F**k It(I Don't Want You Back) - Eamon
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: #22 (March 2004) buy it!
Eamon is a 19 year old singer from Staten Island. F**k It, from his I Don't Want You Back CD, started with airplay on a few stations and slowly became a big hit. I loved F**k It when I first heard it and it was called Nothing Compares 2 U. To me, F**k It sounds a lot like Sinead O'Connor's 1990 Prince penned hit. The comparison is kind of a compliment. With its simple, stark synth & basic beats backing, F**k It evokes the same obsessive sense Nothing Compares 2 U did. F**k It makes it clear, like a good breakup song should, that Eamon would love to have her back. Eamon's singing has a wounded feel that makes his pain sound real. Eamon will likely be a one hit wonder. He's apparently not a great singer; his voice benefits from a bit of electronic tweaking. He doesn't seem so smart; the interviews I've seen present him as an extremely regular guy. But with F**k It, Eamon has made a lasting contribution to the ranks of songs about heartbroken guys. F**k It's lyric is a very typical lament about having loved and trusted a woman who cheated on him. F**k It also has the typical "happy" ending of being able to turn her down when she comes back for another chance. I know he's upset but he still shouldn't call her a "hoe".
Fa Fa(Never Be The Same) - Guster
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: #46 (May 2000) buy it!
Never Be The Same is the followup to the near hit Barrel of a Gun from the band's Lost & Gone Forever CD. Like Dave Matthews and Phish, Guster have apparently listened to some Grateful Dead and like a loose, hip groove. Guster's sound is more minimal, largely based around acoustic guitars but it also has good texture. Never Be The Same has flute, bongos, chimes and horns. Guster's sound is interesting but the lack of a rock and roll charge limits its appeal. The music is more interesting than the lyrics, about a woman who's never satisfied, "always saying something you swear you'll never say again" who'll always end up where she was before.
Faded - Soul Decision
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: #33 (Nov. 2000) buy it!
Faded is from the Canadian trio's Nobody Does It Better CD. They're being promoted to the preteens as the latest hunky boy band but Faded isn't that bad. It sounds like a George Michael dance song with a decent, synthetic beat. They try a little too hard to seem black and cool but they basically have the sound down. The parents might not be too happy about the boys trying to convince a girl "it's time we went a bit further."
Fade - Staind
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: #8 (Dec. 2001) buy it!
I look forward to seeing whether, after his huge success the past year, Aaron Lewis' future work is still about how messed up he is. Fade is another song about how Lewis' parents "were never there for me to express how I felt." Lewis enunciates every syllable to make sure you can feel his pain. Lewis isn't as nasty as other troubled rockers and he's more melodic. Lewis' vocal on Fade is fairly subtle and interesting as it rolls around the lyrics. Still, Staind's ultraserious music is standard rock, following the very common pattern of minimal verse then big guitar filled chorus. Fade has a heavy mood, with a forboding bass line.
Faint - Linkin Park
Weeks on Chart: 29 Peak: #3 (Aug. 2003) buy it!
Faint, the second chart hit from Linkin Park's Meteora CD, is easily my favorite Linkin Park single so far. It gets off to a great start with a very good, distinctive riff and a sped up beat. Things take a bit of a turn for the worse when Mike Shinoda begins his flat, dull rap but at least he moves fast and doesn't slow Faint's momentum too much. Chester Bennington's raging howl is typically over the top(does a guy whose record sold more than 8 million copies have any right to scream, "I won't be ignored"?) Even if Bennington's anger is goofy, he gives the song power and fits well into Faint's supercharged atmosphere. Faint's chorus, which takes the song's fast, slippery beat and adds Bennington's wail and a wall of guitars, maintains the song's energy and has a catchy hook. Faint depicts an internal struggle about an unresponsive girlfriend. Shinoda plays the wimpy ego, whining about being lonely and unconfident, complaining about his emotional scars and pleading "'cause you're all I got." Bennington is the unrestrained, pissed off id demanding "you're gonna listen to me."
Faithless - Injected
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: #38 (April 2002) buy it!
Faithless is from the Atlanta based band's Burn It Black CD. Faithless is fairly standard guitar rock but it does has a good combination of rock toughness and pop energy. Faithless is well made with a likable, polished sound. Stomping guitars, bass and drums give way to a bright, uplifting chorus. I have a pet peeve about young rock singers who use a deep, serious old sounding vocal. Injected's Danny Grady fits that desciption to a certain extent but, at least on Faithless, he doesn't sound as pretentious and self satisfied as his contemporaries in Calling, Default and Creed. Faithless is about a guy who's played the fool in a relationship but keeps his spirits high even after seeing his girlfriend's shamelessness.
Fall Back Down - Rancid
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: #42 (Sept. 2003) buy it!
It's been a good year for Rancid singer/co-songwriter Tim Armstrong. Diamonds and Guns from Transplants, Armstrong's side project was a minor hit. Now Fall Back Down from Indestructible, Rancid's first CD since 2000, is Rancid's biggest hit since Ruby Soho and Time Bomb off their 1995 And Out Comes The Wolves record. The success of bands like Good Charlotte, Sum 41 and Simple Plan, who do poppy versions of punk, has made radio more ready to embrace bands like Rancid again. After hearing the glossy, youthful versions of punk, it's good to hear Rancid's purer, less gimmicky, more adult version getting a chance. There's nothing remarkable or groundbreaking about Fall Back Down. While they may have influenced the latest generation of punks, they're still open to accusations that they closely mimic their predecessors, especially The Clash. Armstrong's rough rasp is pretty generic. He sounds a little that guy who rants in the Outback steakhouse advertisements. Still, Armstrong's singing is charmingly direct and he avoids cuteness. Similarly, Fall Back Down is likably straight forward. It has an appealing, upbeat feeling. Fall Back Down has good, slicing guitar playing and drummer Brett Reed and bass player Matt Freeman make sure Fall Back Down stays fast and fun. On Fall Back Down, Armstrong vows that despite his enemies and, especially, a woman who "betrayed me", with the help of "my crew", I'm gonna make it alright."
Fallen - Sarah McLachlan
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: #26 (Jan. 2004) buy it!
It's been more than six years and Sarah McLachlan has had a baby since the release of Surfacing, her last studio record. But surprisingly little about McLachlan's sound has changed. Fallen, the first single from McLachlan's Afterglow CD, sounds a lot like Building A Mystery and other McLachlan songs. It's disappointing that McLachlan hasn't changed her style at all. She can come across as self satisfied and could use an edge. The same sound is bound to have less impact when repeated. Still, while Fallen is familiar and unsurprising, the formula it follows is a good one. Fallen is listenable and quite insinuating. Fallen shares with Building A Mystery a patient pace that creates a good dramatic feel. It's carefully constructed, with strings, piano and electric guitar deployed in a fairly discrete manner that creates a modest kind of excitement. McLachlan's voice is clear and controlled with a touch of sensuality but, as with her music, you can wish that McLachlan didn't seem so comfortable with her singing and took more chances. On Fallen, McLachlan sings, in fairly melodramatic terms, that she's "sunk so low" after messing up a relationship where she got "caught up" in an offer with a cost that "was so much more than I could bear."
Fallin' - Alicia Keys
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: #19 (Oct. 2001) buy it!
Alicia Keys' Songs In A Minor is probably the most remarkable success story of 2001. Keys' only previous credits were a couple soundtrack songs and a little backup work but her CD debuted at number one and has been near the top of the charts ever since. Fallin' is striking on first listen and goes a long way in explaining the CD's success. Unlike the overproduced work of other female pop singers, Fallin' shows the confidence to let Keys' singing stand on its own and her strong, sexy voice is up to the task. Fallin' has a good, minimal production. Strong backing vocals and Keys' piano playing create a classic, soulful sound. There isn't much to the lyric, about the confusion of a relationship that brings lots of pleasure and pain, but its simplicity fits the song's stylish, retro feel.
Falling Away From Me - Korn
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: #17 (Jan. 2000) buy it!
With Nine Inch Nails' sales way down on their new CD, veteran gloom rockers Korn could be the new kings of intense, paranoid, gothic influenced rock. Falling Away From Me is humorless and not fun, but Jonathan Davis' pain sounds real as he sings of being so tormented by his painful life and the voices in his head that he's given up hope and is flirting with suicide. The music is powerful with good, hard guitars and genuinely spooky, atmospheric effects.
Falls Apart - Sugar Ray
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #39 (Feb. 2000) buy it!
The third hit from the band's 14:59 is another pleasant piece of pop. The band once tried to mix ska and fast punkish music but they've found success in genial, less ambitious, music. While the lyrics are about a young woman going through a tough time, the music doesn't get too heavy. It has a nice dynamic, shirting from mellower verses to rougher choruses when the guitars kick in.
Falls On Me - Fuel
Weeks on Chart: 29 Peak: #10 (Oct. 2003) buy it!
Pop radio has embraced Falls On Me, the first single from Fuel's Natural Selection CD, so it's returned to the top 50. My opinion of Falls On Me hasn't improved. It still seems like another lame attempt to reach a larger audience with an intense, overblown rock ballad. Fuel's Hemorrhage(In My Hands) provided a prime example of the emotive hit. Following a similar blueprint, Falls On Me has recaptured Hemorrhage's success. Falls On Me isn't as overdone as Hemorrhage but it's pretty boring amd obvious. The Hemorrhage similarity begins early as Falls On Me starts with quiet, meaningful strumming then Brett Scallions does a quiet, meaningful vocal. Predictably, big guitars soon come in. They're not so bad. Falls On Me has a decent sound. It's fairly catchy and has emphatic bursts of drums and guitar but Falls On Me has no spark or excitement. Scallions' pretentious, self important vocal doesn't help. Neither does Falls On Me's familiarity. Besides Hemorrhage, Falls On Me echoes Collective Soul's Heavy with a nearly identical hook: "all of your weight falls on me." Carl Bell's lyric apparently thanks a woman for breaking "my disease", so "I can breathe."
Family Affair - Mary J. Blige
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: #16 (Dec. 2001) buy it!
Family Affair, from Blige's No More Drama CD, is Blige's biggest pop hit so far and it deserves its success. It has one of the best grooves of the year. Dr Dre's production is quite brilliant. The music, with an easy, shuffling beat and good backing vocals and keyboards, is relaxed but substantial. Blige has established a "don't mess with me" image but on Family Affair she sounds like she's having a good time, advising us to "leave your situations at the door" and "get it crunk", which apparently has something to do with dancing and having fun. Blige's vocal skills are on display as she smoothly scats around the beat.
Family Portrait - Pink
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: #24 (Jan. 2003) buy it!
When her M!ssundaztood CD came out, Pink proclaimed that she was taking a huge chance by abandoning a safe musical formula. As its turned out, Pink just traded one radio friendly style for another slightly different one. In retrospect, the real chance Pink took was in filling M!ssundaztood with all kinds of biographical information. The risk has paid off. Pink was a fairly generic dance pop artist. Now she has a very identifiable image as feistily overcome obstacles life has thrown at her. Family Portraits success is the clearest sign yet that a large audience is willing to follow Pinks search for self discovery wherever it goes. Pinks previous hits were catchy enough that listeners could just have been tolerating the self expression because the music helped it go down easily. The only purpose of Family Portraits music is to accentuate the poignant mood and stay out of the way of Family Portraits story. Family Portrait is unadorned enough and apparently so much about Pink that much of its appeal must come from its vicarious look at Pinks youth. Family Portraits soap opera style piano brings Mary J. Bliges No More Drama to mind. But unlike that songs self dramatizing portrayal of not being dramatic, Family Portrait keeps things fairly subdued until pushing the emotional buttons by closing with a kiddie chorus. Family Portrait, with Pinks character feeling responsible for and trying to fix up her parents screwed up relationship, doesnt say anything about domestic strife that hasnt been said in dozens of TV movies but Pinks pained delivery sounds real enough that her simple portrayal of a dysfunctional family packs some emotional power, even with its cliches. Nothing about Family Portraits music gets my attention. And in conjunction with its video, with a tv commercial cute kid playing young Pink, Family Portrait is too much of an ego massage for my liking. But Pinks fans surely appreciate the chance to fill in her back story.
Fast as You Can - Fiona Apple
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #14 (Dec. 1999) buy it!
Fast as You Can, from Apple's When the Pawn . . . CD, is one of the best, most interesting singles of the year. Apple shows growth from her debut CD, Tidal. On that record's singles Criminal and Shadowboxer, Apple projected an image of a young woman who was idiosyncratic and a combination of innocent and seductive tease. Fast as You Can is still idiosyncratic but seems more concerned with substance than image. It starts with a rough, jagged jazzy beat and a fast rush of words from Apple. The song slows down in the middle to catch its breath before racing forward and bouncing around again, all to exciting effect.
Fat Lip - Sum 41
Weeks on Chart: 22 Peak: #21 (Sept. 2001) buy it!
Fat Lip, from the All Killer No Filler CD, is fairly fun but totally derivative punky pop. Fat Lip alternates between an early Beasties style mix of rap and rock guitar and mindless power pop. The rhymes, like "I like songs with distortion, to drink in proportion, the doctor said my mom should have had an abortion", are cocky and dopey. With Deryck Whibley singing about being "sick of always hearing act your age" and of liking to have "fun at other people's expense", the other half of Fat Lip is basically a rehash of Blink 182's What's My Age Again. The song also throws in some lame rebellion("I'll never fall in line, become a victim of conformity") but the song's appeal comes from its fast, high spirited energy.
Father and Daughter - Paul Simon
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #48 (Feb. 2003) buy it!
Paul Simon's projects of the last 10 years(The Capeman and You're The One) got relatively little mainstream attention but he's made our Top 50 for the first time and gotten an Oscar nomination for his song from the Wild Thornberrys Movie soundtrack. I'm a little creeped out by the fact that 60 year old Simon has a 7 year old daughter(with wife Edie Brickell) but I appreciate that she's inspired one of Simon's best songs in years. Simon has a history of overthinking things but on Father And Daughter he smartly keeps things simple. Though he Simon uses a full band, Father And Daughter feels like a low budget homemade labor of love. With a basic, chugging drum machine beat(credited to longtime Simon sideman Steve Gadd), Father And Daughter has an uncomplicated arrangement that lets Simon's sweet message connect. Father And Daughter's one adornment is a beautiful, shimmering guitar. Despite the presence of Vincent Ngiuni, Simon's guitar player since Rhythm Of The Saints, Simon apparently played the exotic sounding riff. As the father of the cutest girl in the world, I'm particularly susceptible to Father And Daughter's charms but Simon's heartfelt message of love should touch even the coldest heart. Simon's promises that he'll protect his daughter seem both personal and universal. And the chorus, featuring harmonies by Simon's 10 year old son Adrian, with its "there could never be a father who loved his daughter more than I love you" hook perfectly distills the song's direct, unembarrassed sentiment.
Fear the Voices - Alice in Chains
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #27 (Nov. 1999) buy it!
This previously unreleased track from the now disbanded band is not on the Nothing Safe, best of the box CD so if you want to own Fear the Voices, you need to shell out for the Music Bank 4 CD box set. Fear the Voices is more humorless, heavy music from the band. It starts pretty well with subtle drums but the guitars get showier with a pointless boogie solo. The lyrics are silly about how "the choices will blow you away."
Feel Good Time - Pink featuring William Orbit
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: #46 (July 2003) buy it!
After a string of serious, heavily produced singles that were huge hits, Pink has done a fun, light song and it's not nearly as big a hit. I still like Feel Good Time. Starting with a riff from the 1968 Spirit song Fresh Garbage, Beck and William Orbit, who's worked with tons of people including Madonna and U2, wrote Feel Good Time. Beck declined an offer to do Feel Good Time for the Charlie's Angels Full Throttle soundtrack so Orbit did it with Pink. Feel Good Time retains a Beck flavor. It has the breezy, jaunty summery feel of Dead Weight, the song Beck did on the Life Less Ordinary soundtrack, and Mutations' Tropicalia. There are a lot of things to like about Feel Good Time. Its retro beach music charms include perky do do do backing vocals and Orbit's broad electronic touches, which sound like a past era's idea of a futuristic sound. Pink holds her own pretty well sliding easily around the light, quick orchestration and, often harmonizing with herself, projecting her distinctive personality. But Feel Good Time isn't a big hit. Maybe that's because the new Charlie's Angels movie has been a disappointment or because people want her doing more standard dance pop. The Beck touch is present in the trippy lyric which is weirder than you'd expect from a fun summer single. Feel Good Time is apparently about escaping drab existences to have a good time. It includes lines like "riding in the dirt, put a banner over my grave" and "we go in the back, paint our money black, spend it on the enemy."
Feel So Numb - Rob Zombie
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #20 (Nov. 2001) buy it!
Feel So Numb, from Rob Zombie's The Sinister Urge CD, has Zombie's typically over the top sound. His music is so theatrical and goofy that I assume you're not supposed to take it completely seriously. Feel So Numb, with its big guitars, is a little more of a mainstream rock song than some of Zombie's work. Still, with its frantic industrial synths and beat and Zombie's maniacal wail, Feel So Numb's sound is still way larger than life. I assume Zombie's music is some sort of parody but I mostly don't get the joke and just find it abrasive. Feel So Numb is apparently a diatribe about the alienating nature of modern society.
Feelin' Way Too Damn Good - Nickelback
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #2 (July 2004) buy it!
Feelin' Way Too Damn Good, the third chart hit from Nickelback's The Long Road CD, is more calculated music by Chad Kroeger's depressingly popular band. Feelin' Way Too Damn Good sounds like Nickelback's other hits but the distance between the song's claim of happiness and Kroeger's cold, narcissistic delivery make it odder and even more unpleasant than most of their work. Kroeger claims to be feeling good but there's no joy in the song. Kroeger's tight, harsh singing make the lines about convincing his woman to "fly here and see me" and making love in the shower seem like crude boasts instead of indications of affection. Feelin' Way Too Good's music is typically formulaic. The verses have meaningfully banged drums and strummed guitars. They're kept quiet so we can appreciate the rugged emotion of Kroeger's vocal. Feelin' Way Too Damn Good is built around its chorus. The chorus resembles the thuddingly obvious climaxes for songs like Someday. Drums boom to tell us we've reached the hook. Power chords slowly underline Kroeger's voice then predictably join with the drums to make a big, dramatic noise. Feelin' Way Too Damn Good is terrible. It's a particularly cynical construction. On Feelin' Way Too Damn Good, Kroeger tells us that usually when he falls in love, he finds "my heart face down." Things are going so well now that he feels "like I'm constantly dreaming." For his girlfriend's sake, I hope Kroeger is warmer and less predictable and self centered as a partner than he is as a singer/songwriter.
Feeling This - Blink 182
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: #19 (Dec. 2003) buy it!
Not long ago, Blink 182 were proudly one of the stupidest successful bands around. Since then, younger bands like Sum 41 and Simple Plan, who seem like fans of Blink 182's fast, fun rocking pop, have supplanted the band in terms of pop success and dopeyness. It's a bit depressing that, as they hit 30, Blink 182 seem to be trying to keep up with the new kids. Feeling This, from the band's self titled new record, sounds like an attempt by Blink 182, who rarely showed much interest in rap or hip hop in the past, to emulate the rap rock sound of Sum 41 and other lesser immature rock bands. The good news is that they do a really good job. Feeling This has a good flow and a lot of likable personality. Anchored by Travis Barker's big, flexible, no nonsense beat, Feeling This shifts tempos and textures but stays interesting. Feeling This is a good showcase for Blink's vocalists. Their contrasting styles fit together nicely. In his bratty voice, Tom DeLonge is the nihilist reveling in the moment, exclaiming excitedly "show me the way to bed" and "I love all the things you do." The more reflective Mark Hoppus makes it clear that the encounter is a thing of the past that's sadly fading into memory. When you think that the genial traded vocals are all the song is about, Hoppus comes up with a skilled, fluid, unshowy rap. With DeLonge's fast, varied guitar lines, Feeling This keeps driving forward. Throughout, Feeling This retains a loose hip hop flow and maintains a good balance of enthusiasm and smarts.
Fell In Love With A Girl - White Stripes
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #36 (May 2002) buy it!
White Stripes are either a brother and sister(if you believe them) or a current or former couple(if you believe the rock press) from Detroit. Fell In Love With A Girl is from White Stripes' eclectic and quite wonderful 2001 CD White Blood Cells. I sometimes find Jack White's weird, confident persona a little hard to take but I can't resist Fell In Love With A Girl's simple burst of joy. Fell In Love With A Girl is easily the shortest song to make the All-Reviews top 50. But even at 1:45, Fell In Love With A Girl is a complete rock experience. Just banging away on his guitar fast and loud and screaming about a girl with "red hair with a curl", Jack White recalls the spirit of early rock and roll by stripping away any excess to find a pure rock essence. Meg White's drumming is basic but effectively matches the buoyant mood. White Stripes very impressively create a big sound with just a guitarist and drummer. They bring to mind Local H's similar ability to make a huge noise with two players. White Stripes' tale of the thrill of ignoring the "left brain"'s message that love is fleeting is one of the most fun songs around.
Fiction(She Dreams In Digital) - Orgy
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #26 (Oct. 2000) buy it!
Orgy's hard rock/industrial bludgeoning of New Order's Blue Monday may have been my least favorite single of 1999. Fiction, from their new Vapor Transmission CD, isn't as offensive but it's nearly as stupid. The music and lyrics are both cheesy sci-fi. Over hokey electronics, Jay Gordon sings about a robot girl he created who's gone haywire. "Now that control is gone", "my finger's on the kill switch." Whatever. Orgy take the big guitar, big atmosphere sound of bands like Korn and do it in the least interesting way possible.
Fighter - Christina Aguilera
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: #25 (June 2003) buy it!
Christina Agulera made great progress in fixing her image problems with Beautiful, the second hit from her Stripped CD. Beautiful allowed Aguilera, who had developed a narcissistic, weird persona, to present herself as needy and empathetic with all her fans who have self image problems. On Fighter, Aguilera reverts to an image of self interest and unpleasant ambition. Aguilera has an undeniable vocal gift. But her voice is so big that she can seem like she's just showing off. On Beautiful, Aguilera benefitted from the fairly light touch and commercial sense of producer Linda Perry. On Fighter, producer Scott Storch not only doesn't restrain Aguilera's showboating tendencies but encourages her to go way over the top. Fighter is strewn with a big hard rock guitar sound that totally lacks subtlety. Fighter soon becomes a showdown between the guitars and Aguilera's voice that results in a shrill, headache inducing mess. Aguilera seems to be referring to a boyfriend who used her but, with its references to cheating and greed and cheating, Fighter could just refer to a record company rep who dared challenge her. Either way, Fighter's gritted teeth confidence and bombastic sound hardly has Beautiful's charming vulnerability. Many may have been surprised by Beautiful's expression, written by Perry, of self doubt. It will be news to few that Fighter, written by Aguilera, declares that Aguilera is determined to succeed.
Figured You Out - Nickelback
Weeks on Chart: 22 Peak: #4 (March 2004) buy it!
Figured You Out is another self righteous, humorless song from the irritatingly successful Canadian band. Figured You Out, the hard rocking second chart hit from Nickelback's CD, has a pretty good, if familiar, tough, tight guitar riff. But Figured You Out is still unappealing. It has an unpleasantness that largely comes from Chad Kroeger's cold, numbingly serious singing and lyrics. Kroeger shows his moralistic streak on Figured You Out with a laborious lyric that invents a decadent lifestyle so he can condemn it. Kroeger's character(I assume Mr. Perfect isn't writing from perfect experience) first revels in a wild life of sex and drugs then decides he hates and blames the person who brought him to it.
Fill Me In - Craig David
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #28 (Nov. 2001) buy it!
Englishman Craig David's vocals are appealingly confident as he quickly glides through Fill Me In. Everything else about Fill Me In, from David's Born To Do It CD, is pleasant but a little innocuous. David's lyrics about a couple closely monitored by the girl's parents while "we were just doing things young people in love do" seem carefully calculated to be sexy and still easy to relate to for kids of different ages. Fill Me In's music, with a mechanical sounding beat and synth strings, is pretty tame and repetitive.
Fine Again - Seether
Weeks on Chart: 29 Peak: #4 (Feb. 2003) buy it!
Seether are the latest of many glum, post-grunge bands to hit the top 50 though the first to come from South Africa. On Fine Again, from Seether's Disclaimer CD, singer/songwriter Shaun Morgan sounds a lot like Puddle Of Mudd's Wes Scantlin, the most successful of the recent mopey Cobain clones. Morgan doesn't have Scantlin's arrogance and Morgan's lyric and delivery make it clear that his pain is real, not the showy posturing Scantlin sometimes engages in. Seether effectively use the grunge conventions. Morgan's intense emotion can pull you in, in a Lithium kind of way, as can the way the power chords underline his vocal. But Fine Again sounds so familiar and inferior to the music Morgan clearly loves that it's hard to stay interested. Also, Morgan's depression is apparently so deep that he can't vary his flat affect or Fine Again's fairly monotonous melody. Morgan can't even muster the cathartic wail that is often grunge's saving grace. Fine Again is about being told he should get over his breakup but feeling stuck in a world where every day is gray and the same and feeling "like I'm dying."
The First Cut Is The Deepest - Sheryl Crow
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: #8 (Feb. 2004) buy it!
The First Cut Is The Deepest was written by Cat Stevens in the late 60s and has been covered a bunch of times. It's a pained warning to a new lover that, after having your heart torn apart, it's hard to love again. I keep thinking that Sheryl Crow's cover is some sort of joke. Crow has given The First Cut a bizarre sunny, California style reading. Crow's voice is never very soulful but she can be appealingly smooth and playful. She usually writes and records songs that match her singing. The First Cut is a mismatch. The new First Cut, undoubtedly a hit because people are familiar with Rod Stewart's version and with Crow's easy voice, is quite bad. Crow apparently picked The First Cut as a new track for her Very Best of Sheryl Crow compilation because she knew it and liked it but didn't take the time to figure out what it's about. Crow's relentlessly superficial vocal is supported by similarly bland backing with strings and professional, generic sounding guitar.
First Date - Blink 182
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: #15 (March 2002) buy it!
It'll be interesting to see who gets tired of Blink 182's simple but fun songs first, the band or alternative radio. First Date, the third single from Blink 182's Take Off Your Pants and Jacket CD, sounds like The Rock Show, What's My Age Again and lots of other Blink songs. It's even more basic than most of their fast, good spirited, bratty vocaled songs. The only even slightly different thing about First Date is its chorus, where the guitar and drums slightly change tempo and emphasis. First Date is a throwaway but, like the other singles from Take Off Your Pants And Jacket, it has a charming sweetness. The band still flaunt a juvenile personality and, while their teen years are long behind them, they still easily carry off the sweet, innocent tale of a boy nervous about making a date work.
Flake - Jack Johnson
Weeks on Chart: 31 Peak: #9 (Aug. 2002) buy it!
The Hawaiian native/champion surfer turned LA singer/songwriter's first chart hit is charmingly laid back. Johnson sings on Flake, from the Brushfire Fairytales CD, about likable slackers who lose out or let people down because of "ties" or because "often times we're lazy." Flake has relaxed guitars and drums and Johnson's smooth vocal comfortably matches the song's mood. He doesn't seem to exert himself too much even as he reaches for high notes in the song's "please don't drag me down" conclusion. Ben Harper, whose music has an easy, sensual appeal similar to Johnson's, plays good atmospheric slide guitar on Flake.
Flavor Of The Weak - American Hi-Fi
Weeks on Chart: 21 Peak: #17 (May 2001) buy it!
Alternative rock radio got bored with Flavor Of The Weak but it's back on the chart thanks to play at top 40 stations. The appeal of Flavor Of The Weak, from American Hi-Fi's self titled debut CD, is clear. It's good natured and familiar pop with the thrill of crunching power chords. Like Weezer and Presidents of the USA, American Hi-Fi show a fondness for fun, somewhat silly late 70s pop rock artists like The Knack, Kiss and Pat Benatar. The lyrics are appropriately basic. A teen wishes he could make his unrequited love see that her boyfriend "don't know anything about her, he's too stoned" and that he'll soon dump her.
Float On - Modest Mouse
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #7 (July 2004) buy it!
Float On is a breakthrough hit for Modest Mouse, who formed in Issaquah, Washington more than a decade ago. Modest Mouse's Good News For People Who Love Bad News is a good and interesting CD. Isaac Brock uses different voices, including odd ones, and writes lyrics that are often wacky and bizarre. The rock songs on Good News take all sorts of forms. Without actually sounding like Pavement, they bring to mind that band's(as well as Flaming Lips' and Pixies') unpredictable, exploring rock. On a couple songs, Brock sounds like Talking Heads' David Byrne. Float On is the CD's closest Heads soundalike. Like a good Talking Heads song, Float On is weird but also sounds good and has an irresistible groove. Brock does the Byrne thing of sounding overwhelmed and a little crazy but also communicating a sense of wonder. With Brock's deliberate diction and Benjamin Weikel's shuffling beat keeping the song marching forward, Float On's strange, joyful ride reminds me of Road To Nowhere. Terrific, compact guitar riffs give the song added momentum. Spacy sonic effects accentuate the song's dreamlike feel. Float On has a great opening line. After backing into to a cop car, Brock decides that "sometimes life's OK" when the cop just drives off. Determining that the good comes with the bad, Brock looks on the bright side. "A fake Jamaican took every last dime" with a scam but Brock says "it was worth it just to learn some sleight of hand." Brock's cockeyed optimism mixes with Float On's gleeful music to produce one of the best singles of the year.
Follow Me - Uncle Kracker
Weeks on Chart: 22 Peak: #11 (May 2001) buy it!
Uncle Kracker(aka Matt Shafer) was Kid Rock's DJ. He co-wrote some of the hits from Devil Without A Cause and Kid Rock produced Uncle Kracker's Double Wide CD. Sugar Ray lead singer Mark McGrath appears in the Follow Me video. Like Sugar Ray did on their pop hits Someday and Falls Apart, Uncle Kracker restrains his harder dance music instincts on Follow Me. Uncle Kracker seems more calculated and less sincere but Follow Me has an undeniable appeal. Follow Me has a doo wop feel and good, very minimal instrumentation from fingersnaps and light drumming and keyboards. Follow Me is pleasant and innocuous though its lyric is fairly annoying. Uncle Kracker tries to convince his girl that a lack of commitment is good("We'll be alright if you don't ask me to stay") and boasts, "I make you feel free" and"I can guarantee, you won't find nobody else like me."
Foolish - Ashanti
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: #17 (May 2002) buy it!
Ashanti Douglas is a talented songwriter who's already played prominent vocal roles on other artists' hits. Ashanti's vocal is one of my favorite parts of Fat Joe's What's Luv? and Ja Rule's Always On Time but I'm disappointed by Foolish, the first hit from her self titled CD. Foolish, like the other hits she's sung on, is produced by Irv Gotti. I understand why Foolish is a hit. It has a smooth, uncluttered sound and a crisp, inobtrusive beat. While I find some of the vocal too thin and whispery, Ashanti's singing mostly goes down easy. Unlike What's Luv? and Always On Time, which throw in elements of everything from hard hip hop to smooth soul and catchy pop, Foolish seems to be missing something. I find the main ornamentation of Foolish, a piano riff and shimmering percussion effect, repetitious and uninteresting. Ashanti sings on Foolish that love keeps her running back to her man even though she knows he's "treatin' me so bad."
For All Time - Soluna
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: #45 (July 2002) buy it!
For All Time is the title track from the debut CD by four young Hispanic American women. For All Time has tight but bland harmonies. It's like a lesser version of light ballads like Wilson Phillips' You're In Love, Christina Aguilera's I Turn To You and Britney's From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart. For All Time was cowritten and produced by Steve Morales, who's worked with Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin. With a vocoder effect added to T Lopez' vocal seemingly indiscriminately, flowery strings and cheap sounding synths including a dated swirling effect on the chorus, the sound is pretty cheesy. For All Time is generally smooth but it's awfully tame. The lyrics are suitably innocuous, praising the guy who makes "my life complete" and "keeps me strong", vowing "there's no other one for me."
For the Movies - Buckcherry
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #17 (Oct. 1999) buy it!
The followup to Lit Up from their self titled debut is not as raucous as Lit Up's tribute to cocaine. It's O.K., fairly routine but pleasant midtempo rock. The verse starts out sounding like Radiohead's Creep and the song also has a touch of Bowie-like 70's glam rock.
For You - Staind
Weeks on Chart: 29 Peak: #7 (May 2002) buy it!
You'd figure that even Staind's biggest fans would have had enough of Aaron Lewis self pitying bleating by now. The fourth chart hit from Break The Cycle has harder guitars and drums than It's Been Awhile and some of the CD's other songs but it's mainly another showcase for Aaron Lewis' anguished vocal about the pain he feels. Lewis tells his parents how "your insults and your curses make me feel like I'm not a person" and demands that they "do something" about the fact that he feels "fucked up." As always, I don't doubt that Lewis hurts or begrudge his right to express his emotions. But since I'm not a troubled 14 year old boy, I'm just not that interested. And I find For You's uneasy combination of bombastic, grinding rock and Lewis' crooning even less musically interesting than most of Staind's work.
Forever - Kid Rock
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #28 (Nov. 2001) buy it!
His new CD is called Cocky but Kid Rock seems defensive on Forever. Perhaps knowing that his rhymes are pretty stupid, Kid Rock anticipated criticism, warning "do not hate or question the music I make." He brags "I ain't changed nothing" but that's part of the problem with Forever. It's a retread of his previous work with little new inspiration. He's bragged before about his skills at mixing rock and hip hop and how he's "got money like Fort Knox." Still, while Kid Rock will never recapture his Devil Without A Cause/Bawitdaba success, there will always be some attracted to a proudly white trashy guy who confidently does old school rhymes. And there is a simple appeal to Forever's basic beat and grinding guitar line.
Fortune Faded - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #14 (Jan. 2004) buy it!
Red Hot Chili Peppers continue to deal with how to make rock music as you reach middle age. It's good that they realized they'd seem silly if they kept making the kind of raucous music they made in the 80's. Their music these days is, mostly decent and competently made. But while it's pleasant and tasteful, it usually lacks much spark and can be plain boring. Fortune Faded, a new track on the Greatest Hits CD which covers the band's music since 1989, is more listenable, unexciting music. The best thing about Fortune Faded is John Frusciante's sleek processed guitar riff. Otherwise, with power chords, Flea's thumping bass and Chad Smith's pounding drums, Fortune Faded has the trappings of a rock song but little of the energy and surprise that can make one good. It passes by easily but uneventfully and repetitiously. Anthony Kiedis' vocal doesn't grab you. Especially for a guy who developed an image by doing things like playing concerts naked, his singing is mannered and bland. The lyric tell us that the reasons for his fading fortune include a "medicated state of mind" and the fact you can quickly find you've overstayed your welcome in a show biz world that's a "hell of an elevator."
Freak On a Leash - Korn
Weeks on Chart: 1 Peak: #41 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
Korn is able to communicate the rage and confusion of their male teen audience. Freak On a Leash, from the cd Follow the Leader, relates alienation and the feeling of not belonging. The music might sound overblown to those outside Korn's target audience but the power of the music, the quality of the playing and the sincerity of the emotions are undeniable. Like Rage Against The Machine, they aren't the sound of the mainstream future but their effective mix of hard rock and dance music is the sound of things to come.
Freek-A-Leek - Petey Pablo
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: #39 (July 2004) buy it!
Freek-A-Leek is on Still Writing In My Diary: 2nd Entry by the rapper from North Carolina whose given name is Moses Barrett. Freek-A-Leek was produced and cowritten by Jonathan "Lil' Jon" Smith. Lil' Jon only seems to know how to write one song but that song has done well for him. Lil' Jon slightly altered his hit Get Low to make Usher's Yeah and Freek-A-Leek. Freek-A-Leek is very much in Get Low's spirit. It has a very similar edgy, steady synth riff, rowdy, raucous mood and profane lyric. Despite its similarity, Freek-A-Leek doesn't come off as a ripoff of Get Low because of Pablo's strong personality. Pablo's forceful, confident vocal is compelling. Like Lil' Jon and Sean Paul, Pablo has a big, deep, cocky voice. The way Pablo lists women's names brings to mind Paul's Get Busy. Pablo's voice is rougher than Paul's. Sean Paul is a bit of a clown and a fool. Pablo's gravelly rap makes it clear he's not kidding around. It also makes Pablo's frank, obscene lyrics seem a bit threatening. But in Pablo's defense, he wants the ladies to know in advance what he has in mind. He doesn't seem to want to coerce anyone who doesn't share his proclivities. Freek-A-Leek is almost all about Pablo's sexual predilections. The radio version I've heard has dozens of words edited out. It revolves around Lil' Jon's yells "would you do it from the front? Would you do it from the back." It sounds like Petey Pablo's ideal woman is a prostitute. He wants a woman who'll "come over any time a nigga call" and "keep her business to herself." She should "sniff a little coke, take a little x, smoke a little weed, drink a little bit." He needs "a girl I can freak wit' and wanna try shit." He wants his woman to get oral sex from "another bitch, 'cause I ain't drunk enough to do that." To emphasize what a coarse fellow he is, Pablo closes out Freak-A-Leek with "a shoutout to Seagram's gin 'cause I drink it and they paying me for it." Freek-A-Leek presents Petey Pablo as a pretty unsavory character but Lil Jon's catchy skipping riff and Pablo's assured voice make it interesting.
Free - Donavon Frankenreiter
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: #13 (Oct. 2000) buy it!
Donavon Frankenreiter and Jack Johnson were pro surfers in Hawaii. They became buddies and made music together. Frankenreiter has followed Johnson into the music business, making a record for Johnson's Brushfire Records label. Frankenreiter wrote Free with Johnson, who also performs on the record. Like Johnson's music, Free has a confident, relaxed feel. Frankenreiter has a good natured, assured voice that suggests many hours listening to Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead. With its laid back, warm, idealistic stoner vibe and very simple, positive singalong chorus, Free sounds like a late 60's hippie rock classic. The downside is that there's a thin line between seemingly effortless simplicity and boring complacency. Johnson's modest music sometimes seems self satisfied or unadventurous but he often comes up with a subtle spin to make things interesting. Free is smooth and comfortable but there are no surprises. With a leisurely beat and groovy organ sound, Free breezes by easily. Free isn't very challenging but it's smooth, cool and very easy to listen to(especially if you're high). Free's lyric depicts a relaxed couple drifting along, drinking and waiting "until the trade winds blow."
Friends And Family - Trik Turner
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #23 (April 2002) buy it!
Friends and Family, from the Phoenix band's self titled CD, is similar to Everlast's hits in using a spare sound for a very serious, heartfelt account. You can't argue with the song's premise that what really matters is the love of your friends and family though that message is surrounded by less appealing lines about keeping a(presumably musical) dream alive by overcoming the odds and those who criticize. Friends And Family has a striking, atmospheric sound, with a simple beat and minimal keyboards. But, especially after repeat listens, I find the song too solemn and, while it sounds like it's about something important, it's not actually that interesting.
From the Bottom of My Broken Heart - Britney Spears
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: #45 (Feb. 2000) buy it!
The fourth hit from Baby One More Time is a fairly uninteresting ballad. Spears once again presents herself as a fairly stereotypical submissive female, openly pining for a lost love. Spears voice isn't much and, unlike on her dance songs, she can't hit it behind the beat.