B2K and P. Diddy - Bump, Bump, Bump
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: # 17 (Feb. 2003) buy it!
Bump, Bump, Bump is from the Pandemonium CD. B2K, P. Diddys young proteges, have shown little talent except for the ability to look good and confident in their videos but a year after hitting the charts with the dopey, catchy Uh Huh, they have an even bigger hit with the equally dopey and even catchier Bump, Bump, Bump. B2K owe R. Kelly, who wrote and produced Bump Bump, Bump, for the songs success. Bump, Bump, Bump has the single minded focus on sex and pleasure of much of Kellys previous work. With a sensual bass drum beat, a good acoustic guitar riff and an emphatic synth underlining the title, Bump, Bump, Bumps music is enticing. I see why Bump, Bump, Bump is a hit but I still find it very annoying. Starting with the cliched sending this out to all the ladies, the boys lines and delivery are so heavy handed and uninspired that I dont see what theyre so cocky about. The lyrics dont go much beyond admiring a girls sexy style and requesting that she start pleasin me. Im no fan of P. Diddys flat, low energy raps but his portion of Bump, Bump, Bump has a little more substance than B2Ks lightweight singing. I only find Bump, Bump, Bump tolerable when I ignore the vocals and focus on the groove.
B2K - Uh Huh
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: # 49 (May 2002) buy it!
Uh Huh is from the self titled debut CD by four LA singers, all still in their mid teens, whose name is apparently short for Boys of the New Millennium. B2K seem like a record company creation. They're good looking and present themselves as a little street smart but not threatening enough to worry their young fans' parents. Uh Huh, produced by Chris "Tricky" Stewart, has a safe, very familiar sound. It resembles Jagged Edge's Where The Party At and lots of poppy hip hop songs by people like Boyz II Men and New Edition. With a crisp, steady beat and a beeping synth sound, Uh Huh's sound isn't particularly memorable but it is smooth and effective with a little edge. On Uh Huh, the boys play a cocky character challenging a girl to show she can handle him. They walk the line of being tough and tender, singing about being "the thug" "that'll treat you right". They brag about running "girls from coast to coast" but also suggest a "walk through the mall."
Baby Bash - Suga Suga
Weeks on Chart: 21 Peak: # 16 (Jan. 2004) buy it!
Baby Bash is from Tha Smokin' Nephew CD by the California born/Texas based rapper. Suga Suga was co-written by Baby's Texas buddy Frankie J, whose Don't Wanna Try was a hit earlier this year. Suga Suga is one of the more surprising hits of the year, passing songs by bigger names on its way to the top of the pop charts. Everything about is smooth and appealing. With relaxed beats and a good looped guitar riff, Suga Suga is a very easy ride. Baby Bash's rapping on the verses and Frankie J's singing on the chorus flow nicely into each other. Both are cool, confident and alluring. Suga Suga also has a sped up tape sound that adds some flavor but don't disturb Suga Suga's cool flow. Suga Suga is very well constructed. I feel like it's good rather than great and don't totally understand how it's become such a big hit but there's no question that Suga Suga is seductive and very easy to listen to. Suga Suga has a pretty basic lyric. Frankie J thanks his girl for lifting him and wonders how she got so fly.
Backstreet Boys - The Call
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 41 (March 2001) buy it!
The Call, from Backstreet Boys' Black and Blue CD, is another song written by teen pop svengali Max Martin and it's a pale imitation of teen pop hits like It's Gonna Be Me and Baby One More Time. The Call's music is cold and strained. The setting becomes silly and overdramatic with a choir effect. The insistent, metallic beat and the vocals, featuring A.J. McLean, are harshly staccato. I guess the lyrics are a cautionary tale for the male fans. The character lies to his girlfriend, goes home with another, gets found out and is still saying I'm sorry two years later.
Backstreet Boys - Drowning
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: # 43 (Nov. 2001) buy it!
Drowning is the only new song on Backstreet Boys' The Hits: Chapter One. Much more than N Sync's strikingly spare current single Gone, Drowning goes for a comfortable, familiar sound. It resembles Boys hits like Shape Of My Heart and, somewhat ironically, also sounds quite a bit like All Or Nothing, the smash for Backstreet/N Sync facsimile O Town. Drowning starts quietly with subdued vocals and piano but soon shifts to a typical lush, overproduced sound with a bad, fakey beat. The harmonies are O.K. but very tame. On Drowning, The Backstreet Boys split the vocals on Drowning, playing a wimpy guy who's totally under the control of a woman with "the power to make me weak inside." Their young fans undoubtedly cherish the dream of being the girl the Boys mean when they sing "only you can save me."
Backstreet Boys - I Want It That Way
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 28 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
It's from their new album, Millennium. It could be fun to count how many records in the next year are called millennium. In my mind Robbie Williams' stylish Millennium single beats Backstreet Boys. I've heard Backstreet Boys aren't so bad for teen idols but I don't see it. Despite their ridiculous efforts to project a hip image, this song is just bland.
Backstreet Boys - Larger Than Life
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 34 (Nov. 1999) buy it!
Backstreet Boys are slightly more interesting doing dance songs than puffed up ballads but they're pretty safe and calculating in either mode. Larger than Life, from the band's Millennium CD, is well polished, state of the art dance music but it's also fairly cold and generic. The lyrics are a pretty inarticulate tribute: "every time we're down, you can make it right/that makes you larger than life." You'd figure if she's largerthan life, they could find something more heartfelt to say than that.
Backstreet Boys - More Than That
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: # 29 (July 2001) buy it!
More Than That has the trademark smooth sound of Backstreet Boys ballads like Shape Of My Heart, I Want It That Way and Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely. They play the supportive suitor, sensitive to the pain caused to a girl by a dishonest guy and promising not to repeat his mistakes. The Boys' solos are a little overwrought(especially on the video, as they grimace and pump their fists to show the intensity of their singing) but their harmonies come together very nicely on the chorus. More Than That is a quiet ballad that's a bit wimpy but has pretty good, minimal beats, acoustic guitar and keyboards.
Backstreet Boys - The One
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: # 37 (July 2000) buy it!
It might be unfair to compare since Backstreet Boys are down to the fourth single from the Millennium CD, but they get their butts kicked in the latest battle of the preteen idols by N Sync. N Sync's latest, It's Gonna Be Me, isn't great but it's better than this piece of garbage, which is cheesy in every way from its cheap sounding beat to its awful lyrics. The boys sing a string of cliches about taking her from darkness to light and bad rhymes like"I'll be the light where you can run to make it all right."
Backstreet Boys - Shape Of My Heart
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: # 32 (Dec. 2000) buy it!
Shape Of My Heart is from the Boys' new Black and Blue CD. Shape Of My Heart is the kind of song they do best, a well made ballad like I Want It That Way. The singing and harmonies aren't bad. Shape Of My Heart is fairly innocuous but the preteens won't mind. On Shape Of My Heart, they ask her for forgiveness, playing into the fan fantasy by asking her to "save me from the man I've become."
Backstreet Boys - Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: # 24 (March 2000) buy it!
Beyond being teen idols, Backstreet Boys have been getting some respect recently. They got Grammy nominations and positive writeups from Robert Christgau of the Village Voice and Ann Powers of the New York Times. I still don't get it. I Want It That Way struck me as an insipid bore. Larger Than Life was generic dance music and the lyrics, allegedly a tribute to their fans, were so vague and unoriginal that their fans should be offended. At least Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely, the third single from the Millennium CD, achieves what it shoots for. It's fairly effective as a big weepy ballad and the singing isn't bad.
Barenaked Ladies - Pinch Me
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: # 4 (Oct. 2000) buy it!
One Week, from BNL's Stunt CD, gave the band their first taste in the U.S. of the huge success they've long enjoyed in their native Canada. Pinch Me, from the Maroon CD, doesn't have One Week's irresistable supercharged momentum. Pinch Me is more reflective of the band's typical modest, likable style. Ed Robertson is usually more unassuming than the band's other singer, Steven Page. However, Robertson did the lightning fast rap on One Week and he similarly races smoothly through parts of Pinch Me, providing a good dynamic shift from the song's generally mellow mood. Robertson is appealing even when playing a guy who lives in a dream world because in the real world, "everything's a mess." Pinch Me has quirky charm, like the non sequitor line, "I just made you say underwear" plus a happy ending of sorts with Robertson's character tentatively deciding to "try to figure out what all this is for" and "try to see the world beyond your front door."
Barenaked Ladies - Too Little Too Late
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: # 18 (March 2001) buy it!
BNL's main singer Stephen Page is outdone on the Maroon CD by Ed Robertson, who has two of the new CD's best songs, Pinch Me and Falling For The First Time. However, Page has a few good songs and Too Little Too Late may be the best of them. Maroon's second single is a little like Stunt's It's All Been Done. Too Little Too Late is fun, high energy straight ahead rock with Robertson's good, tight guitar riff. Page's self centered character blames his partner for his bad behavior, saying he would be good, "if I knew I was understood" and dooms the relationship by always being a little late in correcting his faults.
BBMak - Back Here
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: # 33 (Aug. 2000) buy it!
As if we don't have enough bland boy groups, now we're importing them. The British trio sound particularly pleasant, clean cut and inoffensive, unless you're offended by their repeatedly calling a girl "baby." The harmonies aren't great and at worst, they threaten the innocuous blissful serenity of Savage Garden. Back Here, from the Sooner or Later CD is decent enough, starting with acoustic guitars and working up to an O.K. beat. The lyrics are an amiable plea for forgiveness, as a guy admits he was wrong and says nothing's been the same since she's been gone.
BBMak - Still On Your Side
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: # 45 (Feb. 2001) buy it!
Still On Your Side is the second U.S. hit from the squeaky clean British group's Sooner Or Later CD. BBMak seem a little more real and less calculating than their American boy singer counterparts, sounding like nice, decent young guys. Still On Your Side has pleasant, easy guitar pop backing and the boys have impressively tight harmonies but the singing and lyrics are very mild. The song's character is pretty lame. Even after being rejected, he pledges "to be there when you fall, to build you up when you're feeling small."
Beastie Boys - Alive
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: # 41 (Dec. 1999) buy it!
The Beasties hit a raucous peak a few years ago when they were playing rock instruments on the great Sabotage single. Alive, from the band's new anthology, is mostly beats. It's a fairly straight rap, like last year's Intergalactic without the fun electronics. They say they're "bringing back that old New York rap" and Alive with its playful boasting, positive message and good spirits has a nice old school feel in its traded lines. It's simple, sometime silly, fun.
Beastie Boys - Ch-Check It Out
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: # 14 (July 2004) buy it!
Ch-Check It Out is on To The 5 Boroughs, Beastie Boys' first new CD in six years. The Beasties are in their late 30s and have been recording for more than two decades. On Ch-Check It Out, they still seem like kids, goofing around, having a good time and trying to impress us with their rhymes as if they have something to prove. Ch-Check It Out is notably old school. It resembles previous hits like Intergalactic and So What Cha Want and shows little connection with contemporary rap. Ch-Check It Out sounds like a typical Beasties song but it's a well made one. A good, steady beat and a repeated, emphatic sound effect establish an exhilarating context for the barrage of raps. The raps are tightly edited and the rappers come on fast and confidently. Ch-Check It Out's energy never flags. Ch-Check It Out's lyrics are mostly willfully silly boasts but they're also fresh and funny enough to be consistently enjoyable. MCA, his voice sounding rougher than ever, opens by reminding us "I didn't retire." He threatens to snatch up detractors "with the needle nose pliers." Mike D still comes on like a prankish, showing off kid. He oddly brags "like Lorne Greene, you know I get paid" and compares himself to a Caprese salad with basil and to Nick at nite("with classics rerunning that you know all right"). Ad Rock thanks his friends and family for putting him in check "when I think I'm too good" and says "I'm no better than you, except when I rap." But he also works "magic like a magician" and has class "like pink champale." Ch-Check It Out is nothing new but it's a very fun statement that The Beasties still matter and are still making exciting music.
Beck - Lost Cause
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: # 35 (March 2003) buy it!
Beck showed that hes not just a studio genius obsessed with beat and samples on Mutations, a record of serious country rock, but he still surprised people with the mellowness of his Sea Change CD. Theres a difference of opinion out there about whether the subdued Sea Change is a subtly beautiful tour de force or kind of a bore. Still, its hard for me to imagine much criticism of Lost Cause, Sea Changes strikingly delicate single. With acoustic guitar and quiet, dreamy synths and chimes, Beck simply creates a moving mood. Becks downbeat vocal communicates Lost Causes mix of sadness and frustration with a screwed up friend hes tired of fighting for but also finds hard to leave alone. Lost Cause also suggests a touch of hope in slightly optimistic chord changes. Lost Cause is a fragile, thoughtful masterpiece.
Beck - Mixed Bizness
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: # 41 (April 2000) buy it!
My favorite songs on Beck's Midnite Vultures are Pressure Zone and Beautiful Way, songs which don't fit with the CD's general theme of painstakingly recreating 70's funk and disco. However, Mixed Bizness is a lot of fun. Unlike on some of the songs on Midnite Vultures, Beck seems more concerned with creating a good time mood than in showing off how talented he is. Beck creates a good groove with cheesy sound effects, funky bass, horns and high pitched backing vocals. The fun music makes Beck's typically goofy words, with lyrics about making "all the lesbians scream", go down easier.
Beck - Sexx Laws
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: # 33 (Jan. 2000) buy it!
Beck's new CD, Midnight Vultures, is a bit of a disappointment. Beck's ability to make an authentic sounding 70's disco record is impressive but it's unclear what the point of it is. Sexx Laws is one of the few songs where Beck isn't just showing off but actually makes a fun song. Beck creates a knowingly cheesy sound with big, perky horns that sound like they should be accompanying a football highlight film. Much of the lyrics are gibberish but the chorus about slipping the handcuffs off our wrists and defying sexual conventions are appealing clear. The banjo and steel guitar bring to mind the sometimes countryish feeling of his last CD, Mutations. The country instruments and goofy electronic effects add to the fun anything goes feeling.
Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals - Steal My Kisses
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: # 31 (June 2000) buy it!
Steal My Kisses is a light and very enjoyable piece from Harper's Burn To Shine CD. Harper has a charming, relaxed way about him. On Steal My Kisses, he presents himself as a good natured rascal who persists in working on a woman who's playing hard to get. The music keeps the mood easy with a loose electric guitar. Steal My Kisses' sly appeal has kept it on the low end chart for more than four months and now it's seduced its way onto the pop charts.
Ben Harper - Burn To Shine
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 24 (Nov. 1999) buy it!
The title track from Harper's Burn to Shine finds the eclectic Harper in a rocking, boogie guitar mode that has at least a touch of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Because of his knowledge of rock history, Harper brings to mind Lenny Kravitz, another African-American who owns Jimi Hendrix records. But where Kravitz' work comes across as a straight rehash, Harper shows some daring and intelligence. It would be surprising to hear Kravitz singing, as Harper does, about being "addicted to your sorrow" or about, after making love, how a couple is struck with fear, in a moment's time seeing forever.
Ben Harper - Diamonds On The Inside
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: # 32 (Oct. 2003) buy it!
I found With My Own Two Hands, the first chart hit from Ben Harper's Diamonds On The Inside's CD, annoying. With My Own Two Hands was an impressive recreation of the Bob Marley sound but it didn't have much distinctive personality and seemed kind of pointless. Diamonds On The Inside's title track is much more comfortable and appealing. Harper's music includes all sorts of different kinds of folk music. He seems comfortable with the country folk of Diamonds On The Inside, which has the genuine, comfortable feel of a song like The Band's The Weight. Harper is a natural charmer but he tries modesty on Diamonds On The Inside, which sounds a little like a restrained version of his Steal My Kisses. Nothing much happens on Diamonds On The Inside but it sounds good. Diamonds On The Inside is anchored by Harper's strong, simple vocal and a solid acoustic guitar line. It builds a bit towards the end with a good, unshowy guitar solo, warm harmonies and a touch of steel guitar but Diamonds On The Inside remains a likably easy ballad with a positive vibe. On Diamonds On The Inside, Harper sings about a girl named Truth who "was a horrible liar", had everything "but couldn't be satisfied." Harper is a little full of himself, advising us to "make sure the fortune that you seek is the fortune you need" but the lyric generally fits Diamonds On The Inside's good feel.
Ben Harper - With My Own Two Hands
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: # 35 (June 2003) buy it!
Ben Harper's new CD is called Diamonds on the Inside. Harper often integrates various world musics into his music. He's done other songs with a reggae flavor but With My Own Two Hands is probably his most complete evocation of the Bob Marley & The Wailers sound. With My Own Two Hands sounds very authentic. It's got the right keyboard skank, a big, rubbery bass and nice light, slinky drums. With My Own Two Hands sounds right but it doesn't do anything for me. It shows an ability to recapture a sound but doesn't add anything new or personal to that sound. I prefer The Horizon Has Been Defeated, the recent single by Harper's buddy Jack Johnson, which has a reggae flavor but also has a distinctive personality. Harper's vocal is always confident and it's usually appealingly cool. But especially in the unoriginal context, Harper comes across as complacent. It's hard to argue with the message that we can all make the world a better place but Harper seems a little too pleased with himself for having the idea.
Better Than Ezra - Extraordinary
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: # 33 (Aug. 2001) buy it!
Extraordinary, from Better Than Ezra's fourth CD Closer, is an attempt to abandon the one hit wonder status the band's had ever since their artistic and commercial peak, Deluxe's Good. It might succeed but Extraordinary is a lame imitation of a number of recent easy frat boy hits like What I Got, Fly, Hooch and One Week, which it directly quotes. I've often been charmed by Better Than Ezra's modest, tuneful pop rock but Kevin Griffin's tribute to love on Extraordinary, while pleasant, lacks any distinctiveness the band ever had. The lyrics are a pretty weak attempt at rap charm("I've got more hooks than Madonna's got looks") and the melody and dj scratching are very familiar.
Beyonce featuring Sean Paul - Baby Boy
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: # 15 (Nov. 2003) buy it!
Beyonce Knowles' impressive streak of huge hits, first with Destiny's Child and now as a solo artist, continues with Baby Boy, the second single from Beyonce's Dangerously In Love CD. Baby Boy has a sound destined to make it a smash but it's not nearly as appealingly as Dangerously In Love's first hit Crazy In Love. On Crazy In Love, Beyonce abandoned her usual cool, controlled persona for a song with a joyful, liberating sound. On Baby Boy, Beyonce reverts to a professional, slightly calculated voice. Scott Storch, who's worked on hits including Christina Aguilera's Fighter, wrote and produced Baby Boy with Beyonce. Baby Boy has a good, slightly exotic sound with eastern guitar sounds and an emphatic synth that adds to the song's excitement. Baby Boy features popular collaborator Sean Paul(I prefer Breathe, his similar but warmer duet with Blu Cantrell). Paul helps increase Baby Boy's intensity with a confident but focused rap that keeps the song moving forward and avoids the silly narcissism that mars some of Paul's work . Beyonce's singing is OK. She has some of the sensuality the lyric requires but she'd be better if she seemed looser and less studied. Baby Boy's lyric is a fairly routine tribute to a guy who she can't stop thinking about who fulfills her fantasies.
Beyonce' featuring Jay-Z - Crazy In Love
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: # 11 (Aug. 2003) 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.
Beyonce - Me Myself and I
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 40 (Feb. 2004) buy it!
The exhilarating Crazy In Love justifiably won Beyonce Knowles Grammy awards but her subsequent singles have been less remarkable. Me, Myself and I was cowritten and produced by the in demand Scott Storch(Pink's Family Portrait, Justin's Cry Me A River, Christina's Fighter). Me, Myself & I has a smooth sound. Its wah-wah riff gives it a bit of texture and a 70's retro feel. But that riff gets a little annoying because nothing else in the song stands up to it. Beyonce singing is smooth and fluid. Her controlled vocal fits Me, Myself & I's sleek, easy sound but gives, as she often does, the impression of holding back and not fully engaging. That impression is supported by the lyric's icy resolve. My, Myself & I's has the same message of self reliance and determination Beyonce has given us since early in her Destiny's Child career. Beyonce apparently describes two different bad relationships. In one, the guy cheated "with loose women." In the other, he was "so controlling." Claiming "there ain't no need to cry", she says she realizes that she can only trust herself and that she's "gon' be my own best friend." She sounds like she's reading from a self improvement book as she vows "I will never disappoint myself." Beyonce's focused, cynical ambition is, obviously, part of why she's a big star but, on Me, Myself & I, it's kind of sad. Beyonce's limited faith in others is apparently based on real, sad experiences but, to me, her chilliness limits her appeal. Me, Myself & I is well made, pleasant listening but it's not very likable.
Beyonce - Naughty Girl
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: # 12 (June 2004) buy it!
Beyonce Knowles continues her impressive run with Naughty Girl, the fourth hit from her Dangerously In Love CD. Naughty Girl apparently won't match Crazy In Love and Baby Boy, which went to #1 on the pop charts, but after a dip with Me, Myself and I, it brings Beyonce back near the top of the top 40. Naughty Girl was produced by Beyonce with Scott Storch who did Baby Boy, Pink's Family Portrait, Justin Timberlake's Cry Me A River and Christina Aguilera's Fighter and Can't Hold Us Down. Naughty Girl doesn't have a lot of heart but it sounds good. Like Baby Boy, Naughty Girl uses exotic sounds to give a good but not great song more edge. Beyonce and Storch constructed a sensual sound that matches Naughty Girl's come ons. Over a brittle beat, Naughty Girl repeats a tense riff with icy synth interjections for additional tension. Backing vocals join Beyonce for whispered enticements. Naughty Girl is obviously inspired by Donna Summer's Love To Love You Baby, which Naughty Girl liberally quotes. It's always a bit of a tease when a pop star claims she's available for sex. But Beyonce is different from Summer. Summer always seemed to believe the fantasy that she wanted to sleep with you. On Naughty Girl, as usual, Beyonce seems somewhat distanced and calculated. She makes it clear that she's a tease. A mediocre rap (including a line about wanting a naughty girl not a good one and one about wanting a relationship not a one night stand) by Houston's rising star Lil' Flip emphasizes that Naughty Girl is a performance, not a depiction of a real erotic encounter. But Beyonce's juxtaposition of seduction and reserve still works. Beyonce does a very sexy vocal. Beyonce does a pretty good sales job, kind of sounding like she means it when she sings about "feeling sexy" and wanting to "hear you say my name." But while saying "the rhythm's got me feelin' so crazy", she's leaves no doubt that she's in control and she'll decide if "I just might take you home." Though it's product from an artist who makes it clear that she makes her decisions with her brain, not her hormones, Naughty Girl is charged and alluring.
Black Crowes - Lickin'
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 45 (June 2001) buy it!
For the first song from the Lions CD, other formats chose the stirring, gospel tinged Soul Singing but rock radio is happy with the silly if fairly fun Lickin'. Lickin' doesn't pretend to be anything but dumb rock boogie. The dopey lyrics warn a "queen of the underage" who's "got me ranting and raving" that "you gonna catch a lickin'" The music pulls a goofy 70's trick by underlining the vocals on the verse with fuzzy guitar and keyboards. The chorus is standard Black Crowes with Rich Robinson's jamming guitar and Chris Robinson's cocky Mick Jagger-as-soul singer vocals.
Black Crowes - Soul Singin'
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: # 13 (Aug. 2001) buy it!
The second chart song from the Lions CD is Black Crowes' best single in years. Soul Singin' makes good use of Chris Robinson's natural exuberance for a genuinely uplifting song. The verse, with Rich Robinson's CCR style guitar line, has a good down and dirty feel. On the chorus, Chris and good backup singers create a stirring gospel tinged sound. There isn't much to Soul Singin' and its tale of settling down to look for "holy places not yet found" but it has a good, positive feel.
Black Eyed Peas - Hey Mama
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: # 23 (May 2004) buy it!
Where Is The Love, which featured Justin Timberlake's good, unshowy vocal on the chorus, was one of the biggest hits of 2003. Where Is The Love has a majestic quality. It sounds like classic r&b. The subsequent singles from the Elephunk CD have been significantly less substantial. As someone who knew Black Eyed Peas from Where Is The Love and Request Line, their Macy Gray collaboration, I've been surprised by Shut Up and Hey Mama, the silly followups to Where Is The Love. Both have a lightweight, chattery quality and give a lot of prominence to new Black Eyed Pea Stacy "Fergie" Ferguson. Fergie doesn't bring a lot of soulfulness or substance. But lead Pea William "Will.I.Am" Adams, who produced and cowrote Hey Mama and Shut Up, has to be held responsible for Hey Mama's dopeyness. Hey Mama is an knowingly stupid song with not much on its mind beyond asking a woman to "move your booty." With lines like "don't wanna squeeze triggers, just wanna squeeze tits" and "we drop bombs like we in the middle east", Hey Mama is moronic but basically harmless. The rappers' unrelenting perkiness sometimes gives me a headache. The other side of the song's empty headedness is that Hey Mama is unpretentious. Hey Mama is just about having a good time. With steady, good percussion, Hey Mama has jittery energy and good spirits. I don't find Hey Mama as irritating as some people do but it is pretty damn annoying.
Black Eyed Peas - Where Is The Love?
Weeks on Chart: 24 Peak: # 12 (Aug. 2003) 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.
Blaque - Bring It All To Me
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: # 33 (Feb. 2000) buy it!
Bring It All To Me has a nice easy groove and good crisp beats. Blaque's reedy vocals could be annoying under different circumstances but here everything is comfortable. Though their lyrics have a little too much emphasis on keeping it real for my liking, N Sync fit in well in their supporting performance.
Blessed Union of Souls - Hey Leonardo
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 36 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
The song is about being charmingly modest and knowing your limits and the band delivers it in a charmingly modest way that knows the band's limits. It's fairly insubstantial teen pop but the "she likes me for me" message isn't the worst that kids could hear.
Blink 182 - Adam's Song
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: # 25 (June 2000) buy it!
Just when you thought Blink 182 were only dopey, if fun, rockers, the poignant third single from Enema of the State shows they've got some smarts. Tom DeLonge plays an innocent young man looking back at his life after his impulsive suicide. Like all the band's music, Adam's Song still rocks. But it has a more restrained and fully produced sound. As usual, the closest comparison is Green Day, who similarly broadened their sound with Time Of Your Life but Adam's Song has its own simple, distinctive sound.
Blink 182 - All the Small Things
Weeks on Chart: 22 Peak: # 7 (Feb. 2000) buy it!
The video to All the Small Things mocks Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees and other teen pop idols but Blink 182 are kind of a punky pop version of those groups. Their songs are hardly complicated, lyrically or musically, their upbeat lyrics are targeted towards teens(though boys, instead of girls) and they have fairly unthreatening symbols of cool(tattooes instead of weird facial hair). All the Small Things is particularly basic, with it's na-na-na chorus and very simple words about all the things she does for him. But Blink 182's fast version of pop is more fun, energetic and unpretentious. All the Small Things is exuberant, mindlessly perky guitar rock.
Blink 182 - Down
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: # 44 (July 2004) buy it!
Blink 182's self titled 2003 CD is quite good. The boys sound more grown up but they still rock and have fun. Feeling This and I Miss You are the CD's most obvious singles but there are other good candidates. I wouldn't mind repeatedly hearing any of the five songs in the CD's second half between Go and Here's Your Letter. They're all fun(I especially like All Of This with The Cure's Robert Smith on lead vocal) and mostly pretty smart. Instead, Down, one of the lesser songs on the CD's first half, was picked. It was probably chosen because it's one of the CD's slower songs and it has the classic Blink 182 sound while showcasing the band's new more mature approach. Down isn't bad. It's pretty good. It's just not as good as other songs on the CD. As a song about romantic disappointment, it's not as striking as the haunted, brooding I Miss You. Down also isn't as exciting as the CD's rockers. But Down is short, simple and subtly powerful. Down starts well and builds anticipation with Tom DeLonge's slicing guitar chords. After that, Down settles down though its intensity rises and falls nicely, matching the basic emotions of the song's protagonist. I like Down's bridge. DeLonge's power chords build and Travis Barker pounds impressively while DeLonge sings about a tidal wave of feeling and cries to his character's girlfriend "pick me up now; I need you so bad." On the chorus, over Barker's drums and simple piano, Mark Hoppus keeps saying "down"(64 times in all). That effectively expresses obsessive neediness but, as a hook, it's a bit of a bore and a letdown. On Down, DeLonge sings that the girlfriend's awkward silence makes him crazy. He tries to convince her to kiss him and support him. Down isn't the CD's most exciting song but it is tight with a minimal but evocative lyric and nicely matched, dramatic music.
Blink 182 - Feeling This
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: # 19 (Dec. 2003) buy it!
Not long ago, Blink 182 were proudly one of the stupidest successful bands around. Since then, younger bands like Sum 41 and Simple Plan, who seem like fans of Blink 182's fast, fun rocking pop, have supplanted the band in terms of pop success and dopeyness. It's a bit depressing that, as they hit 30, Blink 182 seem to be trying to keep up with the new kids. Feeling This, from the band's self titled new record, sounds like an attempt by Blink 182, who rarely showed much interest in rap or hip hop in the past, to emulate the rap rock sound of Sum 41 and other lesser immature rock bands. The good news is that they do a really good job. Feeling This has a good flow and a lot of likable personality. Anchored by Travis Barker's big, flexible, no nonsense beat, Feeling This shifts tempos and textures but stays interesting. Feeling This is a good showcase for Blink's vocalists. Their contrasting styles fit together nicely. In his bratty voice, Tom DeLonge is the nihilist reveling in the moment, exclaiming excitedly "show me the way to bed" and "I love all the things you do." The more reflective Mark Hoppus makes it clear that the encounter is a thing of the past that's sadly fading into memory. When you think that the genial traded vocals are all the song is about, Hoppus comes up with a skilled, fluid, unshowy rap. With DeLonge's fast, varied guitar lines, Feeling This keeps driving forward. Throughout, Feeling This retains a loose hip hop flow and maintains a good balance of enthusiasm and smarts.
Blink 182 - First Date
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: # 15 (March 2002) buy it!
It'll be interesting to see who gets tired of Blink 182's simple but fun songs first, the band or alternative radio. First Date, the third single from Blink 182's Take Off Your Pants and Jacket CD, sounds like The Rock Show, What's My Age Again and lots of other Blink songs. It's even more basic than most of their fast, good spirited, bratty vocaled songs. The only even slightly different thing about First Date is its chorus, where the guitar and drums slightly change tempo and emphasis. First Date is a throwaway but, like the other singles from Take Off Your Pants And Jacket, it has a charming sweetness. The band still flaunt a juvenile personality and, while their teen years are long behind them, they still easily carry off the sweet, innocent tale of a boy nervous about making a date work.
Blink 182 - I Miss You
Weeks on Chart: 21 Peak: # 3 (May 2004) buy it!
Blink 182's self titled new album is a nice step forward towards a more complex, adult sound. Sometimes when they mix their trademark youthful, rocking style with a darker, more cerebral feel, Blink 182's songs aren't as smart as they want to be and the new seriousness results in less catchy melodies. A few of the songs, like Go, Asthenia and Always, are just fun, fast rockers that could have been on earlier Blink records. But much of Blink 182 shows growth and is enjoyable. Feeling This effectively incorporates hip hop into Blink 182's sound. All Of This has great percussive atmosphere and a sly, deadpan guest appearance by The Cure's Robert Smith. I Miss You has impressive depth and power. It's nicely restrained and muted, showing subtlety not normally associated with Blink 182. Blink 182 play acoustic instruments on I Miss You. Mark Hoppus plays stand up bass. Travis Barker's drumming is typically quick and precise. His subdued pounding gives a brooding song direction and, using brushes, adds texture. I Miss You's verse loops a quiet scraping guitar sample. The chorus has a haunted feeling. A striking organ adds a spooky, old fashioned sound. Chimes and simple piano complement the stark soundscape. Hoppus' flatter, less showy voice introduces I Miss You's mournful tone. Tom DeLonge then takes over. He doesn't have his usual exuberance but his bratty voice singing "don't waste your time on me, you're already the voice inside my head" suggests a more complicated situation than do Hoppus' solemn miss yous. I Miss You is a good, complex song that ranks with Blink 182's best singles.
Blink 182 - Man Overboard
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: # 26 (Dec. 2000) buy it!
Enema Of The State's fun, fast pop is still selling but Blink 182 is already back with a new CD, The Mark, Travis and Tom Show. Man Overboard sounds a lot like Enema Of The State's Dumpweed, as well as kind of like a fast version of Peter Schilling Major Tom(Coming Home). Once again, Blink 182's music is pretty light but energizing, unpretentious and solidly constructed. Man Overboard is about being sad that things can't be worked out, but deciding that a friend has screwed up too many times.
Blink 182 - The Rock Show
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: # 12 (Aug. 2001) buy it!
It's seems like time for Blink 182 to try something new and let their sound evolve a little. Still, Blink 182's fast, unpretentious punky pop is very enjoyable. They're less gimmicky and more likable than current competitors like New Found Glory and Sum 41. Blink 182 are particularly appealing on The Rock Show, a nice, simple reminiscence of a girl met at a Warped tour concert and how "everything's better when she's around." The Rock Show, from Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, is buoyant, with a fun, stuttering beat and guitar line that never stop.
Blink 182 - Stay Together For The Kids
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: # 33 (Dec. 2001) buy it!
Blink 182 have easily shown a juvenile mentality on their stupider songs but they also are able to depict youthful inner turmoil in a real seeming, unshowy way. Stay Together For The Kids, from the Take Off Your Pants and Jacket CD, is even more basic than Enema Of The Stateís Adamís Song as it simply illustrates the effect of a coupleís troubled relations on their kid. The different personalities of Blinkís frontmen nicely illustrate the sides of the troubled kidís mind. Mark Hoppus sincerely croons the verses and Tom DeLonge angrily yells the chorus. Stay Together For The Kids is similar to other Blink songs. Like on all their singles, they take an instrumental break to build the intensity before doing the verse one last time. But the band create a moving grandeur by slowing things down and building emotion as DeLongeís guitar and Travis Barkerís drums gain in power.
Blink 182 - What's My Age Again
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: # 9 (Sept. 1999) buy it!
Blink 182 are proudly juvenile. In the video, they play the song and run the streets naked. The lyrics are about doing youthful antics like making tasteless, phony phones and getting nabbed because of caller ID. They called their cd Enema of the State and put a trampy, male fantasy of a woman on the cover. Luckily for them, What's My Age Again has the appealing youthful energy to go with their stupidity. The music is basically a ripoff of Green Day but it's unpretentious fun, fast 3 chord rock.
Bloodhound Gang - The Bad Touch
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 6 (April 2000) buy it!
The Bad Touch is from the CD Hooray For Boobies. Bloodhound Gang are proudly stupid and offensive male pigs. With their rapping and dopey bad attitude, they're a little reminiscent of early Beastie Boys though early Beasties seem remarkably mature in comparison. The music, with its cheesy keyboards, is a little like alternative dance music like Depeche Mode's Enjoy the Silence. The raps are an endless flow of bad, blatant come on lines and hardly subtle double entendres, climaxing with the chorus, "let's do it like they do on Discovery channel."
Blu Cantrell - Hit Em Up Style
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: # 16 (Sept. 2001) buy it!
Hit Em Up Style is from Cantrell's So Blu CD. The fun thing about Hit Em Up Style is that it doesn't waste time getting angry at its cheating boyfriend, getting right to winning revenge by selling all his things and using his money to go on a shopping spree. It's silly but also light hearted and unpretentious with a relaxed beat. I imagine the repeated samples of chimes and an old timey horn riff will seem monotonous after repeat listens.
Blues Traveler - Girl Inside My Head
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: # 31 (May 2001) buy it!
John Popper put out a solo record and bass player Bob Sheehan died but Blues Traveler has stayed together. Bridge is Blues Traveler's first CD in four years. Girl Inside My Head was written by Popper and new bassist Tad Kinchla. Popper inevitably plays a little harmonica but the song doesn't have much edge. Maybe it has something to do with Popper losing 180 pounds. The music, with a psychedelic pop guitar line by Chad Kinchla, has an easy groove and amiable feel but it's pretty innocuous. The lyrics are also a little wimpy. Girl Inside My Head is about a guy making himself crazy, thinking about how to present himself to a woman, unsure whether to let her know what he's like or to play the "jungle cat."
Bob Dylan - Things Have Changed
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: # 43 (May 2000) buy it!
Dylan's renaissance, which began with his Time Out of Mind CD, continues with this track from the Wonder Boys soundtrack. Dylan continues the persona he used on Time Out of Mind of the cranky old guy who's known heartache so many times that he's almost giving up on love. He sings of being a "worried man with a worried mind" who "used to care but things have changed." But the flip side of the persona is not worrying about looking foolish, dreaming of love "as time slips through my hands", feeling "like falling in love with the first woman I meet." Dylan seems to be have fun with the light, jaunty musical tone with a loose vocal over an relaxed slide guitar and easy bluesy mood.
Bon Jovi - It's My Life
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: # 39 (Aug. 2000) buy it!
His record sales fell in the 90's and his movie career has gone pretty well. You'd figure Jon Bon Jovi wouldn't have to make terrible music like It's My Life anymore. However, He and Richie Sambora have done such a good job of recreating the You Give Love A Bad Name era sound that, even with a different pop audience, It's My Life was bound to be a hit. Like Bon Jovi's 80's hits, It's My Life, from the Crush CD, is wildly overproduced. It's got too much background singing and keyboards and Sambora's bad heavy metal guitar solo. Jon's vocals are an unmelodic choked yell. While the safely rebellious theme will appeal to many, the lyrics are truly terrible. Bon Jovi sings about his life being an open highway. He throws in every predictable defiant rock song line: "I ain't gonna be just a face in the crowd", "it's now or never" and "I want to live while I'm alive." He even alludes to Frank Sinatra and My Way.
Bonnie Raitt - I Can't Help You Now
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: # 37 (May 2002) buy it!
In 1989, Bonnie Raitt had a huge comeback when the Nick Of Time CD became the biggest seller of her career. Nick Of Time's title track, which touchingly explored midlife female romantic anxiety and provided a happy ending, and Raitt's nicely raunchy cover of John Hiatt's Thing Called Love provided models for much of her 90's work, which has been smooth and mature with a little bluesy edge and slide guitar. On 1998's Fundamental, Raitt wisely chose to work with Mitchell Froom to muss up a sound that had become a little predictable. Part of Fundamental's charm was the tension between Froom's clangy production and Raitt's predilection for smooth combinations of traditional blues and easy 70s style singer/songwriter music. Raitt's new Silver Lining CD is also produced by Froom but Raitt's sound seems to have moved back into its smooth, mature mode. I Can't Help You Now is very comfortable and easy listening. It has a cool mood, a little bit of rock edge and, as usual, Raitt's voice is smart, strong and sexy. I Can't Help You Now seems very familiar, like other Raitt songs or a restrained version of Something To Talk About. On I Can't Help You Now, Raitt tells a guy she once loved and pined for that he's too late in declaring his interest.
Bowling For Soup - Girl All The Bad Guys Want
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 41 (April 2003) buy it!
Until this year, Texas band Bowling For Soup had a fairly small following and were best known for novelty songs like The Bitch Song. Girl All The Bad Guys Want has brought them to a new level, delivering a surprise Grammy nomination for best pop performance by a group and their first pop hit. Bowling For Soup fit with all the punky pop bands like Good Charlotte and Sum 41 who have followed Blink 182 into the top 40. Girl All The Bad Guys Want, from the Drunk Enough To Dance CD, isn't much different from other similar hits but it is a good example of the genre. In the song and the video(which takes off from the line about "singers that are mad at their dad" to mock the pretensions of Fred Durst and Staind's Aaron Lewis), Bowling For Soup seem a little more grown up than their contemporaries. Jaret Reddick has the standard bratty, juvenile voice but he uses it in a smarter way. Chris Burney and Reddick play the usual guitar riffs but vary them, stomping, scratching and spinning as the sound keeps coming in an exciting way. The lyric is a fairly standard tale of unrequited love but it has a light hearted charm. The implicit joke is that it's probably a good thing that Reddick can't win this girl who likes rap metal, wrestling and guys with a moustache.
Box Car Racer - I Feel So
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 29 (July 2002) buy it!
The Box Car Racer CD is a side project for Tom DeLonge and Travis Barker, the guitar player and drummer from Blink 182. Box Car Racer's members also include guitarist Dave Kennedy and bass player Anthony Celestino but Box Car Racer is clearly DeLonge's show. I Feel So is like Stay Together For The Kids and other Blink work that contrasts the band's usual fast, stupid, youthful rock songs with mid tempo songs that have a kid's earnestness. Like on Stay Together, DeLonge yells the chorus. But he also sings a quieter verse like Mark Hoppus did on Stay Together. Because the Blink boys seem to have the potential to move beyond their fun but limited main style, I'm encouraged by a song like Adam's Song or I Feel So which shows signs of growth. I Feel So still rocks. It has a good, big guitar sound on the chorus and DeLonge does his trademark bratty vocal. But I Feel So also has a sweet, simple sincerity. DeLonge's ability to convey adolescent confusion is impressive. He sings about wishing he was a better person, apparently so he would be better equipped to deal with a troubled relationship.
Brandy - What About Us
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: # 44 (April 2002) buy it!
In her music and as tv's Moesha, Brandy Norwood has established a sweet, slightly bland image. That image was emphasized when she played the good girl to Monica's tougher character on their hit duet The Boy Is Mine. On What About Us, the first single from the Full Moon CD, Brandy does a good job of adopting an attitude closer to that of Mary J. or the late Aaliyah, presenting a tougher, more adult persona. Brandy benefits from Rodney Jerkins' good production. What About Us has minimal backing with a hard, march style beat and limited electronic effects. Some studio tinkering gives Brandy's voice a sleek metallic edge. On What About Us Brandy complains about being neglected by a guy who made all sorts of promises to her and threatens that she won't put up with him if his behavior continues.
Brian McKnight - Back at One
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: # 28 (Jan. 2000) buy it!
Back at One is pretty sappy: "one, you're like a dream come true; two, just want to be with you, three, it's plain to see you're the one for me." But McKnight's singing is heartfelt and stronger than most that of most of his contemporaries on the pop charts. The music is also nicely subtle, starting simply with a lone piano.
Britney Spears featuring Madonna - Me Against The Music
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: # 34 (Dec. 2003) buy it!
You have to give Britney Spears(and her publicists) credit. Her recent music isn't very good or interesting and her record sales are declining but, with the help of kisses with Madonna and two day marriages, she's made sure that lots of people want to interview her or put her on the cover of their magazine. Me Against The Music is disappointing for a few reasons, including for showing that the VMA kiss, which seemed exciting at the time, was just publicity for Britney's upcoming single. Me Against The Music, from Britney's In The Zone CD, has the fairly odd idea of teaming up two of the worst singers who ever became huge pop stars. Of course, Me Against The Music doesn't try to show that Britney or Madonna are great singers. The singers' celebrity is used in attempt to create interest in a slight, unremarkable song. Like other songs from the singers' oeuvre, Me Against The Music matches their cold, electronically enhanced voices with an icy, synthetic sound. The pinched, nasal quality of Britney's voice isn't likable but it works OK with the hard, unmelodic music. The vocals are only significantly annoying when Madonna is featured giving irritatingly confident calling out "hey Britney" and advising her to "bare your soul." Otherwise, the singing is mostly buried low in the mix and it often isn't much more than another percussion instrument. The vocals are compressed all over the place and Britney's singing quickly skitters around but there's such a lack of warmth or humanity that nothing draws you in. Me Against The Music has an OK groove but not much sense of a song. The "all my people on the floor"chorus is the only portion with anything resembling a hook. Me Against The Music has the mechanical efficiency of a lot of Britney's music since she began to more actively seek an older audience. It sounds like it was designed as the background for a music video rather than as an appealing song. Me Against The Music is a sterile, joyless piece of work. It's a fairly impressive, tight production so crammed with synths, crisp, brittle beats and processed vocals that it's a bit tiring to listen to. Not surprising for a thin song accompanied by a PR avalanche, Me Against The Music raced into the charts but didn't last long. While the singers(especially Madonna) try to give the impression that they're singing about something serious and intense, Me Against The Music is basically just another song about how it's good to get on the dance floor and dance.
Britney Spears - Everytime
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: # 13 (July 2004) buy it!
Helped by a flashy video depicting Britney, driven by media intrusions and a jerk of a Justin-like boyfriend, contemplating suicide in a bath; Everytime is Britney's third hit from her In The Zone CD. Everytime confirms that, after the mediocre showings of the singles from Britney's self titled third record, Spears is a big hit maker again. Following Toxic, Everytime is her second big one in a row. Everytime isn't nearly as good as Toxic's sleek, fun, futuristic dance pop. Everytime isn't particularly interesting but it's fine. The quiet ballad with just a voice and ballad is an appealing form and Everytime is a decent example. Guy Sigsworth, who has worked with Bjork and Madonna(on Music's What It Feels Like For A Girl), produced Everytime. He kept it simple, playing a basic, quite poignant piano line. Sigsworth wisely didn't push Britney. Her vocal stays quiet. It's probably cleaned it up so it's harder to discern how thin and stiff it is. A better singer would have made Everything more compelling. Still, Spears' singing is heartfelt and unembarrassing. Everytime was written by Britney and her backup singer Annette Stamatelatos Artani. It has some bad school girl poetry, like the stuff about trying to fly and falling because she doesn't have her wings, but it's mostly kind of sweet. Britney has strong love for a guy who wants to "carry on without me" after she caused him pain. She prays that his face will fade away but guesses "I need you baby" because his face is "haunting me" and she can't fly on her own. Everything isn't great and it doesn't show Britney can sing but it delivers a sincere message in an unshowy way her young fans will love.
Britney Spears - From the Bottom of My Broken Heart
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: # 45 (Feb. 2000) buy it!
The fourth hit from Baby One More Time is a fairly uninteresting ballad. Spears once again presents herself as a fairly stereotypical submissive female, openly pining for a lost love. Spears voice isn't much and, unlike on her dance songs, she can't hit it behind the beat.
Britney Spears - I'm A Slave For U
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: # 44 (Nov. 2001) buy it!
On I'm A Slave For U, from the Britney CD, hot hip hop producers The Neptunes do what they can with Spears' limitations, smartly matching her thin, fake sounding but somewhat sexy voice with cold, synthetic but sultry backing. I'm A Slave's rubbery, clanging sounds and tight beat create an interesting, exotic feel. But after a few listens I'm A Slave seems like a gimmicky novelty and there's only so much The Neptunes can do with Britney's pinched, pouty voice. As for Britney, it's hard to blame her for working the sex angle hard these days; being sexy is clearly her best talent. But considering that she's a 20 year old millionaire, her new CD's "I'm not a girl but I'm not a woman" theme is somewhat ridiculous. It's a slightly desperate attempt to keep her preteen fans on board. I'm A Slave For U's imagines a world of people who "look at me like I'm a little girl" and claims dancing as an act of defiance. The lyrics are more about wanting to dance with a guy than being a slave to him.
Britney Spears - I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: # 39 (Feb. 2002) buy it!
Like I'm A Slave For U, I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman, the second single from the Britney CD, is going to have a deservedly short stay on the top 50. I'm Not A Girl, also featured on the soundtrack of the apparently awful Britney film vehicle Crossroads, is mostly of interest as another part of the strategy of marketing Britney. Britney's innocent/jailbait act has grown wearisome. But remarkably, after years of success and of continually and increasingly presenting a mature, sexual image, her young girl fans still see her as a role model and one of them. By almost any definition(except most states' drinking age and, if you believe Britney, virginity) Britney's clearly a woman. The only line in I'm Not A Girl that seems to ring true is: "this girl will always find her way." Still, a lot of girls swept up in the confusion of puberty must relate to I'm Not A Girl or project their experience onto its very simple lyrics. Musically, I'm Not A Girl's easy listening sound, with tasteful piano and a light beat, is kind of a bore. As usual, I enjoy a Britney ballad even less than a Britney dance song because her thin, undynamic vocal is less disguised.
Britney Spears - Lucky
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: # 33 (Sept. 2000) buy it!
Even Spears' preteen worshippers might start losing interest if Spears and her svengali Max Martin keeps making lightweight music like this one from her Oops! I Did It Again CD. I don't know if it's supposed to be a joke or show her self awareness but it's a bizarre idea to have Spears sing about the empty life of a media created young star with a perfect smile. The beat is solid and the sound is sleek but the end result is pretty boring. Spears' vocals sound electronically enhanced as she sings about how Lucky "cries in her lonely heart."
Britney Spears - Oops! . . . I Did It Again
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: # 24 (June 2000) buy it!
The title track from Spears' new CD is nearly a remake of Baby One More Time. It's another piece of pleasant, light dancable synth pop with a little bit of a hard edge. Spears still shows no particular signs of being much of a singer. The lyrics perpetuate the image of Spears being both childlike and a mature temptress as she sings "I'm not that innocent." Oops is about teasing a boy, getting lost in the game and playing with his heart, making him believe they're more than just friends. There's nothing wrong with it except for a lack of depth or substance the preteens are unlikely to mind.
Britney Spears - Sometimes
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: # 33 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
It's not terrible for teen pop but Sometimes, from Spears' huge Baby One More Time, isn't much. It's a ballad though the video finds Spears dancing to a not particularly danceable beat. She was more interesting in the Janet Jackson like mode of the cd's title track. She apparently has an unspectacular if likeable voice. Working on a ballad gives unneeded attention to the lyrics, which aren't very good. The song's message is apparently that she wants her man to pay attention even if she acts like she doesn't want the attention.
Britney Spears - Stronger
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: # 48 (Dec. 2000) buy it!
Stronger is the third hit from the Oops! I Did It Again CD. Britney's voice sounds even more brittle and synthetic than usual. The lyrics are some garbage about Britney being tired of being treated like some guy's property and wanting to do it her way. The music, similar to Oops and Baby One More Time, is generally, at best, coldly efficient industrial dance pop. Like You Drive Me Crazy, Stronger is uninteresting until its catchy chorus. Stronger is another song written by teen pop genius Max Martin. His touch is clear on the chorus, which has two good hooks.
Britney Spears - Toxic
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: # 13 (March 2004) buy it!
Britney Spears seemed to be in danger of being more famous for being famous than for being a singer but, after a bunch of singles with mediocre chart performances, she has her biggest hit since 2000's Oops! ...I Did It Again. Britney's lack of a distinctive voice or musical image have allowed each of the producers who worked on her In The Zone CD to move in a different direction and put their imprint on their song. Britney contributed to Toxic's success by being the hot babe in the video but credit for Toxic's sound should largely go to its writer Cathy Dennis, who also did Kylie Minogue's Can't Get You Out Of My Head. Like Dennis' previous megahit, Toxic has a sleek, synthetic, cool sound. Like many producers, Dennis placed Britney's cold, thin voice in an icy synth and beats world. Toxic doesn't overuse Britney's singing. Britney's brittle vocal is on the verses but I'm guessing that on the chorus and anywhere else where there's decent singing, it's Dennis, whose Touch Me(All Night Long) was a dance pop hit in the 80's. Toxic has lots of synths and a stiff, effective beat but its futuristic sound is also fun and fast, with strings creating a goofy sense of drama. Toxic's lyric tells a guy that he's dangerous and makes her high She's addicted to him and needs a hit.
Britney Spears - You Drive Me Crazy
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: # 32 (Nov. 1999) buy it!
The 3rd hit from Baby One More Time is also from the soundtrack of the movie from Sabrina the Teenage Witch's Melissa Joan Hart. It's a dance song like Baby One More Time but is harder with less charm. The lyrics perpetuate Spears' boy crazy image and are pretty stupid, "you drive me crazy, I just can't sleep/I'm so excited, I'm in too deep." Spears apparently doesn't have the vocal skills of her fellow Mouseketeer alum and teen star Christina Aguilera. Her singing is often buried under that of backup singers or sounds studio enhanced.
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band - Lonesome Day
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: # 33 (Nov. 2002) buy it!
Bruce Springsteen's The Rising is a CD of varying quality. The music isn't always that interesting and sometimes Bruce's writing is too empty or cliched to provide the meaning he clearly seeks. But The Rising is mostly good and it often achieves a comforting, healing feel. 9/11 related imagery lurks throughout The Rising. The title track doesn't specifically cite 9/11 but its story of overcoming devastating circumstances, like much of The Rising, has that day and its aftermath in mind. Sometimes the quest for significance seems overreaching. Lonesome Day is first about trying to move on after being surprised when a woman he thought he "knew everything I needed to know about" leaves. Next thing you know, Bruce sings that the "house is on fire" and a "dark sun's on the rise" and suggests a need for revenge. Lonesome Day's lyrics may be murky but, as is often the case, Bruce's music and The E Street Band's playing suggest meaning deeper than provided by the words. The music brilliantly evoke sadness and rebirth. As the Lonesome Day moves at a cautious pace, Bruce's strong, ungimmicky vocal and Max Weinberg's solid whacks create a majestic, optimistic feel. That hopeful feeling is further bolstered by Roy Bittan and Danny Federici's nice, subtle keyboards, Clarence Clemons' brief, familiar solo and the good "it's alright" fadeout backing vocals. Lonesome Day's spare, uplifting sound brings to mind a good middle period song from John Mellancamp, one of Bruce's many disciples. It also has a sound that's right for an artist seeking a mature voice and meaning in a troubled time.
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band - The Rising
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 12 (Aug. 2002) buy it!
The Rising is Bruce Springsteen's first album of new songs since 1995's very subdued The Ghost Of Tom Joad and his first with the E Street Band since Born In The U.S.A. The Rising's title track reminds me of Glory Days or music from Bruce's last rock records(1992's Human Touch and Lucky Town) like Better Days, Leap Of Faith, Local Hero and, particularly, Human Touch. The Rising's big but fairly uncluttered sound and lofty, basic images create a classic feel. At 52, Bruce's voice is still strong and confident. Max Weinberg is still great at whacking the drums and making a huge sound. The Rising is nicely filled out with female vocals and a slide guitar sound. With its la la las and lyrics about rollin' down here "on wheels of fire", feeling "your arms around me" and a sky of love, tears, glory, mercy and fear, The Rising almost seems like self parody or Bruce's desperate attempt to recapture his early simple, evocative writing. But, as usual, Bruce makes imagery that would seem too much if done by others feel real and very heartfelt. With lots of religious allusions, Bruce sings about trying to overcome the "chain that binds me" and the "sixty pound stone" on his back through some sort of rebirth or perhaps by rising to heaven. Though The Rising feels like a nostalgic rehash, it's great to have Bruce back making stirring, ambitious, distinctive music like no one else.
BT - Never Gonna Come Back Down
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: # 48 (Aug. 2000) buy it!
Brian Transeau is skilled at constructing atmosperic beat filled dance music. Especially at its start, the collage style sound, ironic samples, nonsequitor lyrics and uninflected white rap make Never Gonna Come Back Down, from the Movement in Still Life CD, sound like a Beck tribute. The song's chorus is catchy but fairly routine. Undoubtedly, Never Gonna Come Back Down does the job on the dance floor.
Buckcherry - For the Movies
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: # 17 (Oct. 1999) buy it!
The followup to Lit Up from their self titled debut is not as raucous as Lit Up's tribute to cocaine. It's O.K., fairly routine but pleasant midtempo rock. The verse starts out sounding like Radiohead's Creep and the song also has a touch of Bowie-like 70's glam rock.
Buckcherry - Lit Up
Weeks on Chart: 1 Peak: # 32 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
I don't like to think of myself as a prude but I do find it a little disturbing, not to mention surprising in these pc times, that a song describing cocaine use in a seemingly noncritical way could get substantial airplay. I suppose there's some charm in being so defiantly not pc. What's even more disturbing about the song is that it's a shameless rip off of Black Crowes, who in turn, steal from any number of their rock predecessors. At least it imitates better Black Crowes, so it's got big guitars and a good beat.
Buckcherry - Ridin'
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: # 45 (March 2001) buy it!
Ridin' resembles like Lit Up, the hit from Buckcherry's debut. Joshua Todd sounds like a number of cocky rock and roll screamers but his screech is more annoying than that of Jagger, Plant or Steven Tyler. Black Crowes' Chris Robinson is subtle in comparison. The best analogy to this very simple hard rocker, about having a good time with a girl who "loves to go ridin' cause she's sick in the head", might be with an AC/DC song like Highway To Hell. I see the appeal of the basic, rumbing guitars but still find the song stupid and irritating.
Bush - The Chemicals Between Us
Weeks on Chart: 21 Peak: # 8 (Nov. 1999) buy it!
Without getting much attention in their native England, Bush had huge success in the U.S. with their Sixteen Stone CD, which took the edge of grunge bands like Nirvana and presented it with commercial polish and Gavin Rossdale's hunky looks. Though it didn't have a thrilling rocker like Sixteen Stone's Machinehead, the followup Razorblade Suitcase had pretty decent rockers and power ballads and its lesser record sales were more of a reflection of changing tastes and the death of grunge than of a drop off in quality. Though their sales are likely to continue to decline, Bush has shown some signs of establishing a distinctive personality and making fairly good music within a niche of intense rock. The Chemicals Between Us has a good raw, ragged sound that does a good job of communicating the tension and electricity of an exciting relationship.
Bush - Letting the Cables Sleep
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 13 (March 2000) buy it!
The followup to the exciting, tense guitar rocker The Chemicals Between Us is a good, moody ballad. Letting the Cables Sleep, is an anti-suicide song. Gavin Rossdale movingly consoles a troubled friend. The instrumentation is minimal with simple guitar and piano.
Bush - The People That We Love
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: # 14 (Oct. 2001) buy it!
Out of concern for our delicate post-September 11 sensibility, the first single from Bush's Golden State CD has been renamed. Speed Kills is now called The People That We Love, even though the song has always clearly been about the emotional damage caused in relationships, rather than any literal violence or death. People That We Love, like all of Gavin Rossdale's work, is ever so serious. But it also shows Rossdale's talent for making tight, intense rock with a good, edgy energy as he sings, over driving guitars, about how we "destroy the world we took so long to make."
Bush - Warm Machine
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 30 (June 2000) buy it!
Bush haven't gotten worse or significantly changed their sound but the audience for their derivative rock has largely left them. Even their quite good last single, the ballad Letting The Cables Sleep, went nowhere. The third chart hit from the Science Of Things CD somewhat resembles the record's The Chemicals Between Us, without that song's energy. Grinding guitars create a good, tense mood but the cryptic lyrics and Gavin Rossdale's icy vocals, while creating a sense of forboding, don't make the song very interesting or enjoyable.
Busta Rhymes featuring Mariah Carey - I Know What You Want
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: # 20 (July 2003) buy it!
I Know What You Want is on Busta Rhymes' It Ain't Safe No More CD. I Know What You Want is not particularly distinctive. It's another smooth R&B song with a star cameo and a bunch of singers doing a verse a piece. But I Know What You Want is well made and appealingly smooth. Members of Flipmode Squad, who have appeared on Rhymes' records for years, don't do much with their verses and get too hung up in the end on dropping names of expensive products. Mariah Carey's whispery contributions to the chorus and a cliched bit of showing off on her "I will climb a mountain high" verse are kind of silly. I Know What You Want's surprise is Rhymes' sweet, controlled vocal. I've always thought of Rhymes(born Trevor Smith) as an over the top, in your face, kind of obnoxious performer. His singing on the catchy chorus and his verse(the one that starts ssh, mommy listen) isn't remarkable but it is likably unassuming and matches the lyric about understanding the woman who's stood by him and wanting to do what he can for her. I Know What You Want's music is innocuous but pleasant with a repeated strum effect and synth beeping that are restrained enough that they aren't too annoying. I Know What You Want passes by easily and with some charm.