Californication - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: #2 (Oct. 2000) buy it!
Do we really need another serious, sensitive single from the Chili Peppers? Scar Tissue was a very good song but I could do without their other recent displays of maturity. Californication is the fourth chart hit from the CD of the same name. Anthony Kiedis intones the lyrics so seriously that you'd think he was the first person to notice the shallowness of Hollywood life. His indictment is fairly predictable in pointing out that people are seduced and then exploited in their search for glamour and(taking a shot at Courtney Love) that plastic surgery and other tools create an arifticial world. The music is a little bland but John Frusciante has a good, sad guitar riff.
Calling All Angels - Train
Weeks on Chart: 23 Peak: #8 (July 2003) buy it!
When they first broke through, Train at least presented themselves as a rock band. As Train's career has progressed, it's become clear that their music is made for easy listening radio. Drops Of Jupiter showed Train's gift for making music appropriate for elevators, dentist offices and yuppie background music. With its slathering of strings, Drops Of Jupiter was smooth and soothing but also sickly sweet. My first impression of Calling All Angels, the first single from the My Private Nation CD, was that it was more fairly empty lite rock. But further listens have shown that the sound has impressive depth. Calling All Angels is similar to Something More, from the Drops Of Jupiter CD. Something More clearly resembled psychedelic late period Beatles. Calling All Angels also has a layered, carefully constructed sound that is even more rich and rewarding. Unlike Something More, where the band didn't seem to know where to go after introducing their musical ideas, Calling All Angels continues to grow in power as it moves towards its conclusion Brendan O'Brien, who has produced dozens of good rock records by artists including Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen and Matthew Sweet, played on and produced Calling All Angels. I like the patient pace, Scott Underwood's big beat and the piano that fills out the striking soundcape. Calling All Angels reaches a majestic conclusion with a blanket of joyful voices. Calling All Angels isn't perfect. Pat Monahan's vocal generally matches the song's hopeful, optimistic tone but he can also sound like a mediocre mannered rock singer, especially when repeatedly invoking the "I won't give up if you don't give up" hook. The lyric's attempts at social commentary like "my tv set just keeps it all from being clear" and "football teams are kissing queens and losing sight of having dreams" are pretty lame. The whole idea of calling for a sign of angelic presence in troubled times is pretty sappy. But the positive, yearning music goes beyond the lyric in creating an appealing feeling.
The Call - Backstreet Boys
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #41 (March 2001) buy it!
The Call, from Backstreet Boys' Black and Blue CD, is another song written by teen pop svengali Max Martin and it's a pale imitation of teen pop hits like It's Gonna Be Me and Baby One More Time. The Call's music is cold and strained. The setting becomes silly and overdramatic with a choir effect. The insistent, metallic beat and the vocals, featuring A.J. McLean, are harshly staccato. I guess the lyrics are a cautionary tale for the male fans. The character lies to his girlfriend, goes home with another, gets found out and is still saying I'm sorry two years later.
Camera One - Josh Joplin Group
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: #18 (Feb. 2001) buy it!
Camera One is from the band's Useful Music CD. Camera One is serious but catchy, kind of like old Peter Gabriel or Genesis but a little more obvious. With production by Jerry Harrison, Camera One sounds good. Camera One is another cynical tale about how pursuit of a Hollywood dream can have disappointing results. Joplin's tale is hardly subtle as he dramatically intones that "you're playing you now."
Can't Fight The Moonlight - Leann Rimes
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #29 (March 2002) buy it!
At 19, Leann Rimes apparently is no longer satisfied being America's innocent sweetheart. With a mature look on the cover of her I Need You CD and Can't Fight The Moonlight's synthetic dance pop production, Rimes is clearly pushing for a piece of Britney and Christina's audience. She's probably succeeded with a fairly state of the art sound but Can't Fight The Moonlight is so uninteresting and unoriginal that it makes a song like Genie In A Bottle seem remarkably loose and fresh in comparison. Can't Fight The Moonlight's drum machines sound particularly recycled. The song uses the same kind of latin guitar that's shown up on songs by at least half of the dance pop artists of the last few years. In the past, Rimes has shown signs of a decent voice but here her voice is processed to fit the beat to the point where she could be J. Lo or a lesser Aguilera. Rimes played it safe for I Need You's first single, using a song written by Diane Warren, who wrote Rimes' biggest hit How Do I Live and assembly line hits like Starship's Nothing Gonna Stop Us Now and Aerosmith's I Don't Want To Miss A Thing and tends to sprinkle her songs with cliches. Can't Fight The Moonlight, with lines promising "there's no escaping love" and "we'll be lost in the rhythm so right, it will steal your heart tonight", couldn't have taken more than a few minutes for Warren to throw together.
Can't Get My Head Around You - The Offspring
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #17 (May 2004) buy it!
Can't Get My Head Around You isn't as unpleasant and irritating as Hit That, the first chart hit from The Offspring's Splinter CD, but it reinforces the feeling I got from Hit That: The Offspring really don't seem to have anything else to say, musically or lyrically. Head Around You sounds like other Offspring songs, especially Gotta Get Away, a similar but better song. Head Around You is pretty fast. With Dexter Holland racing through his vocal and Noodles playing speedy, varied guitar parts, Head Around You gains decent momentum. Noodles nicely mixes up different hard rock lines. But besides being familiar, Head Around You isn't very appealing. The reason for that is singer Dexter Holland. Holland's vocal is so harsh and unlikable that you don't want to know what he's ranting about, you just wish he'd shut up. Head Around You's lyric also makes Holland seem kind of like a jerk. He can't understand why someone doesn't see the hole "inside your soul." He complains that "you've managed to bring me down too" and accuses the person of faking. Sounds like the person needs help, not an account of how their problems are hurting Dexter. At least, Can't Get My Head Around You is pretty short and its music is decent and energetic. But we've heard it before when Holland was less annoying.
Can't Get You Out Of My Head - Kylie Minogue
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: #10 (March 2002) buy it!
Kylie Minogue has been huge in England and Australia for more than a decade but her worldwide success Can't Get You Out Of My Head, from the Fever CD, is her first U.S. monster hit. Can't Get You Out Of My Head, with its la la las and mechanical beat, is obviously sterile, synthetic and dopey. Still, Can't Get You Out Of My Head, cowritten and produced by Cathy Dennis who once sang a dance pop hit called Touch Me(All Night Long), is well constucted and appealing. At times, it reminds of such disparate cold but compelling synth pop songs as New Order's Blue Monday and Cyndi Lauper's She Bop. The futuristic sound is less frantic than recent Eurodisco songs like Around The World and Blue. The music and Minogue's sultry vocal are confident, unhurried and cool. Unlike Madonna's Music, Can't Get You Out Of My Head doesn't try to be ironic and self mocking. It really is just about not being able to get a guy out of her head. The music is just about creating a good, inviting beat.
Can't Hold Us Down - Christina Aguilera
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: #18 (Oct. 2003) buy it!
Can't Hold Us Down, the fourth single from Christina Aguilera's Stripped CD, is another declaration of Aguilera's determination to overcome the obstacles she claims life throws at her. As on Beautiful, Aguilera is smart enough to couch her promise to overcome society's preconceptions in a broader context. On Beautiful, Aguilera could claim to represent all young women who don't fit a traditional definition of beauty. On Can't Hold Us Down, Aguilera says she's singing for all "my girls all around the world who've come across a man who don't respect your worth." Can't Hold Us Down doesn't have the subtlety, musically or lyrically, that writer/producer Linda Perry brought to Beautiful. Can't Hold Us Down was cowritten and coproduced by Scott Storch, who also did Fighter which, with a steadily wailing rock guitar having a decibal competition with Aguilera's shrill proclamation of self confidence, had the subtlety of a jackhammer. Can't Hold Us Down isn't as aggressively annoying as Fighter but it's not very interesting. Can't Hold Us Down's backing track is fairly lifeless, with an unchanging, flat beat and nothing to the music beyond an OK, repeated chiming effect. Aguilera is, typically, a bit of a vocal showoff but she gets your attention and shows her skills by quickly and fluidly snaking around the lyric. While she's never relaxed, Aguilera's singing has a bit of the playful, retro feel of Blu Cantrell's Hit Em Up Style. The world can always use another good song urging women to stand up for themselves. But Aguilera is hardly Aretha Franklin. Can't Hold Us Down's thoughts are pretty familiar and not that inspiring. Can't Hold Us Down's universal hopes get tied up with Aguilera's petty complaints about how people slander her "for popularity." But it can't be bad for young women to be encouraged to state their opinions and "respect your worth." Lil' Kim, Aguilera's Lady Marmalade teammate, adds a little more flavor and raspy attitude to Can't Hold Us Down though it's not her best work. Kim's rap fits with the lyric's general useful though not particularly original or insightful feel, complaining about double standards regarding how men and women can act towards the oppositie sex and declaring that "the table's about to turn."
Cannonball - Damien Rice
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #36 (April 2004) buy it!
Damien Rice is a critically acclaimed Irish singer/songwriter. Rice's 2003 O CD won him the Shortlist music prize, a new but fairly prestigious award given to the best non-mainstream artist of the year. While it's hard for me to believe that a record of fairly standard folk pop could be the best of the year, I agree that O is a good, ambitious record. Rice is clearly a Van Morrison fan. He shares some of Morrison's intensity and songwriting skills. Rice's sincere, personal songs are also reminiscent of David Gray's work but Rice's have a bit more edge. Cannonball is a good example of Rice's poetic, well crafted music. Rice's singing is strong but sensitive and idiosyncratic. His pained delivery makes it clear that his writing is deeply felt. Rice accompanies himself with heartfelt strumming. My problem with Rice is that he's too serious. His intensity sometimes comes off as humorless self importance. On Cannonball, Rice sadly and cautiously reflects on a lost relationship with a woman he can still "taste in my mouth." Rice "can't say what's going on" but armed with the newly gained knowledge "that you just don't know", he's apparently trying to find the courage to give it another try as she steps "a little closer."
Cant Stop - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Weeks on Chart: 25 Peak: #8 (Feb. 2003) buy it!
Cant Stop, the third single from the By The Way CD, continues the Chili Peppers recent habit of following fairly serious, mature singles with looser, goofy songs that echo the bands anarchic earlier music. Like Around The World and other Chili Peppers songs, Cant Stop is a multipart song that quickly segues from wacky to sincere. Cant Stop is a good showcase for John Frusciantes versatility. He alternates between jagged and smooth guitar parts and even gets to play a hard rock solo and a bit of a skanky ska line. As usual, Anthony Kiedis is both annoying and charming. The verses showcase the typical free asssociation glibness hes used on songs like Give It Away but hes still appealing on the chorus singing about the world I love, the tears I dropped and the trains Ive hopped. Cant Stops familiarity is its strength and weakness. Cant Stop is genial and generally goes by easily but its so unmemorable and such a slight variation on other lightweight Chili Peppers songs that its basically pointless.
Caramel - City High
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: #39 (Feb. 2002) buy it!
With its provocative justification of prostitution as a way to support a family and its smart, sleek sound, What Would You Do was a striking debut from City High's self titled CD. Their second chart hit Caramel is O.K. but less interesting lyrically and musically. While similar to other recent music, Caramel's music isn't bad. It's smooth, mellow hip hop with Claudette Ortiz' appealing vocal, a good, uncluttered sound and a crisp, restrained beat. The lyrics are pretty dopey. It starts with Ortiz' self satisfied description of herself. We learn that she likes "going out, taking walks and stuff", has everything she wants and(exactly like Mya on her 2000 hit Free) is happy being "5'5" with brown eyes." Then comes an even stupider section where one of City High's male singers invites a girl to "spend the night popping" champagne in the hot tub. On the remixed single, guest rapper Eve lifts the song from its complacency with a good, feisty rap, telling us she's not about "gift chasin'" and not impressed with champagne poppin'.
Careful - Guster
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #38 (Feb. 2004) buy it!
Guster appeared on MTV2's Album Covers show, playing the songs on the Violent Femmes' first record. Their precise versions showed that Guster are good musicians with a taste for jagged, idiosyncratic music that's surprisingly for a band with such a genial, clean cut sound. The faithfulness of the covers, the refusal to deviate in any significant way, also was a reminder of the lack of surprise and edge in Guster's music. Careful, the second chart hit from Guster's Keep It Together CD, is another example of Guster's likable, fairly predictable style. Careful is well played and inviting. It has warm harmonies and Ryan Miller's lead vocal is appealingly unpretentious. Guster have largely stuck with the simple acoustic arrangements that first got people's attention. Their shiny jangles and strums are clean and crisp. Brian Rosenworcel gives Guster's music good texture with good quiet, varied percussion that avoids standard rock drummer pounding. Careful's downside is that it's awfully like a lot of Guster's other songs. Its sound is so smooth and easy to take that it's kind of boring. Like Amsterdam, Careful has a dark lyric that belies its sunny music. Careful warns a girlfriend who walks out "when I asked you to stay" that she'll "hurt yourself" in a world where "others lie." Miller tells her he's the one who tells her the truth and she'll be "back again" to him.
Case Of The Ex - Mya
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: #25 (Dec. 2000) buy it!
Case Of The Ex is from the Fear Of Flying CD. Case Of The Ex sounds a little like Aaliyah's Try Again. It's got a sleek, stark sound with a good shifting beat. Mya's voice seems O.K. and it's adroitly covered for most of the song by good background vocals. Case Of The Ex is a fairly nasty tale. A guy's current girlfriend demands to know how he's gonna act when his ex wants him back. She figures the ex has heard he bought her a "brand new Benz" and wants a piece of the action. The girlfriend's not subtle. She reminds him the ex "turned trick" when they broke up and says she's seen the ex's picture and "she ain't even all that."
Caught In The Sun - Course Of Nature
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #18 (April 2002) buy it!
It usually takes a few records for a hard rock band to go for the big bucks with a lame power ballad. But, consistent with the ever more commercially savvy nature of contemporary rock, Alabama's otherwise tough rockers Course Of Nature introduce themselves to the world with an overblown, sappy hit. Caught In The Sun, from the Superkala CD, resembles Goo Goo Dolls' Black Balloon but it outdoes even the Goo Goos' most overproduced work. Caught In The Sun makes its intentions clear from the start with Mark Wilkerson's emotive singing and a big orchestral sound ladled over sensitive guitar and bass. Predictably, power guitar chords come in on the chorus to show Caught In The Sun's rock cred but they're restrained so that top 40 audiences won't be scared away. On Caught In The Sun,Wikerson muses about how he easily could never have met the woman he's separated from and obsessed with.
Ch-Check It Out - Beastie Boys
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #14 (July 2004) buy it!
Ch-Check It Out is on To The 5 Boroughs, Beastie Boys' first new CD in six years. The Beasties are in their late 30s and have been recording for more than two decades. On Ch-Check It Out, they still seem like kids, goofing around, having a good time and trying to impress us with their rhymes as if they have something to prove. Ch-Check It Out is notably old school. It resembles previous hits like Intergalactic and So What Cha Want and shows little connection with contemporary rap. Ch-Check It Out sounds like a typical Beasties song but it's a well made one. A good, steady beat and a repeated, emphatic sound effect establish an exhilarating context for the barrage of raps. The raps are tightly edited and the rappers come on fast and confidently. Ch-Check It Out's energy never flags. Ch-Check It Out's lyrics are mostly willfully silly boasts but they're also fresh and funny enough to be consistently enjoyable. MCA, his voice sounding rougher than ever, opens by reminding us "I didn't retire." He threatens to snatch up detractors "with the needle nose pliers." Mike D still comes on like a prankish, showing off kid. He oddly brags "like Lorne Greene, you know I get paid" and compares himself to a Caprese salad with basil and to Nick at nite("with classics rerunning that you know all right"). Ad Rock thanks his friends and family for putting him in check "when I think I'm too good" and says "I'm no better than you, except when I rap." But he also works "magic like a magician" and has class "like pink champale." Ch-Check It Out is nothing new but it's a very fun statement that The Beasties still matter and are still making exciting music.
Change (In the House of Flies) - The Deftones
Weeks on Chart: 24 Peak: #13 (Sept. 2000) buy it!
The Deftones like guitar noise as much as their hard rock contemporaries but they do seem to have a little more imagination. Change, from the White Pony CD, has big guitars but the dense sound also has an interesting trippy feel that matches the lyrics about watching someone turn into a fly.
Change Your Mind - Sister Hazel
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: #18 (Aug. 2000) buy it!
The Florida band had big pop and easy listening success with All For You, from their Somewhere More Familiar CD, which was pleasant enough the first hundred times but became irritatingly banal as it refused to leave the radio. Change Your Mind, from the new Fortress CD, is more genial music from guys who are even mellower than Hootie & the Blowfish. The lyrics are pretty empty, trying to convince someone of the power of positive thinking and that problems can be resolved if you "give up the state of mind you're in." The music isn't exciting but Sister Hazel display their ability to create a warm sound with good harmonies.
The Chemicals Between Us - Bush
Weeks on Chart: 21 Peak: #8 (Nov. 1999) buy it!
Without getting much attention in their native England, Bush had huge success in the U.S. with their Sixteen Stone CD, which took the edge of grunge bands like Nirvana and presented it with commercial polish and Gavin Rossdale's hunky looks. Though it didn't have a thrilling rocker like Sixteen Stone's Machinehead, the followup Razorblade Suitcase had pretty decent rockers and power ballads and its lesser record sales were more of a reflection of changing tastes and the death of grunge than of a drop off in quality. Though their sales are likely to continue to decline, Bush has shown some signs of establishing a distinctive personality and making fairly good music within a niche of intense rock. The Chemicals Between Us has a good raw, ragged sound that does a good job of communicating the tension and electricity of an exciting relationship.
Chemistry - Semisonic
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #37 (Feb. 2001) buy it!
All About Chemistry is Semisonic's third CD. Semisonic found success with Closing Time, the repetitive, ridiculously catchy single from the Feeling Strangely Fine CD. Chemistry lacks Closing Time's rock guitar heft and is unlikely to change the band's one hit wonder status. Chemistry is very likable, if slightly wimpy. With a steady, upbeat piano, the verses have the perky pop charm of a song like Billy Joel's Allentown. The choruses are buoyed by a Cars style synth line and Dan Wilson's open, good natured vocals. On Chemistry, Wilson treats his romantic experiences as one big experiment. With a little guilt, Wilson gives thanks for the lessons from "fine, fine women with nothin' but good intentions and a bad tendency to get burned."
Chop Suey - System Of A Down
Weeks on Chart: 26 Peak: #13 (Nov. 2001) buy it!
Finally, after so many serious, self pitying, soundalike bands have dominated rock radio, a hard rock band has a hit that sounds different and shows a sense of humor. With tough guitars and hardcore fast drums, Chop Suey, from the Toxicity CD, has the chops necessary to keep the headbangers happy but it's also refreshingly weird. Serj Tankian's over the top vocal takes Chop Suey all over the map, starting as a punk rant, slowing down for a meaningful croon that may be mocking his self important contemporaries("I don't think you trust in my self righteous suicide") and eventually shifting to a spacy, gothic conclusion.
Clarity - John Mayer
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #42 (May 2004) buy it!
Clarity is the second chart hit from John Mayer's Heavier Things CD. Mayer is a good natured, fairly skilled performer who has modest ambitions of making meaningful music but doesn't quite know how to do so. Clarity puts Mayer's ambition and modesty to good use. It's seriously made, enjoyable and not self important. Clarity goes farther into jazz than Mayer's previous singles. Clarity starts fairly well with a crisp drum machine beat and a looped piano line. Things improve and a nice momentum develops as Clarity's vibe loosens. ?uestlove from The Roots plays good, relaxed drums. Horns, including Roy Hargrove's trumpet, give Clarity some color and give the chorus a big sound. Mayer can't help but sound like a white guy and "ooh-ooh-ooh"s betray his easy listening leanings but Mayer's vocal is pleasant enough. Mayer does his typical restrained guitar doodling but Clarity has enough interesting things happening that it doesn't have the tentative feel of some of Mayer's songs. Clarity has substance but it's also breezy and likable. Clarity's lyric is a bit New Agey but nice and well suited to the song's relaxed mood. Mayer tells us that he's normally a worrier who "weighs three times my body." One morning, he's surprised to feel "a calm I can't explain." Clarity is about hoping the feeling "will last forever" or preparing to, at least, "pretend that it somehow lingered on."
Cleanin' Out My Closet - Eminem
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #25 (Sept. 2002) buy it!
Eminem knows that he has created enough interest that millions want to know about his history and grudges. Cleanin' Out My Closet, The Eminem Show CD's second single, is another account of the reasons he hates various people in his life. Eminem starts Cleanin' Out My Closet whining about being "protested and discriminated against." He congratulates himself for not leaving his daughter like his "faggot father" left him and for "taking them bullets out of that gun" instead of killing his ex-wife. But Eminem mostly focuses his anger on his mom. We learn that Debbie popped prescription pills, made little Marshall a "victim of Munchausen syndrome(making him "believe I was sick when I wasn't") and that when her brother died, said she wished it was her son who died. Eminem is pretty unappealing, asking for sympathy but showing none for a woman who, even according to his account, went through some very tough times. But like him or not, it's hard to argue against the idea that he provides great theatre, at least giving the impression that he's allowing us a glimpse into a unique, troubled mind. On The Eminem Show, Eminem, assisted by Jeff Bass, has generally replaced his mentor Dr. Dre as his music's producer. The quality of Eminem's tracks vary but he did a good job on the singles. Cleanin' Out My Closet doesn't have Without Me's energy. Eminem cleared out the sound on Cleanin' Out My Closet, keeping the focus on his lyrics. The tapping percussion and Bass' playing create a stark, haunted feel consistent with recounting stories of a dark past. Eminem's technique isn't as impressive as his breathless, nonstop rap on Without Me but he has no trouble keeping his audience's attention with a style that's simultaneously casual, confident and troubled.
Click Click Boom Boom - Saliva
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #32 (Nov. 2001) buy it!
Click Click Boom Boom, the second chart hit from Saliva's Every Six Seconds CD, isn't as goofy and derivative as Your Disease but it's still pretty goofy and derivative. Click Click Boom Boom has the Soundgarden meets Kid Rock mix of rapping and big beat with power chords that Limp Bizkit has so successfully sold to the male teens. Josey Scott angrily yells lyrics that share Fred Durst's combination of boasting and paranoia and lamely try to seem meaningful. Scott tells us how all his time "up in my room" has paid off in "a new style" that's "buck wild." The only part of Click Click Boom Boom I really like is his gratuitous shot at the "cryin' ass bitchin" of his fellow rockers' complaints about their troubled childhood.
Climbing The Walls - Stir
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: #37 (Aug. 2000) buy it!
It's understandable that the rock ballad Climbing The Walls is getting some airplay. Like the band's more rocking first chart hit New Beginning, Climbing The Walls sounds familiar and is pleasant and inoffensive. However, it also makes sense that the St. Louis band's Holy Dogs CD isn't selling too many copies. Andy Schmidt's vocals are sincere but like the music, with its generic rock riff, they don't have much personality. Schmidt sings that he doesn't know if he can make it through the night, apparently because of romantic problems.
Clint Eastwood - Gorillaz
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: #10 (Oct. 2001) buy it!
Gorillaz is Blur's Damon Albarn's side project. Gorillaz is a pretty cool idea. Their self titled record provides the soundtrack to an alternative cartoon. On Clint Eastwood, the execution is pretty cool too. Clint Eastwood has a relaxed stroll of a groove, with atmospheric keyboards including a moody harmonica type effect. Albarn alternates vocals with a good, smooth rapper. In my mind, Albarn is the weak link on Clint Eastwood. His slacker vocals cross the line from cool to complacent and self satisfied.
Clocks - Coldplay
Weeks on Chart: 37 Peak: #2 (Feb. 2003) buy it!
Coldplay's singles from the A Rush Of Blood To The Head CD sound great in any context but they're especially striking on modern rock radio. Amid angry, testosterone fueled songs, the beauty of Coldplay's music is particularly welcome. Clocks has a wonderful dreamy feel. Strings and a synth provide an airy cushion while Chris Martin plays a simple but insinuating piano line. On some parts of Rush Of Blood, Martin is pretentious or annoyingly meandering but on Clocks, even as the song moves at a leisurely pace that accentuates its hypnotic appeal, Martin's vocal stays focused. Martin's typical sense of yearning works well on Clocks. Martin is apparently singing, as he does on many Coldplay songs, about a woman to whom "nothing else compares" who doesn't want to be with him and about being willing to wait for her to change her mind. He sings "you've put me down upon my knees", leaving him to "beg and plead" and "curse missed opportunities" but seems to retain a bit of hope.
Closure - Chevelle
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #24 (Jan. 2004) buy it!
Closure is the third chart hit from the band comprised of Pete Loeffler and his two brothers. The Wonder What's Next CD gives some reason to hope that Chevelle could be an interesting, solid rock band for many years. Their sound is big and tough but not overbearing or plodding. They don't show the narcissism, lack of originality or commercial pandering of many modern rock bands. Pete Loeffler is serious about his music but not pretentious. That seriousness is Chevelle's main problem right now. They're overly self conscious and lack variety. Loeffler's single mindedness gives Chevelle's music power. But on The Red, Loeffler's humorless, repetitive delivery made most of the song drab. His ranting at the end seemed forced and like that of too many superficial raging rockers. Closure is a worthy followup to the tight and driving if monochromatic Send The Pain Below. Send The Pain Below's thoughtful, focused approach merited comparison to early Radiohead. Tool is usually a more obvious influence. On Closure, Tool similarities are even clearer than usual. Moving slowly and intently, Loeffler reaches a pure, unshowy intensity similar to Maynard James Keenan's. Loeffler's guitar sound is big and dramatic without much excess. Closure's downside is the same lack of variation and excess seriousness. The song's impact is also lessened by the fact that the word closure has become such an overused piece of pop psychology, used to describe the resolution of the most minor personal crisis. But Loeffler's fury makes it clear that he has felt substantial pain and that he gained real catharsis from realizing "you will never belong to me."
Cochise - Audioslave
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: #10 (Jan. 2003) buy it!
Singer Zack De La Rocha left Rage Against The Machine in 2000. The rest of the band has joined ex-Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell to make the Audioslave CD. On his solo record, Cornell tried to forge a more adult, restrained image. Most Soundgarden fans weren't interested. On Cochise, Cornell is back to screaming his lungs out and trying to outwail Robert Plant. The notable thing about Cochise is that his over the top singing fits comfortably with the Ex-Ragers' playing. Tom Morello, Brad Wilk and Tim Commerford have always played big, thumping rock and roll but only now that they're backing up Cornell do I see them as Zepellin fans. With Morello slowly plowing through Jimmy Page style riffs, you half expect Cornello to start singing Whole Lotta Love. Cochise provides the thrill you get from a big powerful rock sound and Cornell's huge shriek is an impressive force of nature. But Cochise's sledgehammer approach wears thin on repeat listens. It's not such a good thing that Cornell is a close musical match for the Ex-Ragers. Cochise is definitely not subtle. Its lack of nuance or variety illustrates the risk of a Cornell/Rage teaming. De La Rocha's rap inflected vocal was sometimes obnoxiously arrogant but its combination with good hard rock produced a good range of flavors. De La Rocha's cerebral, confrontational, part spoken work was a good match for Rage Against The Machine's overtly political songs. It's hard to imagine Cornell's theatrical wails giving resonance to charged songs calling for revolution. Cochise is about wanting to help a screwed up friend, offering to take the blame for his problems and be the target of his anger. I don't know why it's named after the Apache leader.
Cold Hard Bitch - Jet
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: #3 (June 2004) buy it!
Are You Gonna Be My Girl, the big hit from Jet's Get Born CD, seems like a tribute to late 60s/early 70s psychedelic rock by bands like The Faces and The Stones. With crunching guitar reminiscent of fellow Australians AC/DC, Cold Hard Bitch shows a different, harder side of Jet's music. Jet only want Cold Hard Bitch to be big, tough, stupid hard rock and they reach that goal. Nic Cester shows that he's knows, from repeat listens to You Shook Me All Night Long and Highway To Hell, how to play tight, blugeoning power chords. Cam Muncey has the voice to carry off Cold Hard Bitch. His ragged but assertive howl is strong enough to fight with the guitars and have enough left for a Daltreyesqe climactic wail. Cold Hard Bitch has the stirring power of good simple arena rock. It's effective but dopey. Cold Hard Bitch brings to mind The Darkness' ridiculously faithful reenactments of 70s rock. The Darkness make their songs, especially I Believe In A Thing Called Love, work by lovingly mocking the music they skillfully bring back to life. Muncey's punctuating yeahs and the too provocative to be serious title imply that Cold Hard Bitch is a bit of a goof. But the joke isn't as fun or inclusive as The Darkness'. Cold Hard Bitch is best appreciated as well made, no frills head banging rock. Cold Hard Bitch's title is apparently meant as a compliment. Muncey sings that at first she was "just a kiss on the lips" then "I was on my knees" waiting for her.
Come Around - Rhett Miller
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: #47 (March 2003) buy it!
Rhett Miller is on a break from leading the alt country band Old 97's. Come Around is from Miller's solo record, The Instigator. Not surprisingly, Come Around sounds a lot like an Old 97's song. Old 97's have normally struck me as fine but not particularly exciting or interesting. Most of Come Around is draggy. Miller whines over unimaginative backing with basic drumming and strumming. The mopey mood is appropriate for a self pitying song where Miller obsesses over a breakup. Just when Come Around seems like it's going to keep dully droning, Miller comes up with a killer hook. The chorus is very catchy. Miller yearningly relates that unless she comes back, he's "gonna be lonely for the rest of my life." The problem is, the song keeps going back to boring verses and the chorus isn't quite as appealing as it continually recurs.
Come Back Home - Pete Yorn
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.
Come Clean - Hilary Duff
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #27 (April 2004) buy it!
Come Clean is the second single from Hilary Duff's Metamorphosis CD. So Yesterday was perky pop mainly intended to connect with the young fans Duff made playing Lizzie McGuire. Come Clean indicates greater ambitions, to make Duff a pop star with an older audience. Duff sounds less comfortable on Come Clean than on the chirpy So Yesterday. She isn't helped by Come Clean's generic drum machine and icy synths. Come Clean is very familiar, bringing to mind Here Comes The Rain Again, among other songs. Come Clean was written and produced by John Shanks, who has done songs with Michelle Branch(including her pretty good recent top 50 near miss Breathe), and Kara Dioguardi, who's worked with Enrique Iglesias and Kylie Minogue. Come Clean sounds pieced together from other pop songs, particularly Branch songs like Breathe. Branch's voice is better than Duff's and Branch brings more of a feeling of substance. Come Clean is pleasant and innocuous. It sounds fine. It won't alienate a large young following glad to follow her career where it goes and its sleek, tasteful, sterile sound will attract older listeners too.
Come On Over (All I Want Is You) - Christina Aguilera
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: #29 (Sept. 2000) buy it!
After showing off her pipes on I Turn To You, the ballad by songwriter to the stars Diane Warren, Aguilera is back to light dance music on the fourth single from her debut CD. Come On Over is a little less gimmicky than her previous hits. The strength and maturity of Aguilera's big soulful voice show that comparisons to Mariah and Whitney are more appropriate than those to Britney. Come On Over is smooth and pleasantly perky. She again is the very available fantasy girl she first played on Genie In a Bottle, telling a guy that she "never felt this way before" and "you've got all I'm looking for."
Come Original - 311
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #30 (Oct. 1999) buy it!
Come Original is from 311's Sound System record. 311 had a moment of greatness with Down, an excellent mix of rap, dance, ska and rock guitars which had the success it deserved. Their subsequent singles, All Mixed Up, the followup from the 311 CD and Beautiful Disaster and the title track from the Transistor CD were pleasant enough dance pop but weren't as striking. Come Original, with a fairly mindless lyric about urging other musicians to be original, is a return to Down's great combination of sounds. It doesn't have quite the same edge as Down but it is fun with fast ska toasting, good guitars and a strong beat.
Complicated - Avril Lavigne
Weeks on Chart: 25 Peak: #17 (July 2002) buy it!
Complicated is from the 17 year old Canadian's Let Go CD. Even more than Michelle Branch and Vanessa Carlton, Lavigne has a sound that seems perfect for girls looking for a more substantial alternative to Britney and Christina. Unlike Branch, whose image is sincere and vulnerable, Lavigne comes across as very self confident. Her voice has a casual, spoken quality that sounds like that of a cool teen. Complicated is fairly insubstantial but it's also appealingly perky and direct. Complicated's confessional, relaxed tone marks Lavigne as an Alanis fan. There's also some resemblance to the more rocking but still poppy recent work of labelmate Pink. Some of Complicated's synth flourishes are unnecessary but the sound is generally appealing simple. A hip hop style drum machine beat adds a bit of edge. On Complicated, Lavigne vents her frustration at a guy who's good and relaxed when they're alone but becomes foolish and showy around others.
Confessions Part 2 - Usher
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: #33 (July 2004) buy it!
Usher is on an amazing run with Confessions, 2004's best selling CD. He's the first solo artist with three songs at the same time among Billboard's top 10 pop hits(The Beatles and Bee Gees also achieved the feat). Usher's success is remarkable to me because his songs, while well made and pleasant to listen to, aren't particularly interesting or original. Usher admits that he pays attention to what music is popular at the time and tries to make music in that style. He got Lil' Jon to help him remake Get Low for Usher's monster hit Yeah. Confessions Part 2's skittery beat reminds me of R. Kelly's terrific Ignition remix, which was a hit just about the time Usher recorded the Confessions CD. But Confessions Part 2 isn't as distinctive or appealing as the Ignition remix. Like the CD's hit ballad Burn, Confessions Part 2 was cowritten and produced by Brian Cox and veteran hitmaker Jermaine Dupri. Like all three of the CD's hits, Confessions 2 sounds fine. It has sleek, seductive music with that good skippping rhythm and an insinuating synth sample. Confessions 2 is smooth but unsurprising. Usher is a pretty good singer. His voice's warmth and openness lets him get away with cliched lyrics. He does a decent job working his ladies man charm without overdoing it. But Usher seems manipulative and fakey. Usher's current image is obviously marketable but it's kind of lame. His lyrics painstakingly present him as sensitive and a bad boy. Like Yeah, Confessions Part 2 has Usher admitting to his girlfriend that he's been with someone else. His "chick on the side said she got one on the way." While he's been playing around, he tries to convince her he's caring. He claims "this gon' be the hardest thing I ever had to do" and that he "damn near cried when I got that phone call." Everything about Usher seems calculated. His expressions of regret are glib. He presumably drives the ladies wild with a spoken plea for another chance but he seems more cool than concerned.
Control - Puddle Of Mudd
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.
Country Grammar - Nelly
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #39 (Oct. 2000) buy it!
Country Grammar is the title track of Nelly's hugely successful CD. On Country Grammar, Nelly celebrates his St. Louis hometown and the joys of riding down the street in his Range Rover and lighting up blunts. He glorifies the thug life, rapping that his "street sweeper" is cocked and ready to let go and paying tribute to "the niggas left in the slamma." I'm not happy that kids, black and white, are eating Nelly's rap up. But for many, the thrilll of gangsta rap is in vicariously experiencing an exciting street life from the comfort of your home. And the main reason for Country Grammar's success is probably the relaxed singsong catchiness of the rap, based on a children's chant, and the easy groove, good, clean beat and simple backing.
Cousin Dupree - Steely Dan
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #22 (Feb. 2000) buy it!
Donald Fagen and Walter Becker actually worked together for much of the 90's, on Fagen's last solo record Kamakiriad and on the Steely Dan tour documented on the Alive In America CD. It's still great to have Two Against Nature, the first Steely Dan studio album in the two decades since Gaucho. Cousin Dupree, about being attracted to a family member now that she's all grown up, has the same mischievous sense of humor as classic Steely Dan like Hey Nineteen. The jazzy music has a light, fun feel that nicely complements the words.
Cowboy - Kid Rock
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: #10 (Nov. 1999) buy it!
I don't know if it's meant as a joke but Cowboy sure is goofy. There's a lot going on here. Some of Cowboy is self deprecating: "they're straight out of Compton, I'm straight out of the trailer." Some is dopey boasting. The lyrics about going out west and setting up an escort service, are weird as is the middle with cheesy western effects and the glossy soul chorus. While it's got a rock guitar, Cowboy is more of a straight rap song than Bawitdaba and might turn off some of the head bangers.
Crash and Burn - Savage Garden
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: #37 (June 2000) buy it!
Crash and Burn is the second hit from the Affirmation CD from the very polite Australian easy listening kings. With Crash and Burn, Savage Garden is closer than ever to elevator music. The song is innocuous, inoffensive and totally without edge. The bland vocals assure that you're not alone and if you need to fall apart, I'll mend your broken heart and lots of other lifeless cliches.
Crawling In The Dark - Hoobastank
Weeks on Chart: 32 Peak: #9 (March 2002) buy it!
Crawling In The Dark, from the L.A. band's self titled major label debut, is another song that sounds pieced together from other successful rock songs. It's got Korn style atmospheric guitar, a serious, troubled singer, big power chords and a vague Faith No More/Limp Bizkit style hip hop sensibility. But Crawling In The Dark also has good tempo shifts and it's more interesting than much of the similarly imitative music on rock radio. I like the way the song speeds up and gains energy on the chorus. Doug Robb keeps things from getting too draggy as he sings about "looking for the answer" and trying to find direction in life.
Crawling - Linkin Park
Weeks on Chart: 25 Peak: #5 (Sept. 2001) buy it!
Linkin Park's first rock hit was noisy and nasty but its stomping "one step closer to the edge and I'm about to break" hook was stirring and catchy. Crawling, the second single from the Hybrid Theory, has higher pretentions. It's a Korn style mix of synth atmospherics and hard rock. Linkin Park's sound is engineered to appeal to disaffected male youths. Crawling has a touch of Mike Shinoda's rap, meaningful, troubled lyrics on the verses and Brad Delson's big guitars and Chester Bennington's unpleasant, full throated yell on the chorus. The lyrics, similar to those of many recent rock songs about troubled males, are pretty bad. Bennington complains about being controlled by a lack of contol and of "crawling in my skin."
Crazy For This Girl - Evan and Jaron
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #38 (Feb. 2001) buy it!
The most interesting thing about Evan and Jaron Lowenstein is that they're probably already the most successful Orthodox Jew twin brother singers in pop history. Crazy For This Girl owes some of its success to being on the second Dawson Creek's soundtrack CD. On Crazy For The Girl, which is also on their self titled CD, the boys have a smooth, sincere, clean cut sound as they sing about the girl they think about constantly who "don't know how I feel." The sound doesn't have much more edge than the teen pop boy bands. But like Hey Leonardo, another song by adults that was aimed at a young audience, Crazy For This Girl is a guilty pleasure. It's superficial but with catchy hooks and good, tight guitar riffs on the chorus.
Crazy In Love - Beyonce' featuring Jay-Z
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: #11 (Aug. 2003) buy it!
I've never been a big Beyonce Knowles fan. She always seemed competent but coldly ambitious as she solidified her success and control of Destiny's Child. I doubt that she's become a different person but on Crazy In Love, from her solo debut Dangerously In Love CD, Knowles is more likable than usual. Knowles produced Crazy In Love with Rich Harrison, who's also worked with Mary J. Blige and Kelly Rowland. There isn't much new to their sounds but they use them to create a very fun result. Crazy In Love is very effectively constructed. It has an irresistable momentum, never taking a break as it keeps the good time sounds coming. The verses get a great jittery energy from a fast cymbal driven sound. Beyonce's vocal effectively slides quickly around the beat. The chorus takes the excitement a notch higher with a horn sample from the Chi-lites' Are You My Woman?(Tell Me So) which, along with a pounding beat, maintains the song's buoyant spirit as Beyonce repeats her joyful proclamation that she's crazy for the guy who's doing love no one else can. The rap by Beyonce's apparent boyfriend Jay-Z sounds like it was spliced into the song afterwards but Jay-Z's confident, fast moving, good natured boasts fit easily into one of the most enjoyable singles of the summer.
Crazy - K-Ci & Jojo
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: #20 (April 2001) buy it!
Recently, smooth African American love men have been seriously outnumbered at top of the pop charts by R&B divas and white teen pop singers. K-Ci & Jojo Hailey, brothers who were formerly members of Jodeci, return to the charts with a soul ballad from their X CD. They're one of three groups that entered the top 50 within a week in January with a very mellow song about a guy who's nothing without his woman and is willing to do anything for her. K-Ci & Jojo seem like better singers than 98 Degrees and BBMak but their delivery is ridiculously overemotive. The pathetic lyrics apologize for being a fool, beg for her to come back and repeat how obsessed he is with her. Crazy has easy listening backing with a restrained beat and tasteful piano though the chorus tries to spice things up by distorting the voices with a silly vocoder effect. Crazy is also on the Save The Last Dance soundtrack. It's had incessant play on MTV which, not coincidentally, produced Save The Last Dance.
Creatures - 311
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #18 (Aug. 2003) buy it!
A while ago it seemed that 311, whose biggest hit was 1995's Down, was fading away, making pleasant but predictable and unimportant music. Recently they've shown some staying power, producing decent variations on their stoner ska rock theme. Last year's mellow, blissed out Amber, from their From Chaos CD, was 311's biggest hit in a while. Creatures, from the new Evolver CD, is another likable single that has 311 rocking a little harder than usual. As on their best songs, 311 keep things interesting on Creatures by mixing the band's disparate elements without overemphasizing any of them. Nick Hexum's loose, spacy croon has a smooth charm but on its own it can be vapid. So Creatures combines Hexum's voice with Tim Mahoney's tough, tight guitar. Creatures also has bursts of fun, silly synth effects, S.A. Martinez' concise, effective rap, Chad Sexton's hard, crisp drumming and good, full harmonies. The result is an enjoyable free flow. Creatures never gets stuck. It varies its flavors as it moves inobtrusively from section to section. Creatures isn't particularly great or ambitious but it is an easy, good time. Creatures' lyric is fairly silly. It's about the pros and cons of being energetic and living an exciting life and the fun of going nuts and having a volatile personality.
Cry Me A River - Justin Timberlake
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: #19 (Feb. 2003) buy it!
On Just Like I Love You, the first single from the N Sync pretty boys Justified CD, Justin Timberlakes worked too hard to show his urban cred and ended up with a slavish, fairly lame Michael Jackson imitation. The more relaxed Cry Me A River works better and is actually soulful. The production lets polished studio singers take over for large portions and move the song forward smoothly. Cry Me A River has a relaxed pace and a fairly uncluttered sound but its also scuffed up a little by a stuttering beat and synths that trumpet and dissolve into a draggy dissonance. Timberlakes singing is pretty innocuous on the verses but things improve when the backup singers help him out and when he reaches for an impassioned falsetto. Cry Me A Rivers lyric plays out the fantasy of many who have been taken advantage by a romantic partner. Timberlake gets to tell the woman who left him all alone, but is asking for him again, that its her time to cry.
Crystal Village - Pete Yorn
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."