Leann Rimes - Can't Fight The Moonlight
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 29 (March 2002) buy it!
At 19, Leann Rimes apparently is no longer satisfied being America's innocent sweetheart. With a mature look on the cover of her I Need You CD and Can't Fight The Moonlight's synthetic dance pop production, Rimes is clearly pushing for a piece of Britney and Christina's audience. She's probably succeeded with a fairly state of the art sound but Can't Fight The Moonlight is so uninteresting and unoriginal that it makes a song like Genie In A Bottle seem remarkably loose and fresh in comparison. Can't Fight The Moonlight's drum machines sound particularly recycled. The song uses the same kind of latin guitar that's shown up on songs by at least half of the dance pop artists of the last few years. In the past, Rimes has shown signs of a decent voice but here her voice is processed to fit the beat to the point where she could be J. Lo or a lesser Aguilera. Rimes played it safe for I Need You's first single, using a song written by Diane Warren, who wrote Rimes' biggest hit How Do I Live and assembly line hits like Starship's Nothing Gonna Stop Us Now and Aerosmith's I Don't Want To Miss A Thing and tends to sprinkle her songs with cliches. Can't Fight The Moonlight, with lines promising "there's no escaping love" and "we'll be lost in the rhythm so right, it will steal your heart tonight", couldn't have taken more than a few minutes for Warren to throw together.
Lenny Kravitz - Again
Weeks on Chart: 30 Peak: # 1 (Feb. 2001) buy it!
It's galling to me that someone's decided that Lenny Kravitz's uninspired Hendrix and Sly Stone retreads deserve a greatest hits CD. Still, this new song isn't as annoying as most of his work. It has a nice groove with a good bass and drums high in the mix. Kravitz' vocals are typically complacent and his lyrics are pretty terrible as he sings about hearing a cry in his soul and about never having "a yearning quite like this before" and wondering if he'll ever see his "sacred gift of heaven" again. Kravitz also pulls off an awful, cliched rock guitar solo in the middle. However, while Again is pretty insubstantial, it has a appealingly easy mood.
Lenny Kravitz - American Woman
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: # 7 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
American Woman is on new versions of Kravitz' 5 CD as well as the Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me soundtrack. Unlike the Austin Powers movies, which take an ironic yet affectionate 90's look at the 60's, Kravitz remake of a 60's shows neither humor nor imagination. American Woman contrasts with Madonna's contribution to The Spy Who Shagged, Beautiful Stranger, which has a sense of fun and mixes 60's homage with a 90's sensibility. By covering the Guess Who, Kravitz is at least honest enough to admit that he's ripping off the past. Most of his originals might as well be covers since he cynically copies the moves of people like Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix without adding anything original. The appeal of his music is its familiarity. 5's Fly Away, admittedly one of his more appealing pieces of plagarism, has found its perfect home in a TV commercial.
Lenny Kravitz - Dig In
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: # 2 (Nov. 2001) buy it!
I've long disliked Kravitz' self satisfied, unimaginative classic rock ripoffs but I have to admit that Dig In, while still clearly showing the influence of Sly & The Family Stone and others, has an easy energy and is a lot of fun. Dig In's big beat and loose, echoey sound reminds me of ELO's homage to psychedelic era Beatles, Don't Bring Me Down. Dig In, from the Lenny CD, has a familiar message, urging us to experience life and enjoy ourselves, but its relaxed high spirits and tight, propulsive guitar line are even better at telling us to have a good time.
Lenny Kravitz - Stillness Of Heart
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: # 24 (May 2002) buy it!
Dig In, the first single from the Lenny CD, showed a side of Lenny Kravitz that he hadn't shown much before. Dig In was a light, fun rocker that lacked the heavy attitude than often drags down Kravitz' music. Stillness Of Heart doesn't have Dig In's lightness and excitement but it's still a good, if not great, second single. Stillness Of Heart's melody is very similar to that of his second to last hit: Again. Stillness Of Heart achieves a good edge by holding back and going nice and slow. Heavy bass and drums create a good, slow jam on the verses and are joined on the chorus by a solid, steady guitar strum. Unlike Dig In, Stillness Of Heart doesn't really sound like a hit. Nothing really happens. It's got a good atmosphere but doesn't grab you. Kravitz' typically complacent vocal doesn't help. On Stillness Of Heart, Kravitz sings about trying to calm and center himself so that he can move on after a tough romantic experience. I'm not questioning Kravitz' pain but his way of expressing it is hardly great poetry. This is the second verse: "I got more than I can eat, a life that can't be beat/yet still I feel this heat, I'm feeling incomplete/What am I buying, my soul is crying."
Lenny Kravitz - Where Are We Runnin' ?
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: # 2 (June 2004) buy it!
Dig In, from Lenny Kravitz' 2001 Lenny CD, was a pretty perfect piece of psychedelic rock. It was tight and fun. It showed its influences but sounded fresh. Where Are We Runnin', from Kravitz new Baptism CD, is a lot like Dig In but not as perfect. Where Are We Runnin' isn't as developed as Dig In. It's really just a couple of guitar riffs. In some ways, Where Are We Runnin' is just an uninspired classic rock pastiche. As on many Kravitz songs, Sly Stone's anarchic spirit is present. But, especially when Kravitz does a spoken part, the odor of BTO's stale 70's hit Takin' Care Of Business is there too. The start of each verse also resembles ZZ Top's Sharp Dressed Man. Where Are We Runnin' isn't very original but it is mostly enjoyable. Where Are We Runnin' is an unpretentious retro rocker. It doesn't have the attitude of some Kravitz songs. Like Dig In, Where Are We Runnin' has a big, buoyant beat. It also has a fun, fuzzy metallic guitar sound. Where Are We Runnin' is a little like Are You Gonna Go My Way. It doesn't have that song's energy but it also doesn't have that song's sense that Kravitz is showing off that he can replicate his guitar heroes' moves. Where Are We Runnin' is short, simple decent guitar rock. On Where Are We Runnin', Kravitz decides that a life "chasin' the money" in the fast lane is "cloggin' up our soul" and that "we need some time to clear our heads."
Len - Steal My Sunshine
Weeks on Chart: 22 Peak: # 8 (Sept. 1999) buy it!
Steal My Sunshine is the perfect summer single. It's light, has a good beat and is upbeat. The vocals are pretty rough but fit with the unpretentious mood. It's yet another song which brings to mind Sublime's What I Got. Caution to potential cd buyers. The rest of Len's record You Can't Stop the Bum Rush is much harder and intense rap and dance music than Steal My Sunshine.
LFO - Every Other Time
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: # 43 (Oct. 2001) buy it!
The Lyte Funky Ones' previous hit was the confident but very stupid and lame white rap song, Summer Girls. With a synthetic sound and too many aggressively perky na na nas, Every Other Time is also quite empty headed and very white. But Every Other Time, from the Life Is Good CD, isn't as bad as Summer Girls. Sounding like Semi Charmed Life and Hey Leonardo, Every Other Time is more standard teen pop, with a lightweight, genial sound. The lyric is kind of charming. Every Other Time is about a guy who stays in a relationship with a girl who keeps things interesting by walking out, pulling bizarre pranks and telling everyone that he's gay.
LFO - Summer Girls
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: # 46 (Sept. 1999) buy it!
With lines like "New Kids on the Block had a lot of hits, Chinese food makes me sick", the rhymes are so bad they make Vanilla Ice seem like Shakespeare. Hopefully, this isn't the start of a trend of bad, hunky white rappers. It isn't clear if the success of the song comes from its repetitiveness or from the familiarity of the banal, nostalgic images.
Lifehouse - Hanging By A Moment
Weeks on Chart: 47 Peak: # 1 (March 2001) buy it!
Having debuted in November, Hanging By A Moment, from the No Name Face CD, is the oldest song on the top 50. Pop radio still isn't tired of it. Lifehouse are another young band clearly showing their Pearl Jam and Nirvana influences. There's a similarity between Lifehouse and Creed, the most successful of the Pearl Jam soundalikes. Lifehouse are very serious, like Creed, but they don't have Creed's pretentious excess. Hanging By A Moment is a familiar sounding rock ballad but Jason Wade is appealingly sincere, singing about "falling even more in love", "letting go of all I've held onto" and "living for the only thing I know."
Lifehouse - Sick Cycle Carousel
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: # 33 (June 2001) buy it!
Like on Hanging By A Moment, the megahit from Lifehouse's No Name Face CD, Jason Wade does a variation on Eddie Vedder and Creed's Scott Stapp without Vedder's substance but also lacking Stapp's pretension, as he sings about wanting to break a sick cycle. Wade is only 20 but he has that deep, serious, prematurely old voice that's been almost mandatory for rock singers of the last decade. He's also too young to be writing defeated lyrics like "if shame had a face, I think it would like mine." Sick Cycle Carousel's lofty, yearning chorus is like that of Pearl Jam or Live songs like Run To The Water or In Hiding without attaining the transcendence those bands can reach. Sick Cycle Carousel is earnest and pleasant sounding but not too interesting.
Lil' Jon & The Eastside Boyz featuring the Yin Yang Twins - Get Low
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: # 31 (Nov. 2003) buy it!
Lil Jon is the latest of many successful rap and hiphop acts from Atlanta. Get Low is from Lil John & The Eastside Boyz' Kings Of Crunk CD. Kings Of Crunk came out more than a year ago. Since then, Get Low's popularity has slowly grown and Get Low has moved from dance clubs to pop radio. Get Low is an attention grabber. Get Low has an edgy, slightly menacing synth line that matches its raw vocals. Get Low's singing, which is mostly just yelling, has confidence and a touch of anger that add up to a steady energy. The singers stay in your face and refuse to be ignored. From the chorus bragging about the sweat dripping "down my balls" to the verses wondering about a woman's sexual prowess and admiring strippers, Get Low's lyric encouraging the ladies in the club to their sexiest behavior is proudly vulgar and stupid and offensive in places. But it's tolerable in Get Low's wild, exuberant context. Get Low has an urgency that's rare among the meticulously produced songs on pop radio.
Lil' Lim featuring 50 Cent - Magic Stick
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: # 20 (July 2003) buy it!
Lil' Kim went to the top of the pop charts as one of Lady Marmalade's vocalists. Now she's all over pop radio, appearing on Christina Aguilera's Can't Hold Us Down and on Magic Stick, from her La Bella Mafia CD, with 50 Cent. Everything 50 Cent touches these days becomes a hit but Magic Stick would probably be a hit even if 50 Cent wasn't the biggest recording artist in the U.S. 50 Cent and Lil' Kim are a good match. Neither has a classically impressive or pretty voice but both have plenty of charisma. At the same time, their styles are different. Some writers call 50 Cent's style mush mouthed. That's somewhat accurate but certainly not a complete description of his voice. 50 Cent's charm comes from a confidence that allows him to easily roll through his raps. He's established his street cred with tales of breaking the law and getting shot, but 50 has a likable humility. He stands out from rappers who need to show off their technique by being loud, showy and confrontational. Lil' Kim is also confident and unorthodox but she is much more in-your-face with her provocative, overtly sexual style. She's an Eartha Kitt for our time. Her assurance and sensuality compensate for the lack of standard skill in her raspy voice. Magic Stick finds both vocalists in a nice comfort zone. Magic Stick is totally about sex, a topic 50 Cent and Lil' Kim are comfortable with. They more or less get equal time. Lil' Kim has brags about her "magic clit" to match 50's claims about his member. Unlike most raps about sex, which celebrate the rapper's skills or the fact that everyone wants to be with them, Magic Stick's lyric has a giving tone. 50 and Kim express interest in the pleasure of their partner. Most of the boasting is about their skill in making someone else happy. Magic Stick's backing track, well constructed by the Fantom Of The Beat, is a good complement for the raps. Like 50 Cent's rap, Magic Stick's music moves at an easy, casual pace. It has a good, relaxed, crisp beat and a interesting, slowly twisting, clicking riff that's interrupted periodically by an emphatic crash of synths.
Limp Bizkit - Behind Blue Eyes
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: # 7 (Feb. 2004) buy it!
After irritating millions, Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst seemed to have ensured a steady career decline. But, like Kid Rock, Durst has enough commercial savvy that he can't be counted out. At least Kid Rock's pointless cover of Feel Like Makin' Love didn't go anywhere but Behind Blue Eyes, the second single from Limp Bizkit's Results May Vary CD, is Limp Bizkit's biggest pop hit ever. Limp Bizkit's version of the Who classic is pretty terrible. Limp Bizkit's cover obviously owes much of its success to the familiarity of the original and to a video where Durst acted out the fantasy of making out with Halle Berry. I guess you have to admire Durst's restraint. His arrangement, with his vocal and an acoustic guitar, isn't too showy. Maybe some people prefer Durst's control to Roger Daltrey's over the top wail. But I don't really see the cover's point. Pete Townsend's lyric is about barely controlled emotion and hiding anger behind a placid facade. Oddly Durst, who's known for venting rage on record and in real life, does a mellow, serious, boring vocal that lacks any emotion or anger. Durst removes the original's raging, rocking bridge. The part where Daltrey howled at us to crack open his fist when it clenches, tell him some bad news when he smiles and put your finger down his throat if he swallows anything evil is the original's most exciting part and has its most interesting writing. Durst has replaced that part with a bizarre section where a computerized voice spells out L-I-M-P and says discover a lot. The Who's Next version is a bit self indulgent and overdramatic but it's also a heartfelt, powerful epic. Limp Bizkit's is a narcissistic exercise. Except for showing that Durst can kind of sing, it's unclear what its purpose is.
Limp Bizkit - Break Stuff
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 42 (April 2000) buy it!
Break Stuff is my favorite of the three chart songs from the Significant Other CD. The song is about Fred Durst having "one of those days" and being in a bad mood and, of course, relations with women are at the heart of his hostility. Still, Break Stuff doesn't have the same detailed misogyny as Nookie and Rearranged. More importantly, with big guitars and a big hip hop beat, Break Stuff has great energy and momentum.
Limp Bizkit - Eat You Alive
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 39 (Sept. 2003) buy it!
First, guitarist Wes Borland left Limp Bizkit. Then the band recorded and scrapped albums worth of material with new guitar player Mike Smith. Finally, Limp Bizkit is back with the Results May Vary CD. Eat You Alive, the CD's first single, doesn't do anything to resuscitate the career of the once hugely successful but now widely reviled Fred Durst. Almost everything about Eat You Alive is terrible. Durst's one talent was an ability, with Borland's help, to give his mediocre hard rock a decent groove. Eat You Alive totally lacks any kind of groove, forcing us to focus on Durst's weak, whiny singing and nasty lyrics and his band's lame attempts to make arty hard rock in the Tool/Korn vein. Eat You Alive is dominated by Durst's unappealing tough guy ranting and creepy personality. Guitars and drums pound away bombastically in the background but never really get anywhere. Eat You Alive depicts Durst as a leerer/stalker. Durst curses out a woman then tells her "I'm drawn to you." He notes that she's too cool to want anything to do with him, alternates hoots of "you're so hot" with apologies for his behavior and pathetically(and somewhat scarily) repeats "I just want to look at you all day; there ain't nothing wrong with that."
Limp Bizkit - My Generation
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: # 50 (Oct. 2000) buy it!
My Generation was one of two singles released in advance of Limp Bizkit's new Chocolate Starfish & The Hotdog Flavored Water CD. My Generation shows Limp Bizkit's skill at mixing hard rock guitar and a good hip hop groove. However, as it goes along, My Generation gets harsher and less appealing, dissolving into a bridge just like Rearranged's. As usual, Fred Durst's rap is not particularly skilled and the lyrics are mostly interesting in showing Durst's narcissism. Durst claims to be a spokesman for his generation but he really seems to be talking about himself. His insights about today's youth are limited to: we don't give a f--- if you talk shit about is.
Limp Bizkit - My Way
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: # 9 (May 2001) buy it!
My Way is the third chart hit from Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water. It sounds like Rearranged, Take A Look Around and a lot of Limp Bizkit's other music. The music, though familiar, is pretty good with an edgy, forboding mood on the verses and good rock energy on the chorus from Wes Borland's fast, hard guitar and John Otto's dynamic beat. But, as usual, Fred Durst messes things up with his mediocre talent and stupid attitude. Durst's thin voice is barely adequate on the verses then he does his distinctive hoarse yelp on the chorus. The lyrics are a typical paranoid Durst rant similar to Rearranged's. He resents a woman looking down on him, pathetically demands respect("it's my way or the highway") and convinces himself "you'll be the one who's left missing me."
Limp Bizkit - Nookie
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: # 15 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
Limp Bizkit has a different method from Korn of using a mix of hard rock and hip hop to appeal to white male teens. Instead of playing off adolescent feeling of disenfranchisement, Nookie, from Limp Bizkit's Significant Other cd, fulfills teen fantasy. It's an unsavory tale of staying with an unfaithful girlfriend to keep getting sex and a chance to get a nasty last word.
Limp Bizkit - Rearranged
Weeks on Chart: 24 Peak: # 12 (Feb. 2000) buy it!
The followup to Nookie from the Significant Other is musically more subtle than Nookie. The vocals and guitars don't scream and the song has a good groove with a nice bass line. Lyrically, Fred Durst is still a bitter guy. He's clearly upset about his latest breakup but he tries to convince himself that he thanks God it's over and that she's going to need him when he's gone.
Limp Bizkit - Rollin'
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: # 21 (Dec. 2000) buy it!
Of the two singles from Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water, My Generation got most of the early play. Modern rock stations are now focusing more on Rollin'. Both songs are hard edged but Rollin' is even more urgent and edgy. The band's mix of hard rock guitar and hip hop beats has energy and undeniable power but Rollin' is so harsh that it's hard to like. As usual, Fred Durst's rap is the weak link. His squealed rhymes are typically paranoid, singing about people who "wanna mess with Limp Bizkit." We hope that he's gently mocking rap cliches when he urges us to "put them hands in the air." The dopey chorus tells us over and over again to keep rollin', rollin, rollin'.
Limp Bizkit - Take a Look Around
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 26 (Aug. 2000) buy it!
The second hit from M:I-2 is a good time musically. Rock guitars and keyboards riff on the Mission Impossible in a fairly predictable but enjoyable way and the music has a good beat and good energy. Fred Durst's rap also keeps things moving. Durst hasn't always been the most positive character so it's questionable whether he has the right to bemoan the fact that "hate is all the world has even seen lately." Of course, Durst's real concern isn't hatred in the world but people hating him. He's got a point about critics giving him a hard time but for someone who presents himself as a tough nonconformist who doesn't care what people think, it's a little inconsistent that he lets the criticism get to him.
Linkin Park - Breaking The Habit
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: # 31 (July 2004) buy it!
Breaking The Habit is the fifth chart hit and, following Numb, the second pop radio hit from Linkin Park's Meteora CD. I like the fast, juiced up Faint and don't care for the stereotypical Linkin Park troubled rants Somewhere I Belong, Numb(the best of the ranters) and Lying From You. Breaking The Habit falls in between. It's not great but it's more interesting than typical Linkin Park. Breaking The Habit gets points just because Mike Shinoda doesn't rap and Chester Bennington doesn't scream much. Breaking The Habit's tense anime video is appropriate for a dramatic song. With a rushed metallic beat, a sinister synth sample and atmospheric keyboard waves, Breaking The Habit maintains an exciting, futuristic sound. Breaking The Habit is quite a thrill ride. It hurtles forward breathlessly, never taking a break. Bennington seems to acknowledge that he normally goes way over the top in venting his rage, singing I don't know "why I have to scream." On Breaking The Habit, he stays pretty controlled. His voice is agitated but it matches the edgy music. On Breaking The Habit, as usual, Bennington humorlessly sings about his inner torment. As on Somewhere I Belong, Bennington expresses a desire to get better. He'll "never be alright" but he wants to start avoiding battles. I feel like there's a limit to the appeal of Breaking The Habit's cold, paranoid sound, especially after repeated listens. Breaking The Habit would be more striking if Linkin Park's other music wasn't all so serious. Still, Breaking The Habit has a more complicated, nuanced sound than the band's usual work.
Linkin Park - Crawling
Weeks on Chart: 25 Peak: # 5 (Sept. 2001) buy it!
Linkin Park's first rock hit was noisy and nasty but its stomping "one step closer to the edge and I'm about to break" hook was stirring and catchy. Crawling, the second single from the Hybrid Theory, has higher pretentions. It's a Korn style mix of synth atmospherics and hard rock. Linkin Park's sound is engineered to appeal to disaffected male youths. Crawling has a touch of Mike Shinoda's rap, meaningful, troubled lyrics on the verses and Brad Delson's big guitars and Chester Bennington's unpleasant, full throated yell on the chorus. The lyrics, similar to those of many recent rock songs about troubled males, are pretty bad. Bennington complains about being controlled by a lack of contol and of "crawling in my skin."
Linkin Park - Faint
Weeks on Chart: 29 Peak: # 3 (Aug. 2003) buy it!
Faint, the second chart hit from Linkin Park's Meteora CD, is easily my favorite Linkin Park single so far. It gets off to a great start with a very good, distinctive riff and a sped up beat. Things take a bit of a turn for the worse when Mike Shinoda begins his flat, dull rap but at least he moves fast and doesn't slow Faint's momentum too much. Chester Bennington's raging howl is typically over the top(does a guy whose record sold more than 8 million copies have any right to scream, "I won't be ignored"?) Even if Bennington's anger is goofy, he gives the song power and fits well into Faint's supercharged atmosphere. Faint's chorus, which takes the song's fast, slippery beat and adds Bennington's wail and a wall of guitars, maintains the song's energy and has a catchy hook. Faint depicts an internal struggle about an unresponsive girlfriend. Shinoda plays the wimpy ego, whining about being lonely and unconfident, complaining about his emotional scars and pleading "'cause you're all I got." Bennington is the unrestrained, pissed off id demanding "you're gonna listen to me."
Linkin Park - In The End
Weeks on Chart: 36 Peak: # 3 (April 2002) buy it!
Linkin Park's first two singles from the Hybrid Theory CD communicated youthful turmoil with raging hard rock and Chester Bennington's loud, nasty yell. In The End is less harsh and confrontational as the band move into Limp Bizkit territory. In The End is effective but very familiar, closely tracking Limp Bizkit's angry but catchy mix of rap, hard rock and vaguely sinister keyboards. Linkin Park have a slight advantage over Limp Bizkit since Mike Shinoda's rap, while fairly simplistic, isn't as stupid as Fred Durst's typical rant. Shinoda and Bennington alternate vocals, looking back bitterly at a failed relationship.
Linkin Park - Lying From You
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: # 6 (June 2004) buy it!
Male teens can't get enough earnest, troubled screeds. Meteora is another multiplatinum record for Linkin Park. Lying From You is Meteora's fourth chart hit. Lying From You is nothing new for Linkin Park. Mike Shinoda rapping is again pretty mediocre. Maybe the white kids appreciate the fact that he tries really hard and the fact that, unlike talented rappers, he has an awkward delivery that makes him sounds like one of them. Chester Bennington's howling is more interesting and skilled but it's the same old raving. His rage has long since lost its shock value. Bennington wailing "youuuuu" is so unsurprising and so much like his rants on other songs that it seems like self parody. Lying From You's sci-fi synths and guitars, processed with post production help from Pro Tools software, also sound kind of familiar but at least they lend a sense of drama to a song that's otherwise has a fill in the blanks sameness. Lying From You is about a person who faked a persona to make a relationship work. He "can't pretend I'm who you want me to be." Partly to protect her from "the criminal I am", he decides "I wanna be pushed aside."
Linkin Park - Numb
Weeks on Chart: 29 Peak: # 1 (Jan. 2004) buy it!
Numb is the third chart hit from Linkin Park's Meteora CD but the first to get a big push at top 40 radio. Presumably Faint, which had a great, exciting riff, was considered too edgy for the mainstream. I like Numb, with its controlled sound, better than the songs featuring Chester Bennington's over the top screaming or Mike Shinoda's mediocre rapping but Numb isn't exciting or very interesting. Numb is better than average Linkin Park. Its spooky synth line effectively communicates its protagonist's turmoil. The way the guitars slam in on the chorus seems appropriate to the song's anger and less overdone than usual. Numb has a hook that resembles In The End and Crawling from Linkin Park's first CD but it benefits from a touch of restraint. Bennington still rages but with a lessened intensity that's right for a declaration of numbness. Bennington's straight forward singing on the verses isn't particularly good but it is charmingly sincere. Numb is fine. It's just ordinary and a little boring. With Numb's easily understood angst, Linkin Park continue delivering angry male rock to a wide suburban audience. Well intentioned and serious, Numb will appeal to teens looking for a meaningful sound they can relate to. But its solemn soul searching does nothing for me besides make me think if she makes you so unhappy, you should probably break up. Bennington sings in Numb about feeling smothered in a relationship with someone who sees his every step as a mistake and wants him to be "what you want me to be."
Linkin Park - One Step Closer
Weeks on Chart: 29 Peak: # 14 (Jan. 2001) buy it!
One Step Closer is from the Hybrid Theory CD. Like Korn, Limp Bizkit and Papa Roach, Linkin Park are an angry band who mix a hip hop sensibility to their heavy metal but they're even less appealing than those bands. The sound is nasty with yelled vocals and harsh guitar chords. One Step Closer is about another young white guy so troubled that he "can't take this anymore." It's not specified, but the lyrics probably refer to a woman: "everything you say to me, takes me one step closer to the edge and I'm about to break."
Linkin Park - Somewhere I Belong
Weeks on Chart: 23 Peak: # 3 (May 2003) buy it!
Linkin Park's new Meteora CD comes two and a half years after the release of Linkin Park's 8 million selling Hybrid Theory CD. Somewhere I Belong indicates that the band didn't use the time to develop new dimensions to their music and instead have done safe retreads of their hugely successful work. Somewhere I Belong showcases the vocal styles that established Linkin Park's identity but doesn't do much with them. Mike Shinoda's rap is particularly drab, stiff and uninteresting. Chester Bennington has more presence, working his trademark shriek but while he's intense, he's stuck in the same tone, never really going nuts like he has before. His lack of modulation makes his rage seem like meaningless griping. Somewhere I Belong doesn't grab your attention like Linkin Park's previous hits did. Shinoda is almost amateurishly wan while Bennington's parts are repetitive and don't go anywhere. The band again worked with producer Don Gilmore. The chorus is catchy with Brad Delson's guitar crunching into a hard but sleek wall of sound. But Somewhere I Belong lacks personality. The insistent blend of hard rock interjections and glossy pop brings to mind Nickelback's terrible hit How You Remind Me. The good news about Somewhere I Belong is that instead of just griping about emotional pain, the lyrics take responsibity and refer to wanting to heal. But maybe that calmer attitude explains Somewhere I Belong's lack of intensity.
Lit - Lipstick and Bruises
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: # 24 (Nov. 2001) buy it!
Lipstick and Bruises isn't as obvious and gimmicky as Lit's My Own Enemy, which probably means it won't be as big a hit. Still, I like its light, fun but rocking sound. Lipstick and Bruises isn't great or important, but with tight harmonies and big, efficient guitars, it's simple and energetic like the best poppy work of Van Halen and Cheap Trick. Lipstick and Bruises, from the Atomic CD, has a very simple lyric which apparently expresses ambivalence about a woman. A. Jay Popoff mocks her for acting like a rock star with her new friends but still wants her to "kiss me when the lights go down."
Lit - Miserable
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: # 12 (April 2000) buy it!
The most notable about Miserable, the third chart hit from the band's Place in the Sun CD, is its video with Pamela Anderson playing a giant Amazon babe who's literally a maneater. Miserable doesn't have the fast stupid charm of My Own Worst Enemy and Ziplock. Miserable, with A. Jay Popoff singing about being unavoidably attracted to a woman who ruins his life and makes him miserable, is slower. It's fairly entertaining but unremarkable, with big power chords.
Lit - My Own Worst Enemy
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: # 7 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
There certainly nothing bold or original about Lit's single from their A Place in the Sun but its pop appeal is undeniable. My Own Worst Enemy mixes chunky power chords and a very catchy pop riff for an appealing glam rockish sound that is poppy and rocking enough to appeal to different audiences. The story of being a dopey, self destructive kid, is an alternative pop standby, also currently in use in Blink 182's What's My Age Again, and is delivered by Lit with self deprecating charm.
Lit - Over My Head
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: # 44 (July 2000) buy it!
Like My Own Worst Enemy and Zip Lock from their Place In the Sun, this song from the Titan A.E soundtrack is fast, mindless rock fun. A. Jay Popoff sings about an unnamed they(maybe the music biz) who want to build him up so they can tear him down and then about being over his head in a relationship with a woman. The music is extremely simple. By the end, Lit doesn't seem to know what to do, so they just repeated the chorus again in different key.
Lit - Ziplock
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: # 21 (Oct. 1999) buy it!
Lit's follow up to My Own Worst Enemy, from their A Place in the Sun CD, is similar to its predecessor musically and lyrically. It's another charmingly dopey story about being a screw up. It's not very substantial but Ziplock, about asking his girl for another chance to make up for his mistakes, has a good, inventive guitar sound and light, sunny mood.
Live - The Dolphin's Cry
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: # 4 (Dec. 1999) buy it!
Live have always been intense. The success of their Throwing Copper CD came from striking a balance between the intensity and a likeable REM-influenced poppiness. Their last CD, the Secret Samadhi, lost that balance and often seemed pretentious and self indulgent. The Dolphin's Cry, from Live's new The Distance to Here CD, isn't much fun but it is a quite moving love song. Ed Kowalcyk's vocals are a little over the top but the sentiment, about how "love will lead us", is certainly heartfelt.
Live - Heaven
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: # 15 (June 2003) buy it!
Live achieved stardom with 1994's Throwing Copper CD and a sound influenced by REM's tuneful, thoughtful strumming and U2's big, yearning ballads. The Live sound has long since fallen out of fashion. The band has seemed unclear how to proceed, alternating between their trademark sincere, lofty sound and a harder, edgier sound designed to fit on today's modern rock radio. Heaven is a power ballad that fits within Live's traditional sound. Chad Taylor starts out strumming but soon is knocking out big, clean guitar chords. If Live were still hot, Heaven might have been a hit. The verses have Lightning Crashes' dramatic intensity and the chorus has I Alone's simple cathartic release. But Heaven is a pale imitation of Live's better songs. Heaven is very schematic. It doesn't achieve much depth or distinction between repeated trips back to the catchy chorus. Ed Kowalczyk does his blissed out thing and is so happy with himself that he's a bore. Calling Live's new CD Birds Of Pray and raving about his faith, Kowalczyk outdoes even Scott Stapp in annoying self satisified proselytizing. Kowalczyk tells us to "get back your faith again" and that the greatness of his daughter proves the existence of God(as a non-believer with a great daughter, I have trouble accepting his logic). Heaven has the charge that comes with Live's ability to manipulate dynamics and create a powerful sound but, overall, it's a lesser rehash that should be less self congratulatory and more original and challenging.
Live - Overcome
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 31 (Oct. 2001) buy it!
VH1 used Overcome, from Live's V CD, as the music for a video depicting the aftermath of the World Trade Center disaster. With its serious piano, heavy strings and Ed Kowalcyzk's intense vocals, Overcome would ordinarily seem overdone. In the past, Kowalcyzk's use of religious and water imagery has often been heavy handed and he uses such images again on Overcome. But Live's big, emotional, open hearted music, like U2's, has seemed appropriate for a time of healing. Overcome has a stark, mournful sound. After stating "the world is bleeding", the lyrics refer to an escape from a troubled society via a "beautiful drowning."
Live - Run To The Water
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: # 10 (March 2000) buy it!
The second single from The Distance to Here, like the Dolphin's Cry, is a wildly overblown rock ballad but Ed Kowalcyk's desire to find big images to express his love is kind of touching. Kowalcyk sings about living down the street from Adam and Eve and "the nuclear fire of love in our hearts." Run To The Water has a good restrained guitar sound. Kowalcyk's rapturous, soaring vocals are a little too much though.
Live - Simple Creed
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: # 24 (Sept. 2001) buy it!
No, the first single from Live's V CD isn't a critique of the intelligence of Live's competition in the soaring rock ballad business. Simple Creed is like They Stood Up For Love, one of the better songs on Live's Distance From Here CD. The verses, with slashing guitars, show a harder, murky edge then give way to a catchy, uplifting chorus. Like a lot of Live's music, Simple Creed is pretentious but also has real power. Ed Kowalczyk's answer to a world where kids take guns to school is "we gotta love each other." Kowalczyk makes a nice contribution to Evolution Revolution Love on Tricky's Blowback CD and Tricky returns the favor with a guest vocal on Simple Creed.
Live - They Stood Up For Love
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: # 16 (Aug. 2000) buy it!
The singles from Live's The Distance To Here CD have been better than those from their previous CD, Secret Samadhi. However, The Dolphin's Cry and Run To The Water had continued Live's trend of soaring ballads that were a little overly dramatic and emotional. They Stood Up For Love is more grounded. Ed Kowalcyk still plays the dreamer as he sings about the price that romantics like him pay: "we spend all of our lives going out of our minds." However, the music has a good, big beat, a nice, edgy groove and a very catchy chorus.
Liz Phair - Why Can't I
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: # 31 (Dec. 2003) buy it!
Liz Phair gained a devoted following with her debut CD Exile In Guyville. Exile's songs presented a confident, complicated woman who reveled in her sexuality. The fact that Phair's voice wasn't big or smooth only increased a sense of individuality. When Phair's self titled fourth CD came out last June, it was met by accusations of betrayal and a clear sense of abandonment from some fans. Most notably, a review(titled Exile In Avril-ville) on the front of the New York Times' Arts and Leisure section charged her with selling out and basically selling her soul for a chance of mainstream success. It seems a little harsh to begrudge Phair a shot at bigger sales, especially since the record isn't that bad. Liz Phair, recorded in many sessions with various producers during the five years since the release of her whitechocolatespaceegg CD, is of mixed quality but mostly good, especially on the songs produced by Michael Penn and Phair. It combines songs with commercial ambitions and more personal ones in a somewhat unwieldy manner. Liz Phair has a very sweet song about her son, a dumbed down rocker(Rock Me), songs(appreciating a guy's "hot, white come" and comparing a guy to her favorite underwear) which try a bit too hard to be outrageous and a bunch of likable pop rockers, like the ones she had on her previous two CDs, that are less raw than Phair's Exile songs but still have her personality. The songs that most rile Phair's longtime supporters are the four co-written and produced by The Matrix(Lauren Christy, Scott Spock and Graham Edwards), who have done hits for Avril Lavigne and other teen favorites. Among them are two slick, musically anonymous rockers that merit disdain. But Why Can't I, which finally made it to the top 50 after spending more than five months near it, is a near perfect match of Phair's charms and The Matrix's studio smarts. Phair's vocal is polished up but her idiosyncracies still shine through in lines like "we're already wet and we're gonna go swimming." Why Can't I's music has a touch of tv commercial type glibness but it's quite brilliantly constructed. Pieces I like include Corky James' watery guitar sound and the way the chorus crashes in a little bigger the last time around. The hook, with power chords stomping in all the right places, is ridiculously catchy. Why Can't I does a nice job of capturing the excitement of a new romance.
Lo Fidelity All Stars - Battle Flag
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: # 30 (Sept. 1999) buy it!
This single, from the How to Operate with a Blown Mind cd, is one of the most successful electronica songs. It grabs your attention with a fairly annoying introduction, "your constuction smells of destruction ..." but settles into a hallucinogenic beat filled experience. It's not warm but probably sounds great on the dance floor.
Lonestar - Amazed
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: # 31 (April 2000) buy it!
The Tennessee band Lonestar is the latest poppy country act to have a mainstram hit. Amazed, from the CD Lonely Grill, is a sappy if effective love song written by Nashville hired guns about a feeling inside "almost more than I can take" that "blows me away", being able to "hear your thoughts" and "see your dreams" and generally being amazed by her.
Los Lobos - This Time
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 45 (Oct. 1999) buy it!
In their recent work and the work of their spinoff, the Latin Playboys, Los Lobos have been interested in creating layered, textured work that can be fascinating but also can be a little stiff and lacking in the warm melodies the band used to have. The title track from their new CD, however, is smooth and relaxed. The band created an appropriately easy groove for a song about taking things slow and appreciating the moment. David Hidalgo's clear, pure voice is one of the best in pop music and it hits the spot here.
Los Lonely Boys - Heaven
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: # 34 (June 2004) buy it!
Los Lonely Boys are brothers from San Angelo, Texas who started out in their father's band. They recorded their self titled debut CD at Willie Nelson's Austin studio. Los Lonely Boys' name, harmonies and Latin-inflected sound invite comparison to Los Lobos, the best Hispanic American band. I Like Los Lonely Boys' harmonies. Otherwise, Los Lonely Boys fall considerably short. Heaven doesn't have the depth and texture of a good Los Lobos song. Heaven is better than most music on easy listening radio. It's pleasant and smooth. The brothers come across as good guys. Heaven is charming and inoffensive but, eventually, the band's desire to ingratiate is a bit numbing. Surely, Henry Garza can play something more interesting than Heaven's syrupy guitar doodles. Los Lonely Boys CD was produced by John Porter, who worked with The Smiths and has more recently done records for blues musicians like B.B. King and Keb' Mo'. Heaven sounds fine but bland. It could use a little edge. Perhaps Heaven is tamer than the rest of Los Lonely Boys' music. Their single Real Emotions was more interesting. Knowing "I need to change" Jojo pleads on Heaven for God to save him from misery. My favorite part of Heaven is the brief section where Jojo sings in Spanish, asking you who is in heaven to send down a blessing. That little piece of Heaven gives a little spice to a genial, innocuous song.
Lostprophets - Last Train Home
Weeks on Chart: 23 Peak: # 13 (May 2004) buy it!
It was inevitable that the hard but atmospheric sound that has dominated American rock radio the last few years would make it overseas. Welsh band Lastprophets join Linkin Park, Hoobastank and so many others in their generation of serious post-grungers. Perhaps they belong in the slightly better company of AFI, Story Of The Year(Last Train Home mixes nicely with Girl's Not Grey and Until The Day I Die) and The Used, whose music resembles the intense, hard rocking Last Train Home. Much of Last Train Home is kind of generic. Last Train Home doesn't stand out much from many similar songs. Singer Ian Watkins' voice has power and emotion but it also has the humorlessness and self importance of many of his colleagues. Last Train Home is still pretty good. Watkins is a strong singer who seems to have some charisma. Last Train Home gets decent tension from a mix of guitar sounds, which range from hard to melodic, interesting, angular drumming and a simple, vaguely menacing piano line. Last Train Home has a catchy chorus that flows into an appealing heartfelt bridge. On that bridge, Last Train Home transcends its formula and reaches an appealing early U2 type idealism as Watkins alternates with hollered backing vocals charmingly chanting "we sing." Last Train Home is impressively big and ambitious and it also has sweetly endearing parts. On Last Train Leaving, Watkins sings about trying to "forget the sorrow" of a love that's disappeared, primarily by deciding to "sing without a reason."
Lou Bega - Mambo Number 5
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: # 22 (Oct. 1999) buy it!
Mambo Number 5 is practically the definition of a novelty hit. It's different, with a retro feel, and catchy. The story of a a proudly promiscuous but harmless guy for whom "flirtin' is just like a sport" has a dumb charm. Mambo Number 5 will probably be a huge hit and then become annoying even quicker than the Macarena.
Lucinda Williams - Essence
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: # 50 (June 2001) buy it!
Lucinda Williams' Essence CD doesn't have the detailed, evocative writing of her remarkable Car Wheels On A Gravel Road but it's not bad either. Similarly, the title track isn't quite as good as Change The Locks and Metal Firecracker, her moody masterpieces that it resembles, but it's good. Williams and her band hold back and go nice and slow, creating a good sexy edge. I find Williams' very simple rhymes too much like Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs And Ham but Williams effectively communicates a simple need for a love that's like a drug.
Ludacris featuring Shawnna - Stand Up
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: # 25 (Jan. 2004) buy it!
Ludacris never made the top 50 before December 2003. He came closest with Roll Out My Business, from his Word Of Mouf CD, which fell just short in 2002. Now Ludacris is all over the chart, also appearing on Chingy's Holidae Inn and Usher's Yeah. Stand Up, from the Chicken N Beer CD, is fairly standard rap. Ludacris goes to the club, shows off his diamonds, smokes "that Cheech and Chong", makes sure he's treated with proper respect and looks for a "thick young lady to pull." Still, Stand Up was well designed to expose the brash young man from Atlanta, whose given name is Christopher Bridges, to a larger audience. Ludacris' voice, while strong, is unremarkable but he has great presence. Ludacris' huge self assurance makes him a compelling figure. He's always in control, moving steadily with a natural, ungimmicky rap. He's confident that the momentum created by his forceful and theatrical but unthreatening voice will keep people's attention. Stand Up's simple but effective backing track shows similar confidence. Stand Up's verses stick to a crisp beat and good bass sample. The chorus' catchy "when I move you move" hook is well underlined by a good riff. On Stand Up, as usual, Ludacris doesn't have much more on his mind than having a good time. But Stand Up is a good showcase for his raunchy but basically harmless rap.
Lumidee - Never Leave You(Uh-oh)
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: # 44 (Aug. 2003) buy it!
Never Leave You proves the broad appeal of the diwali rhythm. Jamaicans Sean Paul and Wayne Wonder both had hits with the sound that was put on Get Busy and No Letting Go by producer Lenky Marsden. It turns out that the rhythm fits as well with the singing of Spanish Harlem's Lumidee Cedeno. Producer DJ Tedsmooth smartly found a new context where the hot, infectious, familiar beat works. On Never Leave You, Diwali sounds like a New York rhythm. Diwali feels like a natural variation on the double dutch beat that's accompanied kids jumping rope for years. The uh ohs and Lumidee's unremarkable slightly wobbly and thin voice help create a natural, unpretentious feel. Never Leave You is undeniably a novelty hit doomed to a fairly short life span. The uh ohs that are cute and catchy the first few listens become annoying after a while. Never Leave You is generally pretty ordinary. But Never Leave You does have that great beat and a comfortable atmosphere. Never Leave You's simple lyric is about convincing a boyfriend that "there ain't another" and that they're great together.
Lyle Lovett - You Can't Resist It
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: # 47 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
You Can't Resist is included on Lovett's new Live in Texas. Lovett's deadpan, understated delivery is always welcome. He continues to produce interesting, likeable, mature records. Lovett seems to spend much of his life in a sincere sense of awe. The object of admiration on Can't Resist It is a compelling woman who means trouble. You can decide for yourself if it's another one about Ms. Roberts.