A Moment Like This - Kelly Clarkson
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #23 (Nov. 2002) buy it!
After Kelly Clarkson won American Idol, A Moment Like This was rushed out as a single, long before an album was ready, and it's one of the biggest selling singles in recent years. I didn't see much of American Idol. It seemed irrelevant to me and millions others. From what I can tell, there were few signs that rock or hip hop exist. Balladeers competed to show over the top intensity. It's not surprising that Clarkson won. I'd figure the person who would appeal to most average Americans would sing competently, sound very familiar and not be too challenging or unusual. Clarkson has been compared to Mariah Carey. The comparison seems accurate. She doesn't seem as skilled or distinctive as Carey but Clarkson has Carey's confidence as well as her tendency to slightly overdo things. Comfortable familiarity seems like the main goal of American Idol, Clarkson and especially the writers of A Moment Like This, which blatantly borrows pieces of Whitney Houston's ballads. A Moment Like This' resemblance to I Will Always You, The Greatest Love Of All(which it namedrops) and others practically makes it a medley of Whitney's hits. Especially in the big finish final verse, every move seems copped from I Will Always Love You though you can also credit Elton's Circle Of Life and Bette Midler's big hits. A Moment Like This, written and produced by studio pros who have worked with a bunch of lightweight British pop stars as well as Britney and O Town, has a by the book arrangement. The music starts quietly and gains in intensity, with a cushion of backup singers and strings. There will probably always be a market for uplifting, manipulative songs likely to end with the singer's arms raised triumphantly over her head. A Moment Like This is properly constructed to tug at the heartstrings but it doesn't have a transcendent vocal performance or anything unusual to distinguish it from other similar songs. A Moment Like This, with its "some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this" hook, was chosen because it seems to be commemorating Clarkson's victory. But the lyric is actually a clichi ridden love song about a perfect love.
A Praise Chorus - Jimmy Eat World
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #42 (Jan. 2003) buy it!
The fun, exuberant songs keep coming from the year and a half old Bleed American CD. A Praise Chorus, the third chart hit is faster and even less subtle than Bleed Americans last two singles, using a scratchy, stuttering guitar sound like The Middles. A Praise Chorus is just fast, straight ahead rock that doesnt let Zach Linds beat, Rick Burchs bass or Jim Adkins and Tom Lintons guitars stop for a second. Its nearly as hard to resist as Jimmy Eat Worlds other hits. A Praise Chorus is an exhortation to make a move and stop standing in the back, looking around. A Praise Chorus also pays tribute to the power of music, throwing in pieces of Madness Our House, They Might Be Giants Dont Lets Start and, most obviously Tommy James Crimson And Clover. I admit that I underestimated Bleed American when it first came out but Ive been gradually won over by Jimmy Eat Worlds intense but upbeat and positive sound.
A Sorta Fairytale - Tori Amos
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: #34 (Jan. 2003) buy it!
Tori Amos had some mainstream radio success with songs like God, Silent All These Years and Crucify from her early solo CDs Under The Pink and Little Earthquakes. Recently, Amos' career has taken a slightly more obscure path, concluding with 2001's Strange Little Girls, her collection of songs originally done by guys. A Sorta Fairytale, supported by a bizarre video with an oddly poignant conclusion, is Amos' first hit in the four years we've been doing the All-Reviews top 50. A Sorta Fairytale, from Amos' Scarlet's Walk CD, is a nice reminder of Amos' gift for mixing melody, classicism and eccentricity. A Sorta Fairytale shows Amos' ability to subtly grab our attention. A Sorta Fairytale starts quietly with Amos' delicate piano playing and an effective, fairly inobtrusive drum machine beat. It builds a little on the chorus which has David Torn's good, simple guitar riff. A Sorta Fairytale also varies its subdued sound with a slightly brighter bridge. Amos sings slowly. Her vocal is restrained but her thoughtful, interesting personality still shines through. A Sorta Fairytale's sound matches its lyrics. Amos sadly relates how an apparent "life long thing" relationship was lost.
A Thousand Miles - Vanessa Carlton
Weeks on Chart: 22 Peak: #18 (May 2002) buy it!
A Thousand Miles is a slightly unwieldy but charming combination of breezy pop and more arty pretentions. 21 year old Vanessa Carlton has a likably modest, youthful voice that's similar to Michelle Branch's. Like Branch's hits, A Thousand Miles, from the Be Not Nobody CD, has a pleasant melody and sunny, optimistic sound that appeals to teenage girls too cool or too old for Britney. But A Thousand Miles also gives its pop ambitious accompaniment. There's a little too much going on but the big, slightly over the top music is appropriate for an expression of big, innocent emotions. Carlton plays smooth, flowery runs that show that Alicia Keys isn't the only young singer with keyboard skills. A Thousand Miles also has an orchestral arrangement with strings busily playing a riff that oddly resembles an old western tv show theme. It also has a bridge where Carlton and a guitar simulate a piece of Natalie Imbruglia's Torn. Carlton sings about missing a departed object of affection and wondering if he misses her.
A Women's Worth - Alicia Keys
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #29 (Feb. 2002) buy it!
Inevitably, the novelty of Fallin's clean, retro sound faded after dozens of listens. And I've seen enough of Alicia Keys' blissfully confident face. Still, Keys' singles are oases of thoughtful, real sounding music in the fake, overproduced world of top 40 radio. A Women's Worth, like Fallin', has a smart sound that, with touches of atmospheric keyboards, percussion and psychedelic guitar, obviously alludes to classic mellow late 60s and early 70s soul but also shows Keys' smart, cool personality. Keys has a good voice but she again cleverly fills out a minimal sound with good backing vocals. Keys' lyrics advise men that the best way to win her and women in general is to treat them with respect. They naturally fit the song's easy but self assured sound.
Absolutely(Story of a Girl) - Nine Days
Weeks on Chart: 24 Peak: #4 (June 2000) buy it!
Absolutely, the first single from the Madding Crowd CD, is frothily enjoyable if somewhat lightweight. Like recent pop hits All Star and the Friends theme, Absolutely bursts with irresistable energy and sounds like a summertime hit. Absolutely isn't really the story of a girl. The details are fairly limited in the lyrics about a sad woman who "cried a river and drowned the whole world." But the chorus about absolutely loving her when she smiles is simple and nice. The fast guitar riffs are steady and energizing, with split second breaks creating great tension.
Accidentally In Love - Counting Crows
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #21 (July 2004) buy it!
Hard Candy, Counting Crows' last studio record, didn't yield any big hits. Since that record's release the band has had a bit of a mainstream resurgence with three poppy songs: their cover of Big Yellow Taxi on the Two Weeks Notice soundtrack; She Don't Want Nobody Near from the band's best of CD and now Accidentally In Love, the band's biggest hit since the 90's. Accidentally In Love landed a sought after slot on the soundtrack to Shrek 2, one of 2004's biggest movies. Accidentally In Love isn't as sure a thing to appeal to the 2 to 12 crowd as Shrek 1's featured songs: Smash Mouth's All Star and I'm a Believer cover. Still, Accidentally In Love's sunny simplicity is well suited to open a cheerful kids movie. Accidentally In Love isn't too complicated for preteens to digest and it's easy to bop to. Counting Crows have always done upbeat mid tempo rockers. Accidentally In Love resembles Rain King, Einstein On The Beach and Daylight Fading. Accidentally In Love has a tight, likable central guitar riff of the sort that modestly improved a number of Counting Crows rockers. Counting Crows' lighter songs are generally their best because of their buoyant mood and because they discourage Adam Duritz from his ponderous, self important mode. Duritz can be a skilled and, sometimes, even an appealing singer. On Accidentally In Love, Duritz is smooth and relaxed. Accidentally In Love is pretty superficial but it's warm and charmingly perky. With bright, full backing vocals, sturdy drumming and a string of shiny guitar sounds, Accidentally In Love's high spirits build and keep coming. Accidentally In Love is steadily joyful and beguiling. Accidentally In Love has a goofy, giddy lyric. Duritz initially sings "I don't know nothin' 'bout love" and refers to love as a problem that needs a cure. Soon, he decides "there's no escaping your love" and he surrenders, singing about sunlight, blue skies and strawberry ice cream.
Adam's Song - Blink 182
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: #25 (June 2000) buy it!
Just when you thought Blink 182 were only dopey, if fun, rockers, the poignant third single from Enema of the State shows they've got some smarts. Tom DeLonge plays an innocent young man looking back at his life after his impulsive suicide. Like all the band's music, Adam's Song still rocks. But it has a more restrained and fully produced sound. As usual, the closest comparison is Green Day, who similarly broadened their sound with Time Of Your Life but Adam's Song has its own simple, distinctive sound.
Addicted - Simple Plan
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #27 (July 2003) buy it!
Addicted, the second hit from the Montreal band's No Helmets, No Pads ... Just Balls CD, is one of the more annoying of the recent spate of poppy punk influenced hits. It's also one of the more successful one, assumedly because it's simple enough that preteens can easily get it. Addicted's big power chords and leisurely pace make it easy to sway to. Simple Plan's idea of a joke("I'm a dick, I'm addicted to you") probably goes over big with the junior high set. Pierre Bouvier sings with a bratty, childlike voice. Bouvier whines with youthful self pity "do you think I deserve this?" Addicted is about not being able to get over a girl who left even though he tried to make her happy. Addicted is harmless and I suppose it's only meant to be stupid fun but it's mostly just stupid.
Adrenaline - Gavin Rossdale
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: #46 (Sept. 2002) buy it!
His band is apparently still together but during a break between records, Bush leader Gavin Rossdale recorded Adrenaline, which is on the XXX soundtrack. Not surprisingly, the world is a lot more interested in Rossdale marrying No Doubt's Gwen Stefani than in his new single. In 1994, Bush released its first CD. Sixteen Stone was justifiably criticized as unoriginal and derivative of better music by people like Nirvana but it did have a couple edgy, exciting singles, Machinehead and Everything Zen. Since then Rossdale has kept making edgy music but the excitement is long gone. While Adrenaline is a solo project, nothing differentiates it from Rossdale's Bush music. He again does a tight, agitated vocal over dense music that, with guitars and electronics, creates a tense atmosphere. But Adrenaline is painfully familiar and like much of Bush's music, Adrenaline never reaches the greater depth or emotional payoff that the initial tension promises and the writing isn't interesting or detailed enough to go beyond the song's initial surface appeal. I suppose Adrenaline is appropriate for a Vin Diesel movie, which like Bush's music, is more about atmosphere and looking good than actually creating something new or imaginative. Rossdale's lyric includes all kinds of macho posturing about "going to extremes", getting "closer to the thrill" and how "you don't even feel the pain." Brags about not being "the kind to lay down and die" are pretty meaningless without any information about what's getting the adrenaline flowing.
Aerials - System Of A Down
Weeks on Chart: 28 Peak: #4 (Sept. 2002) buy it!
I loved the frantic energy and tempo changes of Toxicity's first two chart hits: Chop Suey and the title track. Those eccentricities are missing from Aerials. With Daron Malakian's guitar alternating between forbidding picking on the verses and crunching chords on the chorus, Aerials has the more standard form of a song by Korn and Tool and so many other atmospheric rock bands. Still, Serj Tankian's intense, troubled croon unmistakably shows Aerials is a SOAD song. The guitars, Tankian's voice and eastern percussion effectively create a sinister tone. Tankian's typical bleak, enigmatic imagery depicts a surreal world of confused, cowardly and powerless people. He sings that we're "swimming through the void" and that we "always want to play" but "never want to lose" and suggests "when you lose small mind, you free your life." Aerials isn't my favorite System Of A Down but it is, like most of their music, more interesting than almost anything else out there.
After The Rain Has Fallen - Sting
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: #41 (Oct. 2000) buy it!
After his 1996 Mercury Falling CD tanked, there was reason to believe that Sting's pop gifts had faded and been replaced by a boring maturity. Then the atmospheric, textured Desert Rose, from his Brand New Day CD, gave him his first hit in seven years. After The Rain Has Fallen gives further proof that his skills are intact. After The Rain Has Fallen has a good, state of the art dance beat. The very catchy chorus is reminiscent of his If I Ever Lose My Faith In You. The story of a princess and a palace thief is about love being more important than property.
Again - Lenny Kravitz
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.
Ain't It Funny - Jennifer Lopez
Weeks on Chart: 21 Peak: #13 (March 2002) buy it!
Ain't It Funny, the fourth single from the J. Lo CD, is pleasant, innocuous dance pop. With a touch of Latin flavor, Ain't It Funny is similar to Madonna's La Isla Bonita but its rigid beat and repetitive shape mean it's less interesting. Lopez' voice is slightly less hidden in electronics than usual. Lopez' vocal on Ain't It Funny sounds like her speaking voice. It's thin and a little whiny but at least it sounds fairly real, at least until the studio vocal pros take over for the slick, familiar chorus. Ain't It Funny is about trying to overcome differences and memories of romantic failure to make a relationship with a seemingly perfect guy work. Like I'm Real, Ain't It Funny has been rereleased in a "remix" featuring Ja Rule which is nearly a totally different song. With a minimal beat and sly, relaxed synths, the new version of Ain't It Funny, available on the new J To Tha L-O remix CD, is significantly better and more interesting than the generic dance pop of the original though it is hampered by a similarity to the I'm Real remix. Lopez is comfortable with a cool, restrained vocal which doesn't show her limitations as much as when she sings all out. Her confident singing matches the new lyrics. Unlike the original where she anxiously hopes that things can work out with her guy, the remix finds her taunting a guy who played around when they were together with the fact that he blew his chance. Lopez has found a dynamite formula: releasing a record with perky, heavily produced dance pop versions of her songs that appeal to mainstream pop stations then releasing sleek, minimal versions that establish her cred with urban R&B audiences. The best part is she gets a lot of people to buy both records.
Air Force Ones - Nelly
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: #30 (Jan. 2003) buy it!
Air Force Ones is the the third hit from the Nellyville CD. Taking four minutes to pay tribute to Nellys sneakers and endlessly repeating a not great record scratching riff, Nelly is proudly unambitious on Air Force Ones. Like much of Nellys music, Air Force Ones succeeds by staying relaxed and creating an irresistable groove. Nelly lets his buddies do most of the rapping. Most of them arent particularly impressive but Air Force Ones effectively keeps the raps coming one after another. As is often the case with Nellys music, what hes saying is less enjoyable than how he says it. Nelly and his posse test the patience of any listener whos not a Nike aficionado by detailing shoe sizes and favorite colors and making silly brags about only wearing a pair once then discarding it. I do like the cool way they pronounce pair as "par".
Alive Again - Trey Anastasio
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: #46 (July 2002) buy it!
While Phish is on hiatus, frontman Trey Anastasio has worked on a number of projects. Alive Again is from Anastasio's self titled debut solo record. While Phish has been around for more than a decade and have a huge following, they still seem to work in Grateful Dead's shadow. Alive Again isn't Anastasio's most Dead-like work but it does stay within the format of starting with a fairly simple song then letting bandmembers riff around. Still, Anastasio has made a move away from The Dead and Phish with the jazzy flavor of his solo work. Alive Again is fairly slight but it has a very good, cool mood and strong playing. Alive Again maintains a very appealing, relaxed sound with steady, atmospheric percussion, a big horn sound and Anastasio's likably unassuming singing and guitar playing. On Alive Again, Anastasio asks for a "review" and some signs of action from someone waiting on the fence, hoping to feel alive again.
Alive - Beastie Boys
Weeks on Chart: 26 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.
All Downhill From Here - New Found Glory
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #36 (June 2004) buy it!
There haven't been many bratty punky pop hits recently so I guess it's time. Not much distinguishes All Downhill From Here, on New Found Glory's Catalyst CD, from the band's 2002 hit My Friends Over You or songs by Simple Plan and other similar acts except that New Found Glory are a little older and have been around a little longer than some of the other successful, perky hardcore fans. All Downhill From Here isn't terrible. Its sound keeps coming and stays upbeat. The guitars are tight and incisive. Neil Avron, who's produced Yellowcard, SR-71, Everclear and New Found Glory's previous records, created a full sound. All Downhill From Here is just very familiar. Nothing separates it from the pack. Jordan Pundik's vocal is good natured but annoying. Pundik isn't a very good singer. He's simultaneously nasal and whiny. On All Downhill From Here, Pundik sings about an on and off relationship that's going bad again. His girlfriend's actions contradict her claim that she still wants him around. She's going through the motions and "pulling me down."
All Falls Down - Kanye West featuring Syleena Johnson
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: #47 (June 2004) buy it!
In the last year, with his The College Dropout CD and production of other artists, Kanye West has established himself as one of the most important and appealing figures in pop music. All Falls Down is College Dropout's third hit. Through The Wire and Slow Jamz very effectively used classic r&b samples. All Falls Down is a slight variation on that technique. It gets its hook from Mystery Of Iniquity, a song from Lauryn Hill's Unplugged CD. Instead of sampling Hill's vocal, West has Syleena Johnson singing a piece of Hill's lyric. The liberally used sample has a very pleasing sound. Having a good, steady beat and a strong hook as an anchor frees West to do a relaxed, comfortable rap. West doesn't seem like the most skilled rapper. But All Falls Down, like Through The Wire, shows West to be a natural, likable presence. The first verse is about a young woman who stays in college though "she has no idea what she's doing" there. The character ends up with a daughter, making money doing people's hair, a "single black female addicted to retail." The other two verses are searching meditations on a "self conscious" African American culture obsessed with possession. He depicts a foolish quest for showy, expensive belongings but largely attribrutes it to feeling hated and stereotyped by a racist white society and the desire to want to own a piece of our country.
All For You - Janet Jackson
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: #11 (May 2001) buy it!
With the often used riff from Chic's Good Times as its base, the title track from Janet Jackson's All For You CD has the feel of light, easy early 80's disco like Diana Ross' Upside Down. It has a taste of Jackson's Escapade and even Kool & The Gang's Celebration. I preferred Jackson's image before she became an ever smiling good girl and sometimes her singing on All For You is too sickly sweet. Mostly, she has a fluidity similar to her brother's. The lyrics encouraging a guy to "be yourself", "come on talk to me" and "tell me I'm the only one", promising "I'll let you sit right next to me" seem unlikely but, with the exception of silly, harder beats towards the end, All For You goes down pretty easily.
All I Have - Jennifer Lopez and LL Cool J
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: #13 (Feb. 2003) buy it!
Jennifer Lopez impressive string of hits continues with the second single from her This Is Me Then. Lopez apparently isnt a great actress but she has a decent career in solidly constructed, unmemorable films built around her appealing presence. Similarly, Lopez is an unremarkable singer and her songs charm rarely outlive their chart life. But her musical star vehicles are even more impressive than her movies. All I Have is fairly unambitious but its very likable and comfortable. All I Haves tale of a woman bouncin^ from a relationship with a charming, untrustworthy guy isnt new but its singers star quality gives it a larger than life, cinematic feel. LL Cool J is particularly convincing playing charming, cocky and irresponsible, making Lopez decision whether to hold onto her pride seem real. Lopez essentially plays straight man to Cool Js scene stealing Lothario but her singing is more interesting than usual. She gets added personality by copying the vocal hiccup from Deborah Laws Very Special, the song that supplies All I Haves catchy sample. The sample, the singers chemistry, and an easy beat and chiming effects create a smooth easy to take sound.
All In The Suit That You Wear - Stone Temple Pilots
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #10 (Dec. 2003) buy it!
Apparently because of Scott Weiland's continuing legal and substance abuse problems(he recently had a new arrest for driving under the influence), Stone Temple Pilots have split up. All The Suit That You Wear, a previously unreleased track, is included on Thank You, the band's greatest hits record. Few are likely to be very upset about STP's demise. Their days of making records that were accused of ripping off Pearl Jam and Nirvana but went multi platinum are long gone. No one seems to have been too excited about STP, in a positive or negative way, in a while. STP's later music was often pretty good and they showed some indications of developing a distinctive style but it was rarely interesting or commercial enough to show much of a purpose. All In The Suit That You Wear is a jagged rocker that reminds me of No. 4's Down and other STP songs. Weiland's singing has often veered from annoying to impressive. On All In The Suit That You Wear's verse, his voice has the same obnoxious snarl he used early in STP's career on Sex Type Thing. On the chorus, Weiland uses a more straight forward and less annoying rock singer voice. Dean DeLeo's crunching guitar and Eric Kretz' pounding drums create a big, tough sound. All In The Suit That You Wear has some edge and decent rock power but, like the band late in its career, it doesn't have much of a point or an appeal. I can't imagine that many will miss STP's lyrics. All In The Suit That You Wear is a typically cryptic, pointless Weiland composition. He asks an unspecified you who was "lost out there in the grip" and "trying to strangle us" to "set us free." I still don't know what is in the suit that you wear when you're "looking" or "hiding" but I concede that the title has an interesting rhythm when Weiland sings it.
All My Friends - Counting Crows
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: #48 (Oct. 2000) buy it!
All My Friends, the third chart hit from This Desert Life is a melodic, contemplative ballad like Raining In Baltimore or Long December, though without the latter's emotional heft. Pedal steel guitar, piano and drums, while restrained, keep the song moving but All My Friends is more about strings and Adam Duritz' serious vocals. The sound is lush and adult but also a little boring. You'd figure Counting Crows hired Cracker's David Lowery to produce This Desert Life so they could roughen up their sound but their latest CD is tasteful but mostly lacking in edge. All My Friends is more self pity from Adam Duritz. All his friends and lovers "leave me behind." He takes some of the blame but Duritz' indecision isn't that interesting, especially when it's already been the topic of so many of his songs.
All My Life - Foo Fighters
Weeks on Chart: 30 Peak: #5 (Jan. 2003) buy it!
All My Life is from the One By One CD. It's long been clear that Dave Grohl won't approach the brilliance and significance with Foo Fighters former bandmate Kurt Cobain did with Nirvana. But Grohl has already achieved a longevity that Cobain sadly could never have and amassed a solid body of work. Foo Fighters have continued to make decent music and retain a fan base, even as the rock audience's taste has changed. Grohl's music has remained fairly uncomplicated and ungimmicky and he still has a good knack for a hook. While not obviously following trends, Grohl has also kept an eye on the competititon, most recently playing drums for good hard rockers Queens Of The Stone Age. Like a lot of Foo Fighters music, All My Life is not great but good. While it doesn't have their personality, All My Life is very reminiscent of the Foos' best intense rockers like This Is A Call, Monkey Wrench and Everlong. It's fast, fun and lean. Grohl keeps the crunching guitar coming. Grohl isn't the best singer but he's aware of his limitations and, as usual, it's a hoot when he whips himself into such a frenzy that he can't help but scream. On All My Life sings and rants about how he's always been "searching for something", presumably love, but the "something never comes." Haunted by a ghost of someone from the past, Grohl simultaneously rues and exalts in the fact that with women it's "done, done then one to the next one."
All Or Nothing - O-Town
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.
All Star - Smash Mouth
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #4 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
Smash Mouth hits pop paydirt for the second time with the first single from Astro Lounge. It's perhaps less danceable than Walking on the Sun but also less gimmicky and just as infectious. The lyrics about feeling good about yourself like "you'll never shine if you don't glow" are fairly stupid but Steve Harwell delivers them unpretentiously and with undeniable energy. The music has catchy pop charm.
All the Small Things - Blink 182
Weeks on Chart: 22 Peak: #7 (Feb. 2000) buy it!
The video to All the Small Things mocks Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees and other teen pop idols but Blink 182 are kind of a punky pop version of those groups. Their songs are hardly complicated, lyrically or musically, their upbeat lyrics are targeted towards teens(though boys, instead of girls) and they have fairly unthreatening symbols of cool(tattooes instead of weird facial hair). All the Small Things is particularly basic, with it's na-na-na chorus and very simple words about all the things she does for him. But Blink 182's fast version of pop is more fun, energetic and unpretentious. All the Small Things is exuberant, mindlessly perky guitar rock.
All The Things She Said - T.A.T.U.
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #25 (Feb. 2003) buy it!
A lot of contemporary European music is garbage. People on the continent seem to love music that takes 70s disco and makes it even more glossy and superficial. However, All The Things She Said reminds me of how, after listening to American pop carefully produced to sound familiar, European music, with its love of big sounds, over the top dramatics and odd subjects, can be refreshing. All The Things She Said, from T.A.T.Us 200 Km/h In The Wrong Lane CD, with its big beat and power chords, cheesy synths and anguished vocals, is currently one of my favorite pop songs. The frantic emoting of Julia Volkova and Lena Katina, T.A.T.U.s young Russian singers(who are probably not real life lovers), effectively matches All The Things She Saids story of tortured lesbian attraction. All The Things She Said is packed with intense, passionate soap imagery of passion thats opened my eyes but made her feel totally lost and like shes lost my mind and crossed the line. It would be inaccurate to imply that All The Things She Said travelled, without alteration, from Russian dance clubs to American airwaves. All The Things She Said was polished by producer Trevor Horn who in his work with, among others, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, The Buggles and Yes, practically defined a flashy, dramatic early 80s dance rock sound. Either Horn is trapped in his production style of 20 years ago or he realized it would work well on All The Things She Said. Regardless, his retro sound helped create a very fun final product.
All You Wanted - Michelle Branch
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: #18 (May 2002) buy it!
I assume that a large number of Michelle Branch's fans are girls in their early teens who have outgrown or are too cool for Britney or Christina. Branch's songs have the feel of schoolgirl poetry and are probably heavily influenced by Alanis and Jewel's youthful, searching and intense work. All You Wanted doesn't have the rocking energy of Everywhere, the first hit from Branch's Spirit Room CD, but it has a similar sincere charm. Branch isn't a great singer but her voice has an open, innocent appeal. All You Wanted's music, with a steady, perky beat and good sprinklings of rock guitar is simple, modest and likable. All You Wanted is a sweet story of volunteering to "save" someone who seemed to have everything together but needs "someone to show you the way."
Alone - Susan Tedeschi
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #47 (Jan. 2003) buy it!
Alone is on the Boston bred singer/guitarists second record: Wait For Me. On Alone, Susan Tedeschi sounds a lot like Bonnie Raitt. I dont know if Tedeschi has Raitts vocal talent but she has her relaxed confidence. Like Raitt, Tedeschi has a love of the blues that helps her seem comfortable rather than showy in trying to emulate the style of her heroes. Alone is quite a bit like Raitts 2002 single I Cant Help You Now. Unlike in that song, where Raitt told a guy who dumped her then asked for a second chance that he was too late, Tedeschi admits her loneliness, takes the blame for their problems and asks him to come back. The lyrics make Tedeschi seem like a doormat but her self assured vocal keeps her sounding strong. Alone was written by Tommy Sims, who cowrote Eric Claptons Change The World. Alone resembles Change The World. Alone isnt particularly original and theres a sense that, with its smooth sound, tasteful horns and minimal keyboards, its designed to be an easy listening hit like Change The World. But while Alone isnt exciting, Tedeschis singing and unshowy guitar playing keep things cool and likable.
Always On Time - Ja Rule
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: #22 (March 2002) buy it!
Jeff Atkins is ubiquitous these days. While Livin' It Up was still on the chart, Always On Time, the third chart hit from his Pain Is Love, crossed over from the R&B charts to the pop charts. Like Livin' It Up, Always On Time is lightweight and enjoyable. Ja Rule's rough vocal is again matched with a much more melodic voice. The music is easy and enjoyable with a relaxed beat, a good guitar riff and sweet vocals from Ashanti and background singers. Always On Time is pretty stupid, bragging about Ja Rule's talent as a lover("I got two hoes" "and I keep 'em drugged up off that ecstasy") while he apologizes for behavior that led to restraining orders and asks for another chance. Ja Rule's rapping skills are little more than competent but he and producer Irv Gotti have hit upon a successful formula. His voice adds edge but doesn't overpower his smooth, tuneful music.
Always - Saliva
Weeks on Chart: 25 Peak: #3 (Feb. 2003) buy it!
Singing on the terrible but very popular Hero raised Saliva lead singer Josey Scott's profile. Hopefully, the mediocrity of the title track off Saliva's Back Into Your Sytem CD will return Scott to semi-obscurity. Always is a compendium of modern rock cliches. It's another song based on the Nirvana model from songs like Heart Shaped Box. A subdued verse with quiet guitar picking alternates with a chorus where power chords slam while the singer rants. Always also has a touch of the dark atmosphere and over the top paranoia of the Korn/Tool school though a better comparison may be Def Leppard's empty art metal. Always' "I love you, I hate you" lyric has the misogyny and self pity common in today's rock. I'm sorry Scott went through a tough time but I wish he wouldn't sing about it. Scott doesn't have a great voice and Always' "I'm out the door" but I "can't live without you" tale emphasizes his whininess. On Your Disease from Saliva's Every Six Seconds CD, Scott had cartoonish fun, mixing rapping with broad crooning. Always, like Hero, plays things painfully straight. Towards the end, Always shifts from stupid and annoying to objectionable as Scott introduces the image of a pistol "shakin' in my hand" threatening that he sees "blood all over your hands."
AM Radio - Everclear
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #24 (Oct. 2000) buy it!
Art Alexakis has sung about growing in a black neighborhod but his music has always been very white. For his most danceable single so far, rather than looking to contemporary hip hop, Alexakis borrows from Jean Knight's Mr. Big Stuff, a song from the early 70's when white and black music was more frequently heard on the same station. The lyrics claim that the time before VCRs, DVD and the internet was better. Alexakis' nostalgia is kind of sweet but it's also consistent with Everclear's general unwillingness to significantly alter their sound. That's not such a bad thing since their formula is likable. The band creates a good groove, with Greg Eklund's good drumming and catchy oscillating keyboards on the chorus. Still, on the Learning How To Smile CD, everything sounds like an Everclear song and that can be too much, especially on their cover of Brown Eyed Girl.
Amazed - Lonestar
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.
Amber - 311
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: #10 (Sept. 2002) buy it!
After spending seven weeks on the top 50 in the spring Amber, the third single from 311's From Chaos CD, is back on the chart. It makes sense that Amber, with its very easy, lazy, summery feel, would do well in the hottest part of the year. 311's music is often pretty mellow. I'll Be Here Awhile, the CD's second single was laid back, genial and inconsequential. 311 are even more relaxed than usual on Amber but the mellow mood works. Amber has a likable hippie vibe that's consistent with the goofy "amber is the color of your energy" hook. 311's typical ska flavoring goes down especially easily thanks to good, crisp drumming and loose, jazzy guitar lines including one that has a rubbery preamped bounce. Nick Hexum's voice can be annoyingly innocuous but on Amber the way it floats effortlessly is just right. Amber is a tribute to a distant friend whose voice still "rings like a bell" who glides "through my head blind to fear."
American Bad Ass - Kid Rock
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #45 (June 2000) buy it!
Kid Rock's new CD is called The History of Rock, assumedly an allusion to his belief, repeatedly voiced in American Bad Ass that he has brilliantly synthesized different types of music into his style. American Bad Ass does nicely mix hard rock guitar and drums with Kid Rock's yelled rap. However, Kid Rock's rapping is the weak link. Boasting is the norm in the genre but Kid Rock's bragging, saying he's the chosen one and comparing himself to Johnny Cash, Grandmaster Flash and The Clash hardly seems justified. He seems insecure, needing to tell us his last record sold seven million and constantly referring to his previous work, claiming "they call me cowboy." There are moments of decent humor like when he flaunts his 30 pack of Stroh's but Kid Rock's attempts to seem tough are generally lame. It seems more accurate when he says he "rocks with Liberace flash."
American Girls - Counting Crows
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: #36 (July 2002) buy it!
American Girls is from Counting Crows' fourth studio record Hard Candy. Sheryl Crow sings harmonies on American Girls. Adam Duritz doesn't sing about what SPF he's using but American Girls, like Soak Up The Sun's, intentionally loosens things up and achieves a fun, summery feel. American Girls resembles previous good midtempo Crows songs like Rain King and Have You Seen Me Lately, with a little less rock heft than those songs. American Girls maintains its energy and buoyancy thanks largely to a good, driving beat and a nicely uncoiled guitar riff. Duritz can't help but show a little narcissism but American Girls avoids the heaviness of a lot of Counting Crows' music. Not surprisingly, the song's frothy tribute to how American Girls make "me feel so incredible" is largely ironic. American Girls bemoans the bad luck of meeting an emotionally fragile woman who leaves, taking "almost every thing from me." The lyric's unhappy ending doesn't negate the music's enjoyable, if slight, appeal.
American Pie - Madonna
Weeks on Chart: 1 Peak: #49 (March 2000) buy it!
The easy listening phase of Madonna's career continues. Beautiful Stranger, her single from the Austin Powers movie, was pretty mellow but it had a good retro mood. American Pie was presumably thrown together quickly for the Next Best Thing soundtrack. While I've never found it particularly profound, American Pie has always been catchy. This version has no bite. The vague singing and innocuous keyboards are so relaxed that it seems like everyone in the studio was anesthetized. Madonna's speaking voice has recently taken on an English accent and, similarly, her singing has lost her distinctive personality. I'd even rather hear Weird Al Yankovic's Phantom Menace recitation which used American Pie as its base.
American Woman - Lenny Kravitz
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.
Amsterdam - Guster
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: #32 (Aug. 2003) buy it!
Guster is a Boston band that developed a large following playing lots of gigs with two acoustic guitars and bongos. The guys have since gone electric but they've maintained a simple upbeat sound. Amsterdam, from the Keep It Together CD, is a strong candidate for feel good song of the summer. It's lightweight but very charming. On Amsterdam, Guster remind me of the jangly, perky guitar bands that sprung up in the mid 80s after REM had their initial success. It rides forward easily with a variety of vigorous but smooth strums, a bit of jangling and a crisp, clicking beat. Amsterdam has a pleasant, shiny sound. Ryan Miller's voice isn't amazing but it is warm and good natured. Amsterdam lacks edge and it's kind of saccharine. It does have a likable, clean cut sound with a nice, positive energy. While Amsterdam has a jaunty sound its lyric, written by drummer Brian Rosenworcel, is quite nasty. Amsterdam's giddiness apparently reflects the joy of a spurned lover at the prospect of finding revenge in a nasty letter.
Ana's Song(Open Fire) - Silverchair
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: #21 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
The kids of Silverchair broke through a few years ago as teenagers from Australia, slavishly imitating Pearl Jam and Nirvana. Silverchair's debt to their predecessors is still clear but Ana's Song shows some sign of their establishing their own identity. Ana's Song, an intense ballad from Silverchair's Neon Ballroom cd, sounds like a hit. It builds in rock intensity to an extremely alluring chorus. The vocals express a kind of youthful simplicity but are compelling in a Vedder-esqe way.
Angel's Eye - Aerosmith
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #41 (Dec. 2000) buy it!
The lyrics about there being no place to hide from an angel's eye are ridiculous except as a tie in to the Charlie's Angels movie. At least Angel's Eye isn't as bloated and obviously commercial as I Don't Want To Miss A Thing, Aeromith's contribution to the Armageddon soundtrack, which was written by successful hack Diane Warren. Angel's Eye's music is fast and loud, with good energy. Joe Perry has a decent guitar riff. Steven Tyler is his usual over the top self, yelling the gibberish about feeding your fantasy, a "halo on fire" and "running in place like a rat in a race."
Angel's Son - Strait Up featuring Lajon
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #20 (Jan. 2001) buy it!
Lynn Strait, Snot's lead singer, died in a car accident two years ago. Angel's Song is from Strait Up, a CD with the surviving members of the band and various modern rock singers. Lajon Witherspoon is Sevendust's singer. He reminds me of Jeffrey Gaines and Living Colour's Corey Glover, two other African-American rock singers, but Lajon might be better than either of them. Unfortunately, his singing with Sevendust is often overdramatic and buried under harsh guitars. On Angel's Son, even with less cluttered acoustic backing, Lajon is too emotive but his tribute to Strait is heartfelt and moving. He sings that he "can't go on without you rearranging" and regrets that he never said goodbye when he "had so much left to say."
Angels Would Fall - Melissa Etheridge
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: #10 (Oct. 1999) buy it!
Angels Would Fall, from Etheridge's new CD Breakdown, is typical Etheridge; it's earnest and heartfelt without actually being exciting. The music is more pop than rock. She seems to be slowing down and getting a little slicker and more melodramatic as she ages. The lyrics are the real attraction here. Especially given Etheridge's role as a lesbian role model, the words about worshipping a friend without daring to let her know are bound to get attention. The religious imagery is a little heavy handed and the concept of someone whose sweetness is so great that angels would be lured to Earth is not as amazing as Etheridge seems to think.
Angel - Amanda Perez
Weeks on Chart: 31 Peak: #16 (April 2003) buy it!
Amanda Perez is a young Mexican American woman from Fort Wayne, Indiana. On Angel, the title track from Perez' breakthrough CD, Perez brings to mind Alicia Keys. Both are confident, idiosyncratic(Perez is pierced in many places) and largely in control of their music. Perez wrote the songs on Angel, coproduced the record and played most of the instruments. It's Perez playing Angel's piano. I'm not a huge fan of Angel. It's a pretty basic ballad. But I do admire its arrangement. With unshowy piano chords, a simple, minimal beat and well placed backing vocals, Angel has a good, uncluttered sound. The only flourish is a bit of vocal distortion which adds some texture. In this age where American Idol rewards intense, overemotive balladeers, it's good to hear Perez' controlled vocal. Angel was apparently inspired by the death of Perez' cousin. Angel is about grieving a loss. Perez asks God to send her an angel "to heal my broken heart from being in love." Perez sings that, even if he sometimes "took my love for granted", losing someone special has made her feel like she can't love anymore since "my heart can't take no more lies and my eyes are all out of cries."
Anthem Of Our Dying Day - Story Of The Year
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: #49 (July 2004) buy it!
Nearly a year after its release, Story Of The Year's Page Avenue CD is still getting airplay. Until The Day I Die made the top 50 last winter. The St. Louis band is back with Anthem Of Our Dying Day. Until The Day I Die was very typical, familiar emo but I kind of liked it. There was no denying that the passion of the band and, especially, singer Dan Marsala translated into invigorating energy. Story Of The Year has passion on Anthem Of Our Dying Day but I don't feel that energy. Marsala is very earnest but Anthem is very by the book. It plods forward with Marsala's sincere singing and unremarkable power chords and guitar effects. I like Anthem's brief, quiet acoustic bridge but soon it's back to more heartfelt yelling and atmospheric guitar. Marsala eventually does the cliched agitated rant the genre seems to require, even if it's not approriate to the song. With Marsala "pouring my heart onto these rooftops" and stars crying "the blackest tears", Anthem Of Our Dying Day has the kind of dramatic lyric the band is fond of. Marsala exults in the idea that "the tide would swallow every inch of this city." I like the intensity and genuine feeling Marsala and Story Of The Year bring to their music. I just wish they could use those things in a more interesting, original way.
The Anthem - Good Charlotte
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: #6 (April 2003) buy it!
The second hit from the Young and the Hopeless CD solidifies Good Charlotte's position as the most successful of the current large group of bands with punk attitude and a pop sound. Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous was really stupid but Good Charlotte are generally among the most appealing members of their peer group. Good Charlotte's leaders, twin brothers Benji and Joel Madden, have a self deprecating charm and don't seem as dopey as some of the competition. The Anthem is smart enough to have it both ways, employing perky, simple music and mocking its simplicity. Similarly, The Anthem admits the banality of its message. Still, the lyrics about bring bored and misunderstood in high school and wanting to be different undoubtedly connect with the kids. Most importantly, with its fast pace and upbeat feel, has a fun sound. Benji's guitar lines are very familiar but good. The power chords flow around the song, supplying a bit of variation as their speed and intensity rise and fall. Joel's yelling is unpretentious and not too obnoxious. The Anthem is fairly dopey but its self effacing style and high energy lift it above similar songs.
Anything - Third Eye Blind
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #26 (Dec. 1999) buy it!
Their smash hit Semi Charmed Life was an ingenious mix of rap, dance and rock music. It was somewhat contrived but had an irresistable momentum. Anything, from the band's new Blue CD, is not as distinctive or original. It is a fast punkish rock that never stops after a deceptively slow start. Anything is hardly original post punk and it seems unlikely to be a big hit but it does have a good straight ahead energy.
Are You Gonna Be My Girl - Jet
Weeks on Chart: 35 Peak: #1 (March 2004) buy it!
Jet follow The Vines as a band from Australia making hard hitting rock and roll. Jet differ from The Vines in seeming less ambitious, pretentious and obnoxious. On Are You Gonna Be My Girl, from the Melbourne band's Get Born CD, Jet are a band having a good time. With their hand claps and tambourines, Jet very obviously borrow from rocking mid-60s British bands like Rolling Stones, Faces and The Who but they seem natural rather than studied or showy. Unlike Black Crowes, for instance, Jet don't seem to show off their resemblance to their heroes. Nic Cester and Cam Muncey give Are You Gonna Be My Girl great energy, mixing up a stomping rhythm guitar line with a good, twisty lead. Muncey has plenty of charisma and a strong voice with a good rock and roll edge. He easily holds his own against the guitars' force and the song doesn't flag when he sings on his own while the guitars take break. Are You Gonna Be My Girl encourages comparisons to lots of different songs. Towards the end, the guitars have the "channelling The Stooges" feel of Strokes songs like Last Nite. Are You Gonna Be My Girl doesn't sound original but it is fun and energetic. Are You Gonna Be My Girl has an appropriately simple, retro lyric. Muncey tells a girl that "you look so fine" that "I really wanna make you mine."
Are You Happy Now? - Michelle Branch
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: #15 (Aug. 2003) buy it!
For her new Hotel Paper CD, Michelle Branch stuck with John Shanks, who's worked with Sheryl Crow, Stevie Nicks and Melissa Etheridge and produced Branch's The Spirit Room CD. The result on Are You Happy Now is radio friendly but not very exciting. Alanis Morissette's influence on Branch is quite apparent. The similarity is especially there on Are You Happy Now, which is basically You Oughta Know light. The 21 year old Morissette was fascinating, raging furiously against a betraying boyfriend. The 20 year old Branch merely sounds whiny and self pitying. The other appropriate comparison is to Avril Lavigne. Branch has played the weepy, sensitive second banana to Lavigne's confident, in your face punk rock fan. Are You Happy Now, written by Branch and Shanks, shows awareness of the competition. Branch's screaming on the chorus and the simple, rock guitar driven dramatic music brings Lavigne to mind. Are You Happy Now has some of the thrill that dynamic shifts from quiet to boisterous bring but it doesn't have the energy of Lavigne's best songs. The verses drag by with an uninteresting drum machine beat and vague synth embellishments. Are You Happy Now's lyric perpetuates Branch's persona as the girl who doesn't quite fit in and is doomed to wallow in disappointment. Are You Happy Now is about looking for satisfaction in the fact that the guy who left her isn't happy either. The good news for Branch is that at least as many young women in Branch's target preteen and early teen audience relate to Branch's awkward misfit as to Lavigne's cocky popular girl. Branch's voice is annoyingly girlish and thin but enough girls relate to Branch's insecurities and her very youthful voice to make Are You Happy Now a big hit.
Are You Ready? - Creed
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: #18 (Oct. 2000) buy it!
Are You Ready is the fourth chart hit from Creed's Human Clay CD. As always, Scott Stapp sings as if he's got brilliant ideas no one's ever thought of. But all Are You Ready's says is: seek and you'll find, remember where you came from and life is hard and unpredictable. Usually, Creed's music is a little more subtle than Stapp's lyrics and singing but the music here is uninventive hard rock. Are You Ready sounds like dozens of metal pop songs from The Who's The Seeker to STP's Vaseline.
Are You There? - Oleander
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 ."
Around The World - ATC
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #42 (March 2001) buy it!
It makes sense that the totally edgeless Around The World, from ATC's Planet Pop, is a big international hit. You don't need to know English to mindlessly sing along with the La La La La Las and it's best not to understand the rest of the stupid lyrics. The music is familiar generic Europop. The drum machine makes it easy for the undemanding to dance. Around The World resembles the dopey synth pop song Blue without that song's endearing quirks.
Around the World - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: #13 (Dec. 1999) buy it!
Scar Tissue, the first single from Californication, was a real breakthrough. The song, with Anthony Kiedis singing "with the birds I share this lonely view", had a nice sense of maturity. Around the World is more traditional Chili Peppers fare but it is a good time. Kiedis is cheerfully dopey whether crooning, doing a goofy rap or degenerating into gibberish. It's a fun love song with Kiedis singing "you say hello and I say I do" as well s a tribute to how life is beautiful all around the world.
Astounded - Tantric
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #25 (Oct. 2001) buy it!
Like Breakdown, the second chart hit from the former Days Of The New members' debut CD has Hugo Ferreira doing a bad Eddie Vedder imitation. Ferreira's slurred vocal is more pretentious than Vedder at his self indulgent worst. Astounded resembles Rooster and other Alice In Chains music with its dark, serious tone, "hey, hey, hey"s and acoustic guitar that eventually changes to electric power chords. The lyrics claim "I just found my way" but that apparently doesn't include avoiding resentment to his enemies who he calls "stupid f---ers."
Awake - Godsmack
Weeks on Chart: 24 Peak: #9 (Dec. 2000) buy it!
The title track from the new Awake CD is more nasty, unappetizing hard rock from Godsmack. Awake is similar to Keep Away from their last record. Awake has headbanging guitars and Sully Erna's angry screamed and growled vocals. On Awake, he seems to be blaming another for his problems and says, "I hope you're satisfied."
Away From Me - Puddle Of Mudd
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.
Away From The Sun - 3 Doors Down
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #11 (March 2004) buy it!
Away From The Sun is the title track and fourth chart hit from the Mississippi band's second CD. Like 3 Doors Down's other mellow hits, Away From The Sun vaguely has a rock veneer. Its formulaic chorus has booming drums and power chords. But, with its strings and bland, inoffensive sound, it's clearly intended to be a hit on pop and easy listening radio. Away From The Sun is a big bore. It's like 3 Doors Down's last hit, Here Without You, but even more anonymous. Away From The Sun has finger picking guitar meant to evoke a thoughtful feel and a big, empty chorus. The best things I can say about Away From The Sun are that it's smooth, in an innocuous kind of way, and Brad Arnold's vocal is fairly restrained and not too melodramatic. Away From The Sun is another 3 Doors Down song with self pitying lyrics. Arnold sings that he is "so far down" that he's "missed the colors of the world" and that he's "tired of living in the dark." He wants to "make this life make sense" and "find my way back into the arms that care about the ones like me."