Ladies - Sarai
Weeks on Chart: 1 Peak: #50 (Aug. 2003) buy it!
Sarai Howard is a white rap fan from upstate New York. Ladies, from her debut CD The Original, is goofy but endearing. Sarai comes on like a crazed cheerleader with a unrelenting string of lines delivered breathlessly with unending positivity. Ladies is easy to ridicule. Sarai's delivery is overheated and her streetwise diction is silly. The lyrics use every conceivable dance song cliche: asking the DJ to "turn the music up loud"; telling everybody to "report to the dance floor now" to "get down" and "shake that ass." She even uses the chestnut "put your hands in the air and wave em around like you just don't care." Ladies also celebrates the pleasures of getting drunk and the fact that "we all the same color inside." Ladies is dopey but Sarai does have a wacky energy that's easy to mock but hard to resist.
Lady Marmalade - Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya & Pink
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: #13 (June 2001) buy it!
As it did 25 years ago, Lady Marmalade brings to my mind a junior high school kid showing off naughty words she's learned to her friends in French class. The new version, from the soundtrack of the movie Moulin Rouge, closely tracks Labelle's original and is fairly pointless. It seems like the main purpose of the remake is to provide an excuse for its young singers to play dress up in a sexy video. The funk rock backing is fairly similar to the original's. Only Lil' Kim's good, tight rap adds something new. Her tough, bottom line attitude is far from the 70s record's romanticized tale of a prostitute who helps a guy have a brief, transcendental escape from "his gray flannel life." The production moves efficiently, giving each of the confident young women a chance in the spotlight. Mya is the least distinctive. Pink isn't the greatest singer, but she's self assured and full of personality. Christina Aguilera is typically showy and over the top.
Landslide - Dixie Chicks
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #32 (Feb. 2003) buy it!
I'm opposed to our military being led into a war, with very little international support, against a country that hardly seems to pose an imminent threat, where the result was bound to be some American military deaths, a huge number of Iraqi civilian deaths and a heightened anti-U.S.A. sentiment and terrorism risk. So after years of indifference, I guess I've become some sort of Dixie Chicks fan after seeing the beating the group took after Natalie Maines said, on the eve of war, that the Chicks were ashamed that the President is from Texas. It's not exactly surprising that a large portion of The Dixie Chicks' audience didn't take kindly to a remark that was strongly anti-war and anti-American. Before Maines' comment, the group was at a high point in their career. Home was another multimillion selling CD and Landslide was Dixie Chicks' first big pop hit. While Landslide is Dixie Chicks' first real crossover, their pop success is hardly a shock. Like many successful country artists, their music is often like easy listening pop. It's no secret that a lot of the top country artists of the last two decades are big fans of 70s easy California rockers like The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. Stevie Nicks originally sang her composition on Fleetwood Mac's 1976 self titled CD. While Dixie Chicks' version has country instruments, the arrangement is nearly identical to the one from The Dance CD that Fleetwood Mac had a hit with five year ago. With a heavy helping of strings and innocuous acoustic guitar, Dixie Chicks' version is smooth but pretty bland. The main attraction is The Chicks' good harmonies. The steel guitar and Maines' slightly idiosyncratic lead(which is appropriate for Nicks' hippie poetry asking "can the child within my heart rise above") aren't bad either.
Larger Than Life - Backstreet Boys
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #34 (Nov. 1999) buy it!
Backstreet Boys are slightly more interesting doing dance songs than puffed up ballads but they're pretty safe and calculating in either mode. Larger than Life, from the band's Millennium CD, is well polished, state of the art dance music but it's also fairly cold and generic. The lyrics are a pretty inarticulate tribute: "every time we're down, you can make it right/that makes you larger than life." You'd figure if she's largerthan life, they could find something more heartfelt to say than that.
The Last DJ - Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #28 (Nov. 2002) buy it!
The Last DJ, the title track from Tom Petty's new CD, overstates things a little. There are still plenty of djs at college and independent stations who play "what they want to play" and say "what they want to say." And the fact that most stations are guided by the bottom line, rather than a quest for quality, is hardly news. The Ramones, Kinks and Elvis Costello long ago did songs about it. For at least the 25 years of Petty's career, commercial radio has rarely welcomed dj free expression. Market research and pandering play the role in music they do in the selling of movies, tv shows or political candidates though audience tastes sometimes force commercial radio to abandon its conservative instincts and play new, good or different kinds of music. The undeniable subtext of The Last DJ is the unlamentable fact that pop radio no longer plays the music of Petty and some of his contemporaries. The similarity of Last DJ to Petty's other music hardly argues against classic rock radio as the natural 2002 home for his music. Still, I agree it's sad that radio is controlled by large corporations and consultants who "celebrate mediocrity", pushing songs meant to sound like other hits and appeal to the lowest common denominator rather than good, smart or interesting music. And while The Last DJ is familiar, it's one of my favorite current songs. Petty's nasal whine is comforting and he sounds like he still has something to prove. The Heartbreakers' personnel has changed over the years but guitar player Mike Campbell is still giving Petty's songs some kick. Campbell keeps playing Rickenbacker riffs he stole from Roger McGuinn and The Byrds. He gives The Last DJ's verses texture and a good countermelody and adds urgency to the chorus with compact, crunching London Calling style chords. Longtime Heartbreaker Benmont Tench's piano helps fill out the sound and adds to Last DJ's vibrancy.
Last Kiss - Pearl Jam
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #1 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
For a band whose mainstream audience has been on a long term decline, it's amazing that this kitschy remake might become their biggest hit ever. Pearl Jam's best music has often been their rarities such as the b-side Yellow Ledbetter and the ep Merken Ball with the great, interesting songs I Got Id and The Long Road. Last Kiss was originally available only to members of Pearl Jam's fan club then the buzz got louder and louder. Now Last Kiss is out as a cd single and on the Kosovar refugee benefit cd, No Boundaries. Eddie Vedder's always sincere vocals are a perfect match for the overwrought tale of a car crash and a teen love that transcends death. Vedder doesn't condescend to or make fun of the material as other might and reaches a simple, timeless beauty. Pearl Jam is a smart, talented band and they wisely clear out the sound, creating a 60's girl group type sound with crisp, clean drums. It's an irresistable pop gem.
Last Nite - The Strokes
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: #23 (March 2002) buy it!
Quite a bit of hype, largely created by the British music press, surrounded the Strokes before they even had a record out. The hype is mostly justified by Is This It, one of the best CDs of 2001. Fans of late 70s/early 80s new wave are especially likely to enjoy Is This It's deft constructions. Julian Casablancas is appealingly confident as he channels cool alternative crooners like Lou Reed, Ian McCulloch and The Fall's Mark E. Smith while Nick Valersi lays down tight, jagged guitar lines reminiscent of Gang Of Four and, especially, Television's Richard Lloyd. Last Nite is kind of like Iggy Pop singing over Tom Petty's American Girl. With its steady, jaunty strumming and sturdy bass line, Last Nite is a good example of the Strokes' fun, basic sound. Last Nite is about having enough and walking away from a girlfriend who feels "so down" because no one understands her.
Last Resort - Papa Roach
Weeks on Chart: 28 Peak: #6 (Sept. 2000) buy it!
Papa Roach is the latest hip hop informed hard rock band with an anguished young male. Coby Dick's yelling that he's suffocating on Last Resort, from the Infest CD, does nothing for me but the kids might appreciate him singing about how he's "losing my sight, losing my mind, won't somebody tell me I'm fine" and how he can't go on living this way. The assautive guitar is harsh but strong and incisive.
Last Time - Fuel
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: #39 (Dec. 2001) buy it!
On Last Time, Fuel are in a harder rocking mode than on the three previous chart hits from their Something Like Human CD. Last Time has a tougher rock guitar and Carl Bell angrily yells the lyrics with great intensity. Still, Last Time has the slick, superficial, calculated feel of the other songs from Something Like Human. Bell promises in Last Time's pretentious lyrics that he will soon leave an addictive, controlling woman.
Last Train Home - Lostprophets
Weeks on Chart: 23 Peak: #13 (May 2004) buy it!
It was inevitable that the hard but atmospheric sound that has dominated American rock radio the last few years would make it overseas. Welsh band Lastprophets join Linkin Park, Hoobastank and so many others in their generation of serious post-grungers. Perhaps they belong in the slightly better company of AFI, Story Of The Year(Last Train Home mixes nicely with Girl's Not Grey and Until The Day I Die) and The Used, whose music resembles the intense, hard rocking Last Train Home. Much of Last Train Home is kind of generic. Last Train Home doesn't stand out much from many similar songs. Singer Ian Watkins' voice has power and emotion but it also has the humorlessness and self importance of many of his colleagues. Last Train Home is still pretty good. Watkins is a strong singer who seems to have some charisma. Last Train Home gets decent tension from a mix of guitar sounds, which range from hard to melodic, interesting, angular drumming and a simple, vaguely menacing piano line. Last Train Home has a catchy chorus that flows into an appealing heartfelt bridge. On that bridge, Last Train Home transcends its formula and reaches an appealing early U2 type idealism as Watkins alternates with hollered backing vocals charmingly chanting "we sing." Last Train Home is impressively big and ambitious and it also has sweetly endearing parts. On Last Train Leaving, Watkins sings about trying to "forget the sorrow" of a love that's disappeared, primarily by deciding to "sing without a reason."
Lateralus - Tool
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #26 (Jan. 2002) buy it!
After seven months, Schism has finally ended its chart run, only to be replaced by the title track from Tool's Lateralus CD. Lateralus is a similarly angry, sprawling work. I don't find Lateralus as striking as Schism. Lateralus is typical of Tool's work as it combines art rock and heavy metal. Lateralus methodically moves forward, starting with percussive atmosphere and building into a harder sound with crunching power chords. Maynard James Keenan's howls with a great sense of meaning. But Lateralus does have good intensity and texture and Lateralus' lyrics are actually kind of hopeful. Keenan castigates himself for missing opportunities by ignoring his intuition and overthinking and overanalyzing. He urges himself to "cross the line" and look to life's "infinite possibilities."
Leader Of Men - Nickelback
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #19 (July 2000) buy it!
Nickelback is a hard rocking band, like Creed, led by a serious, intense singer. Leader of Men, from the State CD, is another rant about society's evils and hypocrisy, asking "do you think I could drink something that's so hard to swallow." The music starts with appealingly restrained guitar but predictably builds into a big, guitar heavy onslaught.
Learn to Fly - Foo Fighters
Weeks on Chart: 22 Peak: #1 (Dec. 1999) buy it!
Dave Grohl has the ability Kurt Cobain, his Nirvana bandmate, had to make a melodic song with a good pop hook that still rocks. He's made great rockers like Monkey Wrench, This is a Call and I'll Stick Around and very good pop songs like Big Me but Learn to Fly, from Foo Fighters' third CD There is Nothing to Lose, is the best combination yet of Grohl's rock and pop skills. With its fun video, Learn to Fly deserves to be a hit. The music creates a buoyant mood. The lyrics aren't as strong as the music but Grohl delivers them with likeable enthusiasm. In his singing, Grohl emphasizes the word "looking". He seems clearer about the fact that he's looking than about what he's looking for. The message about trying to shake up his life, looking "for a complication" or a "new evolution" shifts in the second verse when Grohl says he "can't quite make it alone and asks for "one last try."
Leave(Get Out) - JoJo
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #12 (July 2004) buy it!
JoJo, born Joanna Levesque, got her first big break in 1996 as a six year old when she impressively sang Respect on Bill Cosby's Kids Say The Darnedest Things On The Road in her Boston hometown. On Leave JoJo's voice, which presumably got a studio touchup, is unamazing and not particularly distinctive but fine. She's a bit soulful and sounds older than 13, JoJo's age when she recorded her self titled debut CD. Jojo gets a chance to let loose on Leave's dramatic bridge, which sounds like it's copped from a Christina Aguilera song. Leave(Get Out), produced by Soulshock & Karlin, sounds like a lot of light dance pop. It has the acoustic guitar sound which has become nearly ubiquitous on songs like Jessica Simpson's With You. With its steady, unassuming beat, Leave's backing has the smooth, relaxed flow of songs by Craig David, one of the artists Soulshock & Karlin have worked with. Leave gets a bit of flavor from appropriately bratty backup singers yelling "Leave". But it mostly goes by pleasantly and easily. It's a big hit partly because it's easy for JoJo's young fans to get but it's not so stupid that it turns off older listeners. On Leave, Jo Jo tells the boy who "promised me forever" to leave after she finds out he lied and has been seeing another girl. Her "heart is breakin' " but she refuses to cry.
Leaving Song, Pt. 2 - AFI
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #40 (Oct. 2003) buy it!
I kind of liked Girl's Not Grey, the earnest but well made and quite exciting first chart hit from AFI's Sing The Sorrow CD. But Leaving Song 2 seems overdramatic and silly to me. At the risk of seeming old, Leaving Song 2 just sounds like a lot of yelling to me. The verses have Davey Havok screaming furiously. The chorus alternates backing singers' ranting with Havok's whining. In between are pretentious metallic guitar sounds, crunching chords and a lot of effort to make Leaving Song 2 sound meaningful. Leaving Song 2's has a dark, over the top, self pitying lyric about a breakup. Havok wails "don't waste your touch, you won't feel anything", "you won't find anything worthy of redeeming." He also sings that you might as well "take my heart away" and about ceasing "all feeling." Havok's pain seems real but it's not very interesting.
Leaving Town - Dexter Freebish
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: #18 (Dec. 2000) buy it!
Leaving Town is from the Austin band's major label debut, A Life Of Saturdays. The band makes radio savvy alternative pop in the vein of Matchbox 20 and Vertical Horizon. Leaving Town is a bitter tale of the guy left behind as his girl pursues success in the big city. Kyle sings, "when you're broken down and no else is around, you'll come running back to this town and I'll be there." Leaving Town is familiar and unoriginal but Dexter Freebish work the formula well when the power chords kick in on the chorus.
Let Me Blow Ya Mind - Eve
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: #29 (Sept. 2001) buy it!
Eve's two solo records have been huge sellers but Let Me Blow Ya Mind is her first pop radio hit. Like the songs on the Scorpion CD with Teena Marie and Bob Marley's kids, Let Me Blow Ya Mind matches Eve with a mellower performer. No Doubt's Return Of Saturn didn't do too well but Gwen Stefani is doing great as a supporting player, following her work on Moby's South Side with nice, playful harmonizing on Let Me Blow Ya Mind. Stefani and the easy music soften Eve's good but harsh rap, which boasts and disses, warning competitors that it takes "a lot more than you to get rid of me." Let Me Blow Ya Mind was produced by Dr. Dre. He uses a cartoonish synth like he did on his own records and on Eminem and Snoop Dogg's. Let Me Blow Ya Mind has a likable, smooth feel and a relaxed beat.
Let Me Down Easy - Chris Isaak
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: #30 (March 2002) buy it!
While Chris Isaak seems like a mellow guy, he obviously has savvy businessmen behind him. In January, Isaak achieved big time synergy as, nearly simultaneously with the release of Isaak's new Always Got Tonight CD, Showtime began the second season of Isaak's genial, slight rock sitcom and VH1 played a marathon of the show's first season. In 1985, Isaak came on the scene with his spare, haunted, Roy Orbison influenced Silvertone record. Since then, Isaak has mostly omitted the raw, stark feel but, especially since Wicked Game gave him his one big hit, otherwise continued to make the same kind of moody, adult, country flavored records. Isaak's songs often involve Isaak getting his heart broken and/or being haunted by the memory of the ideal woman who left. While Isaak's music is predictable and a little too smooth, it's still good. His songs are well played and have good atmosphere. Isaak's vocals are cool and self confident with a self deprecating charm that also suits him well(despite minimal acting skills) on his sitcom. Let Me Down Easy is similar to Somebody's Crying and other mellow midtempo Isaak songs but it's likable. Let Me Down Easy has a mechanical beat but it has a good ringing guitar riff. On Let Me Down Easy, Isaak again broods about falling hard for a woman who doesn't reciprocate his feelings.
Let's Roll - Neil Young
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: #49 (Feb. 2002) buy it!
You probably know that the song from Young's upcoming Are You Passionate? CD refers to perhaps the most amazing story of September 11th: the actions of UA flight 93 passengers who prevented the loss of more lives by overpowering their hijackers. They were directed into action by Todd Beamer who called out Let's Roll. The phrase has been since used, I say somewhat exploitatively, by President Bush to rally support for the war effort. Others have also seemed to use the 9/11 tragedy for their own purposes. I'm sick of seeing Paul McCartney sing his simplistic, bizarrely jingoistic(has he forgotten he's English?) Freedom, which coincidentally came out as he was promoting his new record. It's been noted that Neil Young has become considerably more conservative since he sang in Ohio about Kent State students getting gunned down but it's clear that Let's Roll is an uncalculated visceral reaction rather than some sort of political statement. Last fall, Young went into the studio with Crazy Horse guitarist Frank Sampedro and Booker T and some of his MGs. Let's Roll has an approriate emotional, edgy feel. The music suggests an impromptu, personal response, ranging from a big, crunching guitar sound to quiet patches where Young's thin, pained voice is even rawer than usual. Let's Roll is a little macho for my liking with lines about having to "do what we gotta do", rolling "for freedom" and "goin' after Satan on the wings of a dove" but I still appreciate it as a poignant, real take on unimaginable events.
Letters From The Wasteland - The Wallflowers
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #30 (April 2001) buy it!
Breach, the Wallflowers third CD, is a tastefully made and quite boring set of songs. Letters From The Wasteland is another restrained adult rocker that sounds like Sleepwalker or One Headlight but has a gloomier mood. It has decent energy with good guitar and drums but doesn't really go anywhere. Letters From The Wasteland employs dark imagery to describe getting dumped. In a typically uninflected vocal, Jakob Dylan sings, "I wake up sick as you abandon me into these fields of rank and file" and of being "in this smoke filled waiting room with incarcerated love sick fools."
Letting the Cables Sleep - Bush
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #13 (March 2000) buy it!
The followup to the exciting, tense guitar rocker The Chemicals Between Us is a good, moody ballad. Letting the Cables Sleep, is an anti-suicide song. Gavin Rossdale movingly consoles a troubled friend. The instrumentation is minimal with simple guitar and piano.
Liberate - Disturbed
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: #23 (Oct. 2003) buy it!
I continue to find Disturbed one of the more unpleasant, unlikable bands around. Liberate, the third chart hit from their Believe CD, rocks hard and has Disturbed's typical dark, menacing sound. As usual, Singer David Draiman sounds angry and troubled as he spits out his words. Draiman tells someone to "liberate your mind" but he really just wants to tell the guy how much he hates him. Draiman calls him a narrow minded m-f with "hate in your heart" and mocks the fact that he's still "waiting for your modern messiah."
Lickin' - Black Crowes
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #45 (June 2001) buy it!
For the first song from the Lions CD, other formats chose the stirring, gospel tinged Soul Singing but rock radio is happy with the silly if fairly fun Lickin'. Lickin' doesn't pretend to be anything but dumb rock boogie. The dopey lyrics warn a "queen of the underage" who's "got me ranting and raving" that "you gonna catch a lickin'" The music pulls a goofy 70's trick by underlining the vocals on the verse with fuzzy guitar and keyboards. The chorus is standard Black Crowes with Rich Robinson's jamming guitar and Chris Robinson's cocky Mick Jagger-as-soul singer vocals.
Life On A Chain - Pete Yorn
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: #36 (July 2001) buy it!
Pete Yorn falls somewhere in the folk rock category but his music is distinctive, with good rock energy. His Musicforthemorningafter is one of 2001's best debut CDs. Starting with Yorn's voice filtered, Life On A Chain has a good, light guitar sound and a simple, big beat. Yorn sounds a little like Eddie Vedder but he mostly sounds confident and cool, even as he sings about still feeling chained to the wife he threw away who was "the sunshine heading my front line."
Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous - Good Charlotte
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: #12 (Jan. 2003) buy it!
I like twin brothers Joel and Benji, Good Charlotte's singer and guitar player, as hosts of MTV's All Things Rock. They're pleasant, self deprecating and not too stupid. I certainly prefer them to the blond bimbo who seems to have replaced them. But Good Charlotte's good nature isn't enough to make me like the single from their The Young and The Hopeless CD. Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous feels a little stale. Wasn't the tv show the song's named after on more than 20 years ago? And the choices of famous people to exemplify famous person misbehavior, O.J. Simpson and Marion Barry, aren't exactly fresh. Lifestyles also suffers musically from similarity to other poppy punksters. If anything distinguishes Lifestyles from recent hits by New Found Glory, Sum 41, I'm missing it. With big, upbeat drums, high energy vocals and a catchy chorus, Lifestyles is pleasant and easy to listen to, like a perky cover band's version of Iggy's Lust For Life but it's so unimaginative and unoriginal that it barely gets my attention. Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous has the punky/Robin Hood premise that since the rich and famous are self pitying, they deserve to be taught a lesson by having their mansions burglarized or being forced to live on the street. It doesn't address how a modicum of fame and riches will effect Good Charlotte though, in their defense, I don't think they'll be "always complaining." Good Charlotte seem like nice guys. Too bad their single's music and lyrics aren't more interesting.
Light Years - Pearl Jam
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #17 (Aug. 2000) buy it!
Pearl Jam's fans from their days when they were more of a classic arena rock band continue to lose interest but Pearl Jam keeps making interesting music. Light Years, from the Binaural CD, is another quiet, intense rock ballad, somewhat in the vein of Wishlist. Eddie Vedder's lyrics and vocals about trying to make sense of a friend's death are sad but Light Years still has a decent rock and roll heft, especially towards the end. It's probably too unassuming to be a hit but it has more life than the CD's very subdued first single Nothing As It Seems. Vedder's magnetic persona and the band's good, light touch are on display and Light Years can subtlely grab you.
Like A Stone - Audioslave
Weeks on Chart: 34 Peak: #2 (May 2003) buy it!
Audioslave follow Cochise, the very enjoyably over the top, heavily Led Zeppellin influenced headbanger with a good, very subdued song. Who would have thought that the union of members of two hard rocking 90s bands would create a mellow, restrained hit? Rage Against The Machine weren't known for rock ballads but their musicans sound surprisingly comfortable playing a radio friendly midtempo rocker. Chris Cornell previously eschewed his usual Robert Plant inspired shriek on Soundgarden songs like Fell On Black Days and his solo record so his participation is some what less surprising, but his smooth vocal on Like A Stone is still notable. Like A Stone sounds like various mainstream rockers but it still has power. Like A Stone's sprawling pace and Cornell's controlled, strong singing give Like A Stone an epic, spell binding appeal. Guitarist Tom Morello does a good job providing a low key, textured background with a slight sense of menace. He also gets to shine with a solo that's not as hard as his Rage playing but shows a good sense of flair and drama, as his processed guitar twists around the notes. Like A Stone's lyric is a tale of devotion. Cornell sings about being obsessed by a long ago relationship. He apparently takes solace in the hope that if we're good, we'll lay to rest anywhere we want to go, so he'll eventually be reunited "in your house." Like A Stone is a bit formulaic and sappy but it's also quite gripping.
Like I Love You - Justin Timberlake
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: #22 (Nov. 2002) buy it!
The first single from teen pop's top hunkshows that Justin Timberlake can be successful outside N Sync but fails to show that he's developing a distinctive musical personality. On record and especially in the video, Like I Love You seems to be a Michael Jackson tribute. Timberlake mimics Jackson's look and moves but he doesn't have the gloved one's visual or vocal presence. Like I Love You, from the Justified CD, is apparently intended to introduce an adult, urban image for Timberlake. Timberlake does OK with the Jacko-like falsetto parts. Hovever, Like I Love You's spoken, tough guy parts are, if not quite ridiculous, a little silly, though his young fans undoubtedly find them cool and sexy. Otherwise, Timberlake's vocal is uninteresting but amiable, floating nearly unnoticably along with the beat. The Neptunes do their usual competent production. Like I Love You basically works as disposable dance pop. It's got a good crisp beat and a decent repeated guitar based riff. Like I Love You isn't helped by the Neptunes trademark beeping effects, which have almost always been annoying and now are annoying and cliched. The Neptunes try to give the very white Justin some edge by including a rap from Clipse(who happen to have the first record released by the Neptunes' new label). Clipse's rap doesn't work as well as Nelly's on N Sync's fun Girlfriend remix. It's pretty drab with cocky come ons("grab a friend, see I can have fun with two") that don't mesh with Timberlake's more polite approach. Like I Love You's lyric is mostly an inoffensive attempt to charm a woman and get her to drop "your front face" though the effort to be simultaneously tough and respectful results in some stinker lines like "you're a good girl and that's what make me trust ya."
Linger - Jonatha Brooke
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: #50 (May 2001) buy it!
In her solo career since The Story broke up, Jonatha Brooke has moved away from being just a folkie. Her Steady Pull CD tries a range of musical styles. Linger is an appealing, catchy folk rocker. Linger is about seeing signs that a relationship is doomed in lots of little things but still being conflicted about leaving. Brooke sings about "hoping you will follow" and "praying that you won't."
Lipstick and Bruises - Lit
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #24 (Nov. 2001) buy it!
Lipstick and Bruises isn't as obvious and gimmicky as Lit's My Own Enemy, which probably means it won't be as big a hit. Still, I like its light, fun but rocking sound. Lipstick and Bruises isn't great or important, but with tight harmonies and big, efficient guitars, it's simple and energetic like the best poppy work of Van Halen and Cheap Trick. Lipstick and Bruises, from the Atomic CD, has a very simple lyric which apparently expresses ambivalence about a woman. A. Jay Popoff mocks her for acting like a rock star with her new friends but still wants her to "kiss me when the lights go down."
Lit Up - Buckcherry
Weeks on Chart: 1 Peak: #32 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
I don't like to think of myself as a prude but I do find it a little disturbing, not to mention surprising in these pc times, that a song describing cocaine use in a seemingly noncritical way could get substantial airplay. I suppose there's some charm in being so defiantly not pc. What's even more disturbing about the song is that it's a shameless rip off of Black Crowes, who in turn, steal from any number of their rock predecessors. At least it imitates better Black Crowes, so it's got big guitars and a good beat.
Little Black Backpack - Stroke9
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: #17 (Jan. 2000) buy it!
Little Black Backpack, from the band's Nasty Little Thoughts CD, is nothing extraordinary but it is extremely catchy. It grabs your attention from the start with a slow Toad the Wet Sprocket type intro. Then it speeds up with rocking guitars and keeps changing tempo. The backpack reminds the singer of the ex-girlfriend who left it behind. He claims he doesn't want to tangle with her but wants to smash in the head of the guy who followed him.
Little Time - Indigenous
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: #36 (July 2000) buy it!
Little Time is from Circle, the second CD from the family band who are members of the Nakota nation. Mato Nanji's guitar work isn't original. On Little Time, from the Circle CD, his guitar style is copped from Jimi Hendrix. Still, more so than young blues rock contemporaries like Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shephard who often try to prove how much they resemble their heroes, Nanji sounds like he's relaxed and creating his own sound. While his voice is derivative of his predecessors, it's also strong and real. The lyrics of the love song, with a storm coming, "the darkness inside my mind" and standing still when the wind is blowing, are somewhat cliched but Nanji's Native American background gives them added resonance.
Livin' It Up - Ja Rule
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #32 (Jan. 2002) buy it!
Livin' It Up, the second hit from the former Jeff Atkins' Pain Is Love CD, is an easy, slight, enjoyable song. The best thing about Livin' It Up is the melody line taken from Stevie Wonder's Do I Do but everything about Livin' It Up gives it a likable flow and a positive feel. Irv Gotti's production, with a simple, steady beat and keyboards repeating the Do I Do hook, keeps things moving enjoyably. As on the second version of Jennifer Lopez' I'm Real, Ja Rule's edgy, throaty voice is nicely contrasted with a sweeter, less dynamic singer as he alternates lines with Case on the chorus. Ja Rule's rap has a typically rough edge but it fits well within pop confines and gives the song a good momentum. On Livin' It Up, Ja Rule notes his suspicion that "ladies just wanna hold the name Ms. Atkins" but tells his woman "I'mma love"and that their relationship "ain't your typical, everyday, one night thing." He also salutes "all my thugs that be living it up."
Living La Vida Loca - Ricky Martin
Weeks on Chart: 1 Peak: #40 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
From his hugely successful English language debut. It's been the #1 pop song for the last two months so you probably know what you think about it. It certainly more interesting than the bland teen pop of the #2, the Backstreet Boys' I Want It That Way. The fact that a song with a distinct Latin flavor can be a smash hit is clearly a welcome development as well as a sign of things to come. It's a very good song. Martin projects an amusingly melodramatic persona and the beat and horns are infectious. I find it less appealing after hundreds of listenings but its appeal is still obvious.
Lonesome Day - Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #33 (Nov. 2002) buy it!
Bruce Springsteen's The Rising is a CD of varying quality. The music isn't always that interesting and sometimes Bruce's writing is too empty or cliched to provide the meaning he clearly seeks. But The Rising is mostly good and it often achieves a comforting, healing feel. 9/11 related imagery lurks throughout The Rising. The title track doesn't specifically cite 9/11 but its story of overcoming devastating circumstances, like much of The Rising, has that day and its aftermath in mind. Sometimes the quest for significance seems overreaching. Lonesome Day is first about trying to move on after being surprised when a woman he thought he "knew everything I needed to know about" leaves. Next thing you know, Bruce sings that the "house is on fire" and a "dark sun's on the rise" and suggests a need for revenge. Lonesome Day's lyrics may be murky but, as is often the case, Bruce's music and The E Street Band's playing suggest meaning deeper than provided by the words. The music brilliantly evoke sadness and rebirth. As the Lonesome Day moves at a cautious pace, Bruce's strong, ungimmicky vocal and Max Weinberg's solid whacks create a majestic, optimistic feel. That hopeful feeling is further bolstered by Roy Bittan and Danny Federici's nice, subtle keyboards, Clarence Clemons' brief, familiar solo and the good "it's alright" fadeout backing vocals. Lonesome Day's spare, uplifting sound brings to mind a good middle period song from John Mellancamp, one of Bruce's many disciples. It also has a sound that's right for an artist seeking a mature voice and meaning in a troubled time.
Lose Yourself - Eminem
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: #3 (Dec. 2002) buy it!
It makes sense that Eminem is making his film acting debut in the semi-autobiographical 8 Mile. He's always had a lot of presence and self confidence and has specialized in self aggrandizing semi-autobiographical work. Lose Yourself, from the 8 Mile soundtrack, continues Eminem's huge breakthrough year on the pop charts. He's had his first three top ten hits in 2002. Lose Yourself isn't as distinctive as most of Eminem's previous singles but it is another good, interesting song. Lose Yourself has a tense, urgent sound. Eminem's rap is, as usual, technically strong. He evokes the tension of the performer trying to take advantage of his "one shot" with a breathless, agitated delivery. Jeff Bass' threatening, repeated guitar line and a stiff, basic beat emphasizes Lose Yourself's edgy feel. Eminem opens with vivid description of a sweaty performer. Since it's Eminem, it's not surprising that the details include that he's vomited his mom's spaghetti on his sweater. Eminem's depicts the combination of insecurity and confidence in his ability that drives him. His character is nervous but "looks calm and ready." Choking on stage just gets him mad and more determined. Audience rejection whips up a rage that sharpens his work. Shifting into the first person on the final verse, Eminem's intensity builds. He lists the forces threatening to overwhelm him: determination not to return to his mom's trailer life, the "dishonor" of struggling "to feed and water my seed", his "prima donna baby mama" and the boredom of a "normal life." He resolves to "formulate a plot 'fore I end up in jail or shot." As usual, Eminem is overly melodramatic but he ends up producing something exciting.
Loser - Three Doors Down
Weeks on Chart: 35 Peak: #5 (Dec. 2000) buy it!
Kryptonite, the hit from Three Doors Down's Better Life CD, has a fairly depressing lyric but it also has a light musical touch and a charmingly simple, unshowy sound. It rocks but without the lugubrious, heavy feeling of so much rock music these days. Loser is less interesting, more standard rock radio fare. Like their peers, on Loser, Three Doors Down take the serious, intense rock ballads of Alice In Chains and Pearl Jam and remake them with less personality. Loser has the formula down with serious vocals and intense acoustic verses leading to choruses with big electric guitars. They really overdo it on the bridge with big classic rock chords, for no particular reason. The lyrics are yet another mordant tale of a young man pushed to the edge. Brad Arnold sings that a woman is "getting close to pushing me off life's little ledge." The only positive note is that he also realizes "someday this will fall away" and he'll find "a love that flows through me."
Losing Grip - Avril Lavigne
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #47 (May 2003) buy it!
At this point, anything Avril Lavigne puts out is sure to be a hit. But Losing Grip doesnt have the megahit feel of the first three singles from the multi-platinum Let Go CD. Not coincidentally, Losing Grip is the first Let Go single not written by the trio known as The Matrix. Losing Grip, like much of Let Go, was cowritten and produced by Clif Magness. Magness has been around for a while but only recently became hot, working on O-Towns O2 and Kelly Clarksons Thankful. Though Losing Grip isnt going to be a smash, I like it. Losing Grip is less gimmicky than Lavignes other hits. Lavignes detractors claim that she displays punk rock trappings but is not a real rocker. The criticism is basically accurate but pointless. Even if shes a former country pop fan supported by a record companys calculated promotional push, Lavignes young fans sense a realness that fits her image. I like Lavignes intensity as she yells out the chorus as well as the idiosyncratically Canadian way she says alone(on the second hit in a row). I also like the shamelessly catchy way power chords underline Lavignes vocal on the chorus and create a rock and roll charge. Losing Grip is a decent, no frills pop rocker. Lavigne sings about feeling invisible to a guy whos never there for her. She claims to have decided not to care about him but sounds like she still wants him by her side during a really bad time.
The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret - Queens of the Stone Age
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: #36 (Sept. 2000) buy it!
It turns out that the most influential alternative rock band of the 90's might not have been Nirvana or even Pearl Jam. Queens of the Stone Age are another young band that resemble Alice In Chains. Like that now defunct band, Queens of the Stone Age have assaultive guitars and a nasty edge but still know how to make a catchy hook. The Lost Art's chorus, with Josh Homme singing menacingly, "whatever you do, don't tell anybody" is a real grabber. The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret is from the band's CD called R.
Lost Cause - Beck
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #35 (March 2003) buy it!
Beck showed that hes not just a studio genius obsessed with beat and samples on Mutations, a record of serious country rock, but he still surprised people with the mellowness of his Sea Change CD. Theres a difference of opinion out there about whether the subdued Sea Change is a subtly beautiful tour de force or kind of a bore. Still, its hard for me to imagine much criticism of Lost Cause, Sea Changes strikingly delicate single. With acoustic guitar and quiet, dreamy synths and chimes, Beck simply creates a moving mood. Becks downbeat vocal communicates Lost Causes mix of sadness and frustration with a screwed up friend hes tired of fighting for but also finds hard to leave alone. Lost Cause also suggests a touch of hope in slightly optimistic chord changes. Lost Cause is a fragile, thoughtful masterpiece.
Love At First Sight - Kylie Minogue
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #34 (Sept. 2002) buy it!
Kylie Minogue continues to proudly recreate Madonna's 80s sound. Love At First Sight, the second American hit from Minogue's Fever CD isn't as irresistable as Can't Get You Out Of My Head but it has the same intent: to be upbeat, very dancable and not particularly meaningful. With cheesy disco era synths, a steady beat and glossy, relentlessly cheery, electronically enhanced vocals, Love At First Sight largely does the job. Minogue and writer/producers Richard Stannard and Julian Gallagher want us to be reminded of dance pop classics. Good Times, Madonna's Holiday and, as the song fades out, Donna Summer's I Feel Love all come to mind. Love At First Sight is stupid, unoriginal, unmemorable and not particularly inspired but it is catchy and familiar enough to give Minogue another hit. On Love At First Sight, Minogue sings about how she was "thinking 'bout giving up" but then "everything went from wrong to right" when she met her baby.
Love Don't Cost A Thing - Jennifer Lopez
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: #19 (March 2001) buy it!
Love Don't Cost A Thing is the first single from Lopez' J. Lo CD. People are bound to see the song as commentary on Lopez' relationship with Puffy Combs. Lopez sings about a paranoid guy who thinks she's with him to spend his cash and drive his Benz. She reassures her man that, "ever if you were broke", "all that matters is that you treat me right." In the end, she decides to leave until he shows his love is true and gives her "all the things I need that money can't buy." Opening with symphonic drums, Love Don't Cost A Thing has good beats and the kind of cool, clean kind of production Rodney Jerkins gave Toni Braxton's He Wasn't Man Enough and Brandy & Monica's The Boy Is Mine. Lopez' voice, pretty thin in the past, is generally hidden by backing vocals. But when she's on her own, her modest singing has an interesting flow, dramatically changing pace.
Love Song - 311
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: #9 (May 2004) buy it!
The Cure haven't released a new record in four years but they and Robert Smith are red hot. Smith sings lead on a good song from Blink 182's new record, the Hewlett Packard advertisements featuring Pictures Of You are all over the tv and 311's cover of Love Song is a hit. The soundtrack for Adam Sandler's 50 First Dates features covers of 80's new wave songs, including Love Song and Friday I'm In Love, mostly done by reggae and ska acts. Love Song also marks another comeback for 311, whose 2003 Evolver record disappeared fairly shortly after it was released. They always find a way of coming back when it looks like their career has faded. 311's version of Love Song is pretty much what you'd expect from the amiable, laid back LA based guys who got together in Omaha in 1980. They keep the original's melody and guitar riffs and add a ska skank, crisp beat and mellow vibe. 311's Love Song works both as a faithful, well played tribute to the original and as smooth, easy to listen stoner music. It's not exciting or daring but it sounds good. The only surprise about Love Song is that guitar player Tim Mahoney sings lead. There's no sign that Mahoney is much of a singer. You can hear him struggling to hit notes. But Mahoney's unpolished vocal gives the song a personal feel. I can imagine the slick, glib job Nick Hexum, 311's regular singer, would have done. It's not a pretty picture. 311's Love Song isn't remarkable but it is charming. Love Song is notable as about the most positive song The Cure ever did. Smith avoided his usual doubt and ambiguity to write a very sweet, simple love song. The song just says that a woman makes him feel home, whole, young, fun, free and clean again and that he'll always love her. Its universality and lack of pretension and the sincerity Smith and Mahoney bring to it keep it from being cliched or maudlin.
Low - Foo Fighters
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #26 (Sept. 2003) buy it!
While her record sales have been eclipsed by those of American Idol 2 runnerup Clay Aiken, Kelly Clarkson has made the transition from American Idol winner to mainstream pop radio star. A Moment Like This, Clarkson's first hit, was the kind of overblown ballad that gave American Idol a bad name but the singles from Clarkson's Thankful CD have been glossy and generic but tolerable studio constructions. Low was written by Jimmy Harry, whose main previous credits included work on records by Kylie Minogue and RuPaul, and produced by Clif Magness, who worked on most of the non-smash hits on Avril Lavigne's Let Go CD(both Harry and Magness also worked on Aiken's CD). Low is largely inoffensive but annoyingly overproduced. Magness throws in far too many sounds, with lots of different synth effects. The chorus is particular silly, reaching for crescendos with bombastic guitars, booming drums and layers of backing singers. Amidst the overstuffed arrangement, Clarkson doesn't get the chance to show much personality but she does reveal a decent voice. She does the obligatory, showy reaching for high notes but doesn't go as far over the top as the music leads her. Clarkson's singing is largely strong and appealing. Low is about dealing with things after being dumped by a guy who made a mess of things.
Lucky - Britney Spears
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #33 (Sept. 2000) buy it!
Even Spears' preteen worshippers might start losing interest if Spears and her svengali Max Martin keeps making lightweight music like this one from her Oops! I Did It Again CD. I don't know if it's supposed to be a joke or show her self awareness but it's a bizarre idea to have Spears sing about the empty life of a media created young star with a perfect smile. The beat is solid and the sound is sleek but the end result is pretty boring. Spears' vocals sound electronically enhanced as she sings about how Lucky "cries in her lonely heart."
Lying From You - Linkin Park
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: #6 (June 2004) buy it!
Male teens can't get enough earnest, troubled screeds. Meteora is another multiplatinum record for Linkin Park. Lying From You is Meteora's fourth chart hit. Lying From You is nothing new for Linkin Park. Mike Shinoda rapping is again pretty mediocre. Maybe the white kids appreciate the fact that he tries really hard and the fact that, unlike talented rappers, he has an awkward delivery that makes him sounds like one of them. Chester Bennington's howling is more interesting and skilled but it's the same old raving. His rage has long since lost its shock value. Bennington wailing "youuuuu" is so unsurprising and so much like his rants on other songs that it seems like self parody. Lying From You's sci-fi synths and guitars, processed with post production help from Pro Tools software, also sound kind of familiar but at least they lend a sense of drama to a song that's otherwise has a fill in the blanks sameness. Lying From You is about a person who faked a persona to make a relationship work. He "can't pretend I'm who you want me to be." Partly to protect her from "the criminal I am", he decides "I wanna be pushed aside."