D12 featuring Eminem - My Band
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: # 18 (May 2004) buy it!
D12(aka The Dirty Dozen) originally formed in the early 90s. D12's main claim to fame is that in the mid 90s, before becoming a huge solo star, Eminem was a member. Eminem has stuck by D12 and continued to work with them. D12's Devil's Night CD did pretty well but didn't approach the sales of Eminem's solo work. Not surprisingly, D12's pop breakthrough comes on a song focusing on Eminem doing a showy performance. On Eminem Show's Hailie's Song, the most notable previous song where he sang instead of rapped, Eminem did some very sincere singing but started by saying "I can't sing." Eminem seems considerably more confident on My Band, from the D12 World CD, jokingingly whining/singing the chorus. His singing is pretty awful but, like much of what Eminem does, it's strangely compelling and hard to ignore. My Band starts with a spoken section where Eminem sounds like he's doing Ed Norton. Eminem raps a verse in a voice that's less dramatic and more like his speaking voice than usual. As usual, Eminem's rapping is thick with words and theatrics. His technique is typically remarkable as he playfully races through his rap, quick but always in control. He easily slips into a caricature of a groupie crying "dude you fuckin' rock", "won't you please let me suck your cock." My Band presents a slightly parallel world where, rather than the star helping out his rap friends, Eminem is the lead singer of a boy band. The lyric has fun with the dynamics between the pop idol and formerly equal bandmates. Eminem, playing the clueless star, is very funny. He claims to be confused about how "everybody's all jealous" of his devoted female following and the fact the he gets to "do my a capellas." He accuses bandmates of "tryin' to steal the light from me" and "pulling a knife on me 'cause I told him Jessica Alba's my wife to be." My previous impression of D12's other members was pretty terrible. On My Band, their contributions vary from not atrocious to pretty good. They comfortably play the envious colleagues. Swifty McVeigh does an OK hard rap, complaining that "we in a van and in a tour bus" and about a small dressing room and being confused for another member of the group. Kuniva and Kon Artis's verse is an amusing skit. They call Eminem "a punk ass thinkin' he the shit" for "takin' on a flick" and get dissed by him as a group interview becomes a solo. They complain that "our mics are screwed up and his always sound best." When Eminem asks "you got something to say", they clam up, then blame each other("I was 'bout to talk right after you.") Proof does a decent, fast rap, asking why "he get 90 and we only get 10 percent." Bizarre is My Band's coolest and second most entertaining rapper, bragging about his "big ass stomach" and listing the Eminem videos where "I was in the back." Eminem has long had a problem with boy bands. Boy bands have been in decline for a while but Eminem keeps taking shots, mocking the heartthrob emoting "girls why can't you see you're the only one for me and it just tears my ass apart to know that you don't know my name." My Band ends on an appropriately goofy note with Eminem affecting an odd Indian accent as he claims "my salsa makes all the pretty girls want to dance." As with many Eminem songs, My Band has stupid parts but it's packed with interesting bits. Generally, it's quite hilarious. Beneath the kidding around about the spot Eminem and D12 hold in the success food chain, My Band also expresses a sense of affection between Eminem and his old rapping friends. Eminem produced My Band. The recurring, vaguely spooky riff sounds like ones Eminem and Dr. Dre have used before but it's very effective. My Band's music is catchy and the way it matches the notes of Eminem's singing nicely reinforces the song's amusing central theme of a world revolving around Eminem.
Damien Rice - Cannonball
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: # 36 (April 2004) buy it!
Damien Rice is a critically acclaimed Irish singer/songwriter. Rice's 2003 O CD won him the Shortlist music prize, a new but fairly prestigious award given to the best non-mainstream artist of the year. While it's hard for me to believe that a record of fairly standard folk pop could be the best of the year, I agree that O is a good, ambitious record. Rice is clearly a Van Morrison fan. He shares some of Morrison's intensity and songwriting skills. Rice's sincere, personal songs are also reminiscent of David Gray's work but Rice's have a bit more edge. Cannonball is a good example of Rice's poetic, well crafted music. Rice's singing is strong but sensitive and idiosyncratic. His pained delivery makes it clear that his writing is deeply felt. Rice accompanies himself with heartfelt strumming. My problem with Rice is that he's too serious. His intensity sometimes comes off as humorless self importance. On Cannonball, Rice sadly and cautiously reflects on a lost relationship with a woman he can still "taste in my mouth." Rice "can't say what's going on" but armed with the newly gained knowledge "that you just don't know", he's apparently trying to find the courage to give it another try as she steps "a little closer."
Dandy Warhols - Bohemian Like You
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: # 30 (Sept. 2000) buy it!
Bohemian Like You, from the Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia CD, is one of the best singles of the year. The band have previously shown their ability to create a psychedelic groove. On Bohemian Like You, the band build a great wall of sound with fuzzy guitars, retro organs and, of course, a tamborine. Courtney Taylor is appropriately deadpan for the funny lyrics about trying to convince a downtown girl that he's right for her since he waits tables and plays in a band too.
Daniel Bedingfield - Gotta Get Thru This
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: # 20 (Oct. 2002) buy it!
Gotta Get Thru This is the title track from Daniel Bedingfield's first solo CD. It follows Dirty Vegas' Days Go By, The Wiseguys' Start The Commotion and Kylie Minogue's singles as the latest dance hit out of England with at least a touch of techno flavor. 22 year old Bedingfield says he made Gotta Get Thru This in his bedroom with a computer and a mike. Gotta Get Thru This's sound is basic, with a steady beat and a decent repeated electronic riff, but it's pretty effective. Bedingfield's voice is obviously treated and enhanced. The result is thin and nasal but interesting, like a cartoonish version of 80s Michael Jackson. Like the music, Gotta Get Thru This' lyric is simple but does the job. Bedingfield repeats the title like a mantra that helps him to stop obsessing about a woman who broke his heart.
Daniel Bedingfield - If You're Not The One
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: # 24 (May 2003) buy it!
After coming out of nowhere with the dance hit Gotta Get Thru This, the title track from his CD, Daniel Bedingfield is back with another big hit. Most of the CD has a low budget feel that's not surprising since Bedingfield made most of the sounds himself, often at home on his computer. If You're Not The One has clanky, minimal synth and drum machine backing. I liked Gotta Get Thru This and its basic, giddy evocation of Michael Jackson's classic sound. But If You're Not The One, while heartfelt, is way too lame and Muzaky for me. If You're Not The One is inconsequential and, with its synth string effects, more than a little sappy. I guess the key to its success is Bedingfield's sincere vocal. He sounds like he means it when he celebrates how his hand fits with his love's and how she makes "my soul feel glad." Romantic female fans must love how Bedingfield admits that the idea of being without her brings him to tears.
The Darkness - I Believe In A Thing Called Love
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: # 7 (March 2004) buy it!
At this year's Brit awards, England's Grammys, The Darkness won best British album and best British group.The Darkness were purportedly conceived on New Year's Eve 1999 when singer Justin Hawkins did a fun, skilled karaoke version of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. On I Believe In A Thing Called Love, from their Permission To Land CD, The Darkness impressively mock and pay tribute to Queen. They realize that some of the silly, theatrical, excessive things Queen did were the things that made them charming. The Darkness' ability to pull off their loving/tongue in cheek tribute is greatly enhanced by Justin Hawkins' vocal skills. Hawkins makes his Freddy Mercury impersonation work with a stunning range. He moves back and forth between a strong, high voice and an apparently effortless falsetto without ever losing his sense of playful confidence. Guitar player Dan Hawkins, Justin's brother, does his part in creating a 70's arena rock feel with incredibly chunky power chords and three showy but concise guitar solos Queen's Brian May would be proud of. I Believe In A Thing Called Love is very tight. The big, sunny sounds keep coming. I Believe In A Thing Called Love also has the appropriate big backing vocals. Thing Called Love's lyrics are suitably cliched but, like the song, they also communicate love's exhilaration. Hawkins can't explain "the feelings that you're making me feel", his "heart's in overdrive and you're behind the steering wheel" and "we'll be rocking 'til the sun goes down." There's also a lot of touching and kissing. By being both goofy and serious about Queen's lovable, colorful music, The Darkness have made one of the most fun songs of the year.
Dashboard Confessional - Hands Down
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: # 26 (Oct. 2003) buy it!
Dashboard Confessional is led by Christopher Carrabba, a singer/songwriter so sensitive that he makes his fellow sincere emo rockers seem brutish in comparison. Carrabba's serious, heartfelt delivery and clean good looks have won him worshipful fans who moon over him and sing along with his every word. Hands Down is from Dashboard Confessional's new A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar CD. On Hands Down, Carrabba gives his fans what they expect, making it clear how deeply he feels what he says. Hands Down's dynamics are its strong point. Carrabba creates good intensity, mixing up the song's volume and tempo, quietly emphasizing on certain sections and sharing the joy of release by yelling his heart on the chorus. The new CD was produced by modern rock veteran Gil Norton(Pixies, Belly, Foo Fighters). Hands Down is very listenable perky guitar pop that sounds good but the music is fairly routine and anonymous. Hands Down has the stuttering guitar and quiet to loud formula of The Middle and other Jimmy Eat World songs without that band's musical personality. Hands Down does have Carrabba's winning emotional purity. When he doesn't have a catchy tune to anchor it, Carrabba's sincerity can be too intense and a bit boring but Hands Down is heartfelt with good hooks. Hands Down's lyric is appealingly dramatic. Carrabba communicates the rapturous feeling that "this is the best day I can ever remember." Hands Down does a good job of capturing the heightened emotion of youthful romance. Carrabba sings that "my hopes are so high that your kiss might kill me." He willingly puts himself in his lover's hands and revels in how she "kissed me like you meant it."
Dashboard Confessional - Vindicated
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: # 27 (July 2004) buy it!
It's been noted that Christopher Carrabba, Dashboard Confessional's sincere, earnest singer/songwriter, is a kindred spirit for Spiderman's sincere, earnest alter-ego Peter Parker. A Spiderman movie that matched Dashboard Confessional's music would be heavy on Peter thinking about Mary Jane's safety and light on crime fighting and action. Still, it's appropriate that Dashboard Confessional provided the lead track on the Spider-Man 2 soundtrack. Carrabba is an appealing, genuine personality. His big emotions and optimism are striking even when compared to other idealistic emo performers. The downside of Dashboard Confessional's songs is that they're monochromatic. Carrabba is forever the 13 year old who just had his first kiss. He seems unwilling to take steps towards more complicated situations that could lead to disappointment, even if they could lead to richer, more interesting experiences. Dashboard Confessional's music has an alluring purity. Vindicated uses a small number of intense, ambitious sounds. It has a big, simple beat, a ringing, grinding guitar sound, a few piano chords and Carrabba's yearning vocal(apparently backing up himself as he joyfully howls on the chorus). Vindication probably sounds great along with a sweet, dramatic cinematic moment. It's a powerful song that's among the band's best work. But Vindication's lack of complexity or subtlety means that, like a lot of the band's music, it loses impact on repeat listens. Carrabba sings about finding hope and vindication for his choices in a supportive girlfriend who helps him see positive things in himself. The lyric climaxes nicely in a sensual moment where she turns up the corner of her lips, parts them and feels his fingertips and he lets himself slip away in a romantic current.
Dave Matthews Band - Everyday
Weeks on Chart: 25 Peak: # 10 (Dec. 2001) buy it!
The Dave Matthews Band's Everyday CD isn't great but it does have quite a few decent ballads. The best ones keep things simple and relaxed. Everyday's title track is probably the best song on the record. Vocals by South African singer Vusi Mahlasela help create a joyful feel. Everyday shows off the band's strong musicianship. Backing vocals, guitar, horns and Carter Beauford's drums all contribute to Everday's light and playful but rich sound. Everyday's "all you need is love" refrain is nothing new but it fits a song about reducing things to the basics that advises us to "get your hands dirty" and seek love.
Dave Matthews Band - Grace Is Gone
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: # 44 (Nov. 2002) buy it!
Grace Is Gone is the second chart hit from the Busted Stuff CD. Grace Is Gone is one of a number of songs the Dave Mattthews Band recorded in sessions with producer Steve Lillywhite, scrapped when the band decided to start again with new songs for the Everyday CD and rerecorded for Busted Stuff. Grace Is Gone is fairly typical DMB music. It has mellow, likable music and its well played. On Grace Is Gone, Matthews drinks to deal with the departure of the woman who broke my heart. While he sings I could never love again so much as I love you, Matthews claims that after one more drink, hell be ready to move on.
Dave Matthews Band - Grey Street
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: # 32 (Jan. 2003) buy it!
Grey Street is the third chart hit from the Busted Stuff CD. With Matthews pleasant, empathetic vocal, Grey Street has the comfortable, familiar, well played feel of a lot of Dave Matthews Band music. Leroi Moores sax and Boyd Tinsleys violin give Grey Street the lurching, stop and start flow of a song like Ants Marching. Grey Street is about a woman trapped in her home by depression. Matthews shows his knowledge of dynamics, letting the music rise as the character is offered an opportunity to experience the world. But just as the woman chooses to stay inside, Matthews mostly chooses to stay within his familiar, comfortable musical form.
Dave Matthews Band - I Did It
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: # 1 (Feb. 2001) buy it!
With Matthews singing about mixing up "a magic mushroom cloud of care", I Did It, from the Everyday CD, has a bit of the trippy feel of Don't Drink The Water from Before These Crowded Streets. Even more, it has the mischievous feel of What Would You Say with the normally mellow Matthews having a good time, urging those in love, "don't turn it down, turn it loud, let it build" and "spread the love you got." Matthews' debauched delivery is a little too cute but the mood is generally fun. The solid band keep things moving forward with steady, unshowy backing.
Dave Matthews Band - The Space Between
Weeks on Chart: 24 Peak: # 4 (July 2001) buy it!
More than the glib I Did It, The Space Between captures the mood of the Everyday CD, which is at its best on easy, textured ballads that carry on the tradition of the band's best songs like Crush and Crash Into Me. The Space Between has Crash Into Me's delicate, unhurried feel. Matthews repeats a graceful guitar line and his likably relaxed singing creates a hopeful mood. The Space Between is one of Everyday's many songs about Matthews trying to save a troubled relationship. He warns a woman "you cannot quit me so quickly" and reminds her "the space between the tears we cry is the laughter that keeps us coming back for more."
Dave Matthews Band - Where Are You Going
Weeks on Chart: 21 Peak: # 9 (Sept. 2002) buy it!
The Dave Matthews Band recorded an album's worth of songs in 2000 with producer Steve Lillywhite. Unhappy with the results, the band started from scratch with producer Glen Ballard and a new set of songs and made the Everyday CD. DMB have returned to the songs from the Lillywhite sessions and rerecorded some of them for Busted Stuff, a CD produced by the band and Before These Crowded Streets engineer Steve Harris. They also wrote a few new songs including Where Are You Going. On Where Are You Going DMB do what they do best. Like Crash Into Me and Crush, Where Are You Going is a love song with relaxed, dreamlike music, a leisurely pace and an appealing Matthews' lyric. In an unassuming voice, Matthews sweetly tells a troubled woman "I have no answers for you", "but I do know one thing, where you are is where I belong." With subtle guitar, drums, piano and Leroi Moore's horn, Where Are You Going easily and likably floats by.
Dave Matthews - Gravedigger
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: # 20 (Sept. 2003) buy it!
Some Devil is Dave Matthews' first solo record. It seems like a mistake for Matthews to work without his band. Their fine, loose playing goes a long way in making Matthews' light, charming songs more interesting and substantial. Some Devil is apparently Matthews' attempt to show that he's not just the leader of a good jam band but also a serious songwriter. Matthews usually has trouble when he takes himself too seriously(e.g. Beyond These Crowded Streets' first single Don't Drink The Water). Hyperseriousness is Gravedigger's problem. Matthews meant Gravedigger as a thoughtful meditation on death and tragedy but it came out maudlin and ridiculously self important. Gravedigger starts OK with music a little like that of U2's One and clanging drums that add to a dissonant undertone. The music grows in pretension before reaching a too big climax with crashing drums and soaring strings. Matthews does a serious, dour, quietly angry vocal. His singing fits with the song's well intentioned but heavy handed feel. Matthews shows his empathy with his doomed characters, spitting out their tales. A "ring around the rosy" section, reminscent of Crash Into Me's "I'm the king of the castle", feels stupid in Gravedigger's drab context. Gravedigger's video is even more overdone than the song, leaving no overwrought image unshown. The lyric has Matthews contemplating the sad stories of people commemorated on grave stones. We get the woman who lost her children in the war, the little boy who "rode his bike like the devil until the day he died" and Matthews' wish that "when you dig my grave, could you make it shallow so that I can feel the rain." Gravedigger is too much bleakness with too little point.
Dave Matthews - Oh
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: # 35 (June 2004) buy it!
The first two singles from Dave Matthews' Some Devil solo CD made a good argument that Matthews should never work without the band that has ably supported him for more than a decade. Gravedigger is ridiculously pretentious and missed the Dave Matthews Band's light touch. Save Me, Some Devil's second single was better but still left the impression that Matthews' self satisfied doodling with buddy Trey Anastasio is less appealing than Matthews' better DMB music. Oh is Some Devil's best single. It's a reminder that, regardless of who he works with, Matthews can create an endearing, simple ballad. Oh is short and fairly insubstantial. It keeps circling back to the same hooks. But Oh is also sweet and likable. It has Crash Into Me's charming understatement. Matthews does an easy, sincere vocal over a warm, basic melody. On Oh Matthews sings that, even when the world is blowing up or caving in, the memory of someone he loves "oh so well" makes things OK.
Dave Matthews - Save Me
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: # 43 (Feb. 2004) buy it!
I understand that, after playing with his band for more than a decade, Dave Matthews wanted to try something different. But artistically, it was a bad idea to ditch the DMB to make the solo record Some Devil. On Some Devil Matthews, a lover of jam songs, worked with similarly minded people like Phish's Trey Anastasio and made music that misses the energy Matthews' band brings to his songs. It also doesn't seem like his new partners pushed him to find the beautiful languor the Grateful Dead achieved. Save Me isn't pretentiously meaningful and draggy like Some Devil's first single Gravedigger, which quickly fell out of the top 50. Save Me is pleasant but so vague that it's hardly noticeable. Save Me's video shows Matthews, Anastasio and company having a good time making the song but only some of that sense of fun makes the record. Save Me does have an easy, loose feel. It moves at a relaxed, meandering pace. Crisp but unshowy drumming lets the pure sounds of the sticks and the kit resound. Save Me's guitar and keyboard doodling are pretty innocuous but they fit in fine with the song's laid back feel. Vocally Matthews is, typically, cocky, competent and unremarkable. He largely avoids the mannerisms can mar his singing. Save Me does have good, soulful backing vocals that finish the song nicely. Save Me tells Matthews' story of meeting a man who's walking through the desert for 40 days with only his faith to nourish him. Matthews asks the man to save him and is to told to "try savin' yourself."
Dave Navarro - Rexall
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 15 (Aug. 2001) buy it!
Trust No One is the former Jane's Addiction and Red Hot Chili Peppers guitar player's solo debut CD. Rexall starts like a Chili Peppers psychedelic rock ballad. The atmosphere gets thicker and by the end it has a dense, bleak Korn/Tool type sound. Navarro has the guitar chops to carry off the transition. His voice is competent and pleasant but he doesn't modulate his vocal to match the song's dynamic shift. In general, Rexall is interesting but not that striking. Rexall is about the gap between the positive appearance and sad reality of a relationship and Navarro's agitation as it dies. He sings "I'm running out of room" and repeats "I hate my life."
David Gray - Babylon
Weeks on Chart: 34 Peak: # 8 (Jan. 2001) buy it!
The Welsh singer/songwriter has had a loyal following for a while but it's grown significantly thoughout 2000. It's reassuring that, after spending four months at the low end of the top 50, Babylon, from the White Ladder CD, has found a wider audience. Unlike so much popular music, Babylon isn't gimmicky or pandering. It's quiet, thoughtful and very good. Gray presents an appealingly humble and unassuming persona. He owns up to his mistake in a relationship, admitting he's "been a fool to ever open up my heart to all that jealousy, that bitterness, that ridicule." Gray asks his partner to "let go your heart, let go your head and feel it now." The music is good and minimal with a little acoustic guitar, atmospheric keyboards and a steady beat.
David Gray - Be Mine
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 44 (March 2003) buy it!
Be Mine is the second chart hit from David Gray's A New Day At Midnight CD. To Gray's credit, it doesn't seem like he made himself crazy trying to make a commercial hit to follow Babylon. Gray is still making pleasant, unassuming music. Gray's lyrics are often gloomy but Be Mine is upbeat, celebrating the woman who "reached right into my head and turned on the light inside" and made "all the dreams I held in my heart" come true. She isn't smitten like he is yet but Gray, in his low key way, is optimistic, feeling that a love so strong can't be wrong.
David Gray - The Other Side
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 41 (Dec. 2002) buy it!
Its to his credit that David Gray hasnt tried to follow the huge, surprising success of his White Ladder CD and the Babylon single with a big, flashy sound. The Other Side, from Grays A New Day At Midnight CD, doesnt veer from White Ladders basic, minimal sound. Large portions of The Other Side are just Grays subdued voice and his simple piano. Even when the drum machine beat comes in, the sound remains restrained. The downbeat sound matches The Other Sides sad lyric. The Other Side, like much of White Ladder, is about romantic disappointment. Admitting that I still dont know what love is, Gray is painfully self critical. Hes unable to be courageous and offer you my hand, pull you up onto dry land, when all I got is sinking sand. Grays unsentimentalized melancholy is somewhat fascinating and The Other Side maintains a perverse integrity by being an intentionally uncommercial single. But The Other Side is basically uninteresting and a little drab. It certainly doesnt do anything to change the perception of Gray as a one hit wonder.
Days of the New - Enemy
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: # 9 (Sept. 1999) buy it!
As teenagers, Travis Meeks and his band, Days of the New, soon placed themselves among the kings of rock radio with their intense, acoustic rock. They epitomized the kind of band that succeeds on what's left of rock radio. They were competent and serious but largely humorless and derivative of better bands. Meeks now has put together a totally different band. It's unclear if the name of the new CD, Days of the New 2, shows Meeks' lack of imagination or whether it's about the new lineup and a new direction for the band. Enemy, the first single from the new CD, is a little more adventurous musically than the band's earlier work. It's looser and has an almost hip hop beat. However, Meeks' vocals are as overwrought as ever. He's really got to learn to loosen up.
Debelah Morgan - Dance With Me
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: # 36 (Dec. 2000) buy it!
The title track from the Dance With Me CD is a bit bizarre but it probably works O.K. on the dance floor. With its insistent violin, Dance With Me is a little like Marc Anthony's I Need To Know but the recent hit it most resembles is Sonique's It Feels So Good. Both are throwbacks to the dopey hits of the late 70's. Dance With Me is eerily like a hit from the peak of the disco craze in its use of a gimmick, an arrangement based on the tango Hernando's Hideaway from the Broadway musical The Pajama Game, and its very simple lyrics extolling the benefits of dancing. Morgan's singing is pretty good but the words are moronic with every cliche you could imagine including, "the night is young and so are we", "when we hit the floor you'll be asking for more" and "I feel the music inside."
Def Leppard - Promises
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: # 16 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
Close your eyes and you might think it's still 1983. Apparently, they never broke up and have been making records all along, one armed drummer and all. Maybe enough time has passed that boomers are nostalgic for their over the top though melodic heavy metal . Promises, from their new cd Euphoria, has the wildly overdown production, screaming vocals and guitars and studio enhanced backup vocals of their hits like Photograph. The lyrics are a cliched pledge to a love of not making promises he won't keep. It's no better or worse than their 80's hits.
Default - Deny
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: # 11 (Aug. 2002) buy it!
Like their friends and fellow Canadian pop rockers Nickelback, Default are very serious and intense. Their music is even more generic and lacking in personality than Nickelback's. Like so many bands these days, Default sound like fans of Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains as they emulate those bands' big, ambitious guitar and drum sounds and add little of their own character. Dallas Smith, like Creed's Scott Stapp and so many others, is a deep voiced singer who delivers every proclamation with a fervent passion, as if every song is about a life and death matter and any hint of lightness or humor would detract from the vital importance of their message. Smith's voice is big and strong but it lacks of any subtlety or variety. On Deny, the second chart hit from the Fallout CD, Smith's voice, Jeremy Hora's power chords and Danny Craig's drums pound with sledgehammer obviousness. Deny has the big, yearning sound of Pearl Jam's Even Flow and a touch of Metallica's mix of heavy metal and mysticism around the edges. Nothing distinguishes it from the work of Default's predecessors. Deny's lyrics are of the "you ungrateful bitch" variety so popular with male teens. Smith tells the woman who split and left him in hell that after "I've done it all for you", "I'll never crawl to you."
Default - Wasting My Time
Weeks on Chart: 39 Peak: # 2 (April 2002) buy it!
It's depressing that, besides offering a watered down version of bands like Pearl Jam, Creed now seem to be inspiring a bunch of new, success hungry bands with their serious, literal minded rock. Wasting My Time, from the Fallout CD, is another overdone rock song. Dallas Smith has the requisite unnaturally deep, intense vocal. The Canadian band try to show that they're sensitive but can rock too. Wasting My Time is remarkably uninteresting, following the very familiar pattern of starting quietly with a meaningful guitar riff before letting the power chords crunch in on the chorus. The verses sound like With Arms Wide Open. The chorus is generic guitar rock. Wasting My Time's lyrics justify a breakup with a girlfriend.
The Deftones - Change (In the House of Flies)
Weeks on Chart: 24 Peak: # 13 (Sept. 2000) buy it!
The Deftones like guitar noise as much as their hard rock contemporaries but they do seem to have a little more imagination. Change, from the White Pony CD, has big guitars but the dense sound also has an interesting trippy feel that matches the lyrics about watching someone turn into a fly.
The Deftones - Digital Bath
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 43 (March 2001) buy it!
Digital Bath, the second chart hit from The Deftones' White Pony CD, is about an intense relationship. Like Change, Digital Bath is effectively spooky and atmospheric. For most of the song, the guitars and Chino Moreno's vocals hold back their fury and drums and keyboards create an edgy but restrained sound. It's powerful when the guitars are unleashed and Moreno lets out an anguished cry, "tonight, I feel like more."
Deftones - Minerva
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: # 24 (June 2003) buy it!
Minerva is from Deftones, the band's self titled fourth studio album. Minerva is a lot like Change, from the White Pony CD, Deftones' biggest hit so far. That's not a bad thing. Like Change, Minerva is good and intense. Singer Chino Moreno lets himself get deep into Minerva's maelstrom of sound and emotion. The band get good edge by going slow and making an impressive, dense noise. Stephen Carpenter and Moreno play grinding power chords but Minerva doesn't drag as it powerfully inches forward. Arguably, Minerva is a bit self indulgent and the band is too enamored with their own meaningfulness. But while making a big rock sound, Deftones avoid the pretension, showy excess and lack of originality that mar the updated grunge that dominates modern rock radio. Minerva has exciting passion and strength. Moreno is presumably paying tribute to a woman, rather than the goddess of wisdom, but he uses lofty terms, describing how Minerva's singing makes him numb and brings his knees to the earth and how it "could bring back peace to the earth."
Depeche Mode - Dream On
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: # 7 (June 2001) buy it!
Depeche Mode are in the third decade of flaunting a bleak worldview. Exciter is their first set of new songs in four years. Like most Depeche Mode music, Dream On isn't much fun or as deep as the band thinks. But the sound, while cold like Personal Jesus, has a sleek, stark appeal, with a minimum of beat and synth clanging. Dave Gahan's vocals and Martin Gore's lyrics are typically dark and humorless. After stating "death becomes me", Dream On warns those who "party for a living" of karmic payback: "pain is waiting, priming to do its educating." We've heard versions of the song's warning from the band before. If "you feel a little love, dream on."
Destiny's Child - Bootylicious
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: # 18 (Aug. 2001) buy it!
As the women mock a potential dance partner and challenge him to show he can handle them, Bootylicious is another show of Destiny's Child's confidence. But unlike the exhausting brag about Beyonce's success on Survivor's title track, Bootylicious is fairly good natured. Bootylicious is effective dance music. A steady electronic clap supplies a good beat. A riff sampled from Stevie Nicks' Edge Of 17 was a strange choice but it adds an edge otherwise missing from this very simple song. Even with it, Bootylicious' repetitiveness means diminished returns from repeated listenings.
Destiny's Child - Emotion
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 28 (Dec. 2001) buy it!
If you've seen Destiny's Child on an awards or benefit show, you've probably seen them doing a good, short a capella thing. The message is clear: we're not just a studio creation, we can really sing. Emotion, the third single from the Survivor CD, is a similar display of the ladies' vocal talents. The backing is minimal, mostly from an acoustic guitar and a very simple beat. The singing stands up well on its own and is mostly not overly showy . The harmonies are smooth, tight and good. The thing about Destiny's Child's version is that it's so polite and sedate that it's not much more than a vocal exercise. The Bee Gees' crazy high pitched intensity gave the original undeniable drama. It also fit better with the song's emotional lyrics, with their lines about being "caught up in sorrow" and crying "me a river", about how "heartache lives on inside" since a breakup.
Destiny's Child - Independent Women Pt. 1
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: # 24 (Dec. 2000) buy it!
The latest of the string of hits from the hot female r&b trio of the moment is from the Charlie's Angels soundtrack. Independent Women was probably thrown together quickly for the movie and it sounds like a throwaway. Still, it has the sleek sound of much of Destiny's Child's music and the women smoothly race through their vocals. The lyrics, with their repeated refrain "I depend on me", are an inspirational message saying women don't have to depend on men. They take on a bit of a taunting tone, celebrating how they can buy diamonds, cars and houses, saying that their hard work made it all happen, without conceding that others might not be so lucky.
Destiny's Child - Jumpin' Jumpin'
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: # 25 (Sept. 2000) buy it!
Destiny's Child's Writing's On The Wall CD has produced a ton of R & B hits. Jumpin' Jumpin' is their second big pop hit after Say My Name. I found Say My Name repetitive and draggy. Jumpin' Jumpin' is considerably more lively. It has a nonstop, frantic energy with a good, crisp beat and staccato keyboard notes underlining the vocals. Jumpin' Jumpin' is hardly weighty but it has a positive feel to go with its lyrics inviting men and women to leave their partners for a night and go to a happening club.
Destiny's Child - Say My Name
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: # 23 (April 2000) buy it!
The pop charts are dominated these days by groups of pretty, smooth singing white boys and black women. Destiny's Child have already had big r&b hits with Bills, Bills, Bills and Bug a Boo from their Writing's On the Wall CD. Say My Name is their biggest pop hit. It is cool and smooth but doesn't really go anywhere with the idea that a lover, who's "acting kind of shady", should say her name to prove that he's not playing around with another woman. The song mixes things up a couple of times by speeding up and changing the beat but mostly it seems like endless repetition of the title.
Destiny's Child - Survivor
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: # 16 (May 2001) buy it!
It's hard to argue with the premise of the title track of Destiny's Child's new CD. The group's history has been like a version of the TV show. Members have been regularly booted and Kelly Rowland and leader Beyonce Knowles have emerged as tough, very wealthy survivors. I like the way Knowles' voice twists around the cheesy synth string effects but the song's unrelenting torrent of self assurance is exhausting. As on Independent Women, the boasts about success become mean taunts. The lyrics specify the many ways "now that you're out of my life I'm so much better", mocking the unnamed person who thought she'd be weak, broke, scared and helpless with the facts that she's wise, tougher and, most importantly, has sold nine million. The women claim they're better than compromising their christianity by dissing the person in interviews or on the internet but apparently doing so in a hit song is OK.
Dexter Freebish - Leaving Town
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: # 18 (Dec. 2000) buy it!
Leaving Town is from the Austin band's major label debut, A Life Of Saturdays. The band makes radio savvy alternative pop in the vein of Matchbox 20 and Vertical Horizon. Leaving Town is a bitter tale of the guy left behind as his girl pursues success in the big city. Kyle sings, "when you're broken down and no else is around, you'll come running back to this town and I'll be there." Leaving Town is familiar and unoriginal but Dexter Freebish work the formula well when the power chords kick in on the chorus.
Dido - Thank You
Weeks on Chart: 22 Peak: # 7 (April 2001) buy it!
Dido's No Angel CD has become a huge hit nearly two years after its release. First, the atmospheric Here With Me slowly approached near hit status. Then, Eminem's use of a piece of Thank You on Stan brought attention. Now, Stan is out of the top 50 after four weeks on the chart and Thank You has easily topped its peak position. Like David Gray, another slow building success from Britain with an adult audience, Dido's charms are subtle. I find Dido's music less interesting than Gray's but No Angel does have a sleek appeal. The use of percussion and electronica effects is tasteful and minimal but it does give Thank You a good texture that makes it more than just easy listening. Dido's vocals are fluid and smart and add edge to the smooth sound. Thank You's lyrics about how "just to be with you is having the best day of my life" are sappy but Dido's story of a love that "reminds me that it's not so bad" even when everything seems to be going wrong, is sweet.
Dido - White Flag
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 22 (Dec. 2003) buy it!
White Flag is more polite, ambient music from Dido Armstrong. Dido originally broke through after piece of her song Thank You was used on Eminem's Stan. White Flag, from Dido's Life For Rent CD, is another pleasant song that could use a more exciting context. It begs for a big beat remix. Dido wrote White Flag with her regular song writing partner, her brother Rollo, and Rick Nowels, who's worked with mellow artists like Clay Aiken and Belinda Carlisle. With its atmospheric synths and muted beats, White Flag is sleek and cool but kind of drab. It's perfect yuppie background music. It has a touch of style that differentiates it a little from other easy listening. White Flag is a bit of a bore but I enjoy its smooth ride. Though she could show a little more life(her delivery of the start of the verses is painfully slow), Dido's voice is clear, straight forward and good. She and the song have a British reserve that I find fascinating. On White Flag, Dido quietly proclaims that she won't give up hope that a seemingly dead relationship can be revived.
Diffuser - Karma
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: # 26 (Feb. 2001) buy it!
Karma is from Diffuser's Injury Loves Melody CD. The music is hard rock without a nasty attitude. Karma is pretty standard power chord driven rock and roll but it has good energy. The philosophy-lite lyrics aren't as spiritually meaningful as the band thinks but they fit the band's pleasantly searching persona: "sometimes you get what you want, sometimes you get what you need, but you're always going to get what you deserve."
Dirty Vegas - Days Go By
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: # 24 (July 2002) buy it!
Days Go By follows Start The Commotion by becoming a hit dance song after appearing in a Mitsubishi commercial. Dirty Vegas is an British electronic dance group featuring producers/lead musicians Paul Harris and Ben Harris and singer Steve Smith. With a mechanical techno beat and a vocoder effect that's been used in lots of trashy eurodisco songs, as well as Cher's Believe, Days Go By is nothing new but it's well made and has a more substantial feel than many dance songs. Days Go By effectively matches its starkness and the iciness the vocoder gives Smith's voice to its tale of days long bouts of romantic obsession. Days Go By's beats and haunting synths get people on the dance floor and, like classic mixes of songs by people like New Order and Bjork, create an interesting, ominous atmosphere.
Disturbed - Down With The Sickness
Weeks on Chart: 21 Peak: # 15 (Oct. 2001) buy it!
Even in the over the top world of troubled contemporary rockers, Disturbed seem pretty silly. Down With The Sickness is the third chart hit from their The Sickness CD. Down With The Sickness has rumbling, hammering guitars and a menacing atmosphere but it's not quite as hard as Disturbed's previous rock radio hits. The music is kept quiet and slow so you can pick up the ridiculous, dark lyrics about "drowning in my deep sea of loathing" and waking "the demon in me." On the chorus, David Draiman does the same angry, stuttering yell he did on Stupify and Voices.
Disturbed - Liberate
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: # 23 (Oct. 2003) buy it!
I continue to find Disturbed one of the more unpleasant, unlikable bands around. Liberate, the third chart hit from their Believe CD, rocks hard and has Disturbed's typical dark, menacing sound. As usual, Singer David Draiman sounds angry and troubled as he spits out his words. Draiman tells someone to "liberate your mind" but he really just wants to tell the guy how much he hates him. Draiman calls him a narrow minded m-f with "hate in your heart" and mocks the fact that he's still "waiting for your modern messiah."
Disturbed - Prayer
Weeks on Chart: 23 Peak: # 8 (Sept. 2002) buy it!
I really hated Stupify and Down With The Sickness, the angry, unpleasant rock hits from Disturbed's Sickness CD. But, with David Draiman's manic, staccato delivery, they at least had the courage of their nasty convictions. Prayer, the first single from the new Believe CD, is a weird mix of tight hard rock for their fans and a slick sound presumably intended to appeal to a broader audience. Prayer has a stomping, slashing guitar sound. Draiman's vocal is still harsh in parts but, bizarrely, he sings a melody on the verse not unlike Ricky Martin's Livin' La Vida Loco and the chorus has a cliched pop rock gloss. Prayer seems to be about how Draiman has turned away from God and found his own form of prayer after seeing all the sorrow, pain and suffering in the world.
Disturbed - Remember
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: # 20 (March 2003) buy it!
Remember is the second chart hit from Disturbed's Believe CD. Remember is another piece of trash from the Chicago based band led by troubled singer David Draiman. Disturbed apparently weren't satisfied selling millions of their angry, edgy, threatening Sickness CD. Believe preserves Distubed's attacking, nasty sound but it also seems made with one eye to the market. Remember has a slightly calmer, commercial sound than the band's previous hits. Disturbed's attempt at mainstream rock success makes them seem lamer than ever. On Remember, Draiman again tells about his excruciating inner sickness. Draiman apparently had suppressed "pain I felt so long ago." He is no longer able to ignore the pain but he tries to hide it behind a mask. For a guy who comes on like such a tough guy, Draiman is quite a whiner.
Disturbed - Stupify
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: # 22 (Aug. 2000) buy it!
Stupify is from Disturbed's Sickness CD. Stupify starts with a promise of a mix of hard rock and rap like Rage Against The Machine and Limp Bizkit. It soon degenerates into an unpleasant rage from singer David Draiman, who calls himself a sick animal. The harsh, menacing mood is apparently the appeal of Stupify but the sound certainly doesn't have the full, overwhelming power of bands like Nine Inch Nails. The hard edged guitars and electronics seem a little thin at times. The first verse is an excuse for Draiman to repeatedly spit out a profanity that Gordon Gano of Violent Femmes used more interestingly on Add It Up, telling us he just wanted to have sex once. Because of Draiman's nasty delivery, I don't really care that he lives his life in a daze, his sense of reality slipping and that he's breaking down.
Disturbed - Voices
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 29 (Feb. 2001) buy it!
Voices, the second hit from the Sickness CD, isn't quite as unpleasant as Stupify but I still find it unappealingly nasty. David Draiman angrily roars that he's "gonna talk about some freaky shit now" then asks "are you breathing now?" and says "someone's gonna die." Voices is probably about Draiman's troubled mind. It ends with some garbage about feeling "the subliminal need to be one with the voice and make everything all right" but Voices' imagery is still distasteful. The heavy, atttacking guitars creating a menacing, though powerful, atmosphere.
Dixie Chicks - Landslide
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: # 32 (Feb. 2003) buy it!
I'm opposed to our military being led into a war, with very little international support, against a country that hardly seems to pose an imminent threat, where the result was bound to be some American military deaths, a huge number of Iraqi civilian deaths and a heightened anti-U.S.A. sentiment and terrorism risk. So after years of indifference, I guess I've become some sort of Dixie Chicks fan after seeing the beating the group took after Natalie Maines said, on the eve of war, that the Chicks were ashamed that the President is from Texas. It's not exactly surprising that a large portion of The Dixie Chicks' audience didn't take kindly to a remark that was strongly anti-war and anti-American. Before Maines' comment, the group was at a high point in their career. Home was another multimillion selling CD and Landslide was Dixie Chicks' first big pop hit. While Landslide is Dixie Chicks' first real crossover, their pop success is hardly a shock. Like many successful country artists, their music is often like easy listening pop. It's no secret that a lot of the top country artists of the last two decades are big fans of 70s easy California rockers like The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. Stevie Nicks originally sang her composition on Fleetwood Mac's 1976 self titled CD. While Dixie Chicks' version has country instruments, the arrangement is nearly identical to the one from The Dance CD that Fleetwood Mac had a hit with five year ago. With a heavy helping of strings and innocuous acoustic guitar, Dixie Chicks' version is smooth but pretty bland. The main attraction is The Chicks' good harmonies. The steel guitar and Maines' slightly idiosyncratic lead(which is appropriate for Nicks' hippie poetry asking "can the child within my heart rise above") aren't bad either.
DJ Sammy & Yanou - Heaven
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: # 23 (Aug. 2002) buy it!
Heaven is quite a stupid song. At least, unlike Bryan Adams' soaring, bloated original, the new version doesn't have any pretentions of meaning. Adams' stream of cliches("you're all that I want", "we were young and wild and free", "nothing can take you away from me" and "through the good times and the bad, I'll be standing there by you") glide by easily. With a familiar melody, a big, obvious beat and lyrics that can be understood by people for whom English is a second language, Heaven has all the hallmarks of an international dance pop hit. Apparently, DJ Sammy is a Spanish mixmaster/producer who worked on Heaven with Dutch singer Do. With its frantic, eager to please beat, Heaven sounds more suited to a high impact aerobics class than a dance club. But Heaven's upbeat tone and high energy techno synths undoubtedly get people on the dance floor.
Don Henley - Workin' It
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: # 13 (April 2000) buy it!
Workin' It is from Inside Job, Henley's first studio album in more than a decade. Judging by Workin' It, the new music wasn't worth the wait. Workin' It is a tired diatribe. Henley, who made millions making easy rock with the Eagles, delivers the shocking news that we live in a society where "packaging is all there is" and corporate America tries to sell us things we don't really need. Workin It' is similar to Dirty Laundry, an earlier Henley protest song. The music here is big and overproduced but is pretty draggy and unmelodic and definitely doesn't rock.
Donavon Frankenreiter - Free
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: # 45 (June 2004) buy it!
Donavon Frankenreiter and Jack Johnson were pro surfers in Hawaii. They became buddies and made music together. Frankenreiter has followed Johnson into the music business, making a record for Johnson's Brushfire Records label. Frankenreiter wrote Free with Johnson, who also performs on the record. Like Johnson's music, Free has a confident, relaxed feel. Frankenreiter has a good natured, assured voice that suggests many hours listening to Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead. With its laid back, warm, idealistic stoner vibe and very simple, positive singalong chorus, Free sounds like a late 60's hippie rock classic. The downside is that there's a thin line between seemingly effortless simplicity and boring complacency. Johnson's modest music sometimes seems self satisfied or unadventurous but he often comes up with a subtle spin to make things interesting. Free is smooth and comfortable but there are no surprises. With a leisurely beat and groovy organ sound, Free breezes by easily. Free isn't very challenging but it's smooth, cool and very easy to listen to(especially if you're high). Free's lyric depicts a relaxed couple drifting along, drinking and waiting "until the trade winds blow."
The Donnas - Take It Off
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 34 (Feb. 2003) buy it!
Take It Off is from The Donnas' Spend The Night CD. The four women in the Donnas met in school in Palo Alto. They had a rock band called The Electrocutes. The Donnas started as a side project and a bit of a goof. Inspired by Joan Jett's early band The Runaways, they presented themselves as hard rocking jailbait. The Ramones are another obvious influence for women who all call themselves Donna and play fast, hard music with as few chords as possible. Because their songs are so basic, musically and lyrically, there's a limit to The Donnas' appeal. Still, they kick the asses of the boys on both of their flanks. They rock harder and are much more fun than the self pitying whiners predictably recycling 1992 grunge and they're more substantial and grown up than the silly kids scoring lightweight punky pop hits. Take It Off is refreshingly direct. Donna A(born Brett Anderson) tells a guy to "stop starin' at my D cup" and "just feel me up." The boys should take note of The Donnas' ability to be confident without putting down their object of desire. Donna R(Allison Robertson) gives Take It Off its catchiness and heft by laying down a steady flow of time tested AC/DC or ZZ Top style guitar riffs.
Dream - He Loves U Not
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: # 27 (Feb. 2001) buy it!
Everyone wants a piece of the lucrative teen pop market. Puffy Combs is among those behind the latest package of young females. He Loves U Not, from the CD It Was All A Dream, has a familiar sound that basically guaranteed its success. On He Loves U Not, Dream sound like Christina Aguilera without Aguilera's vocal personality or a white Destiny's Child without their sleek sound. He Loves U Not also resembles N Sync's It's Gonna Be Me. It has efficient, basic music with a big, stuttering beat. The singing and lyrics have a youthful simplicity young girls can handle. The girls claim not to care about another girl who is trying to take a boyfriend since they know he only loves her.
Dream - This Is Me
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: # 35 (June 2001) buy it!
Except in self confidence, the young women of Dream, the latest addition to Sean Combs' show biz empire, are unremarkable in every way. They've become MTV stars despite looks, dancing skills and voices that are, at best, mediocre. Perhaps the youth of America relate to stars who are unthreateningly ordinary. Dream vaguely recall the Spice Girls' glamorized averageness, with less personality. With a big beat and vague, smooth synths This Is Me, from It Was All A Dream, slips by innocuously. Dream are a little like N Sync with an even more lightweight sound and thinner voices. On This Is Me, Dream play the supportive girlfriend trying to convince a guy that she'll love him faithfully and that she's nothing like the girl who stole his heart and then broke it.
Drowning Pool - Bodies
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 12 (Sept. 2001) buy it!
Bodies, from Drowning Pool's Sinner CD, will never recapture all the airplay it had when it nearly made the top 10 the week before the World Trade Center attacks but many rock programmers decided in October that enough time had passed that it was o.k. to play a song with the chorus: "let the bodies hit the floor." It's understandable why stations would want to keep playing Bodies. Bodies is big and striking with a catchy chorus and an intense sound that mirrors its lyrics. Dave Williams, with his tough, attention grabbing wail, has more presence than many other troubled rockers these days. But, especially in an year that's seem enough violent images, I feel like we can do without this nasty tale of a guy who strikes out after deciding he "can't take much more."
Dust For Life - Step Into The Light
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: # 21 (Jan. 2001) buy it!
Step Into The Light is well made if familiar alternative rock from Dust For Life's self titled CD. Step Into The Light is reminiscent of Stone Temple Pilots, swinging from quiet, thoughtful verses to rocking choruses with big guitar chords. The songwriting, by Chris Gavin and guitarist Jason Hughes, is fairly typical and cliche ridden though not as angry as much contemporary rock. Gavin sings about being deceived and abandoned but still having "an ocean of laughter" and being able to "step into the light" and "find I'm not alone."
Dynamite Hack - Boyz N The Hood
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: # 39 (June 2000) buy it!
The thing about a jokey song is that once you get the joke, unless the music is great, repeated listenings can mean diminishing returns really quickly. The joke of Boyz N The Hood, from the band's Superfast CD, is that the acoustic, mellow and very white sounding band is actually singing gangster rap. It's not the worst joke. The music is comically restrained and pristine, like an especially quiet Weezer song. But the joke is pretty obvious, not to mention fairly racist. After you figure out, yes he really is saying that, there's not much more point to Boyz N The Hood.