Cake - Short Skirt/Long Jacket
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: # 6 (Sept. 2001) buy it!
As always, John McCrea's vocal on Short Skirt/Long Jacket is deadpan and ironic but it's not as annoying as usual because McCrea found a humorous topic to match his affect: his unlikely quest for a babe who's also an ambitious, sharp businesswoman. Short Skirt/Long Jacket is also more enjoyable than most of Cake's previous work because the music is better. Short Skirt/Long Jacket, from the Comfort Eagle CD, has a good funky guitar line and beat and fun touches like Vince DiFiori's trumpet.
Calling - Wherever You Will Go
Weeks on Chart: 32 Peak: # 3 (Jan. 2002) buy it!
Wherever You Will Go, from the Camino Palmero CD, spent six weeks on the chart this summer thanks to rock radio play. It's returned to the chart and rocketed near the top as the kind of catchy, sappy song pop stations love. Wherever You Will Go's extreme earnestness and Alex Band's deep, prematurely old sounding vocal place Calling along with Lifehouse as followers of Creed's model. Wherever You Will Go is apparently about someone contemplating his death and how his wife will go on without him. Band wonders "who will be there to take my place when I'm gone" and hopes to come back as some sort of spirit "to watch you, to guide you." The maudlin lyrics aren't helped by the dopey "if I could, then I would", "way up high or down low" chorus. With sensitive verses and rock guitar on the chorus, Wherever You Will Go has the slick lite rock sound nailed.
Camron - Hey Ma
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: # 23 (Dec. 2002) buy it!
Oh Boy fell just short of the top 50. Hey Ma, the followup single from the Come Home With Me CD, is like lots of other songs but it clearly sounds like a hit. Hey Ma grabs you right from the start with the relaxed, inviting Hey ma, whats up interplay between Camron and Toya. The rest of the song isnt as appealing as that exchange but Hey Ma maintains an easy flow throughout. It initially seemed odd that Hey Ma uses a sample from Lionel Richies Easy but Camron is just the latest, following P Diddy, Irv Gotti and Ja Rule and all their associates, to hit the charts with hip hop mellow enough to deserve lite fm play. Juelz Santana and Camrons decent raps give Hey Ma a little intensity but dont do anything do disturb the smooth, safe vibe. Hey Ma is a series of stupid but mostly innocuous stories about hooking up with girls. The chorus tell us that mutual interest in fancy vehicles, drinking and getting high establishes a basis for getting it on tonight. Santana relates how a combination of youthful confidence and respect set up his chance to lay the pipe. Cam tells us his boo shares his love for Gucci and buys his rap that hes a changed man who no longer be sinnin. Hey Ma is fairly dopey but easy to listen to.
Cassidy featuring R Kelly - Hotel
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: # 29 (April 2004) buy it!
Cassidy is a young rapper from Philadelphia who got attention with his work on mix tapes. He's been championed by Swizz Beatz, who's worked with Eve, Busta Rhymes, DMX and many others, the producer of much of Cassidy's Split Personality CD. Like Nick Cannon, Cassidy has the good fortune to be assisted on his first hit single by the ubiquitous R Kelly. Kelly's appearance is nearly a guarantee of success. The downside of Kelly's presence is that he makes more of an impression than Cassidy does. Kelly does a relaxed but strong vocal on the chorus, easily making himself the center of attention. Kelly is his usual pleasure loving self. As on the Ignition Remix, Kelly enjoys an after party, inviting a "cutie" to use his room key. Cassidy's rap isn't amazing but he's fine. Like so many rappers, he mostly has sex on his mind. He tells us "if that girl don't participate, well then I'm gonna take her friend." But compared with some songs(like the recent, similarly themed Holidae Inn), Hotel is pretty benign. Cassidy promises the ladies he will do whatever he can for them. Hotel's acoustic guitar riff and light mood remind me of another song with a big R Kelly presence, B2K's Bump, Bump, Bump. Hotel is better than the cheerfully stupid B2K song but it's also pretty slight. Still, it's pleasant and sounds fine. With the guitar underlining Kelly's vocal and a classic sounding beat that resembles the one for Marvin Gaye's Sexual Healing, Swizz Beatz gives Hotel a smooth sound.
Celine Dion - That's The Way It Is
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: # 26 (March 2000) buy it!
That's The Way It Is is one of the new songs on Dion's All The Way greatest hits record. Dion's music often tends towards banality. That's The Way It Is is particularly insubstantial. Its "everything will work out fine" lyrics have the depth of a greeting card and the music has the complexity of the background to a tv commercial. It's fairly inoffensive except to those who know that romantic problems aren't always easily solved.
Chad Kroeger with Josey Scott - Hero
Weeks on Chart: 22 Peak: # 1 (June 2002) buy it!
Hero is from the Spiderman soundtrack. Hero has a big, anthemic tone appropriate for a big budget, wildly successful film about a mythic superhero. But Hero lacks the movie's sense of action and fun. It confirms my suspicion that a lot of today's pop rock stars are really mediocre folkies at heart. Hero asks questions common to folk songs about why peoples' passions lead to "killing and blood spilling" and offers its only solution in the fuzzy imagery of holding "onto the wings of the eagles." Hero plods along with little energy or imagination but, as on Nickelback's hits, Kroeger's humorless but very sincere delivery has its charm. He's down and doesn't expect a savior but still has the capacity to love. People love a solemn rock ballad so Hero's a slam dunk hit. But it's pretty tame, contrived and formulaic. Hero doesn't even have the rock drive of Nickelback's hits. It's not that different from the Hero songs done by Enrique, Mariah and many others. My favorite part of Hero is Josey Scott's participation. With his band Saliva, Scott sings cartoonish but hard edged rap inflected rock but he easily fits into Hero's serious mood. He overemotes his verse which includes the grammatically questionable claim that he was told "love will all save us."
Chevelle - Closure
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: # 24 (Jan. 2004) buy it!
Closure is the third chart hit from the band comprised of Pete Loeffler and his two brothers. The Wonder What's Next CD gives some reason to hope that Chevelle could be an interesting, solid rock band for many years. Their sound is big and tough but not overbearing or plodding. They don't show the narcissism, lack of originality or commercial pandering of many modern rock bands. Pete Loeffler is serious about his music but not pretentious. That seriousness is Chevelle's main problem right now. They're overly self conscious and lack variety. Loeffler's single mindedness gives Chevelle's music power. But on The Red, Loeffler's humorless, repetitive delivery made most of the song drab. His ranting at the end seemed forced and like that of too many superficial raging rockers. Closure is a worthy followup to the tight and driving if monochromatic Send The Pain Below. Send The Pain Below's thoughtful, focused approach merited comparison to early Radiohead. Tool is usually a more obvious influence. On Closure, Tool similarities are even clearer than usual. Moving slowly and intently, Loeffler reaches a pure, unshowy intensity similar to Maynard James Keenan's. Loeffler's guitar sound is big and dramatic without much excess. Closure's downside is the same lack of variation and excess seriousness. The song's impact is also lessened by the fact that the word closure has become such an overused piece of pop psychology, used to describe the resolution of the most minor personal crisis. But Loeffler's fury makes it clear that he has felt substantial pain and that he gained real catharsis from realizing "you will never belong to me."
Chevelle - The Red
Weeks on Chart: 30 Peak: # 6 (Feb. 2003) buy it!
The Red is from the Wonder What's Next CD by the Chicago based band formed by the Loeffler brothers. The Red is the latest rock radio hit with threatening atmosphere and a singer seriously intoning about a young man with a troubled mind. It's hardly surprising that two hit songs this year have been based on the idea of "seeing red." At least half of rock music these days is about being pissed off. The Red's repeated riff effectively creates a tense mood, slowly grinding forward with Joe Loeffler's good bass line and Pete Loeffler's crunching guitar. But after The Red creates a stark impression, nothing much happens. As the riff repeats again and again, it loses some of its power. Unlike other current rock singers, Pete generally avoids pretension and overemoting but he's not particularly memorable, until the predictable cathartic climax when he rants "seeing red again." The Red is about a guy unable to control himself after repeatedly being singled out and called a freak.
Chevelle - Send The Pain Below
Weeks on Chart: 34 Peak: # 3 (Aug. 2003) buy it!
Send The Pain Below is the second chart hit from the Wonder What's Next CD by the band comprised of three born again Christian brothers from Chicago. The Red was a bit monotonous but it had a good, insinuating guitar riff and had a long run on rock radio. Send The Pain Below is less distinctive. It has the Creed feeling of being a pastiche of Pearl Jam and other grunge bands. At least singer Pete Loeffler doesn't come across pretentiously like Creed's Scott Stapp. He's thoughtful in an unshowy way as he sings about his ability to suppress his emotional pain. His low key guitar playing is appropriate to the lyrics' stark emotion. At times, the match of restrained but intense singing and basic, booming sustained chords remind me of Radiohead's Creep. But generally, Send The Pain Below doesn't have Creep's depth. It's so downbeat that it's hard to distinguish from the other songs where young men share their hurt. The similarity to other songs is accentuated towards the end when Loeffler goes into a Korn/Trust Company style rant("I can't feel my chest,drop down"). Send The Pain Below's message is oddly common in similar songs: you hurt me when you manipulated when we were together and I miss you. Send The Pain Below has an intensity that can be compelling but it's ultimately too indistinctive and humorless to keep my interest.
Chingy featuring Snoop Dogg & Ludacris - Holidae Inn
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 35 (Jan. 2004) buy it!
Holidae Inn is the second hit from the Jackpot CD by Howard "Chingy" Bailey, Ludacris' protege from St. Louis. Holidae Inn features Ludacris but, with its goofy music and easy pace, it has more of the relaxed, fun loving personality of its other guest: Snoop Dogg. Holidae Inn is about a party with lots of Hennessey and women willing to have sex with Chingy once they realize he's "that dude that sing Right Thurr." Chingy and Snoop's raps, the wacky, vaguely spooky backing track and the lyrics' decadent scene are all pretty cartoonish. Snoopy's flat, nasal voice fits well with Chingy's broad, facetious one. Chingy hasn't shown himself to be a great rapper but he doesn't take himself too seriously. On Holidae Inn he has a little more to do than on Right Thurr, which was mostly about getting back to saying the title and showing he had a dialect similar to Nelly's. Ludacris' rap is a bit tougher than the others' but he stays in the song's playful, lady loving mode. His verse largely consists of a bunch words that kind of rhyme with "nipples." Holidae Inn has good beats, a fun riff and a light spirit. If you ignore its mindless misogyny, it has a loopy, laid back charm.
Chingy - One Call Away
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: # 21 (April 2004) buy it!
St. Louis' Howard "Chingy" Bailey seems cartoonish and insubstantial but his Jackpot CD is one of the biggest hits of the last year. One Call Away is Chingy's third hit. A lot of the credit for Chingy's success should go to Alonzo Lee and Shamar Daugherty, also known as Trak Starz. Trak Starz(not to be confused with Trackboyz, who also produced music by St. Louis artists including Nelly's Air Force Ones and J-Kwon's Tipsy) wrote and produced most of the songs on Jackpot, including Right Thurr and One Call Away. On One Call Away, they use Chingy the way he should be used, as a colorful, goofy supporting player. One Call Away's main appeal is its catchy chorus, with Jason "J. Weav" Weaver suavely singing "you can call if you wanna bump over me." Trak Starz created a sound that's smooth, with a steady hand clap beat and easy guitar sound, but also has good texture with a bass drum sound and percussion that sounds like a woodpecker pecking. Chingy roams around the verses in an entertaining, innocuous way, sounding like Eminem in a clowning mode. Most of One Call Away's lyric is surprisingly sweet. Chingy describes meeting a woman in a bank, starting a relationship slowly and respectfully and not being afraid to show affection in front of his homeboys. The lyric suddenly turns stupid on the third verse as Chingy announces that he's a player, offers her a "puff on a blunt" and "a pint of Hen" and threatens "if you got an attitude, I could treat you like a hoe." Just as suddenly, he returns to the song's general theme of being the guy who's there for her, rapping "just be true and there's nothing I won't do for ya." Chingy's contribution is mixed but mostly appealing. He largely fills space until One Call Away gets back to the chorus' charming hook.
Chingy - Right Thurr
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: # 24 (Sept. 2003) buy it!
Apparently Nelly is so huge that even people who kind of sound like him are destined to have hits. Chingy(born Howard Bailey Jr.) is, like Nelly, from St. Louis. The local dialect seems to include a relaxed slur. So where Nelly had Hot In Herre, Chingy has Right Thurr. Right Thurr, like Nelly's music, has a confident, sprawling, repetitive quality. That's basically where the similarity ends. Chingy doesn't have Nelly's unbelievable fast, easy rapping skills or high energy backing. Chingy's mentor is Ludacris, who is the executive producer of Chingy's debut Jackpot CD. Right Thurr has the broad, jokey quality of some of Ludacris' music. Right Thurr is solidly constructed. It's comfortable with a good, steady beat, repeated synth riff and Chingy's easy rap. Chingy has a good time and his joy is infectious. On the verses, he sounds a little like Eminem in a mischievous mode. The downside is that Right Thurr is really repetitious. Nothing happens to keep your attention as the same riff repeats over and over again. Chingy's repeated, mannered enunciation of the title also gets a little tired. Generally, Right Thurr is genial but slight.
Chris Cornell - You Can't Change Me
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: # 2 (Nov. 1999) buy it!
The first single from Cornell's solo debut, Euphoria Morning, shows signs that leaving Soundgarden was a good idea. Cornell's vocals are still intense but the music is also a little more fun than his work with Soundgarden, who often seemed too concerned about reaching an overblown Zeppelin-esqe grandeur. The music still has a good rock edge but the elegant waltz-like rhythm gives it an interesting depth.
Chris Isaak - Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: # 25 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing was originally on Isaak's Forever Blue record, which was practically a theme album about how devastated he was about being dumped. On first impression, Baby seemed annoying. His affected voice seemed like a pathetic attempt to show blues credibility. But Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing undeniably works in establishing the right mood for a sexy scene in Eyes Wide Shut. It has a good down and dirty groove.
Chris Isaak - Let Me Down Easy
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: # 30 (March 2002) buy it!
While Chris Isaak seems like a mellow guy, he obviously has savvy businessmen behind him. In January, Isaak achieved big time synergy as, nearly simultaneously with the release of Isaak's new Always Got Tonight CD, Showtime began the second season of Isaak's genial, slight rock sitcom and VH1 played a marathon of the show's first season. In 1985, Isaak came on the scene with his spare, haunted, Roy Orbison influenced Silvertone record. Since then, Isaak has mostly omitted the raw, stark feel but, especially since Wicked Game gave him his one big hit, otherwise continued to make the same kind of moody, adult, country flavored records. Isaak's songs often involve Isaak getting his heart broken and/or being haunted by the memory of the ideal woman who left. While Isaak's music is predictable and a little too smooth, it's still good. His songs are well played and have good atmosphere. Isaak's vocals are cool and self confident with a self deprecating charm that also suits him well(despite minimal acting skills) on his sitcom. Let Me Down Easy is similar to Somebody's Crying and other mellow midtempo Isaak songs but it's likable. Let Me Down Easy has a mechanical beat but it has a good ringing guitar riff. On Let Me Down Easy, Isaak again broods about falling hard for a woman who doesn't reciprocate his feelings.
Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya & Pink - Lady Marmalade
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: # 13 (June 2001) buy it!
As it did 25 years ago, Lady Marmalade brings to my mind a junior high school kid showing off naughty words she's learned to her friends in French class. The new version, from the soundtrack of the movie Moulin Rouge, closely tracks Labelle's original and is fairly pointless. It seems like the main purpose of the remake is to provide an excuse for its young singers to play dress up in a sexy video. The funk rock backing is fairly similar to the original's. Only Lil' Kim's good, tight rap adds something new. Her tough, bottom line attitude is far from the 70s record's romanticized tale of a prostitute who helps a guy have a brief, transcendental escape from "his gray flannel life." The production moves efficiently, giving each of the confident young women a chance in the spotlight. Mya is the least distinctive. Pink isn't the greatest singer, but she's self assured and full of personality. Christina Aguilera is typically showy and over the top.
Christina Aguilera - Beautiful
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: # 16 (Feb. 2003) buy it!
After Dirrty, Christina Aguilera's update of Redman's Let's Get Dirty, had a fairly short stay in the pop top 20, there was a lot of talk that poor song selection and image presentation would lead Aguilera's career into a nose dive. Aguilera has proved the doubters wrong. Beautiful, the second single from Aguilera's Stripped CD, is one of Aguilera's biggest hits. Aguilera wisely worked on Beautiful with writer/producer Linda Perry, who did Get The Party Started for Pink and is sure to be an extremely sought after collaborator for the forseeable future. Beautiful is smartly constructed. It starts with very minimal music and slowly builds from Perry's piano. The strength of Aguilera's voice has never been in doubt. She again shows impressive range and, while her singing will never be subtle, Aguilera shows some restraint. Lyrically, Beautiful gets off to a bit of a shaky start. Aguilera shares her insecurity about her fame before declaring that her detractors can't "bring me down." But, in conjunction with a good video and an empathetic musical feel, Beautiful's uplifting message of self respect take on a more universal feel that young listeners have latched onto.
Christina Aguilera - Can't Hold Us Down
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: # 18 (Oct. 2003) buy it!
Can't Hold Us Down, the fourth single from Christina Aguilera's Stripped CD, is another declaration of Aguilera's determination to overcome the obstacles she claims life throws at her. As on Beautiful, Aguilera is smart enough to couch her promise to overcome society's preconceptions in a broader context. On Beautiful, Aguilera could claim to represent all young women who don't fit a traditional definition of beauty. On Can't Hold Us Down, Aguilera says she's singing for all "my girls all around the world who've come across a man who don't respect your worth." Can't Hold Us Down doesn't have the subtlety, musically or lyrically, that writer/producer Linda Perry brought to Beautiful. Can't Hold Us Down was cowritten and coproduced by Scott Storch, who also did Fighter which, with a steadily wailing rock guitar having a decibal competition with Aguilera's shrill proclamation of self confidence, had the subtlety of a jackhammer. Can't Hold Us Down isn't as aggressively annoying as Fighter but it's not very interesting. Can't Hold Us Down's backing track is fairly lifeless, with an unchanging, flat beat and nothing to the music beyond an OK, repeated chiming effect. Aguilera is, typically, a bit of a vocal showoff but she gets your attention and shows her skills by quickly and fluidly snaking around the lyric. While she's never relaxed, Aguilera's singing has a bit of the playful, retro feel of Blu Cantrell's Hit Em Up Style. The world can always use another good song urging women to stand up for themselves. But Aguilera is hardly Aretha Franklin. Can't Hold Us Down's thoughts are pretty familiar and not that inspiring. Can't Hold Us Down's universal hopes get tied up with Aguilera's petty complaints about how people slander her "for popularity." But it can't be bad for young women to be encouraged to state their opinions and "respect your worth." Lil' Kim, Aguilera's Lady Marmalade teammate, adds a little more flavor and raspy attitude to Can't Hold Us Down though it's not her best work. Kim's rap fits with the lyric's general useful though not particularly original or insightful feel, complaining about double standards regarding how men and women can act towards the oppositie sex and declaring that "the table's about to turn."
Christina Aguilera - Come On Over (All I Want Is You)
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: # 29 (Sept. 2000) buy it!
After showing off her pipes on I Turn To You, the ballad by songwriter to the stars Diane Warren, Aguilera is back to light dance music on the fourth single from her debut CD. Come On Over is a little less gimmicky than her previous hits. The strength and maturity of Aguilera's big soulful voice show that comparisons to Mariah and Whitney are more appropriate than those to Britney. Come On Over is smooth and pleasantly perky. She again is the very available fantasy girl she first played on Genie In a Bottle, telling a guy that she "never felt this way before" and "you've got all I'm looking for."
Christina Aguilera - Dirrty
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: # 43 (Oct. 2002) buy it!
She's done singles, a Spanish language record and a holiday record but Stripped is Christina Aguilera's first mainstream CD in the more than three years since the release of her smash self titled CD. There's a lot of talk about whether and how the teen stars of the late 90s can remain successul as they and their audiences get older. Christina Aguilera seems to have a good shot at longevity. Her voice is bigger and better than Britney's and she's not saddled with a young image. Aguilera was only 18 when Christina Aguilera was released but her big, brassy, confident voice often seemed more like a 40 year old's. With Dirrty, Aguilera has the bad fortune of seeming to repeat steps her young competitors took to seek continued success. Like Pink, Aguilera confidently announces that "my arrival" will "start the party." Like Britney's I'm A Slave 4 U, Dirrty has an edgy dance sound and a sweaty, steamy video and lyrics meant to introduce an overtly adult, sexy image. As with Justin's Like I Love You, Dirrty has a hot producer the artist succeeded with before and a state of the art but familiar R&B/dance sound. Dirrty doesn't measure up to Pink's great pop hit but Aguilera's strong voice and comfort with the hard dance pop form give her the edge over Spears and Timberlake. Dirrty and Like I Love You are both more grooves than songs but Aguilera is a better fit with the material. On Dirrty, Lady Marmalade producer Rockwilder creates a tough, exciting sound with a metallic beat, a booming bass sound and flashing keyboards. He also includes Redman's decent, driving rap. Dirty's downside is it's not a lot of fun. An obstacle to Aguilera's long term success could be her failure to establish a likable, warm persona. Aguilera's vocal on Dirrty is strong but, especially in a harsh, mechanincal setting, it's a little cold. Dirrty's lyric is a fairly familiar boast about how Aguilera is gonna get the place sweating and "shake the room" but it fits well with Dirrty's tight, steady sound.
Christina Aguilera - Fighter
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: # 25 (June 2003) buy it!
Christina Agulera made great progress in fixing her image problems with Beautiful, the second hit from her Stripped CD. Beautiful allowed Aguilera, who had developed a narcissistic, weird persona, to present herself as needy and empathetic with all her fans who have self image problems. On Fighter, Aguilera reverts to an image of self interest and unpleasant ambition. Aguilera has an undeniable vocal gift. But her voice is so big that she can seem like she's just showing off. On Beautiful, Aguilera benefitted from the fairly light touch and commercial sense of producer Linda Perry. On Fighter, producer Scott Storch not only doesn't restrain Aguilera's showboating tendencies but encourages her to go way over the top. Fighter is strewn with a big hard rock guitar sound that totally lacks subtlety. Fighter soon becomes a showdown between the guitars and Aguilera's voice that results in a shrill, headache inducing mess. Aguilera seems to be referring to a boyfriend who used her but, with its references to cheating and greed and cheating, Fighter could just refer to a record company rep who dared challenge her. Either way, Fighter's gritted teeth confidence and bombastic sound hardly has Beautiful's charming vulnerability. Many may have been surprised by Beautiful's expression, written by Perry, of self doubt. It will be news to few that Fighter, written by Aguilera, declares that Aguilera is determined to succeed.
Christina Aguilera - I Turn To You
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: # 33 (June 2000) buy it!
Turn To You is the third hit from Aguilera's self titled CD. It makes it clear that, while she has often been compared to Britney Spears, she sees her role models and future competition in more respected pop singers like Mariah and Whitney. Aguilera gives showy Carey-like demonstrations of high her vocal range can go and pulls them off pretty well. While Turn To You isn't as gimmicky as her dance pop hits, her voice is still better than the material. The song has an appealingly minimal feel but also a few lyrical clunkers like, "for the strength to be strong." I'm not an expert in such things but doesn't Turn To You sound awfully familiar, just like Celine Dion's Because You Loved Me and a bunch of other pop ballads.
Christina Aguilera - The Voice Within
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: # 27 (Feb. 2004) buy it!
Christina Aguilera isn't as good at working the media as Britney but she's a bit better at making hits. The Voice Within is the fifth smash from her Stripped CD which, when it was released more than a year ago, many predicted would be a flop. Since Aguilera has a big voice and loves to show it off, it was only a matter of time until her record company released a big, soaring ballad of the sort Whitney and Mariah topped the charts with a decade ago. The Voice Within was produced and co-written by Glen Ballard. Ballard did Alanis Morissette's hugely successful Jagged Little Pill CD but the credit on Ballard's lengthy resume that might be most appropriate in the case is his work in Wilson Phillips' short lived hit making career. The Voice Within doesn't have the intimate, personal feel of Beautiful, Stripped's first single, but it's pretty good. The Voice Within is like I Turn To You, the cliched but fine and fairly stirring single from Aguilera's first record, and maybe a little better. Aguilera's is a skilled singer and she doesn't go over the top until the inevitable intense climax. The Voice Within starts nicely with just Aguilara's voice and a piano. It remains appealing as drums come in. Unfortunately, the big ballad formula demands that the sound grow. So Ballard adds strings, bigger keyboards and showy choir-like backing vocals, all of which force Aguilera into vocal gymnastics. In that mode, Aguilera is technically impressive but her showiness undermines the personal feeling her voice and the lyric communicate earlier in the song and reinforces a feeling that The Voice Within isn't very original. Still, for a lofty ballad, The Voice Within isn't bad. It's a bit more generic than Beautiful but, like Beautiful, The Voice Within has a theme that, while inconsistent with Aguilera's self centered image, is sweet. The familiar lyrics add to a sense that The Voice Within is a rehash of other songs with a similar theme but the message is still nice. Aguilera tells a "young girl" that in troubled times, if she believes in herself, she can find the "strength that will guide your way."
Christina Aguilera - What a Girl Wants
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: # 24 (Jan. 2000) buy it!
Her songs are about as dopey as those of her chart mates Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears but Aguilera seems to have the best voice. What a Girl Wants isn't as musically striking as Genie in a Bottle, with its stark, crisp beat. It's more like crowd pleasing generic dance pop. Like Genie in a Bottle, What a Girl Wants makes some pretense of trying to show a strong, self respecting woman, but Aguilera seems a little too appreciative of the guy who gave her time to make up her mind.
Christina Milian - Dip It Low
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 24 (July 2004) buy it!
Christina Milian has already had an impressive career. She's appeared on a bunch of TV shows and movies including Love Don't Cost A Thing and cowrote Jennifer Lopez's song Play. Now Dip It Low, from her second CD It's About Time, is her biggest hit as a singer. Dip It Low was coproduced and cowritten by Polli Paul, who has worked with Black Eyed Peas but otherwise doesn't seem to have much of a resume. Dip It Low has a very effective sound. It's based around a sample of an exotic, Asian-sounding stringed instrument. Dip It Low also has a good thumping, sliding beat that speeds up to exciting effect on the chorus. Milian adds to Dip It Low's sensual feel with a delicate, confident vocal that's nicely draped in well matched backing vocals. Dip It Low's lyric is Milian's advise on "how to make your man say oh." She tells a friend to "take your time" and "make him wait for you", "meet him at the door with nothin' on" and, most importantly, "know just how to move." Along with the words, Milian's cool, controlled voice offers some instruction on seduction. The only thing on Dip It Low that doesn't really work is Fabolous' rap. He has decent wordplay but his low energy, self satisfied approach makes him seem like he's not worth Milian's effort.
Chuck Prophet - Summertime Thing
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 45 (Aug. 2002) buy it!
Chuck Prophet used to be the guitar player in the 80s paisley underground band Green On Red. Summertime Thing is from his No Other Love CD. On Summertime Thing, Prophet successfully creates an easy, summery bluesy rock feel with relaxed but evocative keyboards and slide guitar. Prophet does a good job vocally of playing the cool delta bluesman, confidently asking a friend to "take off your clothes and jump into the river."
Citizen King - Better Days
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: # 11 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
The ska/dance/pop made popular by Sublime and Mighty Mighty Bosstones is apparently going to be around for a while. It's kind of like What I Got-light. It's got the scratching and the time shifts but lacks the soul. This single, from their album Mobile Estates, is pleasant listening without the ambition of their forefathers. It has a little edge and is inoffensive, a little variety for pop radio that won't clash with the other hits of the day.
City High - Caramel
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: # 39 (Feb. 2002) buy it!
With its provocative justification of prostitution as a way to support a family and its smart, sleek sound, What Would You Do was a striking debut from City High's self titled CD. Their second chart hit Caramel is O.K. but less interesting lyrically and musically. While similar to other recent music, Caramel's music isn't bad. It's smooth, mellow hip hop with Claudette Ortiz' appealing vocal, a good, uncluttered sound and a crisp, restrained beat. The lyrics are pretty dopey. It starts with Ortiz' self satisfied description of herself. We learn that she likes "going out, taking walks and stuff", has everything she wants and(exactly like Mya on her 2000 hit Free) is happy being "5'5" with brown eyes." Then comes an even stupider section where one of City High's male singers invites a girl to "spend the night popping" champagne in the hot tub. On the remixed single, guest rapper Eve lifts the song from its complacency with a good, feisty rap, telling us she's not about "gift chasin'" and not impressed with champagne poppin'.
City High - What Would You Do
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: # 24 (Aug. 2001) buy it!
Beyond the facts that their CD is on Wyclef Jean's label and coproduced by him and, like Lauryn Hill, they're from Jersey, comparisons with The Fugees are somewhat appropriate. City High's debut CD is very good, filled with easy grooves that make it a great summer record. They also show a little social consciousness on What Would You Do. What Would You Do, originally featured on the soundtrack to the movie Life, has a smooth feel and good beats. It has nice contrasts. Claudette Ortiz' fluid singing alternates with her bandmates' harder vocals. On What Would You Do, Ortiz plays a single mom explaining how a sad past and financial struggles led her to be a stripper/prostitute. The music toughens up in the song's middle as Robby Pardlo challenges her to "let go of every excuse."
Clay Aiken - Invisible
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 40 (Jan. 2004) buy it!
Clay Aiken's success is the oddest byproduct of the American Idol phenomenon. Surely if he hadn't made the show's finals, no record company would have touched the elfin, somewhat effeminate 25 year old from North Carolina who is like a Martin Short character. But the people have spoken, buying more than 600,000 copies of Aiken's Measure Of A Man the week it was released. Aiken's success is a warning about the dangers of democracy. Aiken has been embraced by the masses for his genuine, somewhat geeky persona but also because his bland, unchallenging style is familiar and safe for people who don't like how hip hop has changed popular music. Invisible, Measure Of A Man's first single, confirms my fears about Aiken. Invisible comes off as a tribute to the early 80s overproduced pop rock that sounds so dated today. It brings to mind Pat Benatar's Invincible, Eddie Money's Take Me Home Tonight, John Waite's Missing You and many other similar but better hits. Invisible was produced and written by longtime studio pro Desmond Child who has worked on slick, superficial pop by Michael Bolton, Bon Jovi and Cher. Invisible throws in all kinds of cheesy sounds like the way the title meaningfully echoes before the chorus comes in. Invisible has innocuous, thick backing vocals, a bland beat and showy, heavy handed rock guitar. Some of Aiken's American Idol singing was charmingly sweet but on Invisible, he sounds stiff and fake. Invisible's lyric is weird and creepy, positioning Aiken as a wannabe voyeur or stalker who wishes he "could be a fly on your wall" so "I could just watch you in your room." He considers the advantages he would have if he was invisible then pathetically realizes: "wait...I already am."
Coldplay - Clocks
Weeks on Chart: 37 Peak: # 2 (Feb. 2003) buy it!
Coldplay's singles from the A Rush Of Blood To The Head CD sound great in any context but they're especially striking on modern rock radio. Amid angry, testosterone fueled songs, the beauty of Coldplay's music is particularly welcome. Clocks has a wonderful dreamy feel. Strings and a synth provide an airy cushion while Chris Martin plays a simple but insinuating piano line. On some parts of Rush Of Blood, Martin is pretentious or annoyingly meandering but on Clocks, even as the song moves at a leisurely pace that accentuates its hypnotic appeal, Martin's vocal stays focused. Martin's typical sense of yearning works well on Clocks. Martin is apparently singing, as he does on many Coldplay songs, about a woman to whom "nothing else compares" who doesn't want to be with him and about being willing to wait for her to change her mind. He sings "you've put me down upon my knees", leaving him to "beg and plead" and "curse missed opportunities" but seems to retain a bit of hope.
Coldplay - In My Place
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: # 5 (Aug. 2002) buy it!
Coldplay's second CD is called A Rush Of Blood To The Head. In My Place lacks Yellow's rock guitar drive but it otherwise resembles Coldplay's biggest hit. It has the likable, dreamy feel that marked Yellow, Trouble and much of the Parachutes CD. Chris Martin's vocal is, as usual, appealingly modest and sensitive. Jon Buckland's trademark ethereal guitar tone accentuates the music's delicate weightlessness. In My Place again takes Coldplay close to background music but In My Place has enough texture and beauty to give it real charm. On In My Place, Martin sings that he was lost and "underprepared" and he's now willing to wait for the object of his affection who's still waiting for another.
Coldplay - Moses
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: # 12 (Dec. 2003) buy it!
Moses didn't make A Rush Of Blood To The Head's final cut but Coldplay played it on that record's tour and included on the Coldplay Live 2003 CD & DVD. Moses was probably originally omitted because it was similar to and perhaps not quite as good as A Rush Of Blood's Clocks but it's good that Moses has been given a chance. Moses is another example of the band's charms. Coldplay are often at their best when they showcase Jon Buckland. On Moses, Buckland makes a number of interesting, evocative guitar sounds. Before each verse, Buckland plays a beautiful, shimmering riff. Otherwise, Buckland nicely matches Chris Martin's vocal. On the verses, he does a simple but nice sounding strum. On the chorus, he plays a good, soaring line that leads into the part where Martin climbs to a falsetto. Buckland closes out the song with a fairly basic solo that supplies a sense of catharsis. Martin similarly employs a variety of voices. He uses a fairly plaintive vocal on the chorus, climbs in intensity and finally achieves a feeling of joyful release. Martin has done lots of yearning vocals before but he still communicates humility and sincerity that feels real. Martin must feels very fortunate to be with Gwyneth Paltrow but it'll be interesting to see whether winning the heart of a fabulous babe hurts his writing. Martin's gotten a lot of lyrics from depicting himself as ever hopeful but more interested in a woman than she is in him. On Moses, Martin is typically a bit pathetic but charming as he tries to win a woman by telling her "you're my golden opportunity." The simile that gives Moses its title is overblown even for a romantic like Martin. Does Martin really think that the power a woman has over him is comparable to the power Moses had over the Red Sea?
Coldplay - The Scientist
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: # 8 (June 2003) buy it!
In My Place and Clocks, the first two chart hits from Coldplays A Rush Of Blood To The Head CD, were intricate and breathtakingly beautiful. The Scientist isnt as remarkable but its good. Once again, in a world of big guitars and drum machines, its refreshing to hear a song on the radio thats thoughtful and musically low key. On The Scientists first verse, only Chris Martins piano accompanies his voice. The uncluttered sound accentuates Martins sweetness as he tells a woman how lovely you are, reflects on the shame of breaking up and wishes they could go back to the start. Strings, Jon Bucklands strumming and Will Champions drums come in but the sound remains simple and unshowy. The result is likable and poignant. Martin has played the sensitive, heartbroken but ever hopeful spurned lover too many times but he is charming on The Scientist. Martins vocal is natural. The fact that he doesnt overplay the songs emotion helps make his sadness appealing.
Coldplay - Shiver
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: # 42 (June 2001) buy it!
If you considering buying Coldplay's Parachutes, I should warn you that the rest of the CD isn't quite as good as their very good singles, Yellow and Shiver. The rest of Parachutes is good, with mellow, atmospheric songs. But it doesn't match Shiver's vibrance. Alternately intense and relaxed, swooping between an easy baritone and a fearless falsetto, Chris Martin sounds eerily like the late Jeff Buckley. Martin is cool even as he sings "you'll always get your way" to a woman who ignores him, pledging "I'll be there by your side, just you try and stop me." Jon Buckland effectively shifts from an ethereal guitar line on the verse to a good, tight rock riff on the chorus.
Coldplay - Trouble
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: # 20 (Jan. 2002) buy it!
Coldplay's Parachutes is a nice, good sounding record. Chris Martin's singing is appealing modest. Trouble, Parachutes' third chart hit, is a good example of Martin's unassuming charm. On Trouble, Martin apologizes for "all the stupid things I've done" swearing, "I never meant to do you wrong." Trouble's music is sweet and inobtrusive with a good piano, elegant line.
Coldplay - Yellow
Weeks on Chart: 22 Peak: # 4 (April 2001) buy it!
Coldplay follow Travis as a successful British band that's aware of their harder alternative predecessors but choose a mild, polite image and make smooth, pleasant music. Yellow is a sweet love song, a tribute to a woman who makes the stars shine and a list of things he'd do for her. The sound, with strings and a steadily strummed electric guitar, is rich and inviting and becomes more dense and intense. Chris Martin's voice is vulnerable and yearning, like Radiohead's Thom Yorke's, but Martin's lacks eccentricity and anguish. Its unpretentious thinness has an appealing honesty.
Cold - No One
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: # 22 (May 2001) buy it!
On No One, from Cold's 13 Ways to Bleed On Stage CD, Scooter Ward is another serious singer with Vedder-like intensity. At least, with a fluid sound, loose drumming and bass playing and a subtle guitar, Cold's Pearl Jam/STP imitation has pretty good music. Ward sings about being left alone "with no one sent to get me", feeling "like I'm being erased." He apparently isn't dealing well with a breakup and is "so sick of this terrible instinct."
Cold - Stupid Girl
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: # 10 (July 2003) buy it!
Jacksonvilles Cold have always seemed like just another hard rocking band with a serious, intense singer and an unoriginal, hard rocking sound. Stupid Girl, from the Year Of The Spider CD, doesnt do much to change that impression. Scooter Ward does a tough guy vocal, ranting out his ambivalence(wanna love ya, wanna bug ya) about a girl whos leaving him. The surprise fact is that Weezers Rivers Cuomo co-wrote and played guitar on Stupid Girl. Its unclear whether Ward or Cuomo, whos often written about being unlucky in love, contributed the self pity(Im a loner, Im a loser) but its a safe bet that Cuomo had a lot to do with Stupid Girls catchy chorus. The chorus simplifies the lyrics to shes going away, whats wrong with my life today. The sound is seductively smoothed out with an appealing wash of power chords. Unfortunately, Stupid Girl keeps returning to verses with standard hard rock theatrics and Wards silly barking and draggy enunciation. Stupid Girl is half fun, dopey arena classic and half, lame routine modern rocker.
Cold - Suffocate
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: # 29 (Nov. 2003) buy it!
Suffocate is the second chart hit from Cold's Year Of The Spider CD. On Suffocate, Scooter Ward's in his usual angry, very serious mode. Vocals by Dollshead's Sierra Swan polish things up a bit but Suffocate is still pretty unpleasant. Suffocate's lyric is a familiar diatribe about wanting to leave a girlfriend who lies, takes and plays games.
Collective Soul - No More, No Less
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: # 8 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
Collective Soul's Dosage CD hasn't yielded a smash like Shine or December but this is the 3rd hit from Dosage. Their success is quite impressive for a band that has hardly been able to establish any distinctive personality. They continue to work to be all things to all people, making rockers and ballads that can get radio play on a broad range of stations. Their last song, Heavy was actually a decent rocker. But No More, No Less suffers from their lack of adventurousness. It has a vague dance sensibility and is inoffensive but it hardly gets your attention.
Collective Soul - Vent
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: # 43 (Feb. 2001) buy it!
Vent is from Collective Soul's Blender CD. As usual, the Georgia band tries to cover all the bases. Part of Vent is dancable with silly disco keyboards. Part of it has hard rocking guitars. Similarly, Ed Roland's vocals swing from that of a tough rocker to a goofy falsetto. Vent's chorus is undeniably catchy but marred by its stupid, nasty lyrics: "no truth in you exists/you bite before you lick, I love ya cause you're such a prick."
Collective Soul - Why Part 2
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: # 3 (Nov. 2000) buy it!
Why, Part 2 is the first single from the Georgia band's Blender CD. Like Gel and Where The River Flows from their debut record, Why has a chunky, hard guitar riff. However, they hedge their bets, trying to appeal to a mainstream audience with keyboards and sleek production. Typically for Collective Soul, the result is music that's listenable but not particularly distinctive or memorable. In the lyrics, Ed Roland feels sorry for himself and wonders how love slipped away, leaving him "alone with the blame."
Counting Crows - Accidentally In Love
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: # 21 (July 2004) buy it!
Hard Candy, Counting Crows' last studio record, didn't yield any big hits. Since that record's release the band has had a bit of a mainstream resurgence with three poppy songs: their cover of Big Yellow Taxi on the Two Weeks Notice soundtrack; She Don't Want Nobody Near from the band's best of CD and now Accidentally In Love, the band's biggest hit since the 90's. Accidentally In Love landed a sought after slot on the soundtrack to Shrek 2, one of 2004's biggest movies. Accidentally In Love isn't as sure a thing to appeal to the 2 to 12 crowd as Shrek 1's featured songs: Smash Mouth's All Star and I'm a Believer cover. Still, Accidentally In Love's sunny simplicity is well suited to open a cheerful kids movie. Accidentally In Love isn't too complicated for preteens to digest and it's easy to bop to. Counting Crows have always done upbeat mid tempo rockers. Accidentally In Love resembles Rain King, Einstein On The Beach and Daylight Fading. Accidentally In Love has a tight, likable central guitar riff of the sort that modestly improved a number of Counting Crows rockers. Counting Crows' lighter songs are generally their best because of their buoyant mood and because they discourage Adam Duritz from his ponderous, self important mode. Duritz can be a skilled and, sometimes, even an appealing singer. On Accidentally In Love, Duritz is smooth and relaxed. Accidentally In Love is pretty superficial but it's warm and charmingly perky. With bright, full backing vocals, sturdy drumming and a string of shiny guitar sounds, Accidentally In Love's high spirits build and keep coming. Accidentally In Love is steadily joyful and beguiling. Accidentally In Love has a goofy, giddy lyric. Duritz initially sings "I don't know nothin' 'bout love" and refers to love as a problem that needs a cure. Soon, he decides "there's no escaping your love" and he surrenders, singing about sunlight, blue skies and strawberry ice cream.
Counting Crows - All My Friends
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: # 48 (Oct. 2000) buy it!
All My Friends, the third chart hit from This Desert Life is a melodic, contemplative ballad like Raining In Baltimore or Long December, though without the latter's emotional heft. Pedal steel guitar, piano and drums, while restrained, keep the song moving but All My Friends is more about strings and Adam Duritz' serious vocals. The sound is lush and adult but also a little boring. You'd figure Counting Crows hired Cracker's David Lowery to produce This Desert Life so they could roughen up their sound but their latest CD is tasteful but mostly lacking in edge. All My Friends is more self pity from Adam Duritz. All his friends and lovers "leave me behind." He takes some of the blame but Duritz' indecision isn't that interesting, especially when it's already been the topic of so many of his songs.
Counting Crows - American Girls
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: # 36 (July 2002) buy it!
American Girls is from Counting Crows' fourth studio record Hard Candy. Sheryl Crow sings harmonies on American Girls. Adam Duritz doesn't sing about what SPF he's using but American Girls, like Soak Up The Sun's, intentionally loosens things up and achieves a fun, summery feel. American Girls resembles previous good midtempo Crows songs like Rain King and Have You Seen Me Lately, with a little less rock heft than those songs. American Girls maintains its energy and buoyancy thanks largely to a good, driving beat and a nicely uncoiled guitar riff. Duritz can't help but show a little narcissism but American Girls avoids the heaviness of a lot of Counting Crows' music. Not surprisingly, the song's frothy tribute to how American Girls make "me feel so incredible" is largely ironic. American Girls bemoans the bad luck of meeting an emotionally fragile woman who leaves, taking "almost every thing from me." The lyric's unhappy ending doesn't negate the music's enjoyable, if slight, appeal.
Counting Crows - Big Yellow Taxi
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: # 12 (May 2003) buy it!
Counting Crows' version of Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi was originally on the Two Weeks Notice soundtrack and wasn't on early pressings of the Hard Candy CD but it's now Counting Crows' biggest pop hit since Long December. There's something ridiculous about Counting Crows doing Mitchell's delightfully buoyant hit. Mitchell's vocal was light and playful and helped Mitchell's complaint about crass money grubbing ruining natural beauty go down easily. Adam Duritz can't help but sing in a mannered, self satisfied way. He's more relaxed than usual on Big Yellow Taxi but he's hardly as charming as Mitchell. The original's slightly subversive vivacity is replaced by smooth professionalism. Duritz shifts the focus from paving paradise to the lover's departure that led Mitchell to whimsically muse about how "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone." The new version has a spare, pleasant sound and a crisp beat. Vanessa Carlton's brief ooh bop bop bops go a long way in softening the stiff feel Duritz creates. And you can't go too wrong with a song with that still has that great line about putting trees in a tree museum. But I really don't see the need for a smooth, string filled muzaky version of a classic.
Counting Crows - Hangin' Around
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: # 2 (Nov. 1999) buy it!
Adam Duritz has often taken himself so seriously that he can come across as pretentious. On Hangin' Around, from the band's third studio album Desert Life, Duritz complains that he's been bumming around for too long. Luckily, his solution on this single isn't a return to navel gazing. Hangin' Around is kind of insubstantial but it has a nice, loose feeling.
Counting Crows - Mrs. Potter's Lullaby
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 19 (June 2000) buy it!
This Desert Life has sold a fraction as many units as Counting Crows' two previous records. It's fallen off the top 200 selling records chart and there's no reason to believe Mrs. Potter's Lullaby will get it back on. Still, Mrs. Potter's Lullaby is a likable relaxed rocker in the vein of Mr. Jones, Rain King and Daylight Fading. The song's easy mood makes the nearly eight minutes of Adam Duritz' collage of musings on circuses, Hollywood and his personal problems pass quickly. The music has a smooth Allman Brothers style country rock vibe with relaxed guitar and piano.
Counting Crows - She Don't Want Nobody Near
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: # 33 (Feb. 2004) buy it!
It's the season for greatest hits CDs by vaguely hip yuppie favorites from the early 90's. Counting Crows join Sheryl Crow, No Doubt, Red Hot Chili Peppers and REM in the top 50 with a new track from a compilation record. Of those acts, Counting Crows had the shortest time at the top and the steadiest decline from their commercial peak. They've been unable to put out singles as striking as Mr. Jones, which introduced Counting Crows to the world, or Long December, the band's last big hit. But while Counting Crows no longer top the pop charts, they still get play in the less expansive world of adult alternative radio and they have retained a decent following with solid, unspectacular music. She Don't Want Nobody Near, from Films About Ghosts: The Best Of Counting Crows, is a good example of the band's significant, if modest, charms. She Don't Want Nobody Near doesn't have much personality. It basically just drifts forward but it's a nice ride. Crisp drumming, tough, evocative guitar and varied sounds, including piano and a mandolin, give the song good momentum. Adam Duritz' voice is strong, as usual. He can seem narcissistic but on She Don't Want Nobody Near, Duritz is a good team player, fitting in nicely with the song's melody and controlling his mannerisms. She Don't Want Nobody Near is about a woman who, after too many guys just disappear, decides she doesn't want to get too deep into relationships where the guy could "see what she looks like when she's down."
Course Of Nature - Caught In The Sun
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: # 18 (April 2002) buy it!
It usually takes a few records for a hard rock band to go for the big bucks with a lame power ballad. But, consistent with the ever more commercially savvy nature of contemporary rock, Alabama's otherwise tough rockers Course Of Nature introduce themselves to the world with an overblown, sappy hit. Caught In The Sun, from the Superkala CD, resembles Goo Goo Dolls' Black Balloon but it outdoes even the Goo Goos' most overproduced work. Caught In The Sun makes its intentions clear from the start with Mark Wilkerson's emotive singing and a big orchestral sound ladled over sensitive guitar and bass. Predictably, power guitar chords come in on the chorus to show Caught In The Sun's rock cred but they're restrained so that top 40 audiences won't be scared away. On Caught In The Sun,Wikerson muses about how he easily could never have met the woman he's separated from and obsessed with.
Craig David - 7 Days
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: # 13 (March 2002) buy it!
I'm somewhat surprised that Craig David has been able to replicate his British success in the U.S. With Fill Me In's reference to an answer phone and 7 Days' lyric about a six digit phone number, David is awfully English and the appeal of his music is quite modest. I guess David's easy confidence and his smooth, mild music is irresistable to ladies on both sides of the Atlantic. 7 Days, the second hit from David's Born To Do It CD, uses the somewhat hackneyed formula of reciting the days of the week to describe a fast moving relationship. After cockily bragging about how quickly he got her into bed, David spends the rest of 7 Days trying to convince her that this isn't just a one night stand. 7 Days' backing of acoustic guitar and a mellow beat is tasteful and a touch boring. David's vocal has a relaxed charm but I find his lady killer act a little smarmy.
Craig David - Fill Me In
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: # 28 (Nov. 2001) buy it!
Englishman Craig David's vocals are appealingly confident as he quickly glides through Fill Me In. Everything else about Fill Me In, from David's Born To Do It CD, is pleasant but a little innocuous. David's lyrics about a couple closely monitored by the girl's parents while "we were just doing things young people in love do" seem carefully calculated to be sexy and still easy to relate to for kids of different ages. Fill Me In's music, with a mechanical sounding beat and synth strings, is pretty tame and repetitive.
Craig David - Walking Away
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: # 44 (July 2002) buy it!
Craig David has come close to replicating in the U.S. the huge success he's had in England. Walking Away is the third single from the Born To Do It CD he made when he was 19. Walking Away, like David's first two hits, has an appeal that's modest at best. David seems like an unremarkable rehash of relaxed American R&B singers. My favorite part of Walking Away is the riff taken from U2's One, which gives the rather bland song most of the flavor it has. But Walking Away does what it's supposed to. It's a smooth, soothing ballad, with a steady, decent beat, that's softened further by strings. David's singing isn't amazing but it's genial. He doesn't have that annoying cockiness he had on his first two hits. David sings on Walking Away about leaving a woman who was too prone to fight and listen to gossip about him.
Crazy Town - Butterfly
Weeks on Chart: 22 Peak: # 5 (March 2001) buy it!
Butterfly is from the The Gift Of Game CD. Like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Crazy Town are a relaxed L.A. band familiar with hip hop and punk. Butterfly is knowingly stupid dance pop. It has a little of the vibe of Folk Implosion's Natural One and Sublime's What I Got. The song has an easy mood and a rapped string of cliches praising the positive effects of a woman, including "it doesn't get better than this", "I see the sun break through the dark clouds", "you showed me life is precious" and "I was lost, now I'm found."
Creed - Are You Ready?
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: # 18 (Oct. 2000) buy it!
Are You Ready is the fourth chart hit from Creed's Human Clay CD. As always, Scott Stapp sings as if he's got brilliant ideas no one's ever thought of. But all Are You Ready's says is: seek and you'll find, remember where you came from and life is hard and unpredictable. Usually, Creed's music is a little more subtle than Stapp's lyrics and singing but the music here is uninventive hard rock. Are You Ready sounds like dozens of metal pop songs from The Who's The Seeker to STP's Vaseline.
Creed - Bullets
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 23 (March 2002) buy it!
Creed start their latest CD with Bullets, an angry, paranoid diatribe. Their Human Clay CD had What If, a similar angry hard rocker with violent imagery. But Bullets combines Scott Stapp's self righteous discomfort with most of mankind and desire for some sort of spiritual departure with an even more heightened anger. The result is a song that's musically quite compelling and lyrically quite disturbing. Bullets, the second chart hit from the Weathered CD, starts with what sounds like a messianic voice claiming he hears "the earth seeking relief." Then Stapp, sounding sincerely pissed, apparently fueled by hostility towards music critics, sings of the "forces all around me" "who hide behind the shadows" and of being "disgraced by jealousy and lies." Bullets' central image is being shot in the head by someone who won't even look him in the face. Stapp tell his critics that he's just looking for "what's real", that he gets the last laugh because he's gotten inside their mind and that he and his enemies will all be happy when he finds a higher place and they can stay away from each other. Stapp's singing is still mannered but it's less complacent than on Creed's hits, reaching the kind of intensity that his role models from Alice In Chains and Stone Temple Pilots had at their angriest. Bullets' music, with tight, powerful juiced up guitars, is certainly better than Creed's bloated, soaring trademark sound. But the nastiest of Bullets' message ruins the song for me.
Creed - Higher
Weeks on Chart: 51 Peak: # 7 (Oct. 1999) buy it!
The tremendous impact of Creed's My Own Prison CD at rock radio was one of music's most bizarre success stories. Nearly all of their songs were overtly about God or christianity. You have to assume that Higher, about a place where blind men can see, is about heaven. Most of their young male audience could care less about the religious message. As with their earlier work, the appeal of Higher comes from its meaty guitars and Scott Stapp's charismatic, anguished vocals. Higher, from their Human Clay CD, is their most polished single yet with a chorus that begs the kids to sing along. With so many rock bands playing angry heavy metal or rap edged rock, Creed's fans must be reassured by their familiar arena rock and meaty power chords. But Higher is tediously predictable and repetitious.
Creed - My Sacrifice
Weeks on Chart: 25 Peak: # 2 (Dec. 2001) buy it!
My Sacrifice, the first single from Creed's new Weathered CD, sounds a lot like the singles from their last CD Human Clay. Creed and their frontman Scott Stapp apparently can't help but make big, lofty sincere rock music. I find My Sacrifice empty and pretentious but don't hate it as much as most of Creed's music. My Sacrifice closely resembles Higher and With Arms Wide Open but it's not quite as self indulgent as those songs. It also rocks a little harder than those songs. Like What If, My Sacrifice has big power chords and sounds like standard hard rock but Stapp's vocal isn't unpleasantly angry like it was on What If. Stapp's lyrics typically embrace lofty images("above all the others we'll fly, this brings tears to my eyes") but don't make his usual attempt at spiritual meaning. They're actually kind of nice. Stapp sings about gladly forgetting old grudges to restart a friendship that's seen its ups and downs.
Creed - One Last Breath
Weeks on Chart: 33 Peak: # 1 (Sept. 2002) buy it!
I should know by now not to underestimate Creed. I figured, after My Sacrifice fell off the chart quicker than the hits from Creed's Human Clay's CD, that people might be getting tired of Creed's bloated, ultraserious sound. In fact, while it won't have Higher or With Arms Wide Open's longevity, One Last Breath is Creed's first #1 song. Radio still loves their generic, soaring, meaningful sounding music. On One Last Breath, Scott Stapp admits he's screwed up and doesn't show the self righteous arrogance he has on previous hits. His clenched fist intensity is still way too much. One Last Breath, the third chart hit from the Weathered CD, starts O.K. Stapp sings with just a quiet guitar and then a subdued guitar, drums and strings. Inevitably, the sound intensifies and any subtlety is bludgeoned by heavy rock guitars and drums and Stapp's pained howl. Stapp uses his big, melodramatic imagery to say how bad life's become. He's close to the edge and "I think I'm falling." He's cried out to heaven "save me" but this time he's apparently looking for help from a woman not God.
Creed - Weathered
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: # 22 (Jan. 2003) buy it!
The title track and fourth chart hit from the Weathered CD again shows Creeds gift for predictable, blandly catchy soaring arena rock. Creed frontman Scott Stapp is even more self pitying and self dramatizing than usual. Presumably referring to his critics, Stapp complains: slings and arrows are killing me inside. He feels alone and bemoans the fact that his love is met with indifference. Though sometimes I feel like giving up, Stapp finds solace in God and his instruction to take pride and leave it behind.
Creed - What If
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: # 8 (March 2000) buy it!
What If, featured on the band's Human Clay CD and the Scream 3 soundrack, finds the band in an even angrier mood than usual. Mark Tremonti plays a hard heavy metal guitar. Scott Stapp screams with uncontrollable rage about society's unfairness and hypocrisy. But Stapp's not going to play the victim. Typically, he invokes the Bible and threatens to avenge, taking an eye for an eye. Perhaps the band's success has gone to Stapp's head. He apparently now believes that the band's fans are a legion of minions willing to fight for the causes he chooses.
Creed - With Arms Wide Open
Weeks on Chart: 43 Peak: # 2 (Nov. 2000) buy it!
There probably will always be a demand for big, pretentious arena rock. After a year in the top 50, Higher is finally off the chart but With Arms Wide Open and other songs from the Human Clay CD will keep Creed on the chart for a while. With Arms Wide Open is another sweeping and basically empty rock ballad. Scott Stapp copped Eddie Vedder's serious intensity and delivers it with even less of a sense of humor. With Arms Wide Open has the band's typical big guitars and extremely serious vocals. At least, the subject matter is more appealing than Stapp's usual religious tirades. He actually sounds a little humble as he welcomes his baby to the world.
Cristina Aguilera - Genie In a Bottle
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: # 24 (Oct. 1999) buy it!
From her self titled debut, this lightweight pop hit's synthetic beat is undeniably catchy but what's with this new trend of female pop singers being so pathetically submissive.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - No Tears Left
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 15 (Nov. 1999) buy it!
The rock veterans, all in their mid to late 50's, are famous for their feuding. They've put their problems aside for a new record, Looking Forward and their CSNY2K tour. No Tears Left has the familiar CSN harmonies in the background but rocks hard. The lyrics refer to the challenges young people face when they try to do good and take on an establishment who are "deaf and blind and can not think." The music is often fairly generic guitar rock but it's nice to hear the old guys still getting riled up.
The Cult - Rise
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: # 18 (July 2001) buy it!
It's been seven years since The Cult's last new record and fifteen years since their commercial peak but the band recapture the weird charge of their best work on Rise, a fun, over the top song from the Beyond Good And Evil CD. Rise closely resembles The Cult's mid 80s alternative rock hits She Sells Sanctuary and Love Removal Machine. Rise is a little harder and less atmospheric than The Cult's earlier work but it's a typical mix of theatricality and Billy Duffy's driving rock guitars. Ian Astbury's vocals are distinctively driven and a little crazy. The lyrics have the band's usual mysticism but Rise is a surprisingly uplifting love song: "you're up against the world and still you rise."
The Cure - The End Of The World
Weeks on Chart: 1 Peak: # 50 (July 2004) buy it!
Radio has given some of the forefathers of modern rock a fairly muted welcome back. Irish Blood, English Heart, the rousing first single from You Are The Quarry, Morrissey's first CD in seven years, fell short of the top 50. It's likely that First Of The Gang To Die, You Are The Quarry's even better second single, will miss the chart. The End Of The World from The Cure's first CD in four years, has only done slightly better. The timing seemed good for The End Of The World. The Cure's music is in TV commercials, their Curiosa tour has attracted hot young alternative bands eager to play with their idols and big audiences and 311's cover of Love Song is a hit. Robert Smith and The Cure are usually a bit closed, depressed and ambivalent. The End Of The World, like Love Song, is their rare song that's simple, warm and open. The End Of The World doesn't quite have Love Song's giddy, unstoppable momentum but it is enjoyable. The End Of The World and the rest of The Cure's self titled CD was produced by Ross Robinson, who has produced dense, confrontional hard rock by Korn, Limp Bizkit and Slipknot. The End Of The World has a good, clean sound but otherwise I don't hear anything that marks it as a Robinson production. The End Of The World sounds like a good if unremarkable Cure song, a little like Love Song, Just Like Heaven and In Between Days, without the distinctiveness of those songs. Perry Bamonte picks out a good, straight forward guitar line that's typical for the band. Robert Smith's yelp still sounds a little pained but it mostly communicates joy. End Of The World has some nice touches like Bowiesque backing vocals as well as a cheesy early 80s style knob twisting keyboard sound. The End Of The World isn't new but it's a nice addition to the fairly small collection of simple, upbeat Cure songs. The End Of The World has a bittersweet lyric. Smith tells a lover she can leave if she wants to but quietly reminds her of the love she clearly still feels for him. Smith admits that he doesn't "show much" but swears that while he can't "be all you wanted, he couldn't love her more."
The Cure - Maybe Someday
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: # 9 (March 2000) buy it!
Bloodflowers, the new Cure CD, has the same dense atmospheric sound of the band's previous work and it often feels like an unsatisfactory rehash. The single Maybe Someday is nothing new but it does show the band's ability to mix melody with the murkiness with good guitars and keyboards. Robert Smith sings of his typical ambivalence and inability to see the bright side of things but his knowing self deprecation does have a charm. Smith sings about being stuck in the past and unable to move on, sure he can't match earlier sensations. He's almost embarrassed about the possibility of feeling joy.