Naughty Girl - Beyonce
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: #12 (June 2004) buy it!
Beyonce Knowles continues her impressive run with Naughty Girl, the fourth hit from her Dangerously In Love CD. Naughty Girl apparently won't match Crazy In Love and Baby Boy, which went to #1 on the pop charts, but after a dip with Me, Myself and I, it brings Beyonce back near the top of the top 40. Naughty Girl was produced by Beyonce with Scott Storch who did Baby Boy, Pink's Family Portrait, Justin Timberlake's Cry Me A River and Christina Aguilera's Fighter and Can't Hold Us Down. Naughty Girl doesn't have a lot of heart but it sounds good. Like Baby Boy, Naughty Girl uses exotic sounds to give a good but not great song more edge. Beyonce and Storch constructed a sensual sound that matches Naughty Girl's come ons. Over a brittle beat, Naughty Girl repeats a tense riff with icy synth interjections for additional tension. Backing vocals join Beyonce for whispered enticements. Naughty Girl is obviously inspired by Donna Summer's Love To Love You Baby, which Naughty Girl liberally quotes. It's always a bit of a tease when a pop star claims she's available for sex. But Beyonce is different from Summer. Summer always seemed to believe the fantasy that she wanted to sleep with you. On Naughty Girl, as usual, Beyonce seems somewhat distanced and calculated. She makes it clear that she's a tease. A mediocre rap (including a line about wanting a naughty girl not a good one and one about wanting a relationship not a one night stand) by Houston's rising star Lil' Flip emphasizes that Naughty Girl is a performance, not a depiction of a real erotic encounter. But Beyonce's juxtaposition of seduction and reserve still works. Beyonce does a very sexy vocal. Beyonce does a pretty good sales job, kind of sounding like she means it when she sings about "feeling sexy" and wanting to "hear you say my name." But while saying "the rhythm's got me feelin' so crazy", she's leaves no doubt that she's in control and she'll decide if "I just might take you home." Though it's product from an artist who makes it clear that she makes her decisions with her brain, not her hormones, Naughty Girl is charged and alluring.
Never Again - Nickelback
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: #14 (Aug. 2002) buy it!
Chad Kroeger's dreary chart dominance continues. Never Again, the third single from Nickelback's Silver Side Up CD, debuted on the top 50 while Kroeger's awful Hero was still #1. Never Again is one of Silver Side Up's harder rocking songs but, even with the big guitars, it suffers from the same deadly seriousness and lack of originality as Kroeger's previous hits. Never Again is another song that seems related to Kroeger's troubled youth. Like Too Bad, Never Again is about a dysfunctional home. This time instead of being absent, the dad is a physically abusive drunk. Kroeger is a kid afraid his mom is going to get killed. The happy ending has the mom grabbing a gun and pulling "the trigger just as fast as she can." As always, I don't question Kroeger's sincerity or right to express his pain but wish he could express himself in a more interesting, fresh way.
Never Gonna Come Back Down - BT
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: #48 (Aug. 2000) buy it!
Brian Transeau is skilled at constructing atmosperic beat filled dance music. Especially at its start, the collage style sound, ironic samples, nonsequitor lyrics and uninflected white rap make Never Gonna Come Back Down, from the Movement in Still Life CD, sound like a Beck tribute. The song's chorus is catchy but fairly routine. Undoubtedly, Never Gonna Come Back Down does the job on the dance floor.
Never Gonna Stop - Rob Zombie
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #18 (April 2002) buy it!
White Zombie, Rob Zombie's old band, combined hard rock and a big, flashy theatricality. Zombie's solo work gives greater emphasis to the hard rock part. Never Gonna Stop, from The Sinister Urge CD, is fairly standard hard rock. Zombie's lyrics(largely consisting of "never gonna stop me" and "scream if you want it, 'cause I want more") and howled vocals have tough guy attitude. Never Gonna Stop is quite stupid. At least, with its sprinkling of sweet, teenybopper style backing vocals, it's not as harsh as Feel So Numb, Sinister Urge's first chart hit.
Never Had A Dream Come True - S Club 7
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #38 (May 2001) buy it!
The marijuana arrest of some of the S Club kids is the most interesting thing about this boring, squeaky clean British addition to the Radio Disney crowd. The lyrics, about having trouble moving on after the end of a once prefect relationship, aren't awful, just familiar. Jo O'Meara tries to add a little soul and her singing isn't as bad as Britney's on the similar From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart. But the music is bland even for the genre. The violins are ladled on and the dramatic drums and keyboards should be backing a bad easy listening lounge act. Never Had A Dream Come True was first an English single benefitting a children's charity. It was later added to S Club 7's 7 CD.
Never Leave You(Uh-oh) - Lumidee
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: #44 (Aug. 2003) buy it!
Never Leave You proves the broad appeal of the diwali rhythm. Jamaicans Sean Paul and Wayne Wonder both had hits with the sound that was put on Get Busy and No Letting Go by producer Lenky Marsden. It turns out that the rhythm fits as well with the singing of Spanish Harlem's Lumidee Cedeno. Producer DJ Tedsmooth smartly found a new context where the hot, infectious, familiar beat works. On Never Leave You, Diwali sounds like a New York rhythm. Diwali feels like a natural variation on the double dutch beat that's accompanied kids jumping rope for years. The uh ohs and Lumidee's unremarkable slightly wobbly and thin voice help create a natural, unpretentious feel. Never Leave You is undeniably a novelty hit doomed to a fairly short life span. The uh ohs that are cute and catchy the first few listens become annoying after a while. Never Leave You is generally pretty ordinary. But Never Leave You does have that great beat and a comfortable atmosphere. Never Leave You's simple lyric is about convincing a boyfriend that "there ain't another" and that they're great together.
Never Let You Go - Third Eye Blind
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: #1 (March 2000) buy it!
Sure, the guitar hook is kind of copped from the Velvet Underground's Sweet Jane and the keyboards and general mood owe a little to the Cars' Just What I Needed. Never Let You Go, from the CD Blue, sounds like a hit. Like Semi Charmed Life from their first record, Never Let You Go has energy and an easy momentum. Singer Stephan Jenkins has a comfortable presence whether singing in falsetto or rapping. It's not surprising that pop fans find Never Let You Go more appealing than Blue's first single, Anything, which was fast post punk but wasn't particularly distinctive.
New Beginning - Stir
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #10 (April 2000) buy it!
While it's not particularly substantial, the first single from the St. Louis band's Holy Dogs CD is an undeniably catchy rocker. The restrained verses, with fairly spooky keyboards, are meant to match the tension of Andy Schmidt's lyrics about "having a breakdown" because the women he worships is apparently on the way out of their relationship but the song quickly moves into a high spirited chorus, with power chords and Schmidt sounding like Semisonic's Dan Wilson. Things get a little too poppy with Schmidt's na-na-na vocals.
New York, New York - Ryan Adams
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: #23 (Jan. 2002) buy it!
New York, New York is from Gold, the former Whiskeytown frontman's second solo record. Adams' music continues to evolve from alt country to more mainstream rock. New York, New York shows the different sides of Adams' sound. His loose, rapid fire delivery evokes a Dylan song like Tangled Up In Blue but New York, New York also resembles songs by The Allman Brothers and Billy Joel. New York, New York has gotten attention because of its eerie video, filmed September 7th, showing Adams singing in front of a view of New York's downtown skyline with the Twin Towers in the center of the shot. But New York, New York also deserves attention because it's a darn good song. It has a great, fun feel with buoyant guitar and keyboards. Adams' flood of words is very charming. On New York, New York, Adams pays tribute to his adopted home but decides that, since his memories of the city are so intertwined with those of the love that broke his heart, it's time to go.
Next Year - Foo Fighters
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #12 (Oct. 2000) buy it!
With the exception of the very good Learn To Fly, most of the rockers on There Is Nothing Left To Lose are fairly routine. Two slow songs, Ain't It The Life and Next Year, are among the most interesting on the CD. Next Year has a good dreamy atmosphere. Strings give it the feel of a thoughtful late Beatles ballad. The lyrics seem to use a trip into space to represent a break in a relationship that will make things all better.
Nice To Know You - Incubus
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: #17 (March 2002) buy it!
The Morning View CD's second chart hit reminds me of its first, I Wish You Were Here. Both songs, like most Incubus tunes, have some hard rock trappings and a bit of hip hop but are otherwise pleasant pop. Nice To Know You alternates between rougher patches with a driving beat and record scratching, choruses with a big rock guitar sound and bridges with an upbeat folk rock feel. Incubus aren't particularly important or as tough and edgy as they think they are but their music is pleasant, inoffensive and flavorful and it does a decent job of bridging the gap between different musical styles. Nice To Know You's music and Brandon's Boyd's lyrics, about beginning to experience and enjoy life again, have the same vaguely spacy, positive sense as much of Incubus' work.
Nineteen - Old 97's
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: #38 (Oct. 1999) buy it!
Nineteen, from the band's Fight Songs CD, is a fine example of Old 97's good natured, well made poppy roots rock. The band comes across as really nice guys. Nineteen is basically an apology for not being mature in a youthful relationship. The music is light and pleasant.
No Leaf Clover - Metallica
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: #11 (Feb. 2000) buy it!
Metallica's music is pretty overblown under any circumstances. Playing with an orchestra in the concerts recorded on the S & M CD would seem to play to their worst, most bombastic instincts. Somehow, while it's way too much and a little silly, the band does find some beauty and meaning in the new setting. No Leaf Clover is pretty pretentious musically but it also has some melodic appeal. The lyrics have the band's typical pessimism. The message is that when things seem to be going well, your luck is bound to change: "that light at the end of the tunnel is just a freight train coming your way."
No Letting Go - Wayne Wonder
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #31 (June 2003) buy it!
With little warning, Diwali rhythm from Jamaica has become a presence on top 40 radio. Producer Steven "Lenky" Marsden first hit with Sean Paul's fun, brash Get Busy. Impressively, Marsden has another hit with a song that shares Get Busy's Diwali rhythm but is otherwise very different. Paul was in your face with his goofy, lecherous style. Wayne Wonder is laid back, apologizing for past "doings" with other women and declaring his devotion to a "very special" beauty . No Letting Go, from Wonder's No Holding Back CD, easily breezes by. Diwali's relaxed, varied handclaps are the key, making a joyful sound while inobtrusive synths underline Wonder's vocal and add a little flavor. Nothing amazing happens. The lyric is very simple and Wonder's voice is pleasant but unremarkable. But No Letting Go's cool, very positive sound make it a great summer single. Wonder, who's been making music since starting in Jamaica in the mid 80's, has his first American hit.
No More Drama - Mary J. Blige
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: #29 (March 2002) buy it!
Mary J. Blige follows the very fun, relaxed Family Affair with a much more serious statement of purpose.Your opinion of the second hit and title track from Blige's No More Drama CD has to be depend on how interesting a character you find Blige. Blige mocks her often overly dramatic, confrontational image by using the theme from The Young and The Restless soap opera as a base but it doesn't change the fact that No More Drama is heavy stuff that uses a melodramatic sound to declare an end to a dramatic life. Blige's vocal, as usual, is strong and compelling but, especially at the end when the otherwise minimal sound swells and she and backing singers try to outdo each other, her singing verges on emoting. Blige rues the lesson learned from having her heart broken and, using the power of positive thinking, pledges to never cry again, vowing: "I choose to win."
No More, No Less - Collective Soul
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #8 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
Collective Soul's Dosage CD hasn't yielded a smash like Shine or December but this is the 3rd hit from Dosage. Their success is quite impressive for a band that has hardly been able to establish any distinctive personality. They continue to work to be all things to all people, making rockers and ballads that can get radio play on a broad range of stations. Their last song, Heavy was actually a decent rocker. But No More, No Less suffers from their lack of adventurousness. It has a vague dance sensibility and is inoffensive but it hardly gets your attention.
No More - 3LW
Weeks on Chart: 1 Peak: #46 (April 2001) buy it!
3LW are the latest successful female R & B trio. Except for the stupid trick of repeating the last word of each line, No More, from the group's self titled debut, is pretty good if inconsequential. The lyrics, complaining about a guy's frontin' and jealousy, are nothing new but No More has good, minimal beat and bass backing. The singing is supple with a distinctive personality.
No One Knows - Queens Of The Stone Age
Weeks on Chart: 32 Peak: #4 (March 2003) buy it!
No One Knows is from Queens Of The Stone Age's ambitious, sprawling Songs For The Deaf CD. On No One Knows, like on much of Songs For The Deaf, QOTSA writer/musicians Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri show that music can rock and not be really stupid or predictable. Homme's stomping guitar line is one of the best riffs of the year. It gives No One Knows heft and edge and keeps the song moving. Homme supplements the riff with big, crunching playing on the chorus and a dramatic but tight solo. Homme's singing is typically unshowy but he also appreciates rock dynamics, following the song's flow as he shifts from a serious, troubled vocal to a more excited falsetto. No One Knows is a well deserved commercial breakthrough for QOTSA and one of the better rock songs of 2002. I guess that No One Knows is an appreciation of the gift of having someone special who's "mine, indeed a fool of mine" in a world that's otherwise filled with stupid rules and hopelessness.
No One - Cold
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: #22 (May 2001) buy it!
On No One, from Cold's 13 Ways to Bleed On Stage CD, Scooter Ward is another serious singer with Vedder-like intensity. At least, with a fluid sound, loose drumming and bass playing and a subtle guitar, Cold's Pearl Jam/STP imitation has pretty good music. Ward sings about being left alone "with no one sent to get me", feeling "like I'm being erased." He apparently isn't dealing well with a breakup and is "so sick of this terrible instinct."
No Scrubs - TLC
Weeks on Chart: 1 Peak: #49 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
There's not much to No Scrubs, from TLC's Fan Mail cd. It's just basically that chorus about the "scrub" sittin' in the passenger side of his best friend's ride coming on to her. But the slow groove is undeniable.
No Such Thing - John Mayer
Weeks on Chart: 28 Peak: #8 (Aug. 2002) buy it!
Further proving that you can't keep a mediocre, pleasant song down, No Such Thing, from the Room For Squares CD, has returned to the chart. No Such Thing was on the lower end of the top 50 for more than two months last winter thanks to play on "adult alternative" radio. With its mild sense of rebellion and John Mayer's genial, modest vocals, No Such Thing was perfect for that yuppie friendly format. Even after it dropped off the top 50, No Such Thing hung around some stations' playlists. Its innocuous charm eventually caught the attention of VH1 then pop radio. No Such Thing reminds me of well made, easy rock hits by thoughtful, poppy white guys like Marc Cohn, Sister Hazel and Five For Fighting. No Such Thing's whimsical lyrics gently protest a world that tells you "stay inside the lines" and proclaim that "the real world" is "just a lie you've got to rise above." Mayer, a Berklee College of Music dropout turned Atlanta based singer/songwriter, is only in his mid 20s and seems a little young to be making such smooth, familiar, unchallenging music. Mayer has been compared to Dave Matthews. No Such Thing is even tamer than Matthews' amiable music, which at least has a little jazzy edge.
No Tears Left - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #15 (Nov. 1999) buy it!
The rock veterans, all in their mid to late 50's, are famous for their feuding. They've put their problems aside for a new record, Looking Forward and their CSNY2K tour. No Tears Left has the familiar CSN harmonies in the background but rocks hard. The lyrics refer to the challenges young people face when they try to do good and take on an establishment who are "deaf and blind and can not think." The music is often fairly generic guitar rock but it's nice to hear the old guys still getting riled up.
No Way Out - Stone Temple Pilots
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: #19 (Nov. 2000) buy it!
Stone Temple Pilots have made a fairly strong comeback after declining record sales, Scott Weiland's incarcerations and the band's breakup, mostly thanks to Sour Girl, which showed they still can appeal to a mainstream audience. No Way Out, the fourth chart hit from the No. 4 CD, is a spare rocker like Down, 4's first single. Scott Weiland angrily tells us he's troubled, screaming, "I'm going under, I'm suffocating." Dean DeLeo's guitar creates an appropriately edgy sound with hard, jagged riffs.
Nobody Wants To Be Lonely - Ricky Martin and Christina Aguilera
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #23 (March 2001) buy it!
Nobody Wants To Be Lonely, from Ricky Martin's Sound Loaded CD, is another celebrity duet that seem more like a contest than a collaboration. Martin's pleasant, unremarkable voice is better suited to light, dance pop so it's not surprising that Christina Aguilera's showy vocal acrobatics grab the spotlight on this sleek, empty piece of pop. The song starts with a slight Latin feel but soon has a glossy, generic feel and an uninteresting, repetitive beat. The lyrics are fairly lame. Martin asks someone whose "heart is cold and lost the will to love, like a broken arrow" "why don't you let me love you." The song drifts innocuously as Martin sings about his longing. It gets interesting for a moment on the chorus as Aguilera soars over Martin singing, "Time is precious and it's slipping away and I've been waitin' for you all of my life" but then slips back into repetition.
Nobody's Real - Powerman 5000
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #27 (Jan. 2000) buy it!
The followup to When Worlds Collide, from Tonight the Stars Revolt!, is another totally over the top song with a futuristic sci-fi feel. I guess their cheesy, dramatic electronic sound is entertaining but it's also kind of goofy. It's hard to take the hysterical lyrics, with their allusions to sinister forces, seriously.
Nookie - Limp Bizkit
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #15 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
Limp Bizkit has a different method from Korn of using a mix of hard rock and hip hop to appeal to white male teens. Instead of playing off adolescent feeling of disenfranchisement, Nookie, from Limp Bizkit's Significant Other cd, fulfills teen fantasy. It's an unsavory tale of staying with an unfaithful girlfriend to keep getting sex and a chance to get a nasty last word.
Nothing As It Seems - Pearl Jam
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #3 (May 2000) buy it!
This sad, quiet song was a strange choice as a first single from Pearl Jam's new Binaural CD and it's not surprising that, after a high debut, Nothing As It Seems is quickly falling down the chart. Like last year's fluke pop hit Last Kiss, Nothing As It Seems is a ballad but it has a very thoughtful, personal feel with lyrics about a guy for whom nothing is as it seems who needs a feeling of home. Written by bass player Jeff Ament, Nothing As It Seems is largely based around an acoustic guitar and has good, restrained vocals from Eddie Vedder.
Numb - Linkin Park
Weeks on Chart: 29 Peak: #1 (Jan. 2004) buy it!
Numb is the third chart hit from Linkin Park's Meteora CD but the first to get a big push at top 40 radio. Presumably Faint, which had a great, exciting riff, was considered too edgy for the mainstream. I like Numb, with its controlled sound, better than the songs featuring Chester Bennington's over the top screaming or Mike Shinoda's mediocre rapping but Numb isn't exciting or very interesting. Numb is better than average Linkin Park. Its spooky synth line effectively communicates its protagonist's turmoil. The way the guitars slam in on the chorus seems appropriate to the song's anger and less overdone than usual. Numb has a hook that resembles In The End and Crawling from Linkin Park's first CD but it benefits from a touch of restraint. Bennington still rages but with a lessened intensity that's right for a declaration of numbness. Bennington's straight forward singing on the verses isn't particularly good but it is charmingly sincere. Numb is fine. It's just ordinary and a little boring. With Numb's easily understood angst, Linkin Park continue delivering angry male rock to a wide suburban audience. Well intentioned and serious, Numb will appeal to teens looking for a meaningful sound they can relate to. But its solemn soul searching does nothing for me besides make me think if she makes you so unhappy, you should probably break up. Bennington sings in Numb about feeling smothered in a relationship with someone who sees his every step as a mistake and wants him to be "what you want me to be."