Hands Clean - Alanis Morissette
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: #5 (March 2002) buy it!
Morissette made her name in her very early 20's with You Oughta Know, an angry note to a guy who dumped her for another. Now in her late 20's, she introduces us to her new Under Rug Swept CD with a less emotional (no memories of oral sex in a theatre in this one) but still angry look back at a now finished personal and professional relationship. Hands Clean seems to be about Glen Ballard, who produced and cowrote most of the songs on Morissette's last two records but is conspicuously absent from Under Rug Swept. Hands Clean remembers a condescending("if it weren't for me you would never have amounted to very much") older producer who seduced her then dumped her. Clearly, Alanis wants to show she can make it alone. She wrote and produced Under Rug Swept on her own and played most of the instruments. She did a good job on Hands Clean, making it sound familiar and fresh, smoothly shifting from verses with rapid torrents of confession to smooth, harder rocking choruses. Hands Clean is fairly disposable and similar to, if slightly tougher than, previous Alanis songs like All I Really Want and Head Over Feet but the sound is full, catchy and always moving forward.
Hands Down - Dashboard Confessional
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #26 (Oct. 2003) buy it!
Dashboard Confessional is led by Christopher Carrabba, a singer/songwriter so sensitive that he makes his fellow sincere emo rockers seem brutish in comparison. Carrabba's serious, heartfelt delivery and clean good looks have won him worshipful fans who moon over him and sing along with his every word. Hands Down is from Dashboard Confessional's new A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar CD. On Hands Down, Carrabba gives his fans what they expect, making it clear how deeply he feels what he says. Hands Down's dynamics are its strong point. Carrabba creates good intensity, mixing up the song's volume and tempo, quietly emphasizing on certain sections and sharing the joy of release by yelling his heart on the chorus. The new CD was produced by modern rock veteran Gil Norton(Pixies, Belly, Foo Fighters). Hands Down is very listenable perky guitar pop that sounds good but the music is fairly routine and anonymous. Hands Down has the stuttering guitar and quiet to loud formula of The Middle and other Jimmy Eat World songs without that band's musical personality. Hands Down does have Carrabba's winning emotional purity. When he doesn't have a catchy tune to anchor it, Carrabba's sincerity can be too intense and a bit boring but Hands Down is heartfelt with good hooks. Hands Down's lyric is appealingly dramatic. Carrabba communicates the rapturous feeling that "this is the best day I can ever remember." Hands Down does a good job of capturing the heightened emotion of youthful romance. Carrabba sings that "my hopes are so high that your kiss might kill me." He willingly puts himself in his lover's hands and revels in how she "kissed me like you meant it."
Hangin' Around - Counting Crows
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: #2 (Nov. 1999) buy it!
Adam Duritz has often taken himself so seriously that he can come across as pretentious. On Hangin' Around, from the band's third studio album Desert Life, Duritz complains that he's been bumming around for too long. Luckily, his solution on this single isn't a return to navel gazing. Hangin' Around is kind of insubstantial but it has a nice, loose feeling.
Hanging By A Moment - Lifehouse
Weeks on Chart: 47 Peak: #1 (March 2001) buy it!
Having debuted in November, Hanging By A Moment, from the No Name Face CD, is the oldest song on the top 50. Pop radio still isn't tired of it. Lifehouse are another young band clearly showing their Pearl Jam and Nirvana influences. There's a similarity between Lifehouse and Creed, the most successful of the Pearl Jam soundalikes. Lifehouse are very serious, like Creed, but they don't have Creed's pretentious excess. Hanging By A Moment is a familiar sounding rock ballad but Jason Wade is appealingly sincere, singing about "falling even more in love", "letting go of all I've held onto" and "living for the only thing I know."
Happy - Ashanti
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #37 (Oct. 2002) buy it!
Down 4 U fell just short of the top 50 but, generally, the Murder Inc. steamroller shows no sign of slowing down. The endless parade of easy, listenable but unambitious hits produced by Irv Gotti with vocals by Ja Rule and/or Ashanti is becoming increasingly mind numbing. Happy, the second single from the Ashanti CD, is pleasant enough. It's perkier than Ashanti's smash, Foolish. The music and Ashanti Douglas' voice are both sunny, smooth and inoffensive. But they also largely lack personality. Happy is extremely modest in its aspirations and execution. With its laid back feel, Happy resembles the "remix" version of Jennifer Lopez' I'm Real. But Lopez, while no great singer, had more presence and sexy attitude than Ashanti has in her competent, innocuous vocal. Happy repeats a vaguely annoying, chirpy synth riff and a wind blowing sound not much different from the effect in Foolish. Happy's backup singers are pretty good but they're forced to sing a melody line strangely reminiscent of the one from 80s easy listening megahit On My Own. After the obligatory Ja Rule introduction, Ashanti, in a fairly inane lyric, tells her man how he she's "so glad you fell in love with me" and that she "couldn't see me without you."
Harder To Breathe - Maroon 5
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: #22 (Oct. 2003) buy it!
Maroon 5 used to be Kara's Flowers, playing smart, catchy guitar pop that did well at college radio but didn't sell many records. After releasing Fourth World, Kara's Flowers became Maroon 5. They reworked their sound, played a lot of gigs and have now released their debut CD Songs About Jane. Judging from Harder To Breathe, Maroon 5 developed a cynical, radio savvy sound. Harder To Breathe sounds like a hit but it's not very fun or likable. Harder To Breathe is all jagged, hooky noises but, perhaps appropriately for a very angry song, it lacks warmth. Harder To Breathe does grab you with a big sound. The guitars and drums crunch in at sharp angles. The hard, cold music turns me off but it is distinctive. The same can be said for Adam Levine's cocky, stylized vocal but he really irritates me. I do concede that his falsetto at the end is pretty cool. Harder To Breathe's lyric is pretty nasty. It apparently is addressed to a girlfriend. Levine mentions his "tendency of getting very physical" and warns: "watch your step 'cause if I do you'll need a miracle." He sings you're "not fit to f---in tread the ground I'm walking on" and "you want to stay but you know very well I want you gone." He taunts her: "is it painful to learn that it's me that has all the control" and "you wish that you had me to hold."
The Hardest Button To Button - The White Stripes
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #25 (Oct. 2003) buy it!
The Hardest Button To Button, the second hit from The White Stripes' Elephant CD, is another hard to resist mix of Jack White's weird personality and his minimal, driving rock music. The Hardest Button shows White's gift for finding a great hook. The Hardest Button is held together by a steady supply of throbbing and pounding sounds. Like Seven Nation Army(which has been in the top 50 for more than eight months), The Hardest Button prominently features a bass sound that, because of Jack White's odd rules, is played by a processed guitar rather than a bass. The Hardest Button gets off to a great start with that Psycho Killer style bass sound joined by the raw guitar sound of White playing notes of chords then by Meg White's bass drum. Jack's voice has its typical slightly demented but committed tone. Meg's simple drumming style is perfect for Hardest Button and the songs that Jack makes in general. Hardest Button climaxes on the chorus with an emphatic guitar sound crashing in unison with the drums. Hardest Button is rock music as Jack White envisions it. It's focused, exciting and lacking in excess. White's strangeness can sometimes be distracting but songs like Hardest Button To Button show how White can create the thrill of a pure rock sound. Hardest Botton is apparently about growing up with a close but troubled family, curing his baby brother's tooth ache with a voodoo doll and feeling "like you're the hardest button to button."
Hash Pipe - Weezer
Weeks on Chart: 21 Peak: #17 (June 2001) buy it!
After their good but idiosyncratic 1996 Pinkerton CD sold disappointingly, Weezer took a break then tightened their sound. The payoff is their best and most successful CD: the very good, rocking green album. Hash Pipe was a good choice of a first single. The tough, rocking sound helps kill the band's image as video dependent jokesters. Brian Bell and Rivers Cuomo's guitars are as big and menacing as any hard rock band's. Cuomo sings without his earlier tentativeness. On Hash Pipe, about a transsexual prostitute smoking to relieve life's paranoia and anxiety, Cuomo moves assuredly in and out of a falsetto, always adding to the song's sense of urgency. As on Buddy Holly, power chords and catchy hooks create a great, exhilarating sound.
Hate To Say I Told You So - The Hives
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: #28 (Aug. 2002) buy it!
Cutting away the fat that alternative rock has grown over the years, Swedish band The Hives act like it's still the late 70s and they've only just learned of the thrills of making fast, short rock songs with tight, hard guitar riffs. Hate To Say I Told You So sounds a little like songs by Black Crowes and Buckcherry and it also brings to mind other post punk songs like Blur's Song 2 and Sonic Youth's most compact work. But the most obvious influence seems to be The Stooges' Search And Destroy. Pelle Almqvist always comes across, in interviews, on stage and on record, as a very confident guy. He has no problem projecting Iggy Pop's in your face narcissism, singing about how he does "what I want 'cause I can" and how he wants to "be ignored by the stiff and the bored." Hate To Say I Told You So, which is featured on the Spider-man soundtrack as well as the band's Veni Vidi Vicious CD, recalls the thrill of simple, exciting punk inspired music.
He Loves U Not - Dream
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: #27 (Feb. 2001) buy it!
Everyone wants a piece of the lucrative teen pop market. Puffy Combs is among those behind the latest package of young females. He Loves U Not, from the CD It Was All A Dream, has a familiar sound that basically guaranteed its success. On He Loves U Not, Dream sound like Christina Aguilera without Aguilera's vocal personality or a white Destiny's Child without their sleek sound. He Loves U Not also resembles N Sync's It's Gonna Be Me. It has efficient, basic music with a big, stuttering beat. The singing and lyrics have a youthful simplicity young girls can handle. The girls claim not to care about another girl who is trying to take a boyfriend since they know he only loves her.
He Wasn't Man Enough - Toni Braxton
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: #31 (Sept. 2000) buy it!
Toni Braxton has had most of her success with big ballads. The first hit single from The Heat, Braxton's first CD in four years, is an attempt to show that she's kept up with the times. He Wasn't Man Enough is a sleek dance song with a good, light groove. But it isn't the best showcase for Braxton's vocal talents. She's stuck in a low, mannered tone. The song does do a good job of weaving her voice with more energetic backing vocals. He Wasn't Man Enough is basically the musical version of a catfight. Songwriter/producer Rodney Jerkins makes Braxton seem pretty nasty. The lyric quickly makes the point that Braxton's old flame's new girl doesn't have to worry that Braxton is still interested since she let him go. Braxton's dis of the guy is so harsh that it makes her look bad as she repeatedly sings that he begged her to stay.
Headstrong - Trapt
Weeks on Chart: 50 Peak: #1 (Aug. 2003) buy it!
Headstrong is from the California band's self titled major label debut. Headstrong holds some hints that Trapt could be more interesting than other nu-metal bands. The sound isn't as cluttered or murky as that of some of their contemporaries. The verses are pretty good. Chris Brown's vocal is smooth and quick with a rapper's sensibility. The vocal is nicely underlined by Simon Ormandy's light, loose guitar. The chorus is effective but less interesting as Brown and Ormandy's trade short, jagged thrusts of guitar. Brown's angry croon is awfully familiar. In the end, not much distinguishes Headstrong from intense rap metal by Linkin Park, Papa Roach and many others. Headstrong is competently made but not particularly likable or interesting. Headstrong apparently announces a break with an ambitious musical associate who won't change his wrong ideas.
Heaven and Hot Rods - Stone Temple Pilots
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #20 (Jan. 2000) buy it!
Down, the first single from STP's No. 4 CD, had an interestingly grungy sound but it was also a little harsh and didn't have the band's usual catchiness. It fell off the charts fairly quickly. Heaven and Hot Rods, which made the chart about the time Scott Weiland finished doing his jail time for a probation violation, is more of a basic straight ahead rocker. There's not much to the song with Weiland singing some gibberish about trying to get to heaven on a Sunday but it has an appealing driving beat, big rock guitars and a pretty cool mood.
Heaven - DJ Sammy & Yanou
Weeks on Chart: 22 Peak: #15 (June 2003) buy it!
Los Lonely Boys are brothers from San Angelo, Texas who started out in their father's band. They recorded their self titled debut CD at Willie Nelson's Austin studio. Los Lonely Boys' name, harmonies and Latin-inflected sound invite comparison to Los Lobos, the best Hispanic American band. I Like Los Lonely Boys' harmonies. Otherwise, Los Lonely Boys fall considerably short. Heaven doesn't have the depth and texture of a good Los Lobos song. Heaven is better than most music on easy listening radio. It's pleasant and smooth. The brothers come across as good guys. Heaven is charming and inoffensive but, eventually, the band's desire to ingratiate is a bit numbing. Surely, Henry Garza can play something more interesting than Heaven's syrupy guitar doodles. Los Lonely Boys CD was produced by John Porter, who worked with The Smiths and has more recently done records for blues musicians like B.B. King and Keb' Mo'. Heaven sounds fine but bland. It could use a little edge. Perhaps Heaven is tamer than the rest of Los Lonely Boys' music. Their single Real Emotions was more interesting. Knowing "I need to change" Jojo pleads on Heaven for God to save him from misery. My favorite part of Heaven is the brief section where Jojo sings in Spanish, asking you who is in heaven to send down a blessing. That little piece of Heaven gives a little spice to a genial, innocuous song.
Heavy Things - Phish
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: #22 (June 2000) buy it!
On the likably relaxed Heavy Things, from the Farmhouse CD, the band invites the Grateful Dead that have followed Phish for years. Trey Anastasio's vocals, singing about the things coming down on him and referring to women he's known, have a Garcia-like modesty and he finishes the song with a nice loose guitar solo. With good harmonies and keyboards, the skilled band creates a positive vibe.
Heel Over Head - Puddle Of Mudd
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #10 (May 2004) buy it!
As I noted in the Away From Me review, I actually like the singles from Puddle Of Mudd's Life On Display better than the ones from their far more successful Come Clean CD. Wes Scantlin's delivery is slightly less obnoxious and arrogant and the songs are fairly tuneful. Still, Puddle Of Mudd is pretty bad and, with Scantlin's anger toned down, kind of pointless. Heel Over Head, is a lot like Away From Me, Life On Display's first single. It's mid tempo rock in the style of Foo Fighters, Stone Temple Pilots and, especially, Nirvana. The playing is pretty good, with a decent loose vibe. Scantlin plays a guitar riff like the ones from Nirvana's Scentless Apprentice and Heart-Shaped Box. Heel Over Head has a fairly uninspired and anonymous melody but it's decent mainstream rock. Heel Over Head's biggest problem is Scantlin's singing and writing. Even when he's not at his most unpleasant, Scantlin is pretty unappealing. He does a pretty bland, repetitious rock star vocal until Heel Over Head's conclusion when he, predictably, starts screaming. Heel Over Head is another self pitying screed from Scantlin. He's "ripping apart at the seams". Scantlin complains that "after all the things I've done for you", "you don't save me at all" and demands "don't you walk away from me."
The Hell Song - Sum 41
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #34 (May 2003) buy it!
Like Still Waiting, the first chart hit from the Does This Look Infected? CD, The Hell Song indicates that, after depicting themselves as dopey goofballs, the Canadian band wants to be taken seriously. The Hell Song isn't as overreaching as Still Waiting, which assumed that we wanted the kind of dopey band's thoughts about a world filled with hate. The Hell Song is more personal and shows some maturity. While he still sings in a annoyingly bratty voice, Derick Whibley sings that he's learned that we don't always get to choose how "things that matter the most" end up and that "everybody's got their problems." He's also trying to solve problems when he can, learn from hardship and not get overwhelmed by the randomness of life. Hell Song is a hard, straight forward rocker. Hell Song is similar to Still Waiting but it has an even tougher sound. Hell Song has no lulls. It's very tight. Dave Baksh and Whibley keep the guitars coming. Hell Song doesn't have any sense of originality. It's generic fast post punk. But the band keep the music so tight that, while it's not distinctive, Hell Song is exciting. The Hell Song is supported by a good video that, consistent with the band's original youthful image, makes fun use of dozens of action figures representing contemporary stars.
Hell Yeah - Ginuwine
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #33 (May 2003) buy it!
Ginuwine's previous big top 40 hits, Pony and Differences, were slow ballads with Ginuwine playing the intense lover. Ginuwine has done dance songs before but Hell Yeah, from his The Senior CD, is the first one that's really crossed over. Ginuwine was written and produced by R. Kelly. Kelly's had lots of success over the years but this must be the hottest period of his career. In early 2003, he's had a #1 pop hit with Ignition and two more big hits that he wrote and produced: Bump, Bump, Bump and Hell Yeah. Hell Yeah ranks somewhere between the brilliant Ignition and catchy, annoying Bump, Bump, Bump. Hell's Yeah's beeping synth line and light, sweeping beat create a relaxed, slithery, steady jam. Hell Yeah is also repetitious and feels pretty lightweight. Baby from Big Tymers does an unremarkable rap about "big pimpin'" and how "we fresh" with Lexuses, guns and minks but Ginuwine's vocal is controlled, strong, quick and supple. He gives some weight to a pretty slight song. Kelly again lacks the brilliance lyrically he has musically. When I first heard Hell Yeah, I thought, with its evocation of head bobbin' thugs and booty shakin "chicks", it was mocking the standard celebration of submissive women and free flowing, expensive champagne and other alcohol. Instead, Hell Yeah is the standard celebration, though Kelly adds his own distinctively odd love of women, paying tribute with the line: she's"givin' me head like she's a brain donor."
Hella Good - No Doubt
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: #23 (June 2002) buy it!
Like Hey Baby, Hella Good, the second single from the Rock Steady CD, immediately sounds like a hit. Unlike Hey Baby, I don't hate Hella Good. Even with crisp, tight production by reggae heroes Sly & Robbie, Hey Baby's beeping video game flash was way too gimmicky for me. Hella Good is cold, efficient, mechanical and carefully constructed for commercial consumption but it's more appealing to me. Maybe that's because Hella Good is so danceable. Maybe it's because it reminds me of the dance pop hits of my youth. I can't put my finger on exactly what song Hella Good reminds me of but its heavy beat and big, catchy synths bring to mind such irresistable hits as Prince's 1999, Madonna's Into The Groove, Queen's Another One Bites The Dust and Human League's Don't You Want Me. As with another undeniable recent smash, Kylie Minogue's Can't Get You Out Of My Head, Hella Good doesn't let any complicated ideas get in the way of the groove. With her confident, no nonsense vocal, Gwen Stefani just sings about how it feels really good to dance with someone you love.
Hello Time Bomb - Matthew Good Band
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: #45 (March 2001) buy it!
Sadly, Hello Time Bomb's tale of someone "ready to go off" is as timely today as it was when the song first came out on the Canadian band's Beautiful Midnight CD in 1999. Hello Time Bomb seems exploitative and obvious, with its ticking sound and sinister effects on the verses, angry guitar power chords on the chorus and Good's cold, cocky vocals. Hello Time Bomb tells of a young man whose life finds a reason and an answer for a life that can "push and push 'til it hurts" as he presumably plans an act of mass destruction and dares the world to "see if I'm kidding."
Hemorrhage - Fuel
Weeks on Chart: 40 Peak: #2 (Dec. 2000) buy it!
Fuel broke through with Shimmer, from their Sunburn CD. That song had a hard rock sound and was catchy but didn't seem too gimmicky. Hemorrhage, from the new Something Like Human CD, doesn't have Shimmer's light touch. With its dramatic strings and acoustic guitar, Hemorrhage is calculated to be a smash hit rock ballad. Brett Scallions is ever so intense as he sings Carl Bell's bombastic lyrics asking her not to leave love bleeding in my his hands, as if Elton John and many others hadn't thought of the image before.
Here Is Gone - Goo Goo Dolls
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: #3 (April 2002) buy it!
Ever since Goo Goo Dolls stumbled onto the path to success with Name, the one ballad among the post punk rockers on 1995's A Boy Named Goo, there's been no stopping them. They still play some rockers(though they're generally not as fast and rough as they used to be) but hits like Iris and Black Balloon, from their Dizzy Up The Girl CD, have made the sensitive rock ballad Goo Goo Dolls' trademark sound. Here Is Gone, the first single from the Gutterflower CD, shows they have the hit making formula down pat and are apparently going to use it for as long as they can. Here Is Gone is like Black Balloon with a touch of Slide's sleek pop rock sound. The music is lush and full with a good layered guitar sound. Here Is Now is well made but far too polished and predictable for my liking. In a heartfelt vocal, Johnny Rzeznik sings about a disappointing relationship that's doomed by his partner's fears and lack of control.
Here To Stay - Korn
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: #10 (April 2002) buy it!
In the past, Korn has done some interesting hard rock with an ominous electronic atmosphere. Here To Stay, from the Untouchables CD, feels like a cut and paste rehash of Korn's previous work and that of many similar bands that, with dense music and troubled singers, have proliferated over the last few years. Jonathan Davis' angry bark is very familiar. So are Here To Stay's rumbling guitars and sinister synths. On Here To Stay, Davis sings about a self loathing that makes him "take my face and bash it into a mirror" so "I won't have to see the pain." He also tells us his hurt is turning "into hating". There's enough nastiness to Davis' venting that I find it hard to sympathize about his inner turmoil.
Here Without You - 3 Doors Down
Weeks on Chart: 31 Peak: #1 (Oct. 2003) buy it!
3 Doors Down's savvy, radio friendly strategy has, oddly, placed them among the top pop acts. Here Without You, the third chart hit from the Away From The Sun CD, is poised to surpass its very successful predecessor When I'm Gone and become(including Kryptonite, from their Better Life debut) their third megasmash. 3 Doors Down's popularity is both confusing and unsurprising. On the one hand, frontman Brad Arnold isn't particularly handsome, charismatic or much of a singer. The band totally lacks distinctiveness. 3 Doors Down's songs(with the possible exception of Kryptonite) aren't very interesting or orginal. There's no sign that the band has extraordinary musical talent. On the other hand, 3 Doors Down seem to know their limitations and they know how to make familiar, accessible music. Usually, the most obvious comparison is to Matchbox 20 though Rob Thomas is, at least, a slightly better and more interesting singer and more distinctive songwriter than Arnold. On Here Without You, the model seems to be Creed's lofty, dramatic and very popular rock ballads, especially With Arms Wide Open. Arnold doesn't show the narcissism of Creed singer Scott Stapp but all the other elements are present. Here Without You starts with quiet guitar and Arnold's impassioned vocal. While drums eventually come in to add a touch of a rock feel, the song never gets loud in a way that might offend lite radio listeners. I suppose 3 Doors Down deserve points for avoiding the bombast of some rock ballads(including When I'm Gone) but while Arnold isn't too showy, the stiffness of his voice keeps Here Without You from achieving beauty or subtlety. Producer Rick Parashar also worked with humorless, radio friendly Nickelback, who are even stiffer and less likable than 3 Doors Down. Parashar follows rock ballad conventions here, adding a layer of strings that build as the song approaches an overdramatic, cloying climax. People love rock ballads and Here Without You isn't the worst one. 3 Doors Down smartly built an emotional song destined to be a hit but it really is a calculated, soulless piece of garbage. Here Without You's lyric is similar to When I'm Gone's but it's not quite as unappealing as that song's needy plea for his girlfriend to always think loving thoughts of him. Arnold is again away from his beloved. He wants her to be comforted by the fact that he's thinking and dreaming about her.
Here's To The Night - Eve 6
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: #32 (Aug. 2001) buy it!
It's a cliche of contemporary rock for an otherwise tough band to include a slow song or two on their CD in an attempt at pop success. Here's To The Night stands out jarringly among the otherwise tough, somewhat unpleasant rock songs on Eve 6's Horrorscope CD. With its strings and pleasant but empty pop sound, Here's To The Night probably fits more comfortably on pop or easy listening radio. It resembles an 80's rock ballad like John Waite's Missing You. Max Collins tries to sounds to like a sensitive male but the lyrics, like many of Horrorscope, are pretty backward about women. Collins tells the woman he lied to, "don't let me let you go."
Hero - Chad Kroeger with Josey Scott
Weeks on Chart: 40 Peak: #1 (June 2002) buy it!
Hero is from the Spiderman soundtrack. Hero has a big, anthemic tone appropriate for a big budget, wildly successful film about a mythic superhero. But Hero lacks the movie's sense of action and fun. It confirms my suspicion that a lot of today's pop rock stars are really mediocre folkies at heart. Hero asks questions common to folk songs about why peoples' passions lead to "killing and blood spilling" and offers its only solution in the fuzzy imagery of holding "onto the wings of the eagles." Hero plods along with little energy or imagination but, as on Nickelback's hits, Kroeger's humorless but very sincere delivery has its charm. He's down and doesn't expect a savior but still has the capacity to love. People love a solemn rock ballad so Hero's a slam dunk hit. But it's pretty tame, contrived and formulaic. Hero doesn't even have the rock drive of Nickelback's hits. It's not that different from the Hero songs done by Enrique, Mariah and many others. My favorite part of Hero is Josey Scott's participation. With his band Saliva, Scott sings cartoonish but hard edged rap inflected rock but he easily fits into Hero's serious mood. He overemotes his verse which includes the grammatically questionable claim that he was told "love will all save us."
Hey Baby - No Doubt
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: #11 (March 2002) buy it!
I find Hey Baby, from the Rock Steady CD, really annoying but it does show that No Doubt still have the ability to make music destined for the top of the charts they had on the Tragic Kingdom CD but seemed to lose on Return Of Saturn. Hey Baby sounds like a pop hit. It's simple, catchy and easy to sing along with. On Hey Baby, No Doubt return to the combination of ska and commercial pop they used at the start of their career. With a bouncy keyboard skank and Bounty Killer's good natured toasting, Hey Baby uses some of ska's more appealing aspects. Still, Hey Baby's gimmicky sound bugged me on first listen and I can only imagine how irritating it will seem by the end of its chart run. From Gwen Stefani's cutesy vocal to the video game style beeping sound effects, I dislike all of Hey Baby's shiny perkiness. Hey Baby casts Stefani as an observer of boys and girls and their "flirty ways."
Hey Leonardo - Blessed Union of Souls
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #36 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
The song is about being charmingly modest and knowing your limits and the band delivers it in a charmingly modest way that knows the band's limits. It's fairly insubstantial teen pop but the "she likes me for me" message isn't the worst that kids could hear.
Hey Mama - Black Eyed Peas
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: #23 (May 2004) buy it!
Where Is The Love, which featured Justin Timberlake's good, unshowy vocal on the chorus, was one of the biggest hits of 2003. Where Is The Love has a majestic quality. It sounds like classic r&b. The subsequent singles from the Elephunk CD have been significantly less substantial. As someone who knew Black Eyed Peas from Where Is The Love and Request Line, their Macy Gray collaboration, I've been surprised by Shut Up and Hey Mama, the silly followups to Where Is The Love. Both have a lightweight, chattery quality and give a lot of prominence to new Black Eyed Pea Stacy "Fergie" Ferguson. Fergie doesn't bring a lot of soulfulness or substance. But lead Pea William "Will.I.Am" Adams, who produced and cowrote Hey Mama and Shut Up, has to be held responsible for Hey Mama's dopeyness. Hey Mama is an knowingly stupid song with not much on its mind beyond asking a woman to "move your booty." With lines like "don't wanna squeeze triggers, just wanna squeeze tits" and "we drop bombs like we in the middle east", Hey Mama is moronic but basically harmless. The rappers' unrelenting perkiness sometimes gives me a headache. The other side of the song's empty headedness is that Hey Mama is unpretentious. Hey Mama is just about having a good time. With steady, good percussion, Hey Mama has jittery energy and good spirits. I don't find Hey Mama as irritating as some people do but it is pretty damn annoying.
Hey Ma - Camron
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #23 (Dec. 2002) buy it!
Oh Boy fell just short of the top 50. Hey Ma, the followup single from the Come Home With Me CD, is like lots of other songs but it clearly sounds like a hit. Hey Ma grabs you right from the start with the relaxed, inviting Hey ma, whats up interplay between Camron and Toya. The rest of the song isnt as appealing as that exchange but Hey Ma maintains an easy flow throughout. It initially seemed odd that Hey Ma uses a sample from Lionel Richies Easy but Camron is just the latest, following P Diddy, Irv Gotti and Ja Rule and all their associates, to hit the charts with hip hop mellow enough to deserve lite fm play. Juelz Santana and Camrons decent raps give Hey Ma a little intensity but dont do anything do disturb the smooth, safe vibe. Hey Ma is a series of stupid but mostly innocuous stories about hooking up with girls. The chorus tell us that mutual interest in fancy vehicles, drinking and getting high establishes a basis for getting it on tonight. Santana relates how a combination of youthful confidence and respect set up his chance to lay the pipe. Cam tells us his boo shares his love for Gucci and buys his rap that hes a changed man who no longer be sinnin. Hey Ma is fairly dopey but easy to listen to.
Hey Pretty - Poe
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: #45 (May 2001) buy it!
On her 1995 Hello CD, Poe sometimes seemed more concerned with gimmicky attention grabbing than actually making good music. Hey Pretty, from Poe's second CD Haunted, is also based on a contrivance but it's so striking that it's hard to resist. Hey Pretty is based on a passage from House Of Leaves, a book by Poe's brother Mark Danielewski. On the verses, Mark reads a tale of an encounter with a temptress in a BMW. Poe's attitude filled vocal is well used on the chorus as she plays the woman inviting the guy to take a ride into her world. The atmospheric synths and beat complete the song's cool, seductive mood.
Hey Ya - Outkast
Weeks on Chart: 25 Peak: #3 (Feb. 2004) buy it!
Outkast invited talk of a breakup by releasing a double CD that's basically two solo records. Big Boi's Speakerboxxx is a tight disc with a state of the art sound and touches of the inventiveness, intelligence and oddness that have long distinguished Outkast from other hip hop acts. Andre 3000's The Love Below, which features Andre mostly singing instead of rapping, is much less consistent. It has lots of goofing around, stupid jokes and undeveloped grooves as well as some good jokes, some irresistible grooves and a positive, good natured vibe. Big Boi and Andre 3000 claim to have no breakup plans and their strategy has paid off with two hits, Big Boi's sleek The Way You Move and Andre 3000's immensely entertaining Hey Ya.. Hey Ya is a strong candidate for best single of 2003. It brings to mind the giddy fun of British invasion pop(a connection reinforced by its wry video with an Ed Sullivan type audience filled with screaming young African American women) and the groove and joyful, trippy vibe and attitude of P-Funk and Sly and The Family Stone. But the most obvious comparison is with Prince's exhilarating, genre busting early 80s workouts . For Hey Ya, Andre 3000(aka Andre Benjamin) assembled sounds guaranteed to create a bouncy, positive feel. Hey Ya has a steady acoustic guitar strum, a tight, brittle beat, a goofy wah wah bass effect, a bubbly cheesy beeping synth, hand claps and Andre's sweet backing vocals and playful lead. The result is wacky, uplifting and as good a time as pop music can supply. On Hey Ya, Andre 3000 contemplates questions about his relationship including does his baby want to mess around with others and only avoid doing so to keep him from walking and whether love is an exception to the rule that nothing lasts forever. But he's more concerned with sustaining Hey Ya's buoyant mood. So the lyric also includes information like "don't want to meet you daddy, just want you in my Caddy" and "don't want to meet your mama, just want to make you cumma."
Higher - Creed
Weeks on Chart: 51 Peak: #7 (Oct. 1999) buy it!
The tremendous impact of Creed's My Own Prison CD at rock radio was one of music's most bizarre success stories. Nearly all of their songs were overtly about God or christianity. You have to assume that Higher, about a place where blind men can see, is about heaven. Most of their young male audience could care less about the religious message. As with their earlier work, the appeal of Higher comes from its meaty guitars and Scott Stapp's charismatic, anguished vocals. Higher, from their Human Clay CD, is their most polished single yet with a chorus that begs the kids to sing along. With so many rock bands playing angry heavy metal or rap edged rock, Creed's fans must be reassured by their familiar arena rock and meaty power chords. But Higher is tediously predictable and repetitious.
Hit Em Up Style - Blu Cantrell
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: #16 (Sept. 2001) buy it!
Hit Em Up Style is from Cantrell's So Blu CD. The fun thing about Hit Em Up Style is that it doesn't waste time getting angry at its cheating boyfriend, getting right to winning revenge by selling all his things and using his money to go on a shopping spree. It's silly but also light hearted and unpretentious with a relaxed beat. I imagine the repeated samples of chimes and an old timey horn riff will seem monotonous after repeat listens.
Hit Or Miss - New Found Glory
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #42 (April 2001) buy it!
Fast, three chord power pop isn't as hot as it was at its 80's peak but it's still around and still fun if done with good energy and not too much seriousness. New Found Glory resemble Green Day, the model for the recent breed of post punksters, and Blink 182 as they have a good, dopey time with a likable, very simple song. Hit or Miss, from the band's self titled CD, is a bittersweet reminisence of a recently ended relationship. Jordan Pundik fondly remembers "the time we realized Thriller was our favorite song" but also sings that for her it was "simple to lie."
Hit That - The Offspring
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: #7 (Feb. 2004) buy it!
The Offspring keep going and it becomes increasingly unclear why they should bother. It's been 10 years, and feels even longer, since The Offspring hit their artistic peak with the Smash CD. Smash's best single Come Out And Play was a bit obnoxious but it had good rocking energy and a slightly anarchic spirit. The Offspring showed a bit of imagination on the Americana CD and its hip hop exploiting/mocking Pretty Fly For A White Guy but The Offspring's music has mostly brought diminishing returns from an overused formula. The Offspring's later music has served the purpose of exposing singer/writer Dexter Holland as a right wing jerk on songs like Why Don't You Get A Job. Hit That, from the new Splinter CD, isn't as confrontational as that song. Hit That is about a woman who takes care of a baby and the father who is "out having fun" and failing to show responsibility. Holland's sympathy with the woman is appealing but he undermines it by having the woman decide to emulate the baby's father by "chasing guys for fun" and apparently abandoning the kid. Holland's observations of phenomena like kids "who raise themselves" aren't particularly insightful. Hit That's sound slightly deviates from The Offspring's standard. The band errs on the verses by shifting the musical focus from Noodles' guitar, their strength, to a cheesy, irritating synth. Things improve on the chorus with a big, playful guitar sound. But Hit That has nothing new and interesting to offer and Holland's self confident, untuneful rant limits its appeal.
Hold On - Good Charlotte
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #33 (Feb. 2004) buy it!
Hold On is the fourth single from Good Charlotte's The Young and the Hopeless CD. Good Charlotte have recently established that they're not just empty headed punks. Boys and Girls was fun, smart power pop. Hold On is also slower than the punky pop Good Charlotte made their name playing. Hold On is less interesting musically than Boys and Girls but fine. The verses are genial, generic guitar pop like Lifehouse's Spin(which I quite like) and Hanging By A Moment. The simple singalong chorus, introduced by big drums that tell you something important is about to happen, is even more anthemic than Good Charlotte's The Anthem, which mocked but also used tricks that make a catchy rock hit. Especially in the context of a poignant lyric, Drummer Chris Wilson and guitar players Benji Madden and Billy Martin's varied, muscular approaches create a big, powerful sound. Hold On's biggest draw is its lyric. Hold On, which has a moving video featuring people who lost friends and family to suicide, tries to convince kids that even if "no one seems to care" and you feel "pain you can not bare", life will get "better than you know." The further Good Charlotte moves away from punk, the more Joel Madden's voice is tested. On Hold On, he's often off key and a bit whiny but his sincere delivery overcomes some of his technical shortcomings. He's also helped by Hold On's sweeping music, which maintain an optimistic atmosphere. Hold On is pretty basic but its music is effective and its message to troubled adolescents is terrific.
Holidae Inn - Chingy featuring Snoop Dogg & Ludacris
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #35 (Jan. 2004) buy it!
Holidae Inn is the second hit from the Jackpot CD by Howard "Chingy" Bailey, Ludacris' protege from St. Louis. Holidae Inn features Ludacris but, with its goofy music and easy pace, it has more of the relaxed, fun loving personality of its other guest: Snoop Dogg. Holidae Inn is about a party with lots of Hennessey and women willing to have sex with Chingy once they realize he's "that dude that sing Right Thurr." Chingy and Snoop's raps, the wacky, vaguely spooky backing track and the lyrics' decadent scene are all pretty cartoonish. Snoopy's flat, nasal voice fits well with Chingy's broad, facetious one. Chingy hasn't shown himself to be a great rapper but he doesn't take himself too seriously. On Holidae Inn he has a little more to do than on Right Thurr, which was mostly about getting back to saying the title and showing he had a dialect similar to Nelly's. Ludacris' rap is a bit tougher than the others' but he stays in the song's playful, lady loving mode. His verse largely consists of a bunch words that kind of rhyme with "nipples." Holidae Inn has good beats, a fun riff and a light spirit. If you ignore its mindless misogyny, it has a loopy, laid back charm.
The Hollow - A Perfect Circle
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #26 (April 2001) buy it!
Tool's new CD is coming out soon but Maynard James Keenan's side project keeps getting radio play. After moving even farther away from the Tool signature sound with the folky Three Libras, Mer De Noms' third chart hit sounds like its first, Judith. The guitars aren't quite as big and the atmosphere isn't as angry and oppressive as on a typical Tool song but The Hollow is still serious with a sweeping sound and Keenan's dramatic vocals. Billy Howerdel creates a good, metallic guitar sound. Keenan sings about someone with a constant need to satisfy his libido. The Hollow is fairly interesting but not too different from Keenan's usual tales of obsession. It lacks his usual climactic payoff and doesn't really go anywhere.
Hollywood Bitch - Stone Temple Pilots
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: #37 (Oct. 2001) buy it!
Days Of The Week, the charming, poppy, mature sounding first single from STP's Shangra La Dee Da CD, had a fairly short chart life. The second single reverts to the tough, angry sound of early STP songs like Sex Type Thing. Hollywood Bitch starts with familiar hard rock guitars and Scott Weiland's cold, nasty vocal. The band's pop gifts kick in later and Hollywood Bitch starts to resemble Big Bang Baby but without that song's buoyancy. Hollywood Bitch is partly dragged down by the cruelty of the portrait of a woman "so fake she seems real" who "sold yourself" while living a "rock star life."
Home - Staind
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: #15 (April 2000) buy it!
Despite their tough music and attitude, a lot of today's young hard rockers, like Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit, want us to know they have a soul and women can hurt them. On Home, the rock ballad from Staind's Dysfunction CD, Aaron Lewis sings about sacrificing everything for a woman and being totally vulnerable to her: afraid to be alone, afraid she'll leave him when he's gone. It seems a little wimpy but the band makes sure they'll still appeal to the rock kids with crisp drums and power chords on the chorus breaking through the otherwise stark musical setting and heartfelt vocals.
Honestly - Zwan
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #8 (Feb. 2003) buy it!
Three years after the release of Smashing Pumpkins last studio record, Billy Corgan is back with his new band Zwan, which also includes former members of Chavez and A Perfect Circle, and a CD called Mary Star Of The Sea. Not surprisingly, Honestly sounds like a Smashing Pumpkins song. Corgans voice will probably be distinctively whiny until the day he dies. But Corgans 35 now and Honestly has a bit of a grown up sound. Its a rocker, especially towards the end when Corgan plays an OK, showy solo. But Honestly has a good, open, leisurely feel. Honestly avoids the dense sound of many Pumpkins songs but it does remind me of the likable rocker Stand Inside Your Love, one of the Pumpkins last singles. I dont love the way Corgans guitar is processed to sound like a plane taking off but its low in the mix and doesnt interfere too much with Honestlys melodic quality. With ex-Pumpkin Jimmy Chamberlins good drumming, Honestly easily moves forward. Corgans vocal range is limited but hes mostly appealing warm as he sings that theres no place I could be without you. Honestly expresses ambivalence about a long time relationship but Corgan easily decides that he feels loved, that she means the best that life can bring and he doesnt want to wipe the memories aside.
The Horizon Has Been Defeated - Jack Johnson
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: #11 (June 2003) buy it!
The Horizon Has Been Defeated is on the former pro surfer/filmmaker's new On and On CD. Like his buddy Ben Harper, Johnson backs up his cool, confident style with a mix of various musical sources. On The Horizon Has Been Defeated, Johnson's laidback flow is supported by a soulful groove with a reggae taste. The lyrics feature Johnson's easygoing philosophizing. At 27, Johnson has decided that "as we grow older", "things can go bad" but we're less likely to run away because the horizon has begun to fade and look less tempting. He also muses on a world where "machines become our hands" and reminds us that we're just animals with "fancy shoes" and "too many tools."
Hot In Herre - Nelly
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: #16 (July 2002) buy it!
Hot In Herre, Nelly's latest combination of smooth rap skills and stupid boasting, is fairly lightweight but it sounds like a summer hit. The music and rap have a great, easy flow. On Hot In Herre, from the Nellyville CD, producers The Neptunes start with a riff that sounds like Steely Dan's Josie or FM and then easily move things along, attaching a good, light beat and synth to a sample from Chuck Brown's Bustin' Loose. Nelly's rapping isn't as awe inspiring as some of his fast, dense work on the Country Grammar CD. But even if he's more relaxed and less edgy than on some of hits, Nelly's cocky, seemingly effortless technique is still very impressive. As with his earlier hits, my problem with Hot In Herre is its lyrics. Nelly broke through with lyrics that were mostly rehashed gangsta rap. Now he's a big star, Nelly's less interested in guns, weed and the thug life and more about enjoying the perks of success. On Hot In Herre, Nelly shares his philosophy: "what good is all the fame if you ain't f---in' the models." Nelly is obsessed with ostentatious displays of wealth. Women figure in only as possessions that come with the big bucks. They're more than happy to undress or do whatever they can to please Nelly.
Hotel - Cassidy featuring R Kelly
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #29 (April 2004) buy it!
Cassidy is a young rapper from Philadelphia who got attention with his work on mix tapes. He's been championed by Swizz Beatz, who's worked with Eve, Busta Rhymes, DMX and many others, the producer of much of Cassidy's Split Personality CD. Like Nick Cannon, Cassidy has the good fortune to be assisted on his first hit single by the ubiquitous R Kelly. Kelly's appearance is nearly a guarantee of success. The downside of Kelly's presence is that he makes more of an impression than Cassidy does. Kelly does a relaxed but strong vocal on the chorus, easily making himself the center of attention. Kelly is his usual pleasure loving self. As on the Ignition Remix, Kelly enjoys an after party, inviting a "cutie" to use his room key. Cassidy's rap isn't amazing but he's fine. Like so many rappers, he mostly has sex on his mind. He tells us "if that girl don't participate, well then I'm gonna take her friend." But compared with some songs(like the recent, similarly themed Holidae Inn), Hotel is pretty benign. Cassidy promises the ladies he will do whatever he can for them. Hotel's acoustic guitar riff and light mood remind me of another song with a big R Kelly presence, B2K's Bump, Bump, Bump. Hotel is better than the cheerfully stupid B2K song but it's also pretty slight. Still, it's pleasant and sounds fine. With the guitar underlining Kelly's vocal and a classic sounding beat that resembles the one for Marvin Gaye's Sexual Healing, Swizz Beatz gives Hotel a smooth sound.
How About You - Staind
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #12 (Feb. 2004) buy it!
I regret my dismissive slam of So Far Away, the hit second single from Staind's 14 Shades Of Grey CD. Repeat listens reveal a delicate beauty to So Far Away's waltz. So Far Away is a poignantly gloomy song about feeling happier. Aaron Lewis' lyric expresses amazement at his emotional upswing. I still don't love So Far Away. It's too draggy and heavy for me. But especially juxtaposed with Nickelback's awful, heavy handed Someday, which was #2 to So Far Away's #1 for six weeks, it's not bad. How About You doesn't have So Far Away's 1-2-3, 2-2-3 elegance but it does resonate. Lewis uses his affinity for minor keys to give a rocker a sense of drama and depth. The verses create stark intensity by matching Lewis' warily rolling voice with a big beat and not much else. On the chorus, Mike Mushok's large, slicing guitar underlines Lewis' voice. Slowly climbing chords push the reticent Lewis to use a higher, harder voice. After So Far Away's guarded trip into happiness, Lewis is back to his usual downbeat self on How About You. How About You expresses disappointment with a musician friend's foolish lyrics, superficiality and lack of empathy for those less fortunate. Rather than anger, Lewis' vocal expresses weary resignation. Lewis' refusal to drop his guarded, pessimistic persona is a bit ridiculous. But his slow, wobbly, deliberate delivery is striking and unique. When Lewis' voice is combined with decent, challenging music, the result can be compelling. How About You doesn't totally overcome its front man's dourness but it is an interesting, thoughtful song that's also a decent rocker.
How Good It Can Get - The Wallflowers
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: #33 (March 2003) buy it!
I enjoyed When You're On Top, the first chart hit from the Red Letter Days CD, and its icy, synth dominated atmosphere and self loathing lyrics. How Good It Can Get is more standard Wallflowers fare. It's got a smooth, pleasant sound but it's nothing new. The lyrics are a nice message to a friend that things will get better. But How Good It Can Get is pretty insubstantial.
How You Remind Me - Nickelback
Weeks on Chart: 39 Peak: #1 (Nov. 2001) buy it!
How You Remind Me, from Nickelback's Silver Side Up CD, is practically a Nirvana sampler. You can play name that tune as it resembles Come As You Are, Lithium and countless other songs. Chad Kroeger is ever so serious and humorless as he sings about being "sick inside without a sense of feeling" after a breakup. Still, How You Remind Me works because it makes good use of familiar tools. Like Nirvana, Nickelback use the thrill of rock dynamics, shifting from quiet verses to choruses with sweeping power chords. How You Remind Me has a big, tight sound. The lyrics have the self pity of a lot of recent rock but avoid the nastiness and excess of many of Nickelback's contemporaries.
Human - Pretenders
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: #36 (Sept. 1999) buy it!
It's good news that Chrissie Hynde isn't ready yet to rest on her hits and become an oldies act. The Pretenders are still a very good band with original drummer Martin Chambers and excellent new guitarist Adam Seymour. Human, from Viva El Amor, shows Hynde still has a gift for making a melodic song that rocks. With help from pop song doctors, Steinberg & Kelly, Hynde has made her best single in years. Hynde is one of the best, most distinctive performers in rock. You gotta love the way she sings "I'm only human on the een-side." With a sound reminiscent of Back on the Chain Gang, Hynde shows good knowledge of her image on Human. She's always come across as a little cold and unwilling to show the real her. It's touching that she's willing here to share her vulnerabilities.