O-Town - All Or Nothing
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: # 26 (Aug. 2001) buy it!
It had been three months since there were any boy groups in the top 50 but the drought is over. 'N Sync, Backstreet Boys and O-Town all had song debuts in early June. O-Town are the ultimate in manufactured, commercial boy bands, having been put together for ABC's Making The Band. O-Town's lame first single Liquid Dreams, a bizarre story of a dream girl constructed from pieces of various celebrities, fell just short of the top 50. All Or Nothing, which is more standard teen pop about trying to convince a girl to forget another guy and concentrate on him, is clearly a hit even though it's also quite lame. All Or Nothing is modeled on songs by smooth young African American crooners like Boys II Men's I'll Make Love To You. It starts OK with piano and sincere singing and gets progressively more treacly with strings and very bland harmonies, ending like a bad version of Bryan Adams' Everything I Do.
O-Town - These Are The Days
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 40 (Dec. 2002) buy it!
Backstreet Boys' success has apparently plummeted and N Sync is on hiatus as members put out solo records or tried to go into space. So O-Town, which was put together for the Making The Band TV show, is currently the top boy group around. O-Town's members are claiming that on the O2 CD, they're more in control of their own music and presenting a more distinctive sound. There's little sign of that on These Are The Days. These Are The Days was written by veteran pop music hack Steve Kipner. The only thing new about it is that instead of doing a squeaky clean, bland copy of an N Sync song, for much of These Are The Days, O-Town imitate a bland Bon Jovi ballad. It opens with Jacob Underwood doing a tight throated Jon Bon Jovi impersonation. Later on, These Are The Days more closely resembles typical boy group fare as a sing along chorus repeats over soaring and string effects. These Are The Days is basically inoffensive and it works OK as background music. Shep Crawford's production, with vague synths and a lame drum machine beat, is polished but innocuous. These Are The Days' lyrics allow an O-Town fan to imagine herself as saving her hero. These Are The Days' character is lonely, stuck in a place without love and trying to prepare himself for another chance.
Oakenfold - Starry Eyed Surprise
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: # 40 (Nov. 2002) buy it!
Paul Oakenfold is England's(and probably the world's) most sought after club DJ. He's also done well as a producer and remixer. The Bunkka CD is Oakenfold's most concerted effort at being a solo artist. On Bunkka, Oakenfold worked with a range of pop and hop hip singers. Starry Eyed Surprise's singer is Shifty Shellshock from Crazy Town, whose Butterfly was a hit a couple years back. Shellshock's hipster rap isn't that different from the one he did on Butterfly. In fact, you could easily fit big chunks of Butterfly into Starry Eyed Surprise. I found the psychedelic, spacy Butterfly, and Shellshock's slick, cocky vocal, annoying but I kind of like Starry Eyed Surprise. Starry Eyed Surprise is insubstantial and close to innocuous but it achieves the likable dance pop sound it shoots for. Starry Eyed Surprise has a genial tone and it's mostly about the music and the beat, so Shellshock isn't as irritating as he can be. Not surprisingly, Oakenfold delivers a strong, sturdy beat but he's also smart enough to keep the music relaxed, unhurried and fairly uncluttered. Oakenfold chose a few appealing riffs to keep things interesting, basing Starry Eyed Surprise on a piece of Nilsson's Everybody's Talkin'(from the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack). Starry Eyed Surprise's lyric is a dopey celebration of clubbing and dancin' "all night to this DJ."
Oasis - Go Let It Out
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: # 17 (March 2000) buy it!
Using Strawberry Fields keyboards, Oasis again show their love of psychedelic era Beatles on Go Let It Out, from the new Standing on the Shoulders of Giants CD. Noel Gallagher's lyrics, urging us to tell the world we're glad for who we are, can be a little shaky(what does life is precocious mean). Liam Gallagher's typically icy vocals are so throaty that you may wish he coughed up some phlegm before starting. Still, Go Let It Out shows Oasis' Beatlesque gift for mixing melody and rich atmosphere.
The Offspring - Can't Get My Head Around You
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: # 17 (May 2004) buy it!
Can't Get My Head Around You isn't as unpleasant and irritating as Hit That, the first chart hit from The Offspring's Splinter CD, but it reinforces the feeling I got from Hit That: The Offspring really don't seem to have anything else to say, musically or lyrically. Head Around You sounds like other Offspring songs, especially Gotta Get Away, a similar but better song. Head Around You is pretty fast. With Dexter Holland racing through his vocal and Noodles playing speedy, varied guitar parts, Head Around You gains decent momentum. Noodles nicely mixes up different hard rock lines. But besides being familiar, Head Around You isn't very appealing. The reason for that is singer Dexter Holland. Holland's vocal is so harsh and unlikable that you don't want to know what he's ranting about, you just wish he'd shut up. Head Around You's lyric also makes Holland seem kind of like a jerk. He can't understand why someone doesn't see the hole "inside your soul." He complains that "you've managed to bring me down too" and accuses the person of faking. Sounds like the person needs help, not an account of how their problems are hurting Dexter. At least, Can't Get My Head Around You is pretty short and its music is decent and energetic. But we've heard it before when Holland was less annoying.
The Offspring - Defy You
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: # 7 (Feb. 2002) buy it!
Defy You, from the soundtrack of the movie Orange County, is in the slower, more standard rock vein of Offspring hits like Self Esteem and Gone Away. One of the problems when The Offspring slow down from their standard post punk pace is that it's easier to understand their lyrics. Defy You's message is typically simplistic, trying to rally the kids by vowing to overcome a society that tries to "push me around." Dexter Holland vows "you cannot stop us, you cannot bring us down." While Defy You is obvious and very basic it does pack the simple thrills of a classic hard rocker. The Offspring slowly grind through with a good, big beat and solid bass line. Holland's yell and Noodles' crunching chords on the chorus have a primal rock and roll power.
The Offspring - Hit That
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: # 7 (Feb. 2004) buy it!
The Offspring keep going and it becomes increasingly unclear why they should bother. It's been 10 years, and feels even longer, since The Offspring hit their artistic peak with the Smash CD. Smash's best single Come Out And Play was a bit obnoxious but it had good rocking energy and a slightly anarchic spirit. The Offspring showed a bit of imagination on the Americana CD and its hip hop exploiting/mocking Pretty Fly For A White Guy but The Offspring's music has mostly brought diminishing returns from an overused formula. The Offspring's later music has served the purpose of exposing singer/writer Dexter Holland as a right wing jerk on songs like Why Don't You Get A Job. Hit That, from the new Splinter CD, isn't as confrontational as that song. Hit That is about a woman who takes care of a baby and the father who is "out having fun" and failing to show responsibility. Holland's sympathy with the woman is appealing but he undermines it by having the woman decide to emulate the baby's father by "chasing guys for fun" and apparently abandoning the kid. Holland's observations of phenomena like kids "who raise themselves" aren't particularly insightful. Hit That's sound slightly deviates from The Offspring's standard. The band errs on the verses by shifting the musical focus from Noodles' guitar, their strength, to a cheesy, irritating synth. Things improve on the chorus with a big, playful guitar sound. But Hit That has nothing new and interesting to offer and Holland's self confident, untuneful rant limits its appeal.
The Offspring - The Kids Aren't Alright
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: # 15 (Sept. 1999) buy it!
The 3rd single from Americana is less gimmicky than the previous singles, Pretty Fly for A White Guy and Why Don't You Get a Job. Its lyrics, about the problems and obstacles that today's youth can face, seem inconsistent with those of the smartass Why Don't You Get a Job. They might not be geniuses but the Offspring seem to be able to communicate with the kids of today. The more important reason for their success is that the music is great. It's compelling, driving punk rock.
The Offspring - Original Prankster
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: # 4 (Dec. 2000) buy it!
Original Prankster is from The Offspring's new Conspiracy Of One CD. Unlike the song's quite stupid video, the song doesn't really have pranks in it, just some fairly standard punk rock type promises to bust out or knock down walls. It doesn't have the same lyrical hook but Original Prankster has the same musical elements that made Americana's Pretty Fly(For a White Guy) irresistable. It has a loose mood, aided by goofy aural effects like some guy saying "you can do it." Dexter Holland's wail gives the Offspring a punk sensibility. Noodles' guitar gives the song rock heft and it also has a good dance beat. Redman adds rap cred by intoning the title's allusion to Ice-T and others who claim to be the original gangster. Much of the Offspring's music sounds alike and it's not too substantial but it has undeniable energy.
The Offspring - She's Got Issues
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 19 (Dec. 1999) buy it!
She's Got Issues is the fourth hit from the band's Americana CD. Part of the CD's appeal to the kids surely comes from the band's irreverent attitude. As on Why Don't You Get a Job, Dexter Holland is proudly insensitive, telling his girlfriend to "check your baggage at the door." It seems like she really has legitimate issues and Holland is too dopey to deal with them. The band's appeal also comes from their energetic, straight ahead music. While it's strangely reminiscent of .38 Special's Hold on Loosely, She's Got Issues is catchy, power chord filled guitar rock.
The Offspring - Want You Bad
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: # 25 (March 2001) buy it!
The second single from the Conspiracy Of One CD follows the colorful silliness of the rock/hip hop hybrid Original Prankster, with a returns to The Offspring's punk pop signature sound. Want You Bad is also stupid, a dopey male fantasy, but it's very energetic with fast, fun guitars and drums. With his typical yell, Dexter tells his girl "you're too nice" and advises her to get tattoos and mistreat him.
Old 97's - King Of All The World
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: # 50 (April 2001) buy it!
Old 97's are usually modest twangers, respectful to their country rock roots and not too showy. King Of All The World, from the Satelite Blues CD, finds the band getting off on the thrill of power chords. Rhett Miller is appealingly exuberant, paying tribute from the road to a woman "who turned the power on" when he was "in a real bad way" and hoping "to go back to the world when I was the king of all of the world." Guitar players Ken Bethea and Miller give the song a good, stomping energy.
Old 97's - Murder or a Heart Attack
Weeks on Chart: 1 Peak: # 45 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
On their last record, Too Far To Care, they were roots rock purists, seemingly believing that making a catchy song was selling out. Their new one, Fight Songs, is considerably more accessible. It's a very good record of well played, fun authentic music. Murder or a Heart Attack confirms their willingness to be commercial. It's a simple, wry song about taking risks to get your baby back. It's very sincere but also catchy country rock.
Old 97's - Nineteen
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: # 38 (Oct. 1999) buy it!
Nineteen, from the band's Fight Songs CD, is a fine example of Old 97's good natured, well made poppy roots rock. The band comes across as really nice guys. Nineteen is basically an apology for not being mature in a youthful relationship. The music is light and pleasant.
Oleander - Are You There?
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: # 21 (April 2001) buy it!
Are You There?, from the California band's Unwind CD, is fairly standard radio rock. It starts with very, big angry guitars then settles into familiar power chords augmented by a weird electronic effect. Thomas Flowers isn't a tough rock and roll singer like some of his peers. His voice is kind of thin. The lyric isn't as obnoxious as in some contemporary rock. Flowers is vulnerable, singing about needing support "when I feel too far away from where I want to be" and wondering if there's anybody there "who doesn't just pretend to care ."
Oleander - I Walk Alone
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: # 37 (Nov. 1999) buy it!
I Walk Alone is the second single from the band's February Son CD. They clearly listened to a lot of grunge in the early 90's and have nothing much to add to their predecessors.
Oleander - Why I'm Here
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: # 12 (Sept. 1999) buy it!
From the cd February Son, Why I'm Here is extremely reminiscent of Nirvana's Heart Shaped Box or Rape Me. That's not a bad thing. The whisper to a scream dynamic with a touch of strings is quite gripping. The intensity is real and the hook is still catchy. However, the gloominess and lack of originality put a limit on how good they can be.
Orgy - Fiction(She Dreams In Digital)
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 26 (Oct. 2000) buy it!
Orgy's hard rock/industrial bludgeoning of New Order's Blue Monday may have been my least favorite single of 1999. Fiction, from their new Vapor Transmission CD, isn't as offensive but it's nearly as stupid. The music and lyrics are both cheesy sci-fi. Over hokey electronics, Jay Gordon sings about a robot girl he created who's gone haywire. "Now that control is gone", "my finger's on the kill switch." Whatever. Orgy take the big guitar, big atmosphere sound of bands like Korn and do it in the least interesting way possible.
Our Lady Peace - Is Anybody Home?
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: # 21 (March 2000) buy it!
Is Anybody Home? is the second hit from Happiness . . . Is Not a Fish You Can Catch. Like most of the Canadian band's work, Is Anybody Home? is serious and intense. It also shows Our Lady Peace's ability to create a good atmosphere with interesting shifts of dynamic. The music varies from Mike Turner's hard rocking guitar to Raine Maida's a capella vocals. The lyrics say that everybody's needy, we're all scared.
Our Lady Peace - One Man Army
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: # 16 (Oct. 1999) buy it!
One Man Army is from the Canadian band's 3rd CD, Happiness...Is Not a Fish You Can Catch. The band has developed a fairly decent catalog of sincerely delivered songs. Starseed from their debut, Naveed, was a good, exciting rocker. The title track from their last record, Clumsy, was genuinely moving. One Man Army has the band's trademark intense sound and is interesting musically, starting with a verse where Raine Maida's singing is only accompanied by a driving, shifting beat. The band doesn't always grab you but One Man Army shows Our Lady Peace's skill at creating an interesting, mysterious atmosphere.
Our Lady Peace - Somewhere Out There
Weeks on Chart: 22 Peak: # 21 (Aug. 2002) buy it!
Our Lady Peace have been huge in Canada for years but, until now, theyve only had modest success in the U.S. Modern rock radio play kept Somewhere Out There, from the Gravity CD, on the top 50 through the summer. It returned to the chart after settling in at pop radio. Top 40 radio always seemed like Somewhere Out Theres ultimate destination. For their U.S. commercial breakthrough, Our Lady Peace moved into Creed/Goo Goo Dolls/Aerosmith territory for a string laden rock ballad. Somewhere Out There isnt my favorite Our Lady Peace song(the less sweeping ballad Clumsy probably is) but it is less annoying than most rock ballads. Our Lady Peace singer Raine Maidas hoarse, yearning singing doesnt have Scott Stapps self important vanity and Somewhere Out There doesnt have the bloated sound of Creeds hits. Maida is always rather serious and intense so its less jarring to hear him shift into mellow mode than someone like Steven Tyler. Somewhere Out Theres carefully crafted and somewhat bombastic atmosphere of synths and strings is designed to make a hit. Somewhere Out There is heartfelt but the songs personal touch is steamrollered when the big guitars and drums and heavy orchestration come in. Still, Maida maintains his sincerity as he sings about waiting on a bed of nails for the return of an old flame who transcended a feeling of being lonely and out of place by moving on to a new life.
Outkast - Hey Ya
Weeks on Chart: 25 Peak: # 3 (Feb. 2004) buy it!
Outkast invited talk of a breakup by releasing a double CD that's basically two solo records. Big Boi's Speakerboxxx is a tight disc with a state of the art sound and touches of the inventiveness, intelligence and oddness that have long distinguished Outkast from other hip hop acts. Andre 3000's The Love Below, which features Andre mostly singing instead of rapping, is much less consistent. It has lots of goofing around, stupid jokes and undeveloped grooves as well as some good jokes, some irresistible grooves and a positive, good natured vibe. Big Boi and Andre 3000 claim to have no breakup plans and their strategy has paid off with two hits, Big Boi's sleek The Way You Move and Andre 3000's immensely entertaining Hey Ya.. Hey Ya is a strong candidate for best single of 2003. It brings to mind the giddy fun of British invasion pop(a connection reinforced by its wry video with an Ed Sullivan type audience filled with screaming young African American women) and the groove and joyful, trippy vibe and attitude of P-Funk and Sly and The Family Stone. But the most obvious comparison is with Prince's exhilarating, genre busting early 80s workouts . For Hey Ya, Andre 3000(aka Andre Benjamin) assembled sounds guaranteed to create a bouncy, positive feel. Hey Ya has a steady acoustic guitar strum, a tight, brittle beat, a goofy wah wah bass effect, a bubbly cheesy beeping synth, hand claps and Andre's sweet backing vocals and playful lead. The result is wacky, uplifting and as good a time as pop music can supply. On Hey Ya, Andre 3000 contemplates questions about his relationship including does his baby want to mess around with others and only avoid doing so to keep him from walking and whether love is an exception to the rule that nothing lasts forever. But he's more concerned with sustaining Hey Ya's buoyant mood. So the lyric also includes information like "don't want to meet you daddy, just want you in my Caddy" and "don't want to meet your mama, just want to make you cumma."
Outkast - Ms. Jackson
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: # 40 (March 2001) buy it!
Outkast's Stankonia was justifiably one of the most critically acclaimed CDs of 2000 and Ms. Jackson is one of the best songs getting heavy play on MTV. Ms. Jackson has a cool, easy groove with a simple, piano effect. Two good, contrasting rappers work on a baby's mama's mama. Big Boi barely contains his anger through a fast, dextrous rap, complaining about paying the bills for his baby but never getting to be with her. Andre 3000's rap is looser. He hopes his relationship will last forever then realizes how long forever is. Ms. Jackson finds some basis to the stereotype of the irresponsible estranged African American dad, but humanizes the character.
Outkast - Roses
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: # 15 (July 2004) buy it!
The Love Below, Andre 3000's half of Outkast's phenomenally successful two disc set, is filled with skits, experiments and playing around. But in the middle of The Love Below's oddities are two terrific, catchy singles: Hey Ya and Roses. Roses isn't quite the force of nature that Hey Ya is but it's got a good groove and a fun, playful sound. Roses has a good, steady beat and lots of nice touches. I like the way Killer Mike goofily echoes Andre 3000's vocal. Kevin Kendricks plays organ and synths that are part 70s retro hip and part roller rink and Casio keyboard cheese. Roses sounds like a jaunty love song but it's actually one long, mischievous dis. It's got to be the first big pop hit ever with the line "I know you'd like to think your shit don't stink." Andre tells us Caroline is "the reason for the word bitch." He hopes that as she speeds to see a "baller or singer" at a club, she'll try to put on her makeup and "crash into a ditch." The song fades out with Andre repeatedly calling Caroline a "crazy bitch." The Love Below and Speakerboxx are basically two solo discs but Roses is one song with major contributions from both Outkast members. Big Boi does a fast, cool, controlled rap. He joins in the piling on, calling Caroline a freak who gets "geeked at the sight of ATM receipts." The lyric is pretty unappealing and harsh but Roses' music is so high spirited and frolicsome that Roses leaves a mostly sweet smell.
Outkast - The Way You Move
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: # 12 (March 2004) buy it!
Outkast's popularity has grown the last few years. They made our top 50 with Stankonia's Ms. Jackson and The Whole World, from the Big Boi and Dre Present collection. Still, I thought Outkast, who seem more interested in doing what they want than in selling records, were a bit too weird to become big pop stars. So it's a bit of a surprise that Outkast are currently the biggest pop stars around. Outkast dominated the Grammy awards winning, among others, Album of the Year and The Way You Move immediately followed Hey Ya, which spent a bunch of weeks at #1, to the top of the pop charts. Outkast's huge success is especially remarkable since the duo seemed on the verge of breaking up when they released their two CD set, which is really two solo records. Andre 3000 and Big Boi are almost totally absent from each other's disc. Hey Ya is on Andre 3000's weird, silly, inconsistent but fun The Love Below, which doesn't fit under any musical label. The Way You Move is on Antwan "Big Boi" Patton's Speakerboxx, which has a variety of sounds but is mostly tight, danceable hip hop. The Way You Move is a great example of Speakerboxx's smart, state of the art sound. The Way You Move is brilliantly constructed. With its crisp hand clap like drum machine beats and Big Boi's remarkably adroit rap, The Way You Move is slick and efficient. It also gets a retro, human feel from real horns playing a catchy riff and Sleepy Brown's falsetto singing, which doesn't have the Marvin Gaye style sexiness he shoots for but does add warmth to a very polished song. Big Boi's incredibly quick rap deserves special credit. Among raps I've heard recently only Jay Z, on Change Clothes, is comparable in terms of being fast, relaxed and in control and Big Boi is even more impressive. He squeezes in a ton of words and never lets us see him sweat. Big Boi tells us that "Outkast is everlastin', not clashin'", expresses his love for all women, especially the "big girls", and admires a woman's move while the room watches his. In the last few months, Outkast has given us Hey Ya, one of the most fun singles of the last year and The Way You Move, one of the coolest.
Outkast - The Whole World
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: # 47 (April 2002) buy it!
After getting surprising but well deserved Grammy nominations and awards for the Stankonia CD and Ms. Jackson single, Outkast are back on the pop chart with a new song from their hits collection Big Boi & Dre Present Outkast. Besides having great beats and the skilled raps of Andre 3000 and Big Boi, Stankonia bursted with ideas. Its two dozen songs mixed smarts and goofing around, often on the same song. The Whole World's sound is more on the goofy side. The backup vocals sound like they're sung by Muppets. The music track has a loose feel with chimes and a repeated beat that's like machinery clanging. Whole World's three rappers are all fast and fluid but otherwise provide interestingly contrasting styles. They only touch on the chorus' idea that "the whole world loves it when you sing the blues." Andre 3000 presents a confused mind. He urges haters to look forward not behind but threatens "your head I'll sever from the neck." Guest rapper Killer Mike does the most standard rap, telling us "my focus is crime" and bragging "my words are diamonds" and "I catch a beat runnin' like Randy Moss." Big Boi is depressed by what he sees on the TV but still hopeful about dismissing hate and extreme prejudice and doing "all things that are doable." Regardless of the sentiments of its raps, nothing about them stops The Whole World's easy, likable flow.
Ozzy Osbourne - Gets Me Through
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: # 46 (Oct. 2001) buy it!
After serving so many successful young rock bands as a patron(through the Ozzfest tours) and a musical influence, it seems only fair that a 50-something Ozzy Osbourne should have another shot at a hit. Gets Me Through, which has a suitably cheesy video, is from the Down To Earth CD. Osbourne’s high, demented vocals combine the excesses of 70s art rock and heavy metal. Gets Me Through’s music is fairly standard crunching hard rock, complete with a showy, technically proficient guitar solo, but the song’s main appeal is as a short sample of Osbourne’s over the top dramatics. Osbourne sings about having lost his spirit and being haunted by nightmares and dark visions but still finding some solace in his fans’ love.