. 2003) 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."
A3 - Woke Up This Morning
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: # 25 (March 2000) buy it!
It's unlikely Woke Up This Morning would be a hit if there wasn't such a buzz around the Sopranos. The song has a cool, hip edge. But unlike the great HBO show, it seems a little gimmicky, with beeping electronic music. The writing of the series is usually more subtle then the lyrics of its theme, "woke up this morning, got myself a gun."
Aaliyah - Miss You
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: # 30 (April 2003) buy it!
More than a year and a half after her death, Aaliyah is back on the charts with her second posthumous pop hit. Miss You is on the I Care 4 U CD, which includes eight of Aaliyah's hits and six new songs. I find Miss You, with tweeting bird effects presumably meant to evoke heaven, a touch creepy. On the video, popular artists lip synch Aaliyah's lines about missing a lover who went off to college as if they wrote the song about Aaliyah. It's a little weird but the performers' affection for Aaliyah is surely real. Miss You, written and produced by Johnta Austin and Teddy Bishop, is generally OK. Aaliyah's singing is fine and it's nicely mixed with good backing vocals. A quiet, simple beat and restrained keyboards don't interfere with the ethereal mood. Miss You's music is oddly similar to that of Minnie Ripperton's Lovin' You. It's very smooth and soothing. It's also so mellow it could put you to sleep.
Aaliyah - More Than A Woman
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 49 (June 2002) buy it!
Aaliyah's tragic death at age 22 cut short what would likely have been a long, successful music and acting career. At least, the continued success of her self titled CD means that the last memory of Aaliyah won't be the awful movie Queen Of The Damned, which even her charisma couldn't save. We Need A Resolution and Rock The Boat, Aaliyah's previous singles, fell short of the top 50 but More Than A Woman gives her another pop hit. Aaliyah's voice was adequate rather than remarkable but she also had a real presence and a cool, strong, distinctive image. Her gifts are nicely displayed on More Than A Woman. More Than A Woman was produced by Timbaland, who worked with Aaliyah on her One In A Million CD and on Romeo Must Die's Try Again. More Than A Woman is not as striking as Try Again but it's a good and smooth with a crisp beat, a likable keyboard riff and strong backup singers to fill out the sound. Aaliyah again presents a confident persona. She's unsure if a guy is ready for her but encourages him to "tempt me". She's ready to give in to passion and promises him an exciting life with her if he proves himself.
Aaliyah - Try Again
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: # 27 (Aug. 2000) buy it!
With its edgy but inobtrusive beat and keyboards and Aaliyah's confident presence, Try Again, from the soundtrack of the movie Romeo Must Die, is very cool hip hop with a good, smooth sound. Aaliyah presents herself as an appealingly strong woman. Wary of being thrown a line, keeps a guy on his toes, making it clear she's into him like he's into her but not wanting to be used and discarded. She asks to wait and see, looking for him to earn her trust and hinting that his persistence will pay off even if she "might be shy on the first date."
Aaron Lewis and Fred Durst - Outside
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: # 10 (March 2001) buy it!
Outside is the bonus track on the 1999 Family Values Tour CD. Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst "discovered" the band Staind early in their career and produced their 1999 Dysfunction CD. Dysfunction had two rock radio hits: the power ballad Home and the intense rocker Mudshovel. Both songs had Aaron Lewis' intense vocals and lyrics about his troubled mind. Outside is a duet between Lewis and Durst. The acoustic guitar backing is appealing but Lewis' vocals are again a little overwrought as he sings that the person who torments him is screwed up inside, just like he is.
AC/DC - Satelite Blues
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 43 (Aug. 2000) buy it!
With its familiar crunchy guitar chords and piercingly shrieked vocals Satelite Blues, from the Stiff Upper Lip CD, finds AC/DC in their simple, classic mode. It's very similar to the band's popular songs like Hell's Bells and Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap and their core fans probably don't mind. Angus and Malcolm Young's lyrics are as unsophisticated as ever as Brian Johnson sings about a woman who "make the place a jumping", "brings me to the boil" and "like to give it up some." They then apparently move on to complaints about a satelite dish that won't work.
AC/DC - Stiff Upper Lip
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: # 35 (April 2000) buy it!
With Brian Johnson's gravity defying screech and the dopey lyrics about keeping a stiff upper lip and shooting from the hip, the title track of the new AC/DC CD comes close to self parody. Still, their fans will probably be happy. It sounds like AC/DC and a it's got a rockin' boogie guitar.
Adema - Giving In
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: # 27 (Oct. 2001) buy it!
Giving In is from Adema's self titled debut. Adema singer Mark Chavez is Korn frontman Jonathan Davis' half brother. With its dense atmosphere and big guitars, Giving In sounds a little like Korn but it's not as interesting. Giving In's crunching chords and Chavez' slow elocution also remind me of the hard rock Weezer lovingly mocked on their sweater song. Giving In is about falling into alcohol abuse. Chavez is very serious, especially on a kind of goofy spoken word section.
Adema - The Way You Like It
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: # 41 (March 2002) buy it!
The Way You Like It is the second single from Adema's self titled CD. Adema is perhaps the best example of what's wrong with today's mainstream rock. They inspired a bidding was among record labels, presumably partly because Adema's singer Mark Chavez is the half brother of Korn front man Jonathan Davis and partly because they sound so much like other bands that have had big record sales. There is a similarity between Korn and Adema in the way they try to mix hard rock guitar and synths to create a meaningful atmosphere. The difference between them is that Korn sometimes actually achieves real meaning while Adema's music is garbage that resembles more meaningful work. With a high pitched, spooky riff, The Way You Like It tells us from the start that it's grasping for significance. But even more than Adema's first single Giving In, which at least had an interesting topic(an alcoholic's inabiliy to avoid self destruction), The Way You Like It has a dark surface but no substance. On The Way You Like It, Chavez is apparently already complaining about how fame attracts fake friends and nasty gossip. Adema partly resemble Linkin Park, whose angry hard rock Hybrid Theory CD was the biggest selling CD of 2001(how 'bout that for a depressing sign of the times). But Adema doesn't have Linkin Park's hip hip fluidity. The only thing vaguely hip hop about The Way You Like It is its complaint about player hating. The Way You Like It's crunching guitar and Chavez' staccato, often yelled, vocal are hostile enough to make it on rock radio but it's not good or interesting.
Aerosmith - Angel's Eye
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 41 (Dec. 2000) buy it!
The lyrics about there being no place to hide from an angel's eye are ridiculous except as a tie in to the Charlie's Angels movie. At least Angel's Eye isn't as bloated and obviously commercial as I Don't Want To Miss A Thing, Aeromith's contribution to the Armageddon soundtrack, which was written by successful hack Diane Warren. Angel's Eye's music is fast and loud, with good energy. Joe Perry has a decent guitar riff. Steven Tyler is his usual over the top self, yelling the gibberish about feeding your fantasy, a "halo on fire" and "running in place like a rat in a race."
Aerosmith - Jaded
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: # 4 (May 2001) buy it!
Aerosmith's new CD is called Just Push Play. Jaded vaguely resembles the much better Janie's Got A Gun. It's the kind of slick, commercial music Aerosmith's made since their late 80's comeback. Jaded is kind of dopey. The lyrics keep telling us she's jaded but don't find many interesting ways to say it. Steven Tyler's distinctive shriek wails fairly meaningless lines like "you think you're where it's at but is that where it's supposed to be?" Jaded is superficial but also catchy, well made and inoffensive. Aerosmith take no chances, throwing in lots of pleasing sounds from strings, rock guitar and a familiar "my my baby blue" chorus.
Aerosmith - Just Push Play
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: # 48 (July 2001) buy it!
It's been noted that Aerosmith's 1986 collaboration with Run D.M.C. on Walk This Way was one of the first successful examples of the hard rock/hip hop hybrid that's nearly ubiquitous these days. Aerosmith hadn't revisited the sound much until the title track from their new CD. With quotes from Walk This Way and a very similar guitar line, Just Push Play is practically a tribute to Walk This Way. Steven Tyler's singing and lyrics are typically broad and mindless but at least this time they're at the service of a fun song. Just Push Play has a big sound with big guitars, scratching, a big beat and a loose, anarchic feel.
AFI - Girl's Not Grey
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: # 22 (April 2003) buy it!
AFI's Sing The Sorrow CD is the California band's seventh record. Through the late 90s, A.F.I. tried different styles, principally hardcore and gothic. Their following kept growing to the point that AFI is now on a major label and they could work on Sing The Sorrow with big time producers Butch Vig(Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins) and Jerry Finn(Blink 182). AFI have mostly taken advantage of their opportunity. AFI leader Davey Havok has become more confident and focused. Girl's Not Grey is solid and well made. AFI are clearly Bad Religion fans and Girl's Not Grey has the serious, intense sound of a good Bad Religion song. I like the way Girl's Not Grey shifts speed. Guitarist Jade Puget and drummer Adam Carson pick up the pace on the chorus and parts of the verses to exciting effect. Puget generally keeps things interesting with a variety of riffs. I don't love Girl's Not Grey. It's a little too tightly structured and Havok is kind of humorless. Still, his singing doesn't have the pretension and narcissism of so many contemporary rock singers. He reminds me of Joe Jackson in an earnest, hard rocking mode. Girl's Not Grey has a good, big, ungimmicky sound. When it gets juiced up, it's quite thrilling. Girl's Not Grey might be about finding a moment of calm before creating the art that "does drown" and "will swallow whole."
AFI - Leaving Song, Pt. 2
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 40 (Oct. 2003) buy it!
I kind of liked Girl's Not Grey, the earnest but well made and quite exciting first chart hit from AFI's Sing The Sorrow CD. But Leaving Song 2 seems overdramatic and silly to me. At the risk of seeming old, Leaving Song 2 just sounds like a lot of yelling to me. The verses have Davey Havok screaming furiously. The chorus alternates backing singers' ranting with Havok's whining. In between are pretentious metallic guitar sounds, crunching chords and a lot of effort to make Leaving Song 2 sound meaningful. Leaving Song 2's has a dark, over the top, self pitying lyric about a breakup. Havok wails "don't waste your touch, you won't feel anything", "you won't find anything worthy of redeeming." He also sings that you might as well "take my heart away" and about ceasing "all feeling." Havok's pain seems real but it's not very interesting.
AFI - Silver and Cold
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 33 (April 2004) buy it!
Before their latest CD, AFI never had a big radio hit but their Sing The Sorrow CD has given them three chart hits. Silver and Cold isn't as good as Girl's Not Grey but it's better than The Leaving Song, Pt. 2. AFI worked up some energy and excitement on Girl's Not Grey's impassioned chorus. The rest of AFI's music seems more boring. Silver and Cold has a big sound but it's very serious and a bit stiff. Davey Havok's voice is sincere but his howl shows no subtlety or modulation. With big, impassioned vocals, Silver and Cold's chorus has an anthemic appeal. But Havok's writing is wildly overdone. He sings "you, in somber resplendence, I hold" and "as a rapturous voice escapes, I will tremble a prayer." Silver and Cold is apparently a love song and it has an appealing sweeting. But any joy is overwhelmed by pounding drums, thick guitars and Havok's hysterical, agitated singing. Silver and Cold's emotion seems appealingly real but it's presented in an overwrought package.
Afro Celt Sound System - When You're Falling
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: # 41 (Sept. 2001) buy it!
Simon Emmerson founded Afro Celt Sound System, bringing in African Irish musicians to experiment with rhythm based sounds. When You're Falling, from the group's third record Further In Time, features long time world music fan Peter Gabriel on guest vocals. Nine years after his last record, Us, it's nice to have Gabriel back on the radio, showing that, working with good material, he can avoid his late career tendency to be overly serious. Gabriel anchors When You're Falling with the kind of passionate but controlled vocal he used for Biko, In Your Eyes and Come Talk To Me. The group's backing vocals, evocative, exotic percussion and string instruments create a joyful mood. When You're Falling is a tribute to a woman who's "a fallen angel with your wings set in light." A warning if you're considering buying the CD: When You're Falling is much more focused than most of Further In Time, which is generally fairly vague beat and atmosphere exercises.
Afroman - Because I Got High
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 26 (Sept. 2001) buy it!
Debuting on the top 50 the week after Start The Commotion, Because I Got High is an even more unlikely out of left field hit. Because I Got High was originally released in 2000 on a record with the same name that was sold at Afroman's shows and the local Hattiesburg, Mississippi record store. Word of mouth made Because I Got High a southern frat hit and the buzz eventually got Afroman(born Joseph Foreman) a record deal. Because I Got High is now on Afroman's Good Times CD and the Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back soundtrack. You can see Because I Got High as an antidrug song. It lists all the things Afroman didn't do because he was high. Still, Afroman doesn't seem too concerned that his pot use makes him screw up. Because I Got High is appealing because it so accurately depicts a relaxed, weed induced mood. With backing that's mostly a very simple beat and a very loose mood, Because I Got High sounds like the guys just showed up wasted at the studio and decided to do it.
Alanis Morissette - Everything
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 30 (June 2004) buy it!
Time(she turned 30 this spring), therapy and a new boyfriend have calmed Alanis Morissette. So-Called Chaos, Morisette's fourth studio album, has less rage and more introspection than her early records. Morissette seems less interested in being provocative. She also seems fairly uninterested in gaining new young listeners. She's apparently resigned to mostly selling records to longtime fans and baby boomers. Everything, So-Called Chaos' first single, isn't particularly surprising or exciting. It's pleasant listening. Everything has a spacy rock intro that sounds a little like Soundgarden's Black Hole Sun. Everything then settles into a fairly standard rock arrangement, with a steady beat, that has some variation. The chorus has a warm, layered sound with a simple, ringing guitar riff. Morissette's voice is fine and pretty open. Everything has a leisurely pace. Everything's sprawling recitation is reminiscent of Thank U, from Morissette's second record. The thanks go to her boyfriend, rather than Thank U's more random list of targets. Morissette appreciates how he sees all her sides. He digs the good things in her(she's wise with a kind soul and a brave heart). He doesn't pretend her bad side(she's moody, withholding and passive aggressive) doesn't exist and he even loves some of her darkness. I'm not that interested in Morisette's self explorations but Everything is very genial. It has a giving tone. Musically, Everything isn't very ambitious but it's inoffensive and goes by easily.
Alanis Morissette - Hands Clean
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: # 5 (March 2002) buy it!
Morissette made her name in her very early 20's with You Oughta Know, an angry note to a guy who dumped her for another. Now in her late 20's, she introduces us to her new Under Rug Swept CD with a less emotional (no memories of oral sex in a theatre in this one) but still angry look back at a now finished personal and professional relationship. Hands Clean seems to be about Glen Ballard, who produced and cowrote most of the songs on Morissette's last two records but is conspicuously absent from Under Rug Swept. Hands Clean remembers a condescending("if it weren't for me you would never have amounted to very much") older producer who seduced her then dumped her. Clearly, Alanis wants to show she can make it alone. She wrote and produced Under Rug Swept on her own and played most of the instruments. She did a good job on Hands Clean, making it sound familiar and fresh, smoothly shifting from verses with rapid torrents of confession to smooth, harder rocking choruses. Hands Clean is fairly disposable and similar to, if slightly tougher than, previous Alanis songs like All I Really Want and Head Over Feet but the sound is full, catchy and always moving forward.
Alice in Chains - Fear the Voices
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 27 (Nov. 1999) buy it!
This previously unreleased track from the now disbanded band is not on the Nothing Safe, best of the box CD so if you want to own Fear the Voices, you need to shell out for the Music Bank 4 CD box set. Fear the Voices is more humorless, heavy music from the band. It starts pretty well with subtle drums but the guitars get showier with a pointless boogie solo. The lyrics are silly about how "the choices will blow you away."
Alice In Chains - Get Born Again
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: # 14 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
The single from the Nothing Safe greatest hits collection is more overblown, self important if well played rock. It's sad that that the Seattle sound that has lived on is slow, unexciting monotous classic rock instead of the original, fast and varied music of Nirvana not to mention the quirky sound of bands like Mudhoney and Young Fresh Fellows.
Alicia Keys - A Women's Worth
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: # 29 (Feb. 2002) buy it!
Inevitably, the novelty of Fallin's clean, retro sound faded after dozens of listens. And I've seen enough of Alicia Keys' blissfully confident face. Still, Keys' singles are oases of thoughtful, real sounding music in the fake, overproduced world of top 40 radio. A Women's Worth, like Fallin', has a smart sound that, with touches of atmospheric keyboards, percussion and psychedelic guitar, obviously alludes to classic mellow late 60s and early 70s soul but also shows Keys' smart, cool personality. Keys has a good voice but she again cleverly fills out a minimal sound with good backing vocals. Keys' lyrics advise men that the best way to win her and women in general is to treat them with respect. They naturally fit the song's easy but self assured sound.
Alicia Keys - Fallin'
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: # 19 (Oct. 2001) buy it!
Alicia Keys' Songs In A Minor is probably the most remarkable success story of 2001. Keys' only previous credits were a couple soundtrack songs and a little backup work but her CD debuted at number one and has been near the top of the charts ever since. Fallin' is striking on first listen and goes a long way in explaining the CD's success. Unlike the overproduced work of other female pop singers, Fallin' shows the confidence to let Keys' singing stand on its own and her strong, sexy voice is up to the task. Fallin' has a good, minimal production. Strong backing vocals and Keys' piano playing create a classic, soulful sound. There isn't much to the lyric, about the confusion of a relationship that brings lots of pleasure and pain, but its simplicity fits the song's stylish, retro feel.
Alien Ant Farm - Movies
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: # 36 (Feb. 2002) buy it!
Movies was actually the first single from the Anthology CD. It spent a couple weeks on the chart last spring. After the success of Alien Ant Farm's nasty but ingenious rocking cover of Smooth Criminal, Movies is getting another chance. Movies again shows the band's skill at making music that's rocking but catchy. As on Smooth Criminal, a lot of the credit should go to Terry Corso, whose alternately stuttering and booming guitar playing gives Movies a big, energetic sound. Movies doesn't quite have Smooth Criminal's momentum and I find Dryden Mitchell's vocals somewhat obnoxious. Still Movies, about suggesting a graceful end to a relationship that's gone wrong, is an appealingly buoyant rocker.
Alien Ant Farm - Smooth Criminal
Weeks on Chart: 22 Peak: # 2 (Oct. 2001) buy it!
The second chart hit from the Anthology CD, is fairly ingenious. They take advantage of the familiarity of the song from Michael Jackson's Bad. Dryden Mitchell even mimics Jackson's whoops and other vocal tics. To appeal to rock fans, Alien Ant Farm took a song that was catchy and edgy to start with and beefed it up. Terry Corso is particularly impressive, using the original's riff for a hard, compact guitar line. Jackson's paranoia is a natural fit with the misogyny of much contemporary rock. Smooth Criminal is a quite nasty story of a guy who comes in the window of a woman's apartment and strikes her down, leaving "blood stains on the carpet" and the woman near death. Alien Art Farm's Smooth Criminal grabs you with its striking, dark momentum and tight music but the harsh rock setting makes the unpleasantness of the song even clearer.
All-American Rejects - Swing Swing
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: # 25 (March 2003) buy it!
Modern rock radio play put Swing Swing, from the Stillwater, Oklahoma band's self titled CD, on the top 50 for three months early this year. Swing Swing returned to the chart as the latest emo band to charm pop radio. All-American Rejects share a love of a big, basic, upbeat, enthusiatic sound with Jimmy Eat World and other emo practitioners. Swing Swing's mix of crunching guitars and shaggy goofiness brings to mind emo predecessores and godfathers Weezer. Swing Swing adds cheesy keyboards to glossy guitar rock in a way that recalls an earlier generation of bands like Cheap Trick and Split Enz. Swing Swing is a good time. It easily shifts musical focus from a jagged gutar riff to keyboards to a good bass line. Tyson Ritter is appealingly earnest as he intensely yells. On Swing Swing, Ritter admits being devastated by a breakup but puts on a brave face, vowing to find someone new.
Amanda Perez - Angel
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: # 16 (April 2003) buy it!
Amanda Perez is a young Mexican American woman from Fort Wayne, Indiana. On Angel, the title track from Perez' breakthrough CD, Perez brings to mind Alicia Keys. Both are confident, idiosyncratic(Perez is pierced in many places) and largely in control of their music. Perez wrote the songs on Angel, coproduced the record and played most of the instruments. It's Perez playing Angel's piano. I'm not a huge fan of Angel. It's a pretty basic ballad. But I do admire its arrangement. With unshowy piano chords, a simple, minimal beat and well placed backing vocals, Angel has a good, uncluttered sound. The only flourish is a bit of vocal distortion which adds some texture. In this age where American Idol rewards intense, overemotive balladeers, it's good to hear Perez' controlled vocal. Angel was apparently inspired by the death of Perez' cousin. Angel is about grieving a loss. Perez asks God to send her an angel "to heal my broken heart from being in love." Perez sings that, even if he sometimes "took my love for granted", losing someone special has made her feel like she can't love anymore since "my heart can't take no more lies and my eyes are all out of cries."
American Hi-Fi - Flavor Of The Weak
Weeks on Chart: 21 Peak: # 17 (May 2001) buy it!
Alternative rock radio got bored with Flavor Of The Weak but it's back on the chart thanks to play at top 40 stations. The appeal of Flavor Of The Weak, from American Hi-Fi's self titled debut CD, is clear. It's good natured and familiar pop with the thrill of crunching power chords. Like Weezer and Presidents of the USA, American Hi-Fi show a fondness for fun, somewhat silly late 70s pop rock artists like The Knack, Kiss and Pat Benatar. The lyrics are appropriately basic. A teen wishes he could make his unrequited love see that her boyfriend "don't know anything about her, he's too stoned" and that he'll soon dump her.
Angie Aparo - Spaceship
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: # 38 (April 2000) buy it!
Spaceship is from Aparo's the American CD. Spaceship has the moody, synth filled atmosphere of an early 80's song by Thomas Dolby or Ultravox. Aparo, with his voice filtered, achieves a haunting beauty. The lyrics, always returning to "when you gonna grow up", riffs on memory and space flight with images of a satellites and a kid playing at being an astronaut.
Angie Martinez - If I Can Go
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 34 (Nov. 2002) buy 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.
Annie Lennox - Pavement Cracks
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: # 42 (Aug. 2003) buy it!
With Eurythmics, Annie Lennox was a playful figure with a good sense of a groove and an ability to work with many different types of music. Since she's gone solo, she's become old and boring, making various kinds of background music. Diva, her solo debut, sold a bunch of records but Medusa, Lennox's cover record, and her new Bare record don't have much of a point commercially or artistically. Pavement Cracks is a mess. It's got someone's idea of a hip, urban sound but it's quite lame. Pavement Cracks starts with overdone atmosperic instrumentation. After a sprinkling of piano, a generic disco beat comes in. There's showy guitar and Lennox does an awful "uh-huh" filled vocal that's supposed to sound streetwise. Pavement Cracks has a core of a sweetness when the music and Lennox's singing soften but, far too soon, Pavement Cracks reverts to mechanical backing and Lennox's vocal again grows cold. The lyric is overly poetic but it does have real sadness. Lennox sings about a world where "love don't show", "my water colors fade to black", "I'm going nowhere" and "my dreams have fallen flat."
Ashanti - Foolish
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: # 17 (May 2002) buy it!
Ashanti Douglas is a talented songwriter who's already played prominent vocal roles on other artists' hits. Ashanti's vocal is one of my favorite parts of Fat Joe's What's Luv? and Ja Rule's Always On Time but I'm disappointed by Foolish, the first hit from her self titled CD. Foolish, like the other hits she's sung on, is produced by Irv Gotti. I understand why Foolish is a hit. It has a smooth, uncluttered sound and a crisp, inobtrusive beat. While I find some of the vocal too thin and whispery, Ashanti's singing mostly goes down easy. Unlike What's Luv? and Always On Time, which throw in elements of everything from hard hip hop to smooth soul and catchy pop, Foolish seems to be missing something. I find the main ornamentation of Foolish, a piano riff and shimmering percussion effect, repetitious and uninteresting. Ashanti sings on Foolish that love keeps her running back to her man even though she knows he's "treatin' me so bad."
Ashanti - Happy
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: # 37 (Oct. 2002) buy it!
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."
Ashanti - Rock Wit U
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: # 17 (Aug. 2003) buy it!
Rock Wit U is from Ashanti's Chapter II CD. Ashanti is still playing the sweet, agreeble, ideal woman she played when she sang harmonies on hits by Ja Rule and Fat Joe. At least she's in front now but while Ashanti always displays a sweet, likable voice, she's yet to display a distinctive personality. The same goes for her music. Like most of the hits produced by Irv Gotti and featuring Ashanti's vocal, Rock Wit U is pleasant and innocuous. Gotti and Ashanti wrote Rock Wit U. They long ago nailed a sound that's easy and inoffensive. Ashanti is accompanied by backing singers that are similarly breezy and appealing. Rock Wit U has a crisp, inobtrusive beat. Its synth effects add to a genial, dreamy feeling. But like many of Murder Inc.'s hits, Rock Wit U is benign sonic wallpaper. It's fine as Muzaky background music but has little substance. Ashanti sounds confident and like she's in control but it's depressing that she's still singing about being the supportive babe who just wants to love you babe.
Ashlee Simpson - Pieces Of Me
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: # 30 (July 2004) buy it!
19 year old Ashlee is Jessica Simpson's younger sister. Jessica's overblown, empty cover of Angels, Robbie Williams' poignant Elton John soundalike ballad, fell just short of the top 50. So Ashlee is currently the Simpson with the bigger hit. Ashlee Simpson starred on Seventh Heaven and her MTV reality show and now has released her first CD, Autobiography. She's marketed as the bubble headed blond's regular gal sister. Ashlee is apparently also supposed to be a less angry Avril Lavigne. Pieces Of Me is carefully constructed teen pop product. It's not that different from Hilary Duff's breezy So Yesterday. It was written by John Shanks and Kara Dioguardi, who wrote Duff's Come Clean and produced by Shanks, who did Are You Happy Now and Breathe with Michelle Branch. Pieces Of Me is still pretty good. The music is fairly gimmick free pop rock. Like The Matrix did for Lavigne, Shanks creates a sound that's catchy and tuneful and also suggests that the singer has a personality. I'm probably giving Simpson and Pieces Of Me too much credit but I'm reminded at times of Suzanne Vega's Tom's Diner recitation and Jill Sobule's nasal idiosyncracy. Simpson starts the chorus in a way that's like the chorus for Jason Mraz' overly facile The Remedy. But Simpson mostly seems comfortable with an unremarkable voice that breaks into screams of joy. Simpson doesn't go as far as Lavigne in presenting herself as a strong, distinctive person but, like Lavigne, she has the voice of a natural and feisty young woman. On Pieces Of Me, Simpson recognizes that she can be hard to deal with. She expresses appreciation for the guy who's "come to rescue me" for understanding the different pieces of her personality.
The Ataris - The Boys Of Summer
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: # 3 (Sept. 2003) 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.
Ataris - In This Diary
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: # 32 (May 2003) buy it!
In This Diary is on So Long, Astoria, The Atari's major label debut after a bunch of independent releases. The Ataris fit somewhere between rocking, idealistic emo bands and perky pop punk bands like Blink 182 and Sum 41. With its clean, high energy, optimistic sound, In This Diary resembles the music of emo kings Jimmy Eat World's. The Ataris play hard and fast and even use JEW's scratchy guitar sound. Jimmy Eat World's music has an mature, intelligent feeling that In This Diary lacks. In This Diary's "the only thing that matters is just following your heart" lesson is the kind of trite writing you don't usually get outside bad teen comedies and TV movies. But the charm of Kris Roe's writing and singing is that he proclaims that line and the one about being grown up not being half as much fun as growing up with incredible sincerity as if, after a long period of contemplation, the thought just hit him. Roe expresses such unjaded nostalgia for a summer of his youth that he seems even younger than his 25 years. While Roe's sweet perkiness is charming, In This Diary is so lacking in edge or depth, musically and lyrically, that it's basically uninteresting.
ATC - Around The World
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 42 (March 2001) buy it!
It makes sense that the totally edgeless Around The World, from ATC's Planet Pop, is a big international hit. You don't need to know English to mindlessly sing along with the La La La La Las and it's best not to understand the rest of the stupid lyrics. The music is familiar generic Europop. The drum machine makes it easy for the undemanding to dance. Around The World resembles the dopey synth pop song Blue without that song's endearing quirks.
Audioslave - Cochise
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: # 10 (Jan. 2003) buy it!
Singer Zack De La Rocha left Rage Against The Machine in 2000. The rest of the band has joined ex-Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell to make the Audioslave CD. On his solo record, Cornell tried to forge a more adult, restrained image. Most Soundgarden fans weren't interested. On Cochise, Cornell is back to screaming his lungs out and trying to outwail Robert Plant. The notable thing about Cochise is that his over the top singing fits comfortably with the Ex-Ragers' playing. Tom Morello, Brad Wilk and Tim Commerford have always played big, thumping rock and roll but only now that they're backing up Cornell do I see them as Zepellin fans. With Morello slowly plowing through Jimmy Page style riffs, you half expect Cornello to start singing Whole Lotta Love. Cochise provides the thrill you get from a big powerful rock sound and Cornell's huge shriek is an impressive force of nature. But Cochise's sledgehammer approach wears thin on repeat listens. It's not such a good thing that Cornell is a close musical match for the Ex-Ragers. Cochise is definitely not subtle. Its lack of nuance or variety illustrates the risk of a Cornell/Rage teaming. De La Rocha's rap inflected vocal was sometimes obnoxiously arrogant but its combination with good hard rock produced a good range of flavors. De La Rocha's cerebral, confrontational, part spoken work was a good match for Rage Against The Machine's overtly political songs. It's hard to imagine Cornell's theatrical wails giving resonance to charged songs calling for revolution. Cochise is about wanting to help a screwed up friend, offering to take the blame for his problems and be the target of his anger. I don't know why it's named after the Apache leader.
Audioslave - I Am The Highway
Weeks on Chart: 24 Peak: # 3 (Feb. 2004) buy it!
Audioslave, the eponymous debut CD by the band comprised of Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell and Rage Against The Machine's musicians, is a solid record that's been smartly marketed to rock radio. Hard rocking tracks reminiscent of the band's earlier music(Cochise and Show Me How To Live) have been alternated with sweeping rock ballads to show the record's appeal to fans of the band's previous work and a broader audience. And they've all been pretty good. It make sense that I Am The Highway, Audioslave's fourth chart hit, is being played after Like A Stone, the record's other big, sprawling slow song, has been given time to fade into memory. From its deliberate pace to the way Cornell sings "I am the night" with almost exactly the same phrasing he used to sing "I wait for you alone", I Am The Highway is a lot like Like A Stone. And while, like Like A Stone, it's quite evocative and powerful, it falls a bit short of its predecessor. I Am The Highway's chief asset is Chris Cornell heartfelt's vocal. Cornell's singing is invariably over the top but, in a flip, ironic world, his seriousness can draw you in. So the sincerity of Cornell's recitation of I Am The Highway's overheated title metaphor for his life on the road is a little goofy but the intensity of Cornell's effortlessly strong voice is fascinating. The ex Rage musicians can mostly be appreciated for their restraint in playing an arrangement that would largely be appropriate for a lounge act but they do quietly add to I Am The Highway's cool atmosphere. Tom Morello keeps his guitar playing simple and plays an appropriately reflective solo. I Am The Highway is undoubtedly too subtle for many Rage fans. It's a little slow for my tastes but I do appreciate its controlled yet dramatic mood.
Audioslave - Like A Stone
Weeks on Chart: 34 Peak: # 2 (May 2003) 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.
Audioslave - Show Me How To Live
Weeks on Chart: 24 Peak: # 5 (Sept. 2003) 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."
Audioslave - What You Are
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: # 27 (May 2004) buy it!
A year and a half after its release, Audioslave's debut CD is still yielding modern rock radio hits. What You Are is the fifth top 50 song for the band formed by Rage Against The Machine's musicians and Soundgarden's singer. All the chart hits been solid, ranging in quality from decent to very good. What You Are is unremarkable but fine. It's another showcase for Chris Cornell's quite incredible voice. Cornell's doesn't show much of a sense of fun but he's got quite a set of pipes. Cornell floats along easily with a pensive vocal on the verses. On the chorus he shifts, seeming effortlessly, into a full voiced howl that sounds like he's ripping up his throat's lining. Audioslave's musicians, who played flamboyant, charged music with Rage Against The Machine, have proved surprisingly competent as Cornell's dependable, unshowy backing band. What You Are has more sturdy music. Brad Wilk supplies a steady beat. Tom Morello rumbles quietly and effectively under Cornell on the verses then plays big, arena style power chords on the chorus. He only really musses things up on a short, pointedly unmelodic solo which isn't much but does supply a little variety. What You Are is workmanlike, listenable mainstream rock. Cornell's shifts in intensity reflect the lyric's content. The verses are a resigned recitation of all the things he did for his girlfriend("when you asked for for light, I set myself on fire", "when you wanted blood, I cut my veins"). The chorus reflects the release and exultation of being free from someone who always "wanted more."
Audiovent - The Energy
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: # 21 (Aug. 2002) buy it!
Audiovent, like Incubus, got together as teens in Calabasas, California but Audiovent don't even have Incubus' modest distinctiveness. Audiovent sound a little like Nirvana but they're even more like Bush and Default, bands who borrow grunge's sound but leave out any individuality. The Energy is particularly generic. It sounds O.K, with big guitars and an intense, sincere vocal. Audiovent's lyrics, like those of Nickelback, Staind and so many others, are about inner turmoil. The Energy is one of many songs on Audiovent's debut Dirty Sexy Knights In Paris CD dealing with singer Jason Boyd's tough breakup. As she's leaving, Boyd bemoans "what you do to my head" but vows "I'll make it" and "I will stay alive. Appropriately for a band that trumpets the fact that they've been in group therapy, Boyd spouts new age jargon like "it's getting closer to closure."
Avril Lavigne - Complicated
Weeks on Chart: 25 Peak: # 17 (July 2002) buy it!
Complicated is from the 17 year old Canadian's Let Go CD. Even more than Michelle Branch and Vanessa Carlton, Lavigne has a sound that seems perfect for girls looking for a more substantial alternative to Britney and Christina. Unlike Branch, whose image is sincere and vulnerable, Lavigne comes across as very self confident. Her voice has a casual, spoken quality that sounds like that of a cool teen. Complicated is fairly insubstantial but it's also appealingly perky and direct. Complicated's confessional, relaxed tone marks Lavigne as an Alanis fan. There's also some resemblance to the more rocking but still poppy recent work of labelmate Pink. Some of Complicated's synth flourishes are unnecessary but the sound is generally appealing simple. A hip hop style drum machine beat adds a bit of edge. On Complicated, Lavigne vents her frustration at a guy who's good and relaxed when they're alone but becomes foolish and showy around others.
Avril Lavigne - Don't Tell Me
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: # 25 (June 2004) buy it!
Avril Lavigne, at 19, is apparently already entering the mature period of her career. Under My Skin, Lavigne's followup to her 10 million selling debut Let Go CD, must be one of the most anticipated records of the year but its first single met a fairly lukewarm initial response(though it's slowly climbed up the chart). For her new CD, Lavigne stayed away from Let Go's hitmakers The Matrix and Clif Magness. Under My Skin's writers and producers include ex-Evanescence co-leader Ben Moody and Canadian husband and wife pop stars Raine Maida(from Our Lady Peace) and Chantal Kreviazuk. Don't Tell Me was written by Lavigne and her guitar player Evan Taubenfield and produced by Butch Walker, formerly of Marvelous 3(one hit wonders for 1999's Freak Of The Week). On Don't Tell Me, Lavigne and Walker eschewed the youthful, rousing, in your face confidence of Lavigne's #1 hits Complicated and Sk8er Boi. Lavigne doesn't even get to do a really cathartic wail like on her other #1, I'm With You. On Don't Tell Me, Alanis Morissette's influence is even more obvious than usual. My guess is that Lavigne's audience liked Let Go's Morissette style angst but don't want her to be Morissette. Showing a reluctance to continue being the voice of feisty early teens, Lavigne's retains her intensity on Don't Tell Me without the perkiness of her previous hits. While it's less exciting than some of Lavigne's hits, Don't Tell Me is charming. Lavigne's idiosyncratically Canadian pronounciation, passionate singing and seriousness still mark her as an individual. Adults have derided the fact that, despite her punk posturing, Lavigne's music is more pop than punk. That ignores the fact that Lavigne resonated with kids as a distinctive, self assured role model. Don't Tell Me's music, with guitars and drums crashing in on the chorus, is generic pop rock. But Lavigne's heartfelt delivery, strong singing and personal phrasing make Don't Tell Me's typical youthful anguish fresh. As she has before, Lavigne projects big emotions in a way that makes her sound like a real teenager. Don't Tell Me's lyric depicts Lavigne as a sad but strong young woman. Lavigne is "upset" but she decides she's better off alone than with a guy who tried to get "into my pants." She tells him that he shouldn't try to tell her what to do and say and that she had told him she wouldn't "give it up" to him.
Avril Lavigne - Im With You
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: # 14 (Feb. 2003) buy it!
Avril Lavignes major label recording career is off to an incredible start with three #1 pop singles. Like its predecessors from the Let Go CD, Im With You always seemed destined for the top. Depending on who you believe Lavigne, a former Shania Twain wannabe, has succeeded by presenting a calculated image or presenting herself as is. Regardless, her music is good, especially for teen pop. Lavigne has established her cred with a rebellious but not weird image and songs that rock and are also catchy. The kids obviously dont think her wimpy for doing a fairly standard ballad. Im With You has many of the trappings of an easy listening hit. With fairly heavy strings and power chords and drums crashing in on the chorus, Im with You follows power ballad conventions. The verses are fairly drab and Lavignes voice is thin in patches. But Lavignes sincerity gives Im With You power. When she wails the title, Lavigne seems more real than the typical balladeer. Theres an appealing youthful openness to Im With Yous lyrics about being ready to unconditionally throw herself into a relationship with a special someone wholl find her, take her hand and end her loneliness.
Avril Lavigne - Losing Grip
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 47 (May 2003) buy it!
At this point, anything Avril Lavigne puts out is sure to be a hit. But Losing Grip doesnt have the megahit feel of the first three singles from the multi-platinum Let Go CD. Not coincidentally, Losing Grip is the first Let Go single not written by the trio known as The Matrix. Losing Grip, like much of Let Go, was cowritten and produced by Clif Magness. Magness has been around for a while but only recently became hot, working on O-Towns O2 and Kelly Clarksons Thankful. Though Losing Grip isnt going to be a smash, I like it. Losing Grip is less gimmicky than Lavignes other hits. Lavignes detractors claim that she displays punk rock trappings but is not a real rocker. The criticism is basically accurate but pointless. Even if shes a former country pop fan supported by a record companys calculated promotional push, Lavignes young fans sense a realness that fits her image. I like Lavignes intensity as she yells out the chorus as well as the idiosyncratically Canadian way she says alone(on the second hit in a row). I also like the shamelessly catchy way power chords underline Lavignes vocal on the chorus and create a rock and roll charge. Losing Grip is a decent, no frills pop rocker. Lavigne sings about feeling invisible to a guy whos never there for her. She claims to have decided not to care about him but sounds like she still wants him by her side during a really bad time.
Avril Levigne - Sk8er Boi
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: # 19 (Oct. 2002) buy it!
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.