P. Diddy featuring Ginuwine - I Need A Girl Pt. 2
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: # 30 (Sept. 2002) buy it!
I Need A Girl Pt. 2 is from the We Invented The Remix CD. P. Diddy coproduced I Need A Girl Pt. 2 with Mario Winans. I liked I Need A Girl Pt. 1 for its breezy, smooth sound and Diddy's bizarre confession of loneliness but Part 2 is of much less interest to me. The music, with its synthetic steady beat and shiny synth riff, is OK but it's also an even more insubstantial, if perkier, variation on an already lightweight theme. The lyric is significantly less compelling than Part 1's apparent paean and mea culpa to J. Lo. P. Diddy's rap is standard issue. He tells us he wants a girl with potential wife credentials who's 5'5" with dimples and makes showy promises of being able to share 100 foot yachts and trips to San Tropez with his girl. Diddy's vocal is typically flat, uninflected and unmelodic. Loon's rap isn't great either with cliched images of lying in a bubble bath with a really big champagne glass and the questionable boast: "I'm smooth as Erik Estrada." Ginuwine and Winans do better with the singer role Usher had on Part 1 but they don't do much to change the song's generic feel.
P. Diddy - I Need A Girl
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: # 23 (July 2002) buy it!
I Need A Girl is from the P. Diddy & The Bad Boy Family CD. Rapping has never been P. Diddy's main talent. On I Need A Girl, the artist formerly known as Puff Daddy does a flat, speaking voice rap that's not particularly interesting or melodic. But I Need A Girl's draw is its content and P. Diddy's conversational style matches the lyric's confessional tone. It's fairly remarkable that P. Diddy, an extremely successful artist and entrepreneur who usually seems confident and in control, would present a slightly pathetic persona, worrying about women "usin' me" and pining for "a wife at home" "that could stand me" and "raise me a family." Even more striking is the verse regretting screwing up a relationship that closely resembles the one he had with Jennifer Lopez(he says it's not about J. Lo). He appreciates that she "took the whole ride for me" when "I caught a case" and regrets that because "I made her cry for me", she didn't stick around to have his child. I Need A Girl sounds like a lot of recent hits but it's a particularly enjoyable sounding version of a familiar formula. I Need A Girl has the lightweight but likably breezy sound of Usher's hits. Like songs including What's Luv and Ja Rule's hits, I Need A Girl matches a rough rapper with a much smoother singer. Usher provides a good vocal on the chorus. I Need A Girl splits vocals between P. Diddy, Usher and Loon but maintains a steady, relaxed groove, repeating a good, unobtrusive synth riff and beat.
P.O.D. - Alive
Weeks on Chart: 22 Peak: # 7 (Dec. 2001) buy it!
Alive, from P.O.D.'s Satellite CD, has been embraced by the MTV kids, apparently as a life affirming anthem for a time of uncertainty but Alive isn't an uplifting message to others. It's a declaration by singer Sonny Sandoval of how well he's doing. Alive's proclamation of love for God often seems silly. Sandoval claims he's taking a big chance, stating his devotion "even though it might cost me everything", as if Creed and others haven't made big bucks with catchy Christian rock. Alive's music is undeniably powerful and effective. It's big guitar hard rock with a loose hip hop sensibility. Sandoval's rock vocals has a rough rap edge. But the singing is also cold and harsh and, combined with Alive's self righteous tone, creates a hard, unappealing sound.
P.O.D. - Boom
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: # 33 (June 2002) buy it!
The first two singles from the San Diego band's Satellite CD described religious rebirth and a school shooting. P.O.D's third chart hit has a more standard topic for a rock rap song: celebrating and bragging about the band's success in rocking "the masses". Because it's less about the meaningfulness of Sonny Sandoval's pronouncements and more about the music and because it rocks harder, I don't dislike Boom as much as Alive and Youth Of The Nation. I still find Sandoval quite annoying. Boom sounds like lots of songs that mix hip hop and hard rock. At its best, it has the hard, no nonsense edge of Rage Against The Machine. At its worst(when Sandoval chuckles "is that all you got? I'll take your best shot."), it has Limp Bizkit's silly narcissism. Marcos Curiel creates a good, big guitar sound. In parts, Sandoval's rapping is tough and not bad. In other parts, he's just obnoxious.
P.O.D. - Satellite
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: # 41 (Sept. 2002) buy it!
Satellite is the title track and fourth chart hit from Payable On Death's breakthrough record. As radio gets deeper into the Satellite CD, the San Diego band's success becomes more mysterious and irritating to me. There were logical reasons P.O.D.'s previous singles were hits. Alive, with its supposed positivity, was the right song after 9/11. Youth Of The Nation had a hot topic(school shootings). Boom had a good, big beat and rock guitar sound. Satellite also has decent edgy, slashing guitars but the focus is on Sonny Sandoval's annoying vocal. Sandoval seems bad in lots of way. His attempts to project menacing toughness seem lame. He comes across to me as unpleasant and unskilled and a pale imitation of sharper rappers. Satellite is another religious paean. There's nothing particularly terrible about Satellite's lyrics. Sandoval tells us that His "love constricts my chest" and "now I can see" and asks God to "never take your eyes off me." As with Alive, I find Satellite uninteresting because Sandoval never goes beyond what God means to him to think of others. And maybe I'm close minded but Sandoval's harsh snarl doesn't seem like the best way to express his devotion. His singing strikes me as more about establishing rock cred and selling records than communicating with the Almighty.
P.O.D. - Sleeping Awake
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: # 26 (June 2003) buy it!
Sleeping Awake is from Matrix Reloaded: The Album. Sleeping Awake is generic electronic rap rock that sounds like music by any of the Korn soundalike bands. But, in my mind, Sleeping Awake's mediocrity still places it ahead of P.O.D.'s aggressively annoying previous work. Sonny Sandoval's vocal has its usual self righteous piety but since the band is already borrowing its ideas from a movie, there isn't as much focus on how meaningful Sandoval's thoughts are. The "dreaming of Zion" part of Sleeping Awake's chorus is good. The song's title succinctly describes the Matrix movies' hallucinogenic, dreamlike atmosphere. The guitars and drums make a sound that's big and soaring but not overdone. The vocals and music have a smoothness and lack of excess that P.O.D. normally lacks. The rest of Sleeping Awake is pretty awful. The lyrics are simplistic gibberish that provide no insight into the movies and allow Sandoval to rant self importantly. The obvious, crunching power chords dash hopes that new guitar player Jason Truby will bring any subtlety to the band.
P.O.D. - Will You
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: # 16 (Dec. 2003) buy it!
For anyone who didn't understand the obvious, portentous imagery P.O.D. tries to evoke with their name, they've called their new CD Payable On Death. For a while, P.O.D. found success and a comfort zone for their big, self important sound in big topics like school shootings(Youth Of The Nation) and being born again(Alive). When they tackle more mundane subjects, their bloated self righteousness seems more ridiculous. By nearly quoting it, Will You brings to mind Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, reminding us that fraught emotions can be communicated simply and much more appealingly. As usual, P.O.D.'s guitars are pretty good but trapped in an overblown song and forced to follow Sonny Sandoval's histrionics. Will You apparently is about an unhappy woman who's manipulated by her man. But Sandoval's whining, ranting and emoting totally undercut any empathy he's trying to show.
P.O.D. - Youth Of The Nation
Weeks on Chart: 21 Peak: # 5 (April 2002) buy it!
I got more angry feedback about P.O.D.'s hit Alive, which I called self righteous and silly, than about any other song I've ever written about. My beef with Alive is that, while many have adopted it as an uplifting anthem, it's really just about how good Sonny Sandoval feels and how bold he is for proclaiming his religious devotion. I'm not a big fan of the second hit from P.O.D.'s Satellite CD either. On Youth Of The Nation, Sandoval attempts to speak for others, briefly describing a school shooter and a couple of his victims. Sandoval is well intended but his ideas aren't particularly insightful: it can be tough to be a kid these days and the random loss of a child's life is especially tragic. Perhaps the only surprise is the thought that one of the victims would feel for his attacker ("maybe this kid was reaching out for love" "or maybe this kid just wanted to be hugged"). The music, with a beat, guitar, keyboards and backing vocals, has an appropriately ominous mood, but it's pretty generic modern rock. Sandoval's tough guy hip hop vocal and lyrics about "the sound of a gat" and taking "two to the chest" seem inconsistent with the general themes of innocence and sympathy. And the Another Brick In The Wall style kids chorus finale, with the idea that the band is speaking for a generation, seems presumptuous and exploitative.
Papa Roach - Between Angels and Insects
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: # 34 (April 2001) buy it!
On Between Angels and Insects, Papa Roach again seem less commercially calculating than their modern rock peers. They're serious and intense if a little simplistic. After songs about a troubled mind on Last Resort and a youth's troubled home life on Broken Home, Papa Roach move into Rage Against The Machine territory for the third chart hit from the Infest CD. Over big, hard guitars, Coby Dick alternates between tortured singing and an angry rap. He tells us "take your money, burn it up like an asteroid/possessions are never gonna fill the void." He gives us a philosophy lesson. He doesn't need possessions " 'cause everything is nothing and emptiness is in everything."
Papa Roach - Broken Home
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: # 19 (Dec. 2000) buy it!
Together with the Last Resort video, which depicts their fans as sad and alienated, Broken Home establishes Papa Roach as the band most likely to relate to today's troubled teen. Broken Home is even edgier than Last Resort. Broken Home doesn't have that song's inviting beat and hip hop momentum. It's more about harsh guitar. Coby Dick screams most of the words, only segueing into a Last Resort style rap at the end. Broken Home is musically and lyrically simplistic but at least it's not the macho posturing of so much radio friendly rock about tormented young males. Dick's pain sounds real as he sings about being caught between two battling parents, blaming himself and crying because he has no one to confide in.
Papa Roach - Last Resort
Weeks on Chart: 28 Peak: # 6 (Sept. 2000) buy it!
Papa Roach is the latest hip hop informed hard rock band with an anguished young male. Coby Dick's yelling that he's suffocating on Last Resort, from the Infest CD, does nothing for me but the kids might appreciate him singing about how he's "losing my sight, losing my mind, won't somebody tell me I'm fine" and how he can't go on living this way. The assautive guitar is harsh but strong and incisive.
Papa Roach - She Loves Me Not
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: # 7 (Aug. 2002) buy it!
Lovehatetragedy is the new CD by the Northern California band whose lead singer, formerly known as Coby Dick, wants to be known by his given name Jacoby Shaddix. Papa Roach broke through with the Infest CD. Like many rock hits, Infest's Last Resort and Broken Home had lyrics about a young mind troubled by memories of a sad childhood and music, dictated by Dick's alternately yelled and rapped vocal, that mixed hard rock and hip hop. They didn't particularly stand out among similar songs on the radio. She Loves Me Not, which may turn out to be the rock song of the summer, is a big step forward. She Loves Me Not's lyrics, about being torn apart by anxiety caused by a girl who toys with his emotions, are typically serious. But, unlike Papa Roach's previous hits, She Loves Me Not is about the music more than Shaddix' personality. Papa Roach have effectively tightened their music on She Loves Me Not for a sound that's big but concise. She Loves Me Not has the rock heft and urgency of a Sevendust song without that band's heavy metal excess. Jerry Horton's tough, economical guitar playing and Dave Buckner's big drum sound give She Loves Me Not good force and momentum. Until he does a mediocre rap, Shaddix' vocal is nicely focused and unshowy. Given the lyrics' torment and the music's rock charge, Shaddix finishes appropriately, ranting "life's not fair."
Patty Griffin - Blue Sky
Weeks on Chart: 1 Peak: # 48 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
The album, Flaming Red, is a bit of a disappointment. Griffin often seems to be trying too hard to prove she can rock. But it does have at least two great songs, One Big Love and Blue Sky. Blue Sky is a fascinating dreamy rocker. The music communicates well the lyrics' message of transcending petty failure to find peace and happiness.
Paul Simon - Father and Daughter
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: # 48 (Feb. 2003) buy it!
Paul Simon's projects of the last 10 years(The Capeman and You're The One) got relatively little mainstream attention but he's made our Top 50 for the first time and gotten an Oscar nomination for his song from the Wild Thornberrys Movie soundtrack. I'm a little creeped out by the fact that 60 year old Simon has a 7 year old daughter(with wife Edie Brickell) but I appreciate that she's inspired one of Simon's best songs in years. Simon has a history of overthinking things but on Father And Daughter he smartly keeps things simple. Though he Simon uses a full band, Father And Daughter feels like a low budget homemade labor of love. With a basic, chugging drum machine beat(credited to longtime Simon sideman Steve Gadd), Father And Daughter has an uncomplicated arrangement that lets Simon's sweet message connect. Father And Daughter's one adornment is a beautiful, shimmering guitar. Despite the presence of Vincent Ngiuni, Simon's guitar player since Rhythm Of The Saints, Simon apparently played the exotic sounding riff. As the father of the cutest girl in the world, I'm particularly susceptible to Father And Daughter's charms but Simon's heartfelt message of love should touch even the coldest heart. Simon's promises that he'll protect his daughter seem both personal and universal. And the chorus, featuring harmonies by Simon's 10 year old son Adrian, with its "there could never be a father who loved his daughter more than I love you" hook perfectly distills the song's direct, unembarrassed sentiment.
Pearl Jam - I Am Mine
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: # 1 (Oct. 2002) buy it!
The lack of a real standout song on the not great 2000 Binaural CD continued Pearl Jam's decline in record sales and fan base. I Am Mine, from Pearl Jam's The Riot Act CD, is a very good single that justifiably is getting Pearl Jam more radio play than their album tracks have had in years. I Am Mine returns Pearl Jam to a classic sound and should spur a modest comeback for the band. It reminds how Pearl Jam's music has more substance and less emoting than that of younger current bands, led by deep voiced singers, that are clearly influenced by Pearl Jam. I Am Mine is somewhat reminiscent of Eddie Vedder's I Am Sam version of You've Got To Hide Your Love Away in the way it keeps things simple, relying on Vedder's strong voice. I Am Mine is also a little like powerful, subtle Pearl Jam songs like Vs.' Elderly Woman and Yield's Given To Fly. Vedder's serious, dramatic delivery is a bit of a caricature. He's often heavy and sanctimonious but he's not afraid to try to say something important.. On I Am Mine, Vedder's vocal is pretty well controlled. Vedder and the band have the confidence to keep things subdued and fairly quiet. I Am Mine's guitar and percussion slowly builds but the sturdy accompaniment never becomes showy before ending with an elegant, controlled guitar solo. I Am Mine has a philosophical tone. Vedder looks to avoid the mistakes of those "hopin' to buy themselves time". Even after having his "innocence broken with lies" and seeing great sorrow, Vedder vows to take control of and live his life, figuring "I only own my mind" and that his time on earth "is mine."
Pearl Jam - Last Kiss
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: # 1 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
For a band whose mainstream audience has been on a long term decline, it's amazing that this kitschy remake might become their biggest hit ever. Pearl Jam's best music has often been their rarities such as the b-side Yellow Ledbetter and the ep Merken Ball with the great, interesting songs I Got Id and The Long Road. Last Kiss was originally available only to members of Pearl Jam's fan club then the buzz got louder and louder. Now Last Kiss is out as a cd single and on the Kosovar refugee benefit cd, No Boundaries. Eddie Vedder's always sincere vocals are a perfect match for the overwrought tale of a car crash and a teen love that transcends death. Vedder doesn't condescend to or make fun of the material as other might and reaches a simple, timeless beauty. Pearl Jam is a smart, talented band and they wisely clear out the sound, creating a 60's girl group type sound with crisp, clean drums. It's an irresistable pop gem.
Pearl Jam - Light Years
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: # 17 (Aug. 2000) buy it!
Pearl Jam's fans from their days when they were more of a classic arena rock band continue to lose interest but Pearl Jam keeps making interesting music. Light Years, from the Binaural CD, is another quiet, intense rock ballad, somewhat in the vein of Wishlist. Eddie Vedder's lyrics and vocals about trying to make sense of a friend's death are sad but Light Years still has a decent rock and roll heft, especially towards the end. It's probably too unassuming to be a hit but it has more life than the CD's very subdued first single Nothing As It Seems. Vedder's magnetic persona and the band's good, light touch are on display and Light Years can subtlely grab you.
Pearl Jam - Nothing As It Seems
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: # 3 (May 2000) buy it!
This sad, quiet song was a strange choice as a first single from Pearl Jam's new Binaural CD and it's not surprising that, after a high debut, Nothing As It Seems is quickly falling down the chart. Like last year's fluke pop hit Last Kiss, Nothing As It Seems is a ballad but it has a very thoughtful, personal feel with lyrics about a guy for whom nothing is as it seems who needs a feeling of home. Written by bass player Jeff Ament, Nothing As It Seems is largely based around an acoustic guitar and has good, restrained vocals from Eddie Vedder.
Pearl Jam - Save You
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: # 33 (Jan. 2003) buy it!
Save You, the second chart hit from the Riot Act CD, is a good, uncomplicated straight ahead rocker. There isnt much of a sense of growth on Pearl Jams new CD. But after showing signs of fading away on their last couple records, especially 2000s Binaural, Pearl Jam seem engaged on Riot Act. Riot Act has a number of songs that match up favorably with tracks on their classic records. Pearl Jam have done rockers like Save You, such as Hail Hail, Brain Of J and Spin The Black Circle, before but Save You is still fun and exciting. It must sound great live. Mike McCreadys guitar riff rips through Save You and, along with Jeff Aments matching bass line and Matt Camerons pounding drums, sends it barelling forward with nonstop energy. Under its tough music Save You has a sweet lyric. Eddie Vedder sings about selfishly wanting to keep a screwed up friend around because hes too important to me. Deploying his naturally dramatic voice as loosely as he can, Vedder promises to save the friend whether he wants it or not. Pearl Jam obviously influence the neo-grungsters like Puddle Of Mudd and Creed but, admirably, they largely avoid the new generations narcissism and cynical commercialism.
Pete Yorn - Come Back Home
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: # 19 (May 2003) buy it!
Pete Yorn has followed his very good debut CD, Musicforthemorningafter, with Day I Forgot. If you know Musicforthemorningafter, there's not much surprising about Come Back Home. Come Back Home features Yorn's cool low rumble of a voice. After receiving good notices for his first record, Yorn hasn't much changed his strategy. On most of Day l Forgot, Yorn and R. Walt Vincent, Yorn's partner on Music ..., played all the instruments. On Day I Forgot, the music again sounds low budget, basic and a little synthetic. Yorn laid down the beat and it has a drum machine predicability. Yorn's stiff, pretty boy singing risks self parody. Yorn's music isn't as fresh the second time around. There's diminishing returns in basically rehashing the same sound. Come Back Home sounds like the rockers from the first record. But Yorn is still making good, interesting music. Come Back Home has good driving guitars and a fun, exciting sound that really kicks in on the chorus. I like the way Yorn and Vincent create great energy by layering a bunch of instruments. Vincent's synth is appealingly cheesy. On Come Back home, Yorn tells a friend to come home and argues that "you're strong enough" to deal with some sort of loss.
Pete Yorn - Crystal Village
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 36 (Oct. 2003) buy it!
Crystal Village is the second chart hit from Pete Yorn's second CD Day I Forgot. Crystal Village is the best song on the not bad but not great CD. Jeff Buckley is clearly a role model for Yorn. Yorn has often tried to emulate Buckley's intensity and the thrills Buckley was able to produce with dramatic songs that swooped back and forth between quiet and charged. On Crystal Village, Yorn achieves that kind of excitement. Like most of Yorn's best songs, Yorn creates a rich sound playing multiple instruments along with R. Walt Vincent. Crystal Village's music is theatrical but not overdone. Crystal Village builds and adds compelling emotion. It starts out with only a finger picked guitar then adds Yorn's drums, Vincent's string effects and, finally, slashing electric guitar, to epic effect. Yorn's deep, heavy voice can be too much when he doesn't have an interesting song. But on a great song like Crystal Village, Yorn's singing completes a powerful, sweeping sound. Crystal Village is apparently about Yorn trying to resuscitate a relationship that "was good in the beginning" by taking his partner's hand and showing her bright "lights arranging twilight sages."
Pete Yorn - Life On A Chain
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: # 36 (July 2001) buy it!
Pete Yorn falls somewhere in the folk rock category but his music is distinctive, with good rock energy. His Musicforthemorningafter is one of 2001's best debut CDs. Starting with Yorn's voice filtered, Life On A Chain has a good, light guitar sound and a simple, big beat. Yorn sounds a little like Eddie Vedder but he mostly sounds confident and cool, even as he sings about still feeling chained to the wife he threw away who was "the sunshine heading my front line."
Pete Yorn - Strange Condition
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: # 29 (April 2002) buy it!
The New Jersey native/LA resident singer and songwriter's following continues to slowly grow. His debut CD is still getting radio play nearly a year after its release. In my mind, Bob Dylan's Love and Theft is the only 2001 rock CD that's better than Yorn's Musicforthemorningafter and The Strokes' Is This It is the only other one that might be as good. The CD has consistently strong songs: great, fun rockers and cool, brooding ballads. Brad Wood, who produced and played on records for Liz Phair, played a similar role for Yorn, another striking, confident young talent. Music . . . was apparently a low budget production but the songs are carefully constructed with layers of instruments, giving even the quietest songs a likable, textured feeling. Strange Condition follows Life On A Chain as Yorn's second chart hit(For Nancy fell just short of the top 50). R Walt Vincent's harmonica, layered over Yorn's acoustic guitar, contributes to a good, moody feel. Yorn is cool, as always, playing a tortured soul on Strange Condition.
Petey Pablo - Freek-A-Leek
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: # 39 (July 2004) buy it!
Freek-A-Leek is on Still Writing In My Diary: 2nd Entry by the rapper from North Carolina whose given name is Moses Barrett. Freek-A-Leek was produced and cowritten by Jonathan "Lil' Jon" Smith. Lil' Jon only seems to know how to write one song but that song has done well for him. Lil' Jon slightly altered his hit Get Low to make Usher's Yeah and Freek-A-Leek. Freek-A-Leek is very much in Get Low's spirit. It has a very similar edgy, steady synth riff, rowdy, raucous mood and profane lyric. Despite its similarity, Freek-A-Leek doesn't come off as a ripoff of Get Low because of Pablo's strong personality. Pablo's forceful, confident vocal is compelling. Like Lil' Jon and Sean Paul, Pablo has a big, deep, cocky voice. The way Pablo lists women's names brings to mind Paul's Get Busy. Pablo's voice is rougher than Paul's. Sean Paul is a bit of a clown and a fool. Pablo's gravelly rap makes it clear he's not kidding around. It also makes Pablo's frank, obscene lyrics seem a bit threatening. But in Pablo's defense, he wants the ladies to know in advance what he has in mind. He doesn't seem to want to coerce anyone who doesn't share his proclivities. Freek-A-Leek is almost all about Pablo's sexual predilections. The radio version I've heard has dozens of words edited out. It revolves around Lil' Jon's yells "would you do it from the front? Would you do it from the back." It sounds like Petey Pablo's ideal woman is a prostitute. He wants a woman who'll "come over any time a nigga call" and "keep her business to herself." She should "sniff a little coke, take a little x, smoke a little weed, drink a little bit." He needs "a girl I can freak wit' and wanna try shit." He wants his woman to get oral sex from "another bitch, 'cause I ain't drunk enough to do that." To emphasize what a coarse fellow he is, Pablo closes out Freak-A-Leek with "a shoutout to Seagram's gin 'cause I drink it and they paying me for it." Freek-A-Leek presents Petey Pablo as a pretty unsavory character but Lil Jon's catchy skipping riff and Pablo's assured voice make it interesting.
Phish - Heavy Things
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: # 22 (June 2000) buy it!
On the likably relaxed Heavy Things, from the Farmhouse CD, the band invites the Grateful Dead that have followed Phish for years. Trey Anastasio's vocals, singing about the things coming down on him and referring to women he's known, have a Garcia-like modesty and he finishes the song with a nice loose guitar solo. With good harmonies and keyboards, the skilled band creates a positive vibe.
Pink featuring William Orbit - Feel Good Time
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: # 46 (July 2003) buy it!
After a string of serious, heavily produced singles that were huge hits, Pink has done a fun, light song and it's not nearly as big a hit. I still like Feel Good Time. Starting with a riff from the 1968 Spirit song Fresh Garbage, Beck and William Orbit, who's worked with tons of people including Madonna and U2, wrote Feel Good Time. Beck declined an offer to do Feel Good Time for the Charlie's Angels Full Throttle soundtrack so Orbit did it with Pink. Feel Good Time retains a Beck flavor. It has the breezy, jaunty summery feel of Dead Weight, the song Beck did on the Life Less Ordinary soundtrack, and Mutations' Tropicalia. There are a lot of things to like about Feel Good Time. Its retro beach music charms include perky do do do backing vocals and Orbit's broad electronic touches, which sound like a past era's idea of a futuristic sound. Pink holds her own pretty well sliding easily around the light, quick orchestration and, often harmonizing with herself, projecting her distinctive personality. But Feel Good Time isn't a big hit. Maybe that's because the new Charlie's Angels movie has been a disappointment or because people want her doing more standard dance pop. The Beck touch is present in the trippy lyric which is weirder than you'd expect from a fun summer single. Feel Good Time is apparently about escaping drab existences to have a good time. It includes lines like "riding in the dirt, put a banner over my grave" and "we go in the back, paint our money black, spend it on the enemy."
Pink - Don't Let Me Get Me
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: # 14 (May 2002) buy it!
The former Alicia Moore tells us on Don't Let Me Get Me that since school, when she dated teachers and got into fights, she's done things that get her in trouble and make her hate herself. The context of the song is Pink's decision to toss the sleek dance pop sound of her Can't Take Me Home CD for the more rocking arrangements on Missundaztood. Pink seems genuinely conflicted. She knows that slick music and marketing made her a star and sounds genuine as she refers admiringly to Britney("she's so pretty"). Still, she resents the advice of Arista exec LA Reid to change "everything you are" and finds the music that made her successful irritating. Don't Let Me Get Me also avoids the calculated, synthetic sound of her first CD's hits but it isn't as striking a departure as the buoyant, raucous B-52's influenced Get The Party Started. Pink and her Missundaztood collaborator ex 4 Non Blonde Linda Perry have constructed a song with a pleasant, adult sound. Especially towards its end, when a yearning guitar kicks in, Don't Let Me Get Me reminds me of Natalie Imbruglia's Torn. Its crisp if unexciting beat and compact synth riff also brings to mind the kind of restrained synth pop hit that was common in the mid 80s.
Pink - Family Portrait
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: # 24 (Jan. 2003) buy it!
When her M!ssundaztood CD came out, Pink proclaimed that she was taking a huge chance by abandoning a safe musical formula. As its turned out, Pink just traded one radio friendly style for another slightly different one. In retrospect, the real chance Pink took was in filling M!ssundaztood with all kinds of biographical information. The risk has paid off. Pink was a fairly generic dance pop artist. Now she has a very identifiable image as feistily overcome obstacles life has thrown at her. Family Portraits success is the clearest sign yet that a large audience is willing to follow Pinks search for self discovery wherever it goes. Pinks previous hits were catchy enough that listeners could just have been tolerating the self expression because the music helped it go down easily. The only purpose of Family Portraits music is to accentuate the poignant mood and stay out of the way of Family Portraits story. Family Portrait is unadorned enough and apparently so much about Pink that much of its appeal must come from its vicarious look at Pinks youth. Family Portraits soap opera style piano brings Mary J. Bliges No More Drama to mind. But unlike that songs self dramatizing portrayal of not being dramatic, Family Portrait keeps things fairly subdued until pushing the emotional buttons by closing with a kiddie chorus. Family Portrait, with Pinks character feeling responsible for and trying to fix up her parents screwed up relationship, doesnt say anything about domestic strife that hasnt been said in dozens of TV movies but Pinks pained delivery sounds real enough that her simple portrayal of a dysfunctional family packs some emotional power, even with its cliches. Nothing about Family Portraits music gets my attention. And in conjunction with its video, with a tv commercial cute kid playing young Pink, Family Portrait is too much of an ego massage for my liking. But Pinks fans surely appreciate the chance to fill in her back story.
Pink - Get The Party Started
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: # 11 (Dec. 2001) buy it!
Get The Party Started, from Pink's second CD M!ssundaztood, is a pleasant surprise. On the hits from her first CD, Pink showed a distinctive personality in her singing and videos but the music was fairly standard, if effective, contemporary dance pop. Linda Perry, whose band 4 Non Blondes had a big hit with What's Up, produced and cowrote Get The Party Started. I wasn't a big fan of What's Up, but she's done a great job on Get The Party Started helping Pink break genre walls with a big, loose 70s funk groove. Get The Party Started is reminiscent of the B-52's joyful invitations to the dance floor. Overdubbing on the chorus even makes Pink sound a little like she's both Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson. Get The Party Started has Pink's standard narcissism. She brags about her Mercedes and gold diamond rings and loves the idea of a party where "everybody's waitin' for me to arrive" and "everybody's dancin' for me." Luckily the music, with its fun feel and big, thumping beat, has a more generous tone than the lyrics.
Pink - Just Like A Pill
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: # 20 (Sept. 2002) buy it!
When M!ssundaztood came out Pink, aided by the music press, put out the idea that the CD was a bold, rocking work that declared her freedom from record company people forcing her to make calculated, radio friendly music. Get The Party Started, M!ssundaztood's first single, still sounds great and exciting but Pink's subsequent singles have seemed more calculated for radio play than bold and rocking. Just Like A Pill, like Don't Let Me Get Me, was cowritten, arranged and produced by Dallas Austin, a veteran hitmaker for TLC, Boys II Men and Madonna. It has a slick, well made sound with layers of synths and percussion, a sturdy beat and power pop guitars. Just Like A Pill reminds me of another mature, well constructed hit: Sophie B. Hawkins' Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover. Just Like A Pill isn't exciting but it has a good, dense sound. Just Like A Pill's lyrics don't get much more specific than repeatedly stating that instead of making her feel better, her boyfriend keeps "makin' me ill."
Pink - Most Girls
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: # 26 (Nov. 2000) buy it!
Most Girls isn't quite as interesting as There You Go, Pink's feisty take on the TLC sound. Most Girls, from her Can't Take Me Home CD, is more routine, but it has an effective groove. The lyrics don't totally ring true but Pink continues to show personality. She sings that, unlike other "flygirls", she's more interested in a real love than a "g" with the "mean green" who gives his girl diamond rings.
Pink - There You Go
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: # 27 (July 2000) buy it!
Pink is the latest female artist to have a CD released by LaFace records, who also make TLC's records. There You Go, from Pink's debut CD Can't Take Me Home, starts out sounding just like No Scrubs. Pink doesn't equal TLC's cool ease but There You Go has a decent groove and she has a fairly distinctive personality, even if song isn't particularly distinctive. The words are designed to make a female audience feel good, getting the last laugh and taunting a formerly neglectful boyfriend who's now coming back begging for her.
Pink - Trouble
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: # 46 (Nov. 2003) buy it!
When she was promoting her M!ssundaztood CD, Pink made a big deal about how she was escaping the rigid hit making constraints put on her by her record company's execs. Pink took more control and her music had a little more edge, especially on her Linda Perry collaboration Get The Party Started, but she was still making radio friendly dance pop. Pink has recently released two rocking singles and has apparently found the limits of how far she can challenge her pop audience. Both Feel Good Time, from the Charlie's Angels 2 soundtrack, and Trouble, the first single from the Try This CD, quickly climbed into the pop top 20, had a very short stay then quickly fell off the charts. Feel Good Time, written by Beck and William Orbit, was cool and trippy and apparently a little too weird for the masses. Trouble's relative lack of success brings into question the commercial wisdom of Pink's decision to give up working with Perry and write most of Try This with Rancid's Tim Armstrong(who, with modern rock hits with Rancid and Transplants, has had his best year in a while). Trouble has the fun, simple feel of some of Rancid's best songs with Armstrong's rough rasp replaced by Pink's assertive and slightly husky but still poppy vocal. Trouble is energetic but a bit repetitive. Even with Pink and Armstrong's efforts to add rock trappings, Trouble is fairly insubstantial but it is fun. Trouble keeps moving with a good driving beat and a variety of sections that feature decent rock guitar, organ and an interesting looping synth effect. When Trouble really picks up steam on the last chorus, its breathless energy reminds me of Eurythmics' Would I Lie To You. On Trouble's lyric, Pink tries to perpetuate a rebellious image warning those who try "to take me for a ride" that they're facing trouble.
Pink - You Make Me Sick
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: # 38 (March 2001) buy it!
I'm tired of Pink's narcissistic, tough girl video persona but her Can't Take Me Home CD keeps delivering good dance pop songs. You Make Me Sick is similar to There You Go and Most Girls but has its own sound with a good, dancable groove from strong rhythm tracks and an efficient beat. The lyrics don't go far beyond "I want you but I'm hatin' it" and the idea that a guy who makes her sick also makes "my knees get weak" but Pink's fast, confident vocals help keep the song's momentum going.
Poe - Hey Pretty
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: # 45 (May 2001) buy it!
On her 1995 Hello CD, Poe sometimes seemed more concerned with gimmicky attention grabbing than actually making good music. Hey Pretty, from Poe's second CD Haunted, is also based on a contrivance but it's so striking that it's hard to resist. Hey Pretty is based on a passage from House Of Leaves, a book by Poe's brother Mark Danielewski. On the verses, Mark reads a tale of an encounter with a temptress in a BMW. Poe's attitude filled vocal is well used on the chorus as she plays the woman inviting the guy to take a ride into her world. The atmospheric synths and beat complete the song's cool, seductive mood.
Powerman 5000 - Nobody's Real
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: # 27 (Jan. 2000) buy it!
The followup to When Worlds Collide, from Tonight the Stars Revolt!, is another totally over the top song with a futuristic sci-fi feel. I guess their cheesy, dramatic electronic sound is entertaining but it's also kind of goofy. It's hard to take the hysterical lyrics, with their allusions to sinister forces, seriously.
Powerman 5000 - When Worlds Collide
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: # 34 (Oct. 1999) buy it!
Rob Zombie makes an appearance on the band's Tonight the Stars Revolt! CD and When Worlds Collide shares his silly theatrical, wildly overdramatic type of presentation in predicting "the end of all time." The song has a sci-fi feel asking, "is anybody out there."
The Pretenders - Human
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: # 36 (Sept. 1999) buy it!
It's good news that Chrissie Hynde isn't ready yet to rest on her hits and become an oldies act. The Pretenders are still a very good band with original drummer Martin Chambers and excellent new guitarist Adam Seymour. Human, from Viva El Amor, shows Hynde still has a gift for making a melodic song that rocks. With help from pop song doctors, Steinberg & Kelly, Hynde has made her best single in years. Hynde is one of the best, most distinctive performers in rock. You gotta love the way she sings "I'm only human on the een-side." With a sound reminiscent of Back on the Chain Gang, Hynde shows good knowledge of her image on Human. She's always come across as a little cold and unwilling to show the real her. It's touching that she's willing here to share her vulnerabilities.
Puddle Of Mudd - Away From Me
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: # 6 (Dec. 2003) buy it!
Puddle Of Mudd's hits from their Come Clean CD had all the annoying traits of the neo-grunge music that dominated rock radio and crossed over to the pop charts a couple of years. The music was cynical, taking the commercially appealing aspects of early 90s rock without adding anything original or personal. Wes Scantlin's lyrics were self pitying but his singing seemed narcissistic. It's an indication of how much I disliked Puddle Of Mudd's earlier work that, while I don't really like Away From Me, it feels like an improvement. Away From Me, the first single from Puddle Of Mudd's Life On Display CD, sounds a lot like Come Clean's Control. Scantlin's vocal isn't the nasty rant that made Control unpleasant but also helped set it apart and made it a hit for the angry rock kids. Scantlin's voice still has an mean snarl but Away From Me doesn't seem to be quite as much about Scantlin's singing as previous POM songs. Away From Me is a pretty tight, focused rocker. It has a good, big, steady, unshowy guitar sound that crunches home in a fairly catchy chorus. Away From Me is competent hard rock but Scantlin's unlikable presence limits its appeal. Away From Me is good and familiar enough to give it a run on modern rock radio but its mediocrity, the shifting of popular tastes(I hope) and the lack of charm of POM's front man will prevent it from reaching further success. On Away From Me, Scantlin plays a pathetic character, obsessively worrying that his woman is "f—ing someone else" and "always afraid" that she's leaving.
Puddle Of Mudd - Blurry
Weeks on Chart: 37 Peak: # 1 (March 2002) buy it!
On Blurry, the second single from Puddle Of Mudd's Come Clean CD, Wes Scantlin follows Staind's Aaron Lewis, a fellow Fred Durst protégé, in showing his mellow side. Blurry really strikes me as lame; another rocker showing his troubled, sensitive side. Blurry's verses have a fairly interesting atmosperic guitar effect but its melody is surprisingly similar to Duncan Sheik's adult pop hit Barely Breathing. On the chorus the band, of course, has to show they can rock so the guitar sound gets bigger and Scantlin's vocal approaches the fury he showed on Control. The young males can't get enough of songs about how awful a guy feels about being mistreated by his ex. On Blurry, Scantlin seems to want her back, singing about how meaningless things are after she left him. But he also rages at her, complaining about how she could "take it all away" and shove his pain in his face.
Puddle Of Mudd - Control
Weeks on Chart: 24 Peak: # 4 (Oct. 2001) buy it!
Like Staind, Puddle Of Mudd are a Fred Durst discovery. With their familiar rock sound, Puddle Of Mudd should also have quite a bit of success, but unlike Staind, who have Aaron Lewis' distinctive folky sincerity, nothing distinguishes Puddle Of Mudd from the long list of intense rockers some white male teens can't get enough of. Puddle Of Mudd aren't as abhorrent as the worst angry rockers like Linkin Park, Godsmack and Disturbed but Contol is very routine with big guitars and vocals that yell to a girl about "the pain you place inside" and ask for release "from my dirty cage." Puddle Of Mudd sound like Saliva, Tantric and so many other bands.
Puddle Of Mudd - Drift And Die
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: # 5 (Aug. 2002) buy it!
Puddle Of Mudd, Staind, Nickelback and other new rock bands have had huge pop hits. So I haven't done them justice by writing that their main appeal is to troubled male teens with limited musical taste. Obviously, self pitying smashes like Blurry, It's Been Awhile and How You Remind Me have broad appeal. I guess that appeal comes, for people seek meaning, from the fact that they sound they're about something. Whether what they sing about is actually interesting or well written, Wes Scantlin, Aaron Lewis and Chad Kroeger's expressions are sincere and intense. Their music has rock heft and is also melodic, catchy and easy to sing along to. I resist the new grunge label that others have given rock of the early 00s because the music is so much less interesting and powerful than the rock of the early 90s and because the music's commercial calculation should be antithetical to any reasonable definition of grunge. Still, the hitmakers of today have learned from their forefathers. Drift And Die, the third chart hit from Puddle Of Mudd's Come Clean CD, is another song that follows Kurt Cobain's model, starting with a quiet, intense verse then exploding into a rocking, screamed chorus. Scantlin starts with his acoustic guitar and serious, pained vocal. Towards the end, the band make a big, layered sound that's a good imitation of Pearl Jam's Even Flow. I don't like Scantlin's self righteous vocal as he nastily sings "go away from me" and complains how "ignorance spreads lies." Drift And Die doesn't seem quite as top of the charts ready as Barely Breathing soundalike Blurry. I can still imagine plenty of kids singing "as I drift and die" this summer.
Puddle Of Mudd - Heel Over Head
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 10 (May 2004) buy it!
As I noted in the Away From Me review, I actually like the singles from Puddle Of Mudd's Life On Display better than the ones from their far more successful Come Clean CD. Wes Scantlin's delivery is slightly less obnoxious and arrogant and the songs are fairly tuneful. Still, Puddle Of Mudd is pretty bad and, with Scantlin's anger toned down, kind of pointless. Heel Over Head, is a lot like Away From Me, Life On Display's first single. It's mid tempo rock in the style of Foo Fighters, Stone Temple Pilots and, especially, Nirvana. The playing is pretty good, with a decent loose vibe. Scantlin plays a guitar riff like the ones from Nirvana's Scentless Apprentice and Heart-Shaped Box. Heel Over Head has a fairly uninspired and anonymous melody but it's decent mainstream rock. Heel Over Head's biggest problem is Scantlin's singing and writing. Even when he's not at his most unpleasant, Scantlin is pretty unappealing. He does a pretty bland, repetitious rock star vocal until Heel Over Head's conclusion when he, predictably, starts screaming. Heel Over Head is another self pitying screed from Scantlin. He's "ripping apart at the seams". Scantlin complains that "after all the things I've done for you", "you don't save me at all" and demands "don't you walk away from me."
Puddle Of Mudd - She Hates Me
Weeks on Chart: 30 Peak: # 1 (Nov. 2002) buy it!
She Hates Me, Puddle Of Mudd's fourth chart hit, is the least annoying song so far from the Come Clean CD. At least, Wes Scantlin isn't ranting or tunelessly whining. She Hates Me brings to mind numerous jaunty songs by otherwise rocking alternative bands. The melody and guitars particularly remind me of L7's Pretend We're Dead. She Hates Me is also obviously reminiscent of Nirvana songs like Lithium which start whimsically but then reach an angrier screamed chorus. She Hates Me is fairly listenable if totally disposable. Scantlin doen't give us much insight into why things went wrong. His writing is typically uninspired, starting by rhyming grand with hand, two with unglued and grip with slip.