Sacred Love - Sting
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: #43 (April 2004) buy it!
The title track from Sacred Love is fairly typical of Sting's recent work. It has fine music and is easy to listen to. Sacred Love has a jazzy looseness with some interesting, exotic sounds. Sting's voice still has an impressively fluid, light touch. But the music is also a touch glib. Sting doesn't go beyond the surface pleasantness to truly engage or challenge the listener. Sting's lyric, typically, has a self satisfied quality and imagery that's way overblown. Sting claims on Sacred Love that he wants to leave the news and world behind and just go dancing. Much of Sacred Love is about finding exalted terms for the woman he loves. She's the one he "begged the moon and the stars above" for. She's "my religion", "my church." She's "the holy grail at the end of my search." "She takes the shape of this heavenly daughter." She's "the word" "made into flesh and blood." To make his adoration even more heavy handed, he closes the song with even more heavy handed references to the religious images he's been "thinkin 'bout."
Satelite Blues - AC/DC
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #43 (Aug. 2000) buy it!
With its familiar crunchy guitar chords and piercingly shrieked vocals Satelite Blues, from the Stiff Upper Lip CD, finds AC/DC in their simple, classic mode. It's very similar to the band's popular songs like Hell's Bells and Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap and their core fans probably don't mind. Angus and Malcolm Young's lyrics are as unsophisticated as ever as Brian Johnson sings about a woman who "make the place a jumping", "brings me to the boil" and "like to give it up some." They then apparently move on to complaints about a satelite dish that won't work.
Satellite - P.O.D.
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: #41 (Sept. 2002) buy it!
Satellite is the title track and fourth chart hit from Payable On Death's breakthrough record. As radio gets deeper into the Satellite CD, the San Diego band's success becomes more mysterious and irritating to me. There were logical reasons P.O.D.'s previous singles were hits. Alive, with its supposed positivity, was the right song after 9/11. Youth Of The Nation had a hot topic(school shootings). Boom had a good, big beat and rock guitar sound. Satellite also has decent edgy, slashing guitars but the focus is on Sonny Sandoval's annoying vocal. Sandoval seems bad in lots of way. His attempts to project menacing toughness seem lame. He comes across to me as unpleasant and unskilled and a pale imitation of sharper rappers. Satellite is another religious paean. There's nothing particularly terrible about Satellite's lyrics. Sandoval tells us that His "love constricts my chest" and "now I can see" and asks God to "never take your eyes off me." As with Alive, I find Satellite uninteresting because Sandoval never goes beyond what God means to him to think of others. And maybe I'm close minded but Sandoval's harsh snarl doesn't seem like the best way to express his devotion. His singing strikes me as more about establishing rock cred and selling records than communicating with the Almighty.
Satisfied - 8Stops7
Weeks on Chart: 1 Peak: #45 (April 2000) buy it!
8Stops7 are another rock band with a big, assaultive guitar sound and lyrics about how tough life is. Toby Wright, who produced the band's In Moderation CD, has worked with Korn and the guitars have a little of Korn's electronic feel. Evan Sulla-Goff sounds a little like an angry Eddie Vedder as he sings about how he feels nothing and nothing feels right. The song, with screamed choruses about how he needs another hit to feel satisfied, seems identical to a lot of contemporary hard rock.
Save It For A Rainy Day - The Jayhawks
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: #49 (April 2003) buy it!
The Jayhawks have made thoughtful, smart music with great harmonies for more than a decade. On the bands last three records, Jayhawks leader Gary Louris has shown an extraordinary ability to shape sound in beautiful, heartbreaking ways. The sound on the new Rainy Day Music CD is even more calm and melodic than usual. Rainy Day Music emphasizes Louris connection with early 70s country rock and late 60s harmony based folk rock. Louris disavows most of the trappings of contemporary music, relying on acoustic guitars, country string instruments and layers of vocals. Louris fairly limited ambitions result in a record thats good but doesnt have much variety and doesnt achieve the consistent greatness the Jayhawks have reached before, especially on their Sound Of Lies CD. Rainy Day Music has moments of excellence including Save It For A Rainy Day. Starting with inviting guitar picking by Louris and producer Ethan Johns, who plays a lot of Rainy Day Musics instruments, Save It For A Rainy Day has a comfortable, relaxing feel. Louris uses his gift for vocal arrangement, nicely placing the lush harmonies of drummer Tim OReagan and Stephen McCarthy under his voice. Louris voice has the empathetic sweetness hes shown before and it perfectly matches Save It For A Rainy Days lyric. The words dont always seem so sympathetic(Louris tells a friend that she looks like a train wreck). But Louris tone leaves no doubt about his compassion as he tries to convince a woman whos carrying as burden thats more than one soul could ever bear that theres another part to play.
Save Me - Dave Matthews
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: #43 (Feb. 2004) buy it!
I understand that, after playing with his band for more than a decade, Dave Matthews wanted to try something different. But artistically, it was a bad idea to ditch the DMB to make the solo record Some Devil. On Some Devil Matthews, a lover of jam songs, worked with similarly minded people like Phish's Trey Anastasio and made music that misses the energy Matthews' band brings to his songs. It also doesn't seem like his new partners pushed him to find the beautiful languor the Grateful Dead achieved. Save Me isn't pretentiously meaningful and draggy like Some Devil's first single Gravedigger, which quickly fell out of the top 50. Save Me is pleasant but so vague that it's hardly noticeable. Save Me's video shows Matthews, Anastasio and company having a good time making the song but only some of that sense of fun makes the record. Save Me does have an easy, loose feel. It moves at a relaxed, meandering pace. Crisp but unshowy drumming lets the pure sounds of the sticks and the kit resound. Save Me's guitar and keyboard doodling are pretty innocuous but they fit in fine with the song's laid back feel. Vocally Matthews is, typically, cocky, competent and unremarkable. He largely avoids the mannerisms can mar his singing. Save Me does have good, soulful backing vocals that finish the song nicely. Save Me tells Matthews' story of meeting a man who's walking through the desert for 40 days with only his faith to nourish him. Matthews asks the man to save him and is to told to "try savin' yourself."
Save You - Pearl Jam
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: #33 (Jan. 2003) buy it!
Save You, the second chart hit from the Riot Act CD, is a good, uncomplicated straight ahead rocker. There isnt much of a sense of growth on Pearl Jams new CD. But after showing signs of fading away on their last couple records, especially 2000s Binaural, Pearl Jam seem engaged on Riot Act. Riot Act has a number of songs that match up favorably with tracks on their classic records. Pearl Jam have done rockers like Save You, such as Hail Hail, Brain Of J and Spin The Black Circle, before but Save You is still fun and exciting. It must sound great live. Mike McCreadys guitar riff rips through Save You and, along with Jeff Aments matching bass line and Matt Camerons pounding drums, sends it barelling forward with nonstop energy. Under its tough music Save You has a sweet lyric. Eddie Vedder sings about selfishly wanting to keep a screwed up friend around because hes too important to me. Deploying his naturally dramatic voice as loosely as he can, Vedder promises to save the friend whether he wants it or not. Pearl Jam obviously influence the neo-grungsters like Puddle Of Mudd and Creed but, admirably, they largely avoid the new generations narcissism and cynical commercialism.
Say My Name - Destiny's Child
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: #23 (April 2000) buy it!
The pop charts are dominated these days by groups of pretty, smooth singing white boys and black women. Destiny's Child have already had big r&b hits with Bills, Bills, Bills and Bug a Boo from their Writing's On the Wall CD. Say My Name is their biggest pop hit. It is cool and smooth but doesn't really go anywhere with the idea that a lover, who's "acting kind of shady", should say her name to prove that he's not playing around with another woman. The song mixes things up a couple of times by speeding up and changing the beat but mostly it seems like endless repetition of the title.
Say You Will - Fleetwood Mac
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: #49 (Aug. 2003) buy it!
Say You Will is Fleetwood Mac's first record featuring Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks doing all new material in 16 years. It hasn't inspired too much interest but it has given us two good singles. Peacekeeper was distinctively the catchy/interesting/slightly weird work of Lindsay Buckingham. Say You Will's title track is a Stevie Nicks song with a likable feel that reminds me of her Gypsy. Say You Will is one of Nicks' best songs in a while. It has a familiar sound that's right for a beloved band that's been around for a while. Nicks' voice started out with a little rough huskiness. It's even craggier now but in a way that's comfortable and endearing. Say You Will is always pleasant. It rolls forward effortlessly on Mick Fleetwood's easy, rolling beat. But Say You Will's real charm is in an upbeat, infectious chorus that practically begs you to sing along. The chorus has harmonies between Nicks and Buckingham that work and feel real and definitely not too pretty. Throughout Say You Will, Buckingham throws out a series of compact guitar riffs that are smart, sometimes showy but always appropriate to the song. He helps create the chorus' joyful, soaring feel with a slowly climbing guitar part. Nicks' lyric is sweet if somewhat slight. She salutes the guy who "brought out something that I've never been since." She asks for another chance, confident that she can change his mind "if I can get you to dance."
Scandalous - Mis-teeq
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: #25 (June 2004) buy it!
Mis-teeq are three women(Su-Elise Nash, Sabrina Washington and Alesha Anjanette Dixon) who got together in London in the late 90s. Mis-teeq have been scoring hits in England for more than three years. Scandalous is on Mis-teeq's self titled US debut CD, which includes their UK hits. British critics have compared Mis-teeq to Destiny's Child. Before I hear more of their music, I'll say the resemblance to Spice Girls is at least as strong. Scandalous was produced by the Norwegian Stargate team(Mikkel Eriksen, Tor Erik Hermansen and Hallgeir Rustan) who have had light dance pop hits in England with S Club 7 and Samantha Mumba. Scandalous sounds like other European imitations of American hip hop that don't quite get it right. With its steady beat and synth riff and vaguely threatening sound effects, Scandalous is slickly efficient with a bit of edge. It also is synthetic, cold and repetitive. The vocals are similarly icy. The women seem like competent singers but their attempts to seem tough comes across a little fakey. They claim "you should be scared of us" but Scandalous' lyric isn't daring enough to justify the song's confrontational attitude. It's just a song about a guy with "looks to kill" whose "touch gives me chills" and "got me feelin' weak." The female character only really asserts herself during a bridge when she asks him for "a little conversation" and to "show a little patience." Scandalous moves well and has a decent forboding atmosphere but it's also silly and overdramatic.
Scar Tissue - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: #1 (Oct. 1999) buy it!
In the past when the Chili Peppers did slow songs like My Friends, Soul to Squeeze and Under the Bridge, it seemed like they were trying to prove that they could be serious. Scar Tissue, the first single from the Californication CD, has a mature, adult sound but is also relaxed and unshowy. Without the theatrics of their previous biggest hit, Under the Bridge, Scar Tissue has good atmosphere and a reflective tone.
Schism - Tool
Weeks on Chart: 28 Peak: #9 (June 2001) buy it!
I've had enough of harsh rock about troubled young white guys but I have to admit that Schism, the first single from Tool's Lateralus CD, is powerful and about as good as the genre gets. Schism slowly gains in intensity through its seven dark minutes. Schism isn't fun but, despite its meaningful tone, it generally avoids pretension. Schism, coming on the heels of the three top 50 hits from A Perfect Circle's Mer De Noms, continues Maynard James Keenan's success. Keenan is also continuing to make music that's quieter and more stark than Tool's earlier work. Adam Jones' dissonant guitar line is more about atmosphere than noise. Keenan's agitated vocal sounds like he's barely controlling his rage as he sings of the disintergrating and "fundamental differing" of two lovers. As he mourns the "atrophy" of a sense of compassion", Keenan obsesses about a time when "the pieces fit."
The Scientist - Coldplay
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: #8 (June 2003) buy it!
In My Place and Clocks, the first two chart hits from Coldplays A Rush Of Blood To The Head CD, were intricate and breathtakingly beautiful. The Scientist isnt as remarkable but its good. Once again, in a world of big guitars and drum machines, its refreshing to hear a song on the radio thats thoughtful and musically low key. On The Scientists first verse, only Chris Martins piano accompanies his voice. The uncluttered sound accentuates Martins sweetness as he tells a woman how lovely you are, reflects on the shame of breaking up and wishes they could go back to the start. Strings, Jon Bucklands strumming and Will Champions drums come in but the sound remains simple and unshowy. The result is likable and poignant. Martin has played the sensitive, heartbroken but ever hopeful spurned lover too many times but he is charming on The Scientist. Martins vocal is natural. The fact that he doesnt overplay the songs emotion helps make his sadness appealing.
Second Guessing - Johnny Lang
Weeks on Chart: 1 Peak: #33 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
Second Guessing is the 3rd rock radio hit from Lang's Wander This World cd. The young guitar phenom obviously has decent chops and a love and knowledge of blues greats but needs to find more personality, especially on the vocals.
Seein' Red - Unwritten Law
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: #16 (May 2002) buy it!
Unwritten Law's Elva CD is mostly fast, youthful, good natured, lightweight hip hop informed Sum 41 style hard rock. Seein' Red is not characteristic of the rest of the CD but it's not surprising that it's the song getting the record company push. Seein' Red is a sensitive rocker that fits solidly within the Staind/Nickelback model of what radio wants to play. Seein' Red is painfully predictable, following the standard pattern of meaningful, restrained verses that explode into hard rocking choruses. Over quiet guitar picking, Scott Russo does an earnest vocal. Seein' Red's "follow the leader" chorus is catchy. I like the scratchy little riff between the power chords. But the song keeps coming back to the crappy verse. A boring, cliched guitar solo doesn't help things either. Seein' Red is about Russo's anger at foolish lies he's been told. He alternates between mocking and giving someone a last chance to choose to make a relationship work.
Send The Pain Below - Chevelle
Weeks on Chart: 34 Peak: #3 (Aug. 2003) buy it!
Send The Pain Below is the second chart hit from the Wonder What's Next CD by the band comprised of three born again Christian brothers from Chicago. The Red was a bit monotonous but it had a good, insinuating guitar riff and had a long run on rock radio. Send The Pain Below is less distinctive. It has the Creed feeling of being a pastiche of Pearl Jam and other grunge bands. At least singer Pete Loeffler doesn't come across pretentiously like Creed's Scott Stapp. He's thoughtful in an unshowy way as he sings about his ability to suppress his emotional pain. His low key guitar playing is appropriate to the lyrics' stark emotion. At times, the match of restrained but intense singing and basic, booming sustained chords remind me of Radiohead's Creep. But generally, Send The Pain Below doesn't have Creep's depth. It's so downbeat that it's hard to distinguish from the other songs where young men share their hurt. The similarity to other songs is accentuated towards the end when Loeffler goes into a Korn/Trust Company style rant("I can't feel my chest,drop down"). Send The Pain Below's message is oddly common in similar songs: you hurt me when you manipulated when we were together and I miss you. Send The Pain Below has an intensity that can be compelling but it's ultimately too indistinctive and humorless to keep my interest.
Send Your Love - Sting
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #39 (Oct. 2003) buy it!
Sting had his biggest hit in years by going the world music route on Brand New Day's Desert Rose, a seductively exotic song featuring Algerian singer Cheb Mami. Not surprisingly, Sting's new Sacred Love has a lot more international musicians and sounds. Send Your Love's music is good. It mixes the jazziness that's marked much of Sting's solo work with more exotic sounds. The result is a loose, unforced, exciting jam. Sting is a gifted, nimble singer. He fits nicely with Send Your Love's quick playing and light rhythmic touch. Send Your Love has a fast, vibrant bass line, an atmospheric, evocative horn and subtle synths that easily float above the other sounds. Send Your Love's downside is that it has a lot of flavor but no center. There's not much of a melody and what there is, in his typical style, echoes previous Sting songs like If You Love Somebody and, of course, Desert Rose. On Sacred Love, Sting makes lots of connections between love and religion and faith. Because it's Sting, the lyrics are thoughtful but quite pretentious. Send Your Love has nice ideas: "you've got a stake in the world we ought to share" and we can make the world a more loving place. But they're surrounded by Sting's musings. The first verse is about how the truth of the universe can be found in a grain of sand or "a single hour". The second one is about how "your mind is a relay station" that can send positive thoughts into the future and to distant galaxies. There are also decent thoughts about finding religion in joy and nature.
Senorita - Justin Timberlake
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #21 (Oct. 2003) buy it!
Justin Timberlake has impressively moved on from being a member of a very successful singing group to being even more successful as a solo artist. Even more impressive is that Timberlake has escaped N Sync's squeaky clean, lightweight pop image and built some cred as an r&b singer. A lot of credit for Timberlake's makeover has to go to The Neptunes(Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo), who wrote and produced seven songs on the Justified CD including Like I Love You, Rock Your Body and Senorita. Senorita, Justified's fourth hit, is insubstantial and not that impressive but it(along with Timberlake's nice contribution to Black Eyed Peas' Where Is The Love) helps solidify the idea of Timberlake as a respectable artist. Unlike some of Timberlake's previous singles, Senorita doesn't show a need to overwhelm us with overdone instrumentation or breathless Michael Jackson imitations. Senorita is a smooth ride with relaxed confidence. The Neptunes again show their skill at putting together an appealing song. Senorita's chief asset is a very likable, easy keyboard riff. Senorita is also helped by a minimal percussive beat and touches of horns. Timberlake is once again aided by good, well placed backing vocals. Timberlake's singing seems fine. He's pretty charming, though I could do without the cocky guys/ladies finale. Senorita has a typical lyric. Timberlake tries to convince a woman that the guy who upsets her "doesn't love ya" and offers his "real love" in exchange.
Serenity - Godsmack
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: #8 (Oct. 2003) buy it!
Serenity is the second chart hit from Godsmack's Faceless CD. He has a lot of competition but I continue to find Godsmack's Sully Erna one of the most unappealing popular singers around. In Serenity, written by Erna and guitar player Tony Rambola, Erna sings about closing his eyes, taking a deep breath and "cradling your inner child" but his delivery is typically antagonistic. Erna doesn't rant or yell on Serenity. But his odd moan has a forboding, threatening quality that doesn't fit the the lyric or music. Serenity's music is interesting. Godsmack largely eschew rock band insturumentation. They make decent use of eastern sounds and percussion and create a textured, atmospheric feel. But, like on Godsmack's Voodoo, the mystical appeal of the music is steamrollered by Erna's negative energy. His intensity prevents Serenity from achieving a sense of serene spirituality. Rather than calming, Serenity puts me on edge.
Set Me Free - Velvet Revolver
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: #28 (July 2003) buy it!
Velvet Revolver is a new band featuring Scott Weiland and Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum from Guns N Roses. Weiland says he's going to keep working with Stone Temple Pilots but will also make a full length CD later this year with Velvet Revolver. Set Me Free is on The Hulk soundtrack, which otherwise consists of pieces of Danny Elfman's score for the movie. Set Me Free is a decent rocker that's somewhat reminiscent of Guns n Roses' catchy but hard rocking music. Set Me Free's lyric has Weiland's typical spacy vibe. Weiland sings about a woman who operates and motivates "on synthetic fuel" and asks her to "set me free 'cause I think you need my soul."
Seven Nation Army - White Stripes
Weeks on Chart: 36 Peak: #10 (Sept. 2003) buy it!
White Stripes have followed the surprise million selling White Blood Cells CD with the even more successful Elephant. Seven Nation Army is their biggest radio hit so far. Like White Blood Cells, Elephant is a very good record that throws all sorts of ideas together. Singer/songwriter Jack White alternates(sometimes in the same song) between sincere and cynical and between goofy pop and serious, intense power chord laden hard rock. White's songs are unified by a seemingly natural weirdness and a good sense of a hook. White Stripes are still just guitar player Jack and drummer Meg White but Jack varies the sound and keeps it interesting. Unlike most of White Stripes' music, Seven Nation Army has a bass line(apparently played on a processed guitar). The verses, with Meg banging and Jack playing the big, basic bass line, give Jack space for his odd, strangely compelling vocal. Instead of shifting to a chorus, Seven Nation Army adds an electric guitar that basically tracks the bass line but creates a squealing intensity as the song dissolves into a fun jam before returning to another verse. Seven Nation Army is great, partly because its recurring riff is so good and memorable. Seven Nation Army has the kind of weird lyric that adds to White Stripes' charm. Sounding crazy and paranoid but also like he might have a point, Jack alternately promises to fight and ignore an unnamed enemy. He finally decides to avoid the struggle, go to Wichita and "work the straw." On Seven Nation Army, White Stripes music is again unpolished, odd and powerful.
Sexx Laws - Beck
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: #33 (Jan. 2000) buy it!
Beck's new CD, Midnight Vultures, is a bit of a disappointment. Beck's ability to make an authentic sounding 70's disco record is impressive but it's unclear what the point of it is. Sexx Laws is one of the few songs where Beck isn't just showing off but actually makes a fun song. Beck creates a knowingly cheesy sound with big, perky horns that sound like they should be accompanying a football highlight film. Much of the lyrics are gibberish but the chorus about slipping the handcuffs off our wrists and defying sexual conventions are appealing clear. The banjo and steel guitar bring to mind the sometimes countryish feeling of his last CD, Mutations. The country instruments and goofy electronic effects add to the fun anything goes feeling.
Shake Ya Tailfeather - Nelly
Weeks on Chart: 21 Peak: #16 (Oct. 2003) buy it!
P. Diddy assembled tracks from an all star lineup for the Bad Boys II soundtrack. I'm guessing that Nelly didn't sweat too much over his contribution. Shake Ya Tailfeather has the same sprawling, steady, easy but tight form of many of Nelly's singles from Country Grammar to Air Force Ones. Shake Ya Tailfeather is nothing new and it doesn't have much distinctive personality but it is well constructed and it shows Nelly's skills. As on many of Nelly's songs, annoying elements are side by side with likable ones. Shake Ya Tailfeather features the tomahawk chop chant that's irritated fans of teams playing the Braves for years. You'd figure that Nelly, who's always championing his St.Louis hometown, would be loathe to coopt the theme of the Cards' rival. Especially on the first verse, Shake Ya Tailfeather showcases Nelly's considerable rapping talents. He's fast with a light touch, and a lot of presence. With handclaps, synth interjections and a steady flow, Shake Ya Tailfeather's backing track has energy to match Nelly's vocal. The music and Nelly's interjections maintain an appealing feel even when lesser rappers take over. P. Diddy, who does the second verse, isn't as drab and flat as he can be. He keeps the song moving but his confident rap isn't very exciting. It would be nothing without its accompaniment. Murphy Lee from St. Lunatics, who's contributed to Nelly's CDs, does the third verse as comic relief, sharing his love of big booties and grass. It's nothing special but fine. Shake Ya Tailfeather's familiarity made it a big hit but it also is a good example of how Nelly's rapping and music can be irresistable. Even for a Nelly song, Shake Ya Tailfeather's lyric, mostly about wanting to see the ladies dance, is pretty slight. Nelly comes on to a girl then disses her. The rappers say each others names a lot. Nelly says he likes girls of all ethnicities then asks one to "take it off" and "take that ass to the floor."
Shake Your Bon Bon - Ricky Martin
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #36 (Dec. 1999) buy it!
I guess it's a sign of being a te en idol that even your stupidest songs can be hits. This one has the advantage o f also referring to dancing and butts. I think Livin La Vida Loca and La Copa de Vida were very good songs; they were fun mixes of pop and Latin music. The subs equent singles, She's All I Ever Had and Shake Your Bon Bon have been pretty bad.
Shape Of My Heart - Backstreet Boys
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #32 (Dec. 2000) buy it!
Shape Of My Heart is from the Boys' new Black and Blue CD. Shape Of My Heart is the kind of song they do best, a well made ballad like I Want It That Way. The singing and harmonies aren't bad. Shape Of My Heart is fairly innocuous but the preteens won't mind. On Shape Of My Heart, they ask her for forgiveness, playing into the fan fantasy by asking her to "save me from the man I've become."
Shatterday - Vendetta Red
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: #47 (Aug. 2003) buy it!
Shatterday is from Between the Never and Now, the major label debut from Seattle's Vendetta Red. The intense sound of emo or screamo has already lost some of its freshness and largely become predictable. Still, the new popularity of bands making catchy, passionate music can't be a bad thing. Shatterday is an OK example of screamo. The way Shatterday is both vibrant and overwrought is reminiscent of some of The Used's music. Scatterday's chief attraction is singer Zach Harrison, who makes his personal investment in the song clear as alternates between tortured singing, yelling and shrieking. Scatterday's music is less interesting. It swings back and forth from quiet verses with a meaningful strum and a slightly bombastic chorus and bridge with guitars and drums crashing in. Even so, the music is more fun than a lot of the showy, assembly line hard rock around these days. Shatterday's lyric is, not surprisingly, both smart and overdone. The lyric tries too hard for significance with lines like "days are numbered 666" and "when you bit the bullet, I held the smoking gun" but I like some parts including the reference to Shatterday as a "loose lipped lullaby."
She Bangs - Ricky Martin
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: #37 (Nov. 2000) buy it!
She Bangs is from the new Sound Loaded CD. Like on Livin' La Vida Loca, horns and percussion create a high spirited party mood though Martin's vocals and the song in general are more leisurely paced than on Martin's huge hit. She Bangs is somewhat silly but fun Latin pop. Martin sings about an imposing lady who looks like a flower but stings like a bee. She's playing with him. After she "lit a fuse" she blew him off.
She Don't Want Nobody Near - Counting Crows
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #33 (Feb. 2004) buy it!
It's the season for greatest hits CDs by vaguely hip yuppie favorites from the early 90's. Counting Crows join Sheryl Crow, No Doubt, Red Hot Chili Peppers and REM in the top 50 with a new track from a compilation record. Of those acts, Counting Crows had the shortest time at the top and the steadiest decline from their commercial peak. They've been unable to put out singles as striking as Mr. Jones, which introduced Counting Crows to the world, or Long December, the band's last big hit. But while Counting Crows no longer top the pop charts, they still get play in the less expansive world of adult alternative radio and they have retained a decent following with solid, unspectacular music. She Don't Want Nobody Near, from Films About Ghosts: The Best Of Counting Crows, is a good example of the band's significant, if modest, charms. She Don't Want Nobody Near doesn't have much personality. It basically just drifts forward but it's a nice ride. Crisp drumming, tough, evocative guitar and varied sounds, including piano and a mandolin, give the song good momentum. Adam Duritz' voice is strong, as usual. He can seem narcissistic but on She Don't Want Nobody Near, Duritz is a good team player, fitting in nicely with the song's melody and controlling his mannerisms. She Don't Want Nobody Near is about a woman who, after too many guys just disappear, decides she doesn't want to get too deep into relationships where the guy could "see what she looks like when she's down."
She Hates Me - Puddle Of Mudd
Weeks on Chart: 30 Peak: #1 (Nov. 2002) buy it!
She Hates Me, Puddle Of Mudd's fourth chart hit, is the least annoying song so far from the Come Clean CD. At least, Wes Scantlin isn't ranting or tunelessly whining. She Hates Me brings to mind numerous jaunty songs by otherwise rocking alternative bands. The melody and guitars particularly remind me of L7's Pretend We're Dead. She Hates Me is also obviously reminiscent of Nirvana songs like Lithium which start whimsically but then reach an angrier screamed chorus. She Hates Me is fairly listenable if totally disposable. Scantlin doen't give us much insight into why things went wrong. His writing is typically uninspired, starting by rhyming grand with hand, two with unglued and grip with slip.
She Loves Me Not - Papa Roach
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: #7 (Aug. 2002) buy it!
Lovehatetragedy is the new CD by the Northern California band whose lead singer, formerly known as Coby Dick, wants to be known by his given name Jacoby Shaddix. Papa Roach broke through with the Infest CD. Like many rock hits, Infest's Last Resort and Broken Home had lyrics about a young mind troubled by memories of a sad childhood and music, dictated by Dick's alternately yelled and rapped vocal, that mixed hard rock and hip hop. They didn't particularly stand out among similar songs on the radio. She Loves Me Not, which may turn out to be the rock song of the summer, is a big step forward. She Loves Me Not's lyrics, about being torn apart by anxiety caused by a girl who toys with his emotions, are typically serious. But, unlike Papa Roach's previous hits, She Loves Me Not is about the music more than Shaddix' personality. Papa Roach have effectively tightened their music on She Loves Me Not for a sound that's big but concise. She Loves Me Not has the rock heft and urgency of a Sevendust song without that band's heavy metal excess. Jerry Horton's tough, economical guitar playing and Dave Buckner's big drum sound give She Loves Me Not good force and momentum. Until he does a mediocre rap, Shaddix' vocal is nicely focused and unshowy. Given the lyrics' torment and the music's rock charge, Shaddix finishes appropriately, ranting "life's not fair."
She's All I Ever Had - Ricky Martin
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #37 (Sept. 1999) buy it!
Presumably, this typical ballad was put on Martin's first English language record to hedge bets in case the more Latin flavored songs were too adventurous for a mainstream, anglo audience. The teen girls will probably eat it up but She's All I Ever Had is far less interesting or distinctive than Livin' La Vida Loca or La Copa de la Vida.
She's Got Issues - The Offspring
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #19 (Dec. 1999) buy it!
She's Got Issues is the fourth hit from the band's Americana CD. Part of the CD's appeal to the kids surely comes from the band's irreverent attitude. As on Why Don't You Get a Job, Dexter Holland is proudly insensitive, telling his girlfriend to "check your baggage at the door." It seems like she really has legitimate issues and Holland is too dopey to deal with them. The band's appeal also comes from their energetic, straight ahead music. While it's strangely reminiscent of .38 Special's Hold on Loosely, She's Got Issues is catchy, power chord filled guitar rock.
She's On Fire - Train
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #20 (March 2002) buy it!
She's On Fire is the third chart hit from the Drops Of Jupiter CD by genial San Francisco yuppie rockers Train. She's On Fire has Train's usual smooth, likable sound. It has good, easy boogie guitar lines. But She's On Fire is even more lightweight and insignificant than most of their work. She's On Fire sounds a little like Train's breakthrough hit Meet Virginia without that song's leisurely, quirky charm. She's On Fire also has less detail about the song's object of affection than Meet Virginia. On She's On Fire, Train just want to keep getting back to the innocuous chorus. Pat Monahan's vocal is typically pleasant but a little bland as he sings about a woman who "is truly fine to see" and "is surely blinding" to be.
She's So High - Tal Bachman
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #16 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
This is from the self titled debut from the son of Randy Bachman of BTO. It seems that every couple of months, a yuppie friendly soft rock hit comes along. The genre's recent entries include Breakfast at Tiffany, Sister Hazel's All For You and Del Amitri's Roll To Me. Like those, She's So High comes from decent musicians who aren't idiots but it's really easy listening background music.
Shiver - Coldplay
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: #42 (June 2001) buy it!
If you considering buying Coldplay's Parachutes, I should warn you that the rest of the CD isn't quite as good as their very good singles, Yellow and Shiver. The rest of Parachutes is good, with mellow, atmospheric songs. But it doesn't match Shiver's vibrance. Alternately intense and relaxed, swooping between an easy baritone and a fearless falsetto, Chris Martin sounds eerily like the late Jeff Buckley. Martin is cool even as he sings "you'll always get your way" to a woman who ignores him, pledging "I'll be there by your side, just you try and stop me." Jon Buckland effectively shifts from an ethereal guitar line on the verse to a good, tight rock riff on the chorus.
Short Skirt/Long Jacket - Cake
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: #6 (Sept. 2001) buy it!
As always, John McCrea's vocal on Short Skirt/Long Jacket is deadpan and ironic but it's not as annoying as usual because McCrea found a humorous topic to match his affect: his unlikely quest for a babe who's also an ambitious, sharp businesswoman. Short Skirt/Long Jacket is also more enjoyable than most of Cake's previous work because the music is better. Short Skirt/Long Jacket, from the Comfort Eagle CD, has a good funky guitar line and beat and fun touches like Vince DiFiori's trumpet.
Show Me How To Live - Audioslave
Weeks on Chart: 24 Peak: #5 (Sept. 2003) buy it!
The hits from Audioslave's self titled debut CD show that the former Rage Against The Machine musicians are surprisingly adept at the sort of classic rock influenced rock radio friendly songs singer Chris Cornell made with Soundgarden. Cochise was a big, fun Led Zeppellin pastiche and Like A Stone was an effectively dramatic, sprawling rock ballad. Show Me How To Live is another trip into Led Zeppellin territory. It doesn't have the over the top thrill of headbanger Cochise but it still works pretty well. The distinctiveness(and political edge) of Rage Against The Machine's music is largely missing on the Audioslave CD. Show Me How To Live is fairly generic, if effective, hard rock that sounds like a Soundgarden song. Tom Morello's tough, grinding guitar line and Brad Wilk's big basic beat give Show Me How To Live a good, gritty rock and roll edge. Chris Cornell always sounds pretty much the same and he's, typically, a little overdramatic. But the other side of his overblown vocal is that he provides a rousing, theatrical feeling that separates him from his intense, serious competition. Show Me How To Live is an unremarkable, solid hard rocker. Dealing with the "ringing in my head", Cornell demands to "my creator, you gave me life now show me how to live."
Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely - Backstreet Boys
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: #24 (March 2000) buy it!
Beyond being teen idols, Backstreet Boys have been getting some respect recently. They got Grammy nominations and positive writeups from Robert Christgau of the Village Voice and Ann Powers of the New York Times. I still don't get it. I Want It That Way struck me as an insipid bore. Larger Than Life was generic dance music and the lyrics, allegedly a tribute to their fans, were so vague and unoriginal that their fans should be offended. At least Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely, the third single from the Millennium CD, achieves what it shoots for. It's fairly effective as a big weepy ballad and the singing isn't bad.
Sick Cycle Carousel - Lifehouse
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #33 (June 2001) buy it!
Like on Hanging By A Moment, the megahit from Lifehouse's No Name Face CD, Jason Wade does a variation on Eddie Vedder and Creed's Scott Stapp without Vedder's substance but also lacking Stapp's pretension, as he sings about wanting to break a sick cycle. Wade is only 20 but he has that deep, serious, prematurely old voice that's been almost mandatory for rock singers of the last decade. He's also too young to be writing defeated lyrics like "if shame had a face, I think it would like mine." Sick Cycle Carousel's lofty, yearning chorus is like that of Pearl Jam or Live songs like Run To The Water or In Hiding without attaining the transcendence those bands can reach. Sick Cycle Carousel is earnest and pleasant sounding but not too interesting.
Side - Travis
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: #47 (Feb. 2002) buy it!
Travis still haven't really had their U.S. commercial breakthrough and the UK sales of their Invisible Band CD haven't reached those of their massive The Man Who but their music, if anything, is improving. As with The Man Who, I find much of the latest CD too blandly mellow but I enjoy The Invisible Band's U.S. singles: Sing and Side. It makes sense that Side took months to make the top 50. It's subtle and not flashy but holds up to repeat listens. Side has a good, textured sound with layered, chiming guitars and light, airy keyboards. Fran Healy's vocals are typically modest and unspectacular. The lyrics are OK; they advise us not to get hung up on envy and foolish goals and to realize "there is no wrong, there is no right."
Silver and Cold - AFI
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #33 (April 2004) buy it!
Before their latest CD, AFI never had a big radio hit but their Sing The Sorrow CD has given them three chart hits. Silver and Cold isn't as good as Girl's Not Grey but it's better than The Leaving Song, Pt. 2. AFI worked up some energy and excitement on Girl's Not Grey's impassioned chorus. The rest of AFI's music seems more boring. Silver and Cold has a big sound but it's very serious and a bit stiff. Davey Havok's voice is sincere but his howl shows no subtlety or modulation. With big, impassioned vocals, Silver and Cold's chorus has an anthemic appeal. But Havok's writing is wildly overdone. He sings "you, in somber resplendence, I hold" and "as a rapturous voice escapes, I will tremble a prayer." Silver and Cold is apparently a love song and it has an appealing sweeting. But any joy is overwhelmed by pounding drums, thick guitars and Havok's hysterical, agitated singing. Silver and Cold's emotion seems appealingly real but it's presented in an overwrought package.
Simple Creed - Live
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: #24 (Sept. 2001) buy it!
No, the first single from Live's V CD isn't a critique of the intelligence of Live's competition in the soaring rock ballad business. Simple Creed is like They Stood Up For Love, one of the better songs on Live's Distance From Here CD. The verses, with slashing guitars, show a harder, murky edge then give way to a catchy, uplifting chorus. Like a lot of Live's music, Simple Creed is pretentious but also has real power. Ed Kowalczyk's answer to a world where kids take guns to school is "we gotta love each other." Kowalczyk makes a nice contribution to Evolution Revolution Love on Tricky's Blowback CD and Tricky returns the favor with a guest vocal on Simple Creed.
Simple Kind Of Life - No Doubt
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #10 (July 2000) buy it!
Simple Kind Of Life is a somewhat unsuccessful attempt at a huge ballad hit like Tragic Kingdom's Don't Speak. The second single from Return of Saturn is, like the CD's first single Ex-Girlfriend, about how devastated Gwen Stefani was that Bush's Gavin Rossdale dumped her. There's something to be said for her honesty and there's nothing wrong with wanting to be a wife and mom, but the whole tone of Simple Kind Of Life is pretty pathetic. Do we really need to hear that she wasn't just in love with Gavin, she was obsessed, or that she hopes for a mistake that will bring her hoped for child? No Doubt have largely given up their ska punk sound. They're a good band and Simple Kind Of Life, with its clean sound and crisp beat, sounds good but the band's success will largely depend on their singer's appeal and here she's not that appealing.
Sing For The Moment - Eminem
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #21 (May 2003) buy it!
When The Eminem Show came out, its rock songs, Sing For The Moment and White America seemed like an attempt to hedge bets by an artist who had sold millions of records but had yet to have a big pop or rock radio hit. Eminem's hits have since crossed over to nearly every format so the rock inflected songs have proven commercially unnecessary. But Sing For The Moment has provided another good single from a good album. Dream On is a fairly obvious song to sample for a hip hop track. It's familiar and dramatic. Especially with Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry doing a new, showy solo, Sing for The Moment is over the top and overloaded with meaningful sounds. But melodrama is a natural mode for Eminem. On the verses, over a big, basic beat and muted guitar, Eminem again gets to show off his rap's slithery facility as he powerfully drives the song forward. The intensity of Sing For The Moment's music matches Eminem's typical sense of self dramatization. He declares that his "ideas are nightmares for white parents" and that the parents' "worst fear" is kids emulating him since that would show that what the parents say "has no bearing." Eminem gets a chance to vent his paranoia, saying that while kids "worship us", "critics crucify you", attorneys all want "to get they hands on every dime you have" and "prosecuters wanna convict me." Eminem's defense is "if my music is literal and I'm a criminal", how can I raise a little girl? Eminem assumes that criminals will blame his music for the crimes they commit, concedes that violent imagery helps his sales and credits himself for giving hope to kids "who don't have a thing except for a dream." With its heavy feel, Sing For The Moment isn't as fun as some of Eminem's hits but it maintains a good sense of urgency and again shows that Eminem is a gifted rapper and fascinating personality.
Sing - Travis
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: #47 (June 2001) buy it!
Travis hasn't come close in the U.S. to matching the incredible success they've had in the UK. I thought their The Man Who CD was mostly a yawner. Sing, from the new Invisible Band CD, isn't too exciting either but it is quite nice. A banjo and Fran Healy's vocal create a positive mood. Sing is very simple. Healy encourages someone who's going through a tough time to look on the bright side and share her love with the world.
Sk8er Boi - Avril Levigne
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: #19 (Oct. 2002) buy it!
Complicated was one of the biggest pop hits of 2002. The followup from the young Canadian's Let Go CD is another song that sounds like a hit on first listen. But Sk8er Boi isn't as novel or distinctive as Complicated. It's a standard pop rocker. Its central riff is stolen from last year's hit Flavor Of The Week. Sk8er Boi is unlikely to have Complicated's long chart life. Story songs soon become less interesting once you know how the story ends, especially when the story's not that great to start with. Sk8er Boi ends with Levigne taunting another about following the advice of her "stuck up" friends and blowing her chance to be with the guy who's now famous and going out with Levigne The presumably fictional lyric is obnoxious and less appealing than Complicated's tale of frustration. Still, Sk8er Boi's music is fast and fun. It has good energy and rocks harder than any of the hits by Levigne's rivals for the teen audience. And it's not the worst thing that North American girls have taken the confident, straight forward Levigne as a role model.
Sleep Now in the Fire - Rage Against The Machine
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #18 (April 2000) buy it!
On Sleep Now in the Fire, as usual, Zack de la Rocha delivers a heartfelt rant against the world's evils. With hyberbolic flair, the lyrics refer to a society willing to ruin the world to satisfy its desires and punish those who don't follow the greedy plan. Rage's passionate political beliefs make them distinctive but their music helps attracts the millions even when their message is a little over the top. Tom Morello's fast, driving guitar makes Sleep Now in the Fire great rock.
Sleeping Awake - P.O.D.
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #26 (June 2003) buy it!
Sleeping Awake is from Matrix Reloaded: The Album. Sleeping Awake is generic electronic rap rock that sounds like music by any of the Korn soundalike bands. But, in my mind, Sleeping Awake's mediocrity still places it ahead of P.O.D.'s aggressively annoying previous work. Sonny Sandoval's vocal has its usual self righteous piety but since the band is already borrowing its ideas from a movie, there isn't as much focus on how meaningful Sandoval's thoughts are. The "dreaming of Zion" part of Sleeping Awake's chorus is good. The song's title succinctly describes the Matrix movies' hallucinogenic, dreamlike atmosphere. The guitars and drums make a sound that's big and soaring but not overdone. The vocals and music have a smoothness and lack of excess that P.O.D. normally lacks. The rest of Sleeping Awake is pretty awful. The lyrics are simplistic gibberish that provide no insight into the movies and allow Sandoval to rant self importantly. The obvious, crunching power chords dash hopes that new guitar player Jason Truby will bring any subtlety to the band.
Sleepwalker - The Wallflowers
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: #1 (Oct. 2000) buy it!
Jakob Dylan inherited his dad's cynicism but presents it in a less distinctive way. It was no surprise that the band's Bringing Down The Horse CD went multiplatinum. The Wallflowers' music is smart, melodic, well played and familiar, without anything too unusual that would disturb the yuppies. Sleepwalker, from the Breach CD, is more safe, likable easy rock. Dylan has a reticent, unshowy persona but his band is polished and keeps things moving with solid drumming and Michael Ward's guitar. Dylan sings about being in a dreamlike state where he can't even consider the possibility of love. He shifts Sam Cooke's sentiment, asking Cupid not to draw back his bow.
Slither - Velvet Revolver
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #2 (June 2004) buy it!
Velvet Revolver was put together by former Guns N' Roses guitar player Slash, bass player Duff McKagan and drummer Matt Sorum. They tried different singers then got together with Stone Temple Pilots' Scott Weiland for Set Me Free, for the Hulk soundtrack. The guys got along and after STP broke up, probably because of Weiland's drug use, Weiland was available for a full time gig. Weiland was invited, even if that meant interrupting recording for Weiland's court dates and rehab stay. Slither indicates that Velvet Revolver's members are working pretty well together. Slither, from the band's Contraband CD, is no nonsense hard rock with a classic feel. Slash is Slither's star, making all sorts of exciting sounds. Slash plays a memorable, tough central riff that, along with Sorum's dependable pounding and Dave Kushner's chunky, driving rhythm line, keeps Slither racing forward. Slash's fun, showy solo is reminiscent of ones he did on songs like Sweet Child O' Mine. While he can be a jerk and a screwup, Weiland is a good rock singer. Weiland stays focused and shows his ability to do be tough and slithery. He doesn't have Axl Rose's flamboyance. After Slash's solo, you half expect Rose's piercing shriek and it's a bit of a disappointment when, instead, you get Weiland sounding a bit like The Cult's Ian Astbury in a bad mood. Slither might not reach the same transcendence as Guns N' Roses' best songs but it is tight, vibrant hard rock. On Slither, Weiland sings about someone who destroys him, keeps him under her finger and cuts the rope and brings him to his knees. Weiland still sees "pleasure in my mind" and a chance to "wash away the sins of you and I."
Slow Jamz - Twista
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: #30 (March 2004) buy it!
The hit version of Slow Jamz is on Twista's Kamikaze. A slightly different version is on Kanye West's The College Dropout CD. Producer West seems to deserve much of the credit for Slow Jamz' appealing sound. West is on a roll with his production of Alicia Keys' stylish if slightly dry You Don't Know My Name and his own terrific hit Through The Wire. Through The Wire samples Chaka Khan's Through The Fire. Slow Jamz also makes good use of classic r&b, using a sped up piece of Luther Vandross' A House Is Not A Home. Slow Jamz mixes different sounds and vocalists with different styles but, using the sample to provide consistency and a timeless quality, West makes it work. Slow Jamz uses two singers who aren't technically great but have great presence. Foxx clearly enjoys his chance at being an R&B crooner. His affection for great soul singers is charming, as he recites a litany of favorites for entertaining the ladies. He hams it up a bit but does a good job, sounding like he's reenacting private moments singing along with favorite records. West's verse has some cliched hip hop misogynism and a very relaxed vocal but West sounds so good natured that he's hard to dislike. He also has some great goofy rhymes including "bring some friends you cool with, I'm gonna bring the Cool Whip" and "I'm gon' play this Vandross, you gon' take your pants off." West also has the lines about the girl with a light skinned friend and a dark skinned friend, both of whom look like Michael Jackson. Twista gets top billing but he's a bit of a supporting player. His two verses are stuck at Slow Jamz' back. Slow Jamz uses Twista well. He's incredibly fast. When he was known as Tongue Twista, Twista was listed in the Guinness Book Of Records as the world's fastest rapper. But Twista's flood of words would be exhausting over the length of a sound. West wisely places Twista among a bunch of other interesting sounds. The speed of Twista's skittering rap is remarkable but he goes by as a bit of a blur. Especially when he's going on about "smokin' on my cannibus" and "sippin' Hennessy", it's hard to care. Things improve when Twista slips into the song's raucous, name dropping spirit with fun, dopey rhymes about getting "your sheets wet listening to Keith Sweat" and bending your ass while "you be bumpin' Teddy Pendergrass." Slow Jamz sounds great. It has a good, crisp beat and backing that matches its vocalists. A smooth 70s chimes, keyboard and acoustic guitar sound backs Foxx. An appropriate nervous, racing riff accompanies Twista. Slow Jamz is a great cocktail of sounds.
Smooth Criminal - Alien Ant Farm
Weeks on Chart: 22 Peak: #2 (Oct. 2001) buy it!
The second chart hit from the Anthology CD, is fairly ingenious. They take advantage of the familiarity of the song from Michael Jackson's Bad. Dryden Mitchell even mimics Jackson's whoops and other vocal tics. To appeal to rock fans, Alien Ant Farm took a song that was catchy and edgy to start with and beefed it up. Terry Corso is particularly impressive, using the original's riff for a hard, compact guitar line. Jackson's paranoia is a natural fit with the misogyny of much contemporary rock. Smooth Criminal is a quite nasty story of a guy who comes in the window of a woman's apartment and strikes her down, leaving "blood stains on the carpet" and the woman near death. Alien Art Farm's Smooth Criminal grabs you with its striking, dark momentum and tight music but the harsh rock setting makes the unpleasantness of the song even clearer.
Smoothie Song - Nickel Creek
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #30 (July 2003) buy it!
Nickel Creek are a bluegrass group from San Diego. Their modern sensibility has given them supporters beyond the genre's usual fans. Contemporary bluegrass queen Alison Krauss produced Nickel Creek's two CDs. Krauss has succeeded by giving her music a country folk flavor. Like Krauss, Nickel Creek show that they respect bluegrass history and can play traditional instruments and are also aware of other genres. Moves like covering Pavement's Spit On A Stranger show that Nickelback's musical tastes are even broader than Krauss'. Nickel Creek's music is very charming. It's smart and well played and has a sweet modesty. The Smoothie Song, from the This Side CD, is an instrumental written by Nickel Creek mandolin/banjo player Chris Thile which features the interplay of the group's principal players: Thile, fiddler Sara Watkins and guitar player Sean Watkins.
Smooth - Santana
Weeks on Chart: 32 Peak: #1 (Nov. 1999) buy it!
Carlos Santana hasn't had a hit in nearly 20 years but with Smooth, from his new record Supernatural, he's found a savvy, irresistable sound. The music is classic Santana. Carlos' guitar riffs are evocative and the percussion and horns create a great groove. The new element is the vocals of Matchbox 20's Rob Thomas. Matchbox 20 has been one of the most successful groups of the last 2 years with 5 hit singles from their Yourself or Someone Like You cd which still is getting radio play 3 years after its release. It's kind of funny that Thomas, whose success is largely based on a commercially calculated sound that works to appeal to rock fans without offending easy listening audiences, is singing about giving of your heart and not just being smooth. Nonetheless, it was smart for Santana to work with Thomas. Besides being a smart commercial move, using Thomas does work musically for Santana. His vocals are smooth and they invite you into Santana's cool world.
So Far Away - Stabbing Westward
Weeks on Chart: 37 Peak: #1 (Nov. 2003) buy it!
I kind of liked Price To Pay, the first single from Staind's 14 Shades Of Grey CD. It wasn't great but it was a decent rocker with more energy than the draggy, self pitying hits from the Break The Cycle CD. Price To Pay didn't last on the charts so the second single is a return to the oppressively empty, self important sound that's worked before. The good news is that, in contrast to Break The Cycle's tales of pain emanating from an abused past, So Far Away's lyric is cautiously upbeat. The bad news is that the music doesn't reflect Aaron Lewis' new optimism. So, as before, Lewis slowly rolls through the lyric, enunciating so we can fully experience his emotion. I still don't get why rock fans are interested in this overblown junk. It's lame and predictable. So Far Away has the standard pattern of verses with a quiet acoustic guitar leading into a bombastic chorus with big power guitars chords and slowly, seriously pounded drums meant to connote meaning. Things get even gloppier as strings underline Lewis' vocal when he gets really intense. Maybe the music is supposed to communicate Lewis' concern that he "must be sleeping." Lewis' voice remains dour and lugubrious and the pace is consistently glacial even as Lewis sings about moving away from struggle, not being ashamed of who he is and being able to smile and face the day.
So Far So Good - Thornley
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #28 (June 2004) buy it!
Ian Thornley used to front Big Wreck, a band that got together at Boston's Berklee College of Music. After Big Wreck broke up, Thornley went home to Toronto and got his new band signed to the label of Nickelback's Chad Kroeger, Thornley's friend and fellow Canadian. Sadly, it seems like Kroeger's generic, calculated rock influenced Thornley's new music. So Far So Good starts pretty well. Thornley seems like a decent singer as he fluidly slides through the first verse. But soon the song falls into Nickelback style histrionics, sounding like Nickelback's numbing hit Someday. Thornley rants and emotes over thudding drums and big, indistinct guitars. As the song progresses, Thornley relies more on the tight, tough guy vocal style used by Kroeger and his ilk. Like Nickelback and so many contemporary rockers, Thornley uses the quiet verse/roaring chorus form Nirvana perfected. Thornley resembles Three Days Grace, another Canadian band. Like I Hate Everything About You, as it approaches the chorus, So Far So Good sounds like it's going to become Heart Shaped Box. So Far So Good also throws in a bit of the drama of Aerosmith's Dream On. But So Far So Good is incomparable to its much better influences. It's a bloated, contrived bore. Thornley tells us on So Far So Good that his life is hard and it always gets screwed up. Apparently, he's now faking, pretending that things are ok and living "like there's no tomorrow."
So Sad To Say - Mighty Mighty Bosstones
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #39 (June 2000) buy it!
So Sad To Say is from the Bosstones' new Pay Attention CD. Dickie Barrett's singing, while enthusiastic and likable, is always rough and his range is limited. Most of the band's songs sound somewhat similar; So Sad To Say is a little like the band's hit The Impression That I Get and the Rascal King from Let's Face It. Still, it's a lot of fun. So Sad To Say is about bitterness about getting dumped. Barrett sings, "you'll get what you deserve." Luckily, the band doesn't let the anger of the lyrics dampen the exuberance of the music. Horns and short, tight guitar lines create an energetic, good time mood.
So Yesterday - Hilary Duff
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: #40 (Nov. 2003) buy it!
As Britney, Christina and Jason aim for an adult audience, there are openings for artists targeting the preteens. With hit factory The Matrix producing Hilary Duff, star of a bunch of kid friendly movies and Lizzie McGuire of the Disney Channel show, has declared her candidacy with So Yesterday. The Matrix also wrote and produced Avril Lavigne's hits. So Yesterday, from Duff's Metamorphosis CD, is both similar to and different from The Matrix' Lavigne's. With its steady beat and electric guitar strum and slightly edgy touches like the sound of a record scratching(like the one they used on Lavigne's Complicated), So Yesterday has the catchy, poppy modern rock sound The Matrix have shown a predilection and talent for. So Yesterday also has a good hook with a title that's accessible enough to be a catch phrase for the kids. Unlike Lavigne's hits, So Yesterday shows no desire to establish its singer as punky or complicated. There's no way to tell if Duff's singing is more than competent but she sings So Yesterday slowly and clearly with an warm, open, young voice that matches her sweet, simple screen persona and makes her seem not that different from her fans . So Yesterday is basic, innocuous and pleasant though I can't imagine many people over 12 getting excited about such a thin, relentlessly upbeat song. So Yesterday has a confident, mature message for the kids. She tells a guy who hasn't given her enough attention that she's totally ready to move on to a life without her.
Soak Up The Sun - Sheryl Crow
Weeks on Chart: 23 Peak: #7 (July 2002) buy it!
Soak Up The Sun is the first single from Sheryl Crow's fourth studio record C'mon C'mon. While there were some signs on The Globe Sessions that she might be losing her touch, Crow has been able to put together an impressive string of hits by balancing, in varying degrees, pop simplicity and catchiness with a sense of rock craft and substance. The balance was best seen on substantial but still fun singles like Everyday Is A Winding Road. Soak Up The Sun's emphasis is on simplicity. It's reminiscent of, and even less complicated than, Crow's early good time hit All I Wanna Do. From its principle desire to "tell everyone to lighten up" to its dopey final line("I've got my .45 on so I can rock on"), Soak Up The Sun is proudly mindless. It has a schematic, get back to the chorus feel that will probably soon prove tiresome. But if Crow's playing dumb, at least she's playing it nicely with lines like "it's not having what you want, its wanting what you've got." Soak Up The Sun has a catchy singalong chorus and is likably modest. It's solidly constructed with a sturdy guitar riff. I like Crow's light, seemingly helium enhanced vocal on the "everytime I look around" bridge.
Somebody Someone - Korn
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: #37 (Aug. 2000) buy it!
The third single from the Issues CD is another barrage of guitar noise. Somebody Someone packs some excitement but it's mostly just harsh without the sonic distinctiveness of Falling Away From Me. Jonathan Davis sounds even more troubled than usual. He sings "seems it never ends" and his torment does have less effect as you hear about it in song after song. Davis cries out for help. All he needs "is to be loved just for me." He sings that he feels like a fool inside, that he's nothing, he's dying.
Someday We'll Know - New Radicals
Weeks on Chart: 1 Peak: #39 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
Guest critic Craig Z says, The followup to You Get What You Give from the Maybe You've Been Brainwashed too cd is the worst song on a deeply flawed but not altogether horrible album. Gregg Alexander has a knack for top 40 hooks. The lyrics of Someday We'll Know are straight out of Dawson's Creek and even talk about the captain of the Titanic for added teen appeal. The music is modeled after N Sync and any of those non threatening boy bands.
Someday - Nickelback
Weeks on Chart: 57 Peak: #2 (Nov. 2003) buy it!
Nickelback are back with The Long Road CD, making the same kind of ultraserious, overblown, cliched arena rock that brought them the megahit How You Remind Me. On Someday, Chad Kroeger and friends stuck to the formula that worked. Someday isn't quite as bombastic as How You Remind Me but it's otherwise incredibly similar. You can sing "this is how you remind me" and other parts of that song over portions of Someday. The appeal of Someday, and Nickelback's music in general, is lost on me. Kroeger's voice is so stiff and humorless that he's just a bore. He intones his thought about his relationship playing out "like a paperback novel" with gravity and emphasis to make sure you catch the brilliance of his simile. Someday's music and playing are coldly competent but lack any surprise or originality. Familiar hard rock riffs repeat over and over again. On Someday, Kroeger asks a partner to stay in a screwed up relationship, promising he's "gonna make it alright."
Someone To Call My Lover - Janet Jackson
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: #16 (Sept. 2001) buy it!
Like on All For You's title track, Janet Jackson plays it safe on the CD's second hit, using a familiar riff from a 70's hit, creating a pleasant, though not particularly exciting, sound. Someone To Call My Lover, written and produced by Jackson and her longtime partners Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, has a nice, easy feel with a riff from America's Ventura Highway, chiming keyboards and smooth beat. Jackson's vocal is fluid and likable. Someone To Call My Lover is also like All For You in its hope that some guy will come up to her and decide she's "the girl of his dreams." On Someone To Call, Jackson bemoans the loneliness of the road and how "easily I fall in love."
Something More - Train
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #14 (Nov. 2001) buy it!
It's easy to write off Train as a boring, if tuneful, yuppie band but they sometimes do fairly interesting things withing a pop context. Something More resembles late period psychedelic Beatles or, more accurately, the hundreds of songs other bands have modeled on later Beatles music. As the strings get bigger and the song just repeats itself, Train's easy listening tendencies become more obvious. Still, Something More, from the Drops Of Jupiter CD, is tuneful and it gets a decent edge from an unrushed pace and a good, dense texture with a thick bass line. On Something More, Pat Monahan is depressed and ready to move on from a relationship with a woman who's never satisfied.
Sometimes - Britney Spears
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: #33 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
It's not terrible for teen pop but Sometimes, from Spears' huge Baby One More Time, isn't much. It's a ballad though the video finds Spears dancing to a not particularly danceable beat. She was more interesting in the Janet Jackson like mode of the cd's title track. She apparently has an unspectacular if likeable voice. Working on a ballad gives unneeded attention to the lyrics, which aren't very good. The song's message is apparently that she wants her man to pay attention even if she acts like she doesn't want the attention.
Somewhere I Belong - Linkin Park
Weeks on Chart: 23 Peak: #3 (May 2003) buy it!
Linkin Park's new Meteora CD comes two and a half years after the release of Linkin Park's 8 million selling Hybrid Theory CD. Somewhere I Belong indicates that the band didn't use the time to develop new dimensions to their music and instead have done safe retreads of their hugely successful work. Somewhere I Belong showcases the vocal styles that established Linkin Park's identity but doesn't do much with them. Mike Shinoda's rap is particularly drab, stiff and uninteresting. Chester Bennington has more presence, working his trademark shriek but while he's intense, he's stuck in the same tone, never really going nuts like he has before. His lack of modulation makes his rage seem like meaningless griping. Somewhere I Belong doesn't grab your attention like Linkin Park's previous hits did. Shinoda is almost amateurishly wan while Bennington's parts are repetitive and don't go anywhere. The band again worked with producer Don Gilmore. The chorus is catchy with Brad Delson's guitar crunching into a hard but sleek wall of sound. But Somewhere I Belong lacks personality. The insistent blend of hard rock interjections and glossy pop brings to mind Nickelback's terrible hit How You Remind Me. The good news about Somewhere I Belong is that instead of just griping about emotional pain, the lyrics take responsibity and refer to wanting to heal. But maybe that calmer attitude explains Somewhere I Belong's lack of intensity.
Somewhere Out There - Our Lady Peace
Weeks on Chart: 22 Peak: #21 (Aug. 2002) buy it!
Our Lady Peace have been huge in Canada for years but, until now, theyve only had modest success in the U.S. Modern rock radio play kept Somewhere Out There, from the Gravity CD, on the top 50 through the summer. It returned to the chart after settling in at pop radio. Top 40 radio always seemed like Somewhere Out Theres ultimate destination. For their U.S. commercial breakthrough, Our Lady Peace moved into Creed/Goo Goo Dolls/Aerosmith territory for a string laden rock ballad. Somewhere Out There isnt my favorite Our Lady Peace song(the less sweeping ballad Clumsy probably is) but it is less annoying than most rock ballads. Our Lady Peace singer Raine Maidas hoarse, yearning singing doesnt have Scott Stapps self important vanity and Somewhere Out There doesnt have the bloated sound of Creeds hits. Maida is always rather serious and intense so its less jarring to hear him shift into mellow mode than someone like Steven Tyler. Somewhere Out Theres carefully crafted and somewhat bombastic atmosphere of synths and strings is designed to make a hit. Somewhere Out There is heartfelt but the songs personal touch is steamrollered when the big guitars and drums and heavy orchestration come in. Still, Maida maintains his sincerity as he sings about waiting on a bed of nails for the return of an old flame who transcended a feeling of being lonely and out of place by moving on to a new life.
Soul Singin' - Black Crowes
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: #13 (Aug. 2001) buy it!
The second chart song from the Lions CD is Black Crowes' best single in years. Soul Singin' makes good use of Chris Robinson's natural exuberance for a genuinely uplifting song. The verse, with Rich Robinson's CCR style guitar line, has a good down and dirty feel. On the chorus, Chris and good backup singers create a stirring gospel tinged sound. There isn't much to Soul Singin' and its tale of settling down to look for "holy places not yet found" but it has a good, positive feel.
Sour Girl - Stone Temple Pilots
Weeks on Chart: 26 Peak: #2 (June 2000) buy it!
STP showed their rock cred with the first couple chart songs from STP's No. 4 CD, Down and Heaven and Hot Rods. Both were pretty hard and both fell off the chart pretty quickly. The band should have more success with Sour Girl which shows the band's pop skills with restrained guitars and keyboards. It starts like a Van Halen midtempo song with a steady, thumping bass and drifts easily to a chorus with sweet harmonies. Sour Girl is frothy and slight but hard to resist. Scott Weiland sings about a relationship that was doomed from the start with a woman who seems happier without him and his problems putting it behind him. Hopefully the line "what would you do if I followed you" doesn't mean that Weiland has a problem with stalking to go with his drug problem.
South Side - Moby
Weeks on Chart: 24 Peak: #5 (March 2001) buy it!
So many songs on Moby's Play CD, beyond being great dance songs, are brilliant little works of art. More than 1Ĺyears after its release, new people are still learning how great Play is. South Side, the 7th single from Play, is Moby's biggest hit yet. South Side has been remixed as a duet with No Doubt's Gwen Stefani. Her vocals give the new version a slicker, less menacing feel than the edgy album version. Even on the original, Moby's quavering falsetto on the chorus made it hard to believe him as a tough guy out with his boys, prepared for a gun fight and hoping "we won't die." Still, his slicing guitar, moody synths and tough beat create a good, foreboding atmosphere.
The Space Between - Dave Matthews Band
Weeks on Chart: 24 Peak: #4 (July 2001) buy it!
More than the glib I Did It, The Space Between captures the mood of the Everyday CD, which is at its best on easy, textured ballads that carry on the tradition of the band's best songs like Crush and Crash Into Me. The Space Between has Crash Into Me's delicate, unhurried feel. Matthews repeats a graceful guitar line and his likably relaxed singing creates a hopeful mood. The Space Between is one of Everyday's many songs about Matthews trying to save a troubled relationship. He warns a woman "you cannot quit me so quickly" and reminds her "the space between the tears we cry is the laughter that keeps us coming back for more."
Spaceship - Angie Aparo
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: #38 (April 2000) buy it!
Spaceship is from Aparo's the American CD. Spaceship has the moody, synth filled atmosphere of an early 80's song by Thomas Dolby or Ultravox. Aparo, with his voice filtered, achieves a haunting beauty. The lyrics, always returning to "when you gonna grow up", riffs on memory and space flight with images of a satellites and a kid playing at being an astronaut.
St. Anger - Metallica
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #11 (June 2003) buy it!
St. Anger is Metallica's first record of all new material since the Load and Reload records of '96 and '97. St. Anger's title track is a bit of a mixed bag. Metallica distinguish themselves with a confident, free flowing sound that puts to shame the cautious, imitative rockers Metallica have influenced. I like St. Anger's fast parts. Lars Ulrich's ridiculously fast drums, aided by Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield's big, stomping guitars, whip up a great frenzy of energy. I often find James Hetfield's incredibly intense wail overwrought and a little silly. In my mind, the problem is compounded on St. Anger by Hetfield's account of inner pain. Hetfield sings about having anger "round my neck", wanting "my anger to be healthy" and wanting to "set my anger free." Hetfield's turmoil is undeniably real but, since so many lesser bands have exploited their struggle to control their rage, the self centered lyrics make Metallica less interesting than they've been in the past. The rapped interjections of "it's rushing out" help maintain St. Anger's striking momentum but they also invite comparisons to the rap metal bands who borrowed from Metallica in creating cynically commercial music. Still, St. Anger is one of the best rock songs of recent times. St. Anger gets great rock force from guys singing and playing hard and fast. St. Anger is also admirably ambitious. Its distinct, everchanging segments stir up a fun, anarchic spirit.
Stacked Actors - Foo Fighters
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #15 (March 2000) buy it!
Dave Grohl took a shot at Courtney Love on I'll Stick Around from Foo Fighters' debut. Stacked Actors seems to be another attack on his ex bandmate's widow. Grohl's anger is clear as he apparently mocks Love's plastic surgery, claims her sadness after Kurt Cobain's death was an act and calls her a liar and a faker. With its harsh guitar riff and screamed vocals, Stacked Actors is easily the hardest rocking song on There is Nothing Left to Lose. Stacked Actrors isn't very likeable and there's not much to it besides its rage but the intensity is undeniable.
Stacy's Mom - Fountains Of Wayne
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #14 (Nov. 2003) buy it!
Fountains Of Wayne released two good, smart pop rock records in the late 90's and seemed destined to a career with a small, devoted following. Thanks to one of the catchiest songs of the year, Fountains Of Wayne has, at least temporarily, made a quick transition from critics' darlings to pop stars. Welcome Interstate Managers is one of the best records of 2003. It's a likable, thoughtful group of rockers and ballads. While the rest of the record is catchy, carefully constructed and often subtle, the sleek, perky and not subtle Stacy's Mom stands out as FOW's most commercially savvy song. On Stacy's Mom, FOW openly embrace The Cars' power chords and shiny keyboards formula. From an opening stuttering guitar riff to beeping synths to a tight, electronic beat that precedes each verse to the delirious wash of synths and big guitars on the chorus, Stacy's Mom keeps coming and building with different, appealing sounds. Jody Porter plays a winning, triumphant guitar solo then the chorus comes back one more time for a big finish with an even more exuberant mix of harmonies, hand claps and keyboards. Singer Chris Collingwood plays straight man to the flamboyant sounds but his vocal has a guilelessness that works with the sincere lyric. Stacy's Mom isn't my favorite FOW song. Especially after hearing it a thousand times, I don't love its glossy perfection as much as the more personal, idiosyncratic feel of other songs. But there's little doubt about Stacy's Mom ingeniousness. Fountains Of Wayne's songs have vivid detail that's rare in pop music. As they do on many of their songs, Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger write on Stacy's Mom about a simpler, youthful time. But the melancholy of many FOW's songs is replaced on Stacy's Mom by the giddiness of depicting the ridiculous, charming overconfidence of a kid sure he can convince his friend's mom that she "could use a guy like me."
Stand Inside Your Love - Smashing Pumpkins
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #8 (April 2000) buy it!
Light and buoyant aren't words that usually describe Smashing Pumpkins but they fit the second chart song from Machina/Machines of God, their most fun single since Mellon Collie's 1979. The time is right. The Pumpkins' music has been a little too heavy recently. The Everlasting Gaze was a good, driving rocker but was obviously too harsh for many, continuing the band's decline in radio airplay and popularity. Stand Inside Your Love is a frothy rocker somewhat like Malibu, which Billy Corgan helped write for Hole. Corgan's singing is still whiny but the song has good momentum with melodic guitars and light keyboards. The positive mood of the song apparently matches Corgan's state of mind as he sings of being head over heels in love with someone who's "everything that I want" and all he dreams of and of just wanting to stand inside her love.
Stand Up - Ludacris featuring Shawnna
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #25 (Jan. 2004) buy it!
Ludacris never made the top 50 before December 2003. He came closest with Roll Out My Business, from his Word Of Mouf CD, which fell just short in 2002. Now Ludacris is all over the chart, also appearing on Chingy's Holidae Inn and Usher's Yeah. Stand Up, from the Chicken N Beer CD, is fairly standard rap. Ludacris goes to the club, shows off his diamonds, smokes "that Cheech and Chong", makes sure he's treated with proper respect and looks for a "thick young lady to pull." Still, Stand Up was well designed to expose the brash young man from Atlanta, whose given name is Christopher Bridges, to a larger audience. Ludacris' voice, while strong, is unremarkable but he has great presence. Ludacris' huge self assurance makes him a compelling figure. He's always in control, moving steadily with a natural, ungimmicky rap. He's confident that the momentum created by his forceful and theatrical but unthreatening voice will keep people's attention. Stand Up's simple but effective backing track shows similar confidence. Stand Up's verses stick to a crisp beat and good bass sample. The chorus' catchy "when I move you move" hook is well underlined by a good riff. On Stand Up, as usual, Ludacris doesn't have much more on his mind than having a good time. But Stand Up is a good showcase for his raunchy but basically harmless rap.
Standing Still - Jewel
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: #7 (Feb. 2002) buy it!
I'm not a big fan of Jewel's ballads and their big image school girl poetry but at least her ballads seem heartfelt. Standing Still, the first single from the This Way CD, sounds like some record company guy's idea of a single. It's slick, empty lite rock. Since it's apparently modelled on early 70s Eagles style easy rock, Standing Still is, at least, fairly soothing and pleasant. But Jewel's thin, soulless quavering voice is ill suited to rock singing. The drummer and bass player try to create a little drama but the music stays pretty insipid. Jewel's lyric, agonizing whether a relationship is going anywhere, is, typically, slightly showy and overdone. It starts: "cuttin' through the darkest night in my two headlights." Couldn't you just say driving at night?
Stan - Eminem
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: #41 (Dec. 2000) buy it!
Stan, the latest single from Eminem's Marshall Mathers LP, is one of most interesting singles to hit mainstream radio this year. Dido's easy vocals and the unhurried groove, with Mike Elizondo's smooth bass line, provide a great contrast with Eminem's fast, fluid rap that becomes increasingly agitated along with his character's troubled mind. As usual, the lyrics alternate between fascinating and irritating. Eminem concedes he has an effect on his fans. He raises legitimate issues about a society where people are encouraged to believe celebrities are just like them. Stan is a frightening, obsessive character, "a biggest fan" who bases his life on Eminem, menacingly suggests "we should be together" and is infuriated when his idol doesn't respond to his letters. Stan is undoubtedly based on real people who want to connect with Eminem, sometimes in scary ways. I'd prefer Stan without its self serving final verse. Eminem suddenly becomes caring, writing Stan that he shouldn't take his self destructive lyrics seriously and should get counseling and treat his girl better. The end is silly. Eminem warns Stan not to end up like a guy he saw on TV who killed himself and his pregnant girlfriend and then realizes,"his name was . . . it was you. Damn."
Starry Eyed Surprise - Oakenfold
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #40 (Nov. 2002) buy it!
Paul Oakenfold is England's(and probably the world's) most sought after club DJ. He's also done well as a producer and remixer. The Bunkka CD is Oakenfold's most concerted effort at being a solo artist. On Bunkka, Oakenfold worked with a range of pop and hop hip singers. Starry Eyed Surprise's singer is Shifty Shellshock from Crazy Town, whose Butterfly was a hit a couple years back. Shellshock's hipster rap isn't that different from the one he did on Butterfly. In fact, you could easily fit big chunks of Butterfly into Starry Eyed Surprise. I found the psychedelic, spacy Butterfly, and Shellshock's slick, cocky vocal, annoying but I kind of like Starry Eyed Surprise. Starry Eyed Surprise is insubstantial and close to innocuous but it achieves the likable dance pop sound it shoots for. Starry Eyed Surprise has a genial tone and it's mostly about the music and the beat, so Shellshock isn't as irritating as he can be. Not surprisingly, Oakenfold delivers a strong, sturdy beat but he's also smart enough to keep the music relaxed, unhurried and fairly uncluttered. Oakenfold chose a few appealing riffs to keep things interesting, basing Starry Eyed Surprise on a piece of Nilsson's Everybody's Talkin'(from the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack). Starry Eyed Surprise's lyric is a dopey celebration of clubbing and dancin' "all night to this DJ."
Start The Commotion - The Wiseguys
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #28 (Oct. 2001) buy it!
Start The Commotion is one of the biggest fluke hits of 2001. Start The Commotion is from The Antidote, a CD originally released in 1998, but it got new life when it was used in a Mitsubishi commercial. Like the best creations of fellow Brit Fatboy Slim, DJ Touche's work on Start The Commotion is great because it's not just meant to work on a dance floor or show how inventive he is, it's a lot of fun. Touche mixes samples of vocals from tough R & B and innocent 60s pop, beats, fuzzy bass, horns and flute into a loose, enjoyable collage. I like it a lot more than the other instrumental MTV is playing these days, Crystal Method's showy, annoying Name Of The Game.
Stay Together For The Kids - Blink 182
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: #33 (Dec. 2001) buy it!
Blink 182 have easily shown a juvenile mentality on their stupider songs but they also are able to depict youthful inner turmoil in a real seeming, unshowy way. Stay Together For The Kids, from the Take Off Your Pants and Jacket CD, is even more basic than Enema Of The Stateís Adamís Song as it simply illustrates the effect of a coupleís troubled relations on their kid. The different personalities of Blinkís frontmen nicely illustrate the sides of the troubled kidís mind. Mark Hoppus sincerely croons the verses and Tom DeLonge angrily yells the chorus. Stay Together For The Kids is similar to other Blink songs. Like on all their singles, they take an instrumental break to build the intensity before doing the verse one last time. But the band create a moving grandeur by slowing things down and building emotion as DeLongeís guitar and Travis Barkerís drums gain in power.
Stay You - Wood
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: #49 (Dec. 1999) buy it!
Stay You is a very comforting song both musically and lyrically. The music is pleasant, with a nice piano on the choruses, appealing to baby boomers who want to think of themselves as hip. The lyrics are uplifting if a little banal, with James Maddock singing of the weird things about her he loves and urging her to stay the way she is instead of becoming more normal.
Steal My Kisses - Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: #31 (June 2000) buy it!
Steal My Kisses is a light and very enjoyable piece from Harper's Burn To Shine CD. Harper has a charming, relaxed way about him. On Steal My Kisses, he presents himself as a good natured rascal who persists in working on a woman who's playing hard to get. The music keeps the mood easy with a loose electric guitar. Steal My Kisses' sly appeal has kept it on the low end chart for more than four months and now it's seduced its way onto the pop charts.
Steal My Sunshine - Len
Weeks on Chart: 22 Peak: #8 (Sept. 1999) buy it!
Steal My Sunshine is the perfect summer single. It's light, has a good beat and is upbeat. The vocals are pretty rough but fit with the unpretentious mood. It's yet another song which brings to mind Sublime's What I Got. Caution to potential cd buyers. The rest of Len's record You Can't Stop the Bum Rush is much harder and intense rap and dance music than Steal My Sunshine.
Stellar - Incubus
Weeks on Chart: 22 Peak: #17 (Aug. 2000) buy it!
Like Pardon Me, Incubus' hit from the Make Yourself CD, Stellar is hard rock with a bit of an unusual edge. Stellar has jazzy, psychedelic verses that give way to harder, guitar driven choruses. Brandon Boyd sings about being amazed by his lover asking, how do you do it, and equating having sex with her with the sensation of being in outer space.
Step Into The Light - Dust For Life
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: #21 (Jan. 2001) buy it!
Step Into The Light is well made if familiar alternative rock from Dust For Life's self titled CD. Step Into The Light is reminiscent of Stone Temple Pilots, swinging from quiet, thoughtful verses to rocking choruses with big guitar chords. The songwriting, by Chris Gavin and guitarist Jason Hughes, is fairly typical and cliche ridden though not as angry as much contemporary rock. Gavin sings about being deceived and abandoned but still having "an ocean of laughter" and being able to "step into the light" and "find I'm not alone."
Steve McQueen - Sheryl Crow
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #36 (Oct. 2002) buy it!
Steve McQueen, the second single from the C'mon C'mon CD shows that the empty headed feel of Soak Up The Sun was a strategy rather than an aberration. Soak Up The Sun at least had a likable, relaxed flow to it. On Steve McQueen, Crow awkwardly tries to show she can make stupid rock music as well as a guy. Steve McQueen grinding rock guitar sound is OK but everything else about is ridiculously dumb. Crow cops the ooh-oohs from Steve Miller's Take The Money And Run. Crow is usually a reliable singer but, especially on the chorus, she sounds shrill and as self satisfied as Lenny Kravitz watering down Americna Woman. Crow sings about wanting to "rock and roll this party" and ride a fast machine like Steve McQueen. Crow's social commentary about "rock stars in the White House" and pop stars who "look like porn" seems particularly lame.
Stiff Upper Lip - AC/DC
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: #35 (April 2000) buy it!
With Brian Johnson's gravity defying screech and the dopey lyrics about keeping a stiff upper lip and shooting from the hip, the title track of the new AC/DC CD comes close to self parody. Still, their fans will probably be happy. It sounds like AC/DC and a it's got a rockin' boogie guitar.
Still Frame - Trapt
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: #7 (Dec. 2003) buy it!
When I first heard Headstrong, the first single from the California band's self titled major label CD, I thought that they could stand out from other nu-metal bands. I saw that Chris Brown did quick, confident vocals that had a fluid hip hop sensibility and that Simon Ormandy had a versatile guitar style that allowed him to move from heavy metal crunching to light, artier playing. Still, I thought that Headstrong was like a lot of other rap metal and didn't foresee that it would become one of the most successful rock songs of the year. Obviously, a lot of people were impressed by the catchy, stomping chorus and the way Brown shifted from loose verses to an enraged scream. At the risk of being wrong again, I don't think Still Frame is remarkable. Brown has a strong voice and his raging isn't as silly or annoying as that of some of his fellow troubled rockers. Still Frame is a smooth ride. The sound flows easily from section to section with a fairly subtle guitar sound that has some decent variations. But Still Frame doesn't have much personality. It passes by innoucuously. The most noticable part is the chorus but Brown's "please help me because I'm breaking down" chant and the crunching guitars that underline it are very familiar from similar angry, confused rock songs. Brown sings on Still Frame about feeling lost and like he's losing it and "falling farther away from where I want to be."
Still On Your Side - BBMak
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: #45 (Feb. 2001) buy it!
Still On Your Side is the second U.S. hit from the squeaky clean British group's Sooner Or Later CD. BBMak seem a little more real and less calculating than their American boy singer counterparts, sounding like nice, decent young guys. Still On Your Side has pleasant, easy guitar pop backing and the boys have impressively tight harmonies but the singing and lyrics are very mild. The song's character is pretty lame. Even after being rejected, he pledges "to be there when you fall, to build you up when you're feeling small."
Still Waiting - Sum 41
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: #28 (Jan. 2003) buy it!
Sum 41's new CD is called Does This Look Infected? Sum 41 broke through with the youthful, poppy, punky hits from All Killer, No Filler CD. Still Waiting shows signs that the band is making the huge mistake of wanting to grow up and be taken seriously. Still Waiting's video reveals jealousy at the critical respect The Strokes receive. On Fat Lip, the band just demanded the chance to have a good, stupid time. Now they want us to believe that they're looking for "hope to believe" in a world full of hating. It seems clear that Sum 41 is best suited to make dopey, fun music and that's what people want from them. Still Waiting, with its attempt at lyrical significance and Derick Whibley's meaningful ranting, has an uncomfortable resemblance to the lesser work of The Offspring, whose music seems to get stupider the more they try to seem smart. Still Waiting does show benefits of Sum 41's new intensity. I don't love the darkness of the singing and Whibley and Dave Baksh's guitar but I do like that Still Waiting is fast, energetic and focused, without the foolishness that has made some of their music more cutesy than fun.
Stillness Of Heart - Lenny Kravitz
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: #24 (May 2002) buy it!
Dig In, the first single from the Lenny CD, showed a side of Lenny Kravitz that he hadn't shown much before. Dig In was a light, fun rocker that lacked the heavy attitude than often drags down Kravitz' music. Stillness Of Heart doesn't have Dig In's lightness and excitement but it's still a good, if not great, second single. Stillness Of Heart's melody is very similar to that of his second to last hit: Again. Stillness Of Heart achieves a good edge by holding back and going nice and slow. Heavy bass and drums create a good, slow jam on the verses and are joined on the chorus by a solid, steady guitar strum. Unlike Dig In, Stillness Of Heart doesn't really sound like a hit. Nothing really happens. It's got a good atmosphere but doesn't grab you. Kravitz' typically complacent vocal doesn't help. On Stillness Of Heart, Kravitz sings about trying to calm and center himself so that he can move on after a tough romantic experience. I'm not questioning Kravitz' pain but his way of expressing it is hardly great poetry. This is the second verse: "I got more than I can eat, a life that can't be beat/yet still I feel this heat, I'm feeling incomplete/What am I buying, my soul is crying."
Stole - Kelly Rowland
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #29 (Dec. 2002) buy it!
With Beyonce Knowles in Destiny's Child and Nelly on the hit Dilemma(which appears on Nellyville and Kelly Rowland's Simply Deep CD) Rowland has allowed her costar to get most of the attention. Rowland has the spotlight to herself on Simply Deep but continues her unassuming ways. On Stole, Rowland's vocal is decent and unshowy. Stole is smooth and well made though not particularly distinctive. Stole was written and produced by industry pros Steve Kipner(who worked on Olivia Newton John's Physical and Christina Aguilera's Genie In A Bottle and many other hits) and Sean Hosein and Dave Deviller(O-Town and 98 Degrees among others). Stole has an easy mood with good, subtle ringing and scratching effects and guitar matching the climactic line about "playing angry chords." Stole effectively layers Rowland's voice with good backup singing. Stole is the latest song to address school shootings. We find out the shooter was the brightest kid in school but he was bullied and put down and didn't fit in. Stole means well. It's not offensive(unless you're a grammarian troubled that she doesn't say stolen) but it's even less insightful than P.O.D.'s Youth Of The Nation because its invented mass killing doesn't feel real. Stole tells us that one victim "could have been a movie star" and another would have "had a try out with the Sixers", as if Columbine-type deaths are less tragic if their victims weren't destined for stardom.
Straight Out Of Line - Godsmack
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: #6 (March 2003) buy it!
Straight Out Of Line is from the angry Boston based hard rockers' Faceless CD. The CD's title is a great straight line but, unlike a lot of their interchangable nu-metal contemporaries, I don't think Godsmack's music lacks personality. I just find it really unpleasant. Straight Out Of Line is a fairly typical Godsmack song. I suppose Godsmack are effective at creating an edgy sound the kids can relate to. Sully Erna bellows his rage at his enemies while the band creates a dark, ominous mood. Tony Rombola's guitar threateningly rumbles, slashes and booms. On Straight Out Of Line, Erna complains about unnamed people(maybe critics) who "lie to me" and force him to "justify my ways." I understand that Godsmack's music speaks to troubled young male rock fans but it just strikes me as nasty.
Strange Condition - Pete Yorn
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: #29 (April 2002) buy it!
The New Jersey native/LA resident singer and songwriter's following continues to slowly grow. His debut CD is still getting radio play nearly a year after its release. In my mind, Bob Dylan's Love and Theft is the only 2001 rock CD that's better than Yorn's Musicforthemorningafter and The Strokes' Is This It is the only other one that might be as good. The CD has consistently strong songs: great, fun rockers and cool, brooding ballads. Brad Wood, who produced and played on records for Liz Phair, played a similar role for Yorn, another striking, confident young talent. Music . . . was apparently a low budget production but the songs are carefully constructed with layers of instruments, giving even the quietest songs a likable, textured feeling. Strange Condition follows Life On A Chain as Yorn's second chart hit(For Nancy fell just short of the top 50). R Walt Vincent's harmonica, layered over Yorn's acoustic guitar, contributes to a good, moody feel. Yorn is cool, as always, playing a tortured soul on Strange Condition.
Stronger - Britney Spears
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: #48 (Dec. 2000) buy it!
Stronger is the third hit from the Oops! I Did It Again CD. Britney's voice sounds even more brittle and synthetic than usual. The lyrics are some garbage about Britney being tired of being treated like some guy's property and wanting to do it her way. The music, similar to Oops and Baby One More Time, is generally, at best, coldly efficient industrial dance pop. Like You Drive Me Crazy, Stronger is uninteresting until its catchy chorus. Stronger is another song written by teen pop genius Max Martin. His touch is clear on the chorus, which has two good hooks.
Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of - U2
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: #2 (Oct. 2001) buy it!
Nearly a year after reviewing All That You Can't Leave Behind, I'm sticking to my original opinion. The CD is quite mellow and can be a little slow but it's remarkably consistent with thoughtful, enjoyable songs. Especially after the band's showy 90s work, All That You Can't Leave Behind's modesty is very appealing. Bono restrains the excesses that sometimes obscure his gift. His vocals have a charming grace. As they do throughout the CD, producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois give Stuck In A Moment a warm, rich sound. The keyboards create the easy feel of an r&b classic like People Get Ready. The fact that Bono wrote this as a message he wished he had sent to his friend Michael Hutchence, before he killed himself, gives Stuck In A Moment added poignance.
Stuck - Stacie Orrico
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #31 (June 2003) buy it!
Sixteen year old Stacie Orrico got her start in Christian pop but has moved into slick hip hop flavored pop. Stuck, from Orrico's self titled record, is a pleasant trifle. On Stuck, Orrico worked with Dallas Austin, who has produced hits for Pink and TLC. Most relevantly, Austin was largely responsible for the sound of Blu Cantrell's smash Hit Em Up Style. Stuck sounds a lot like Hit Em Up Style. It's even more lightweight but it has the same kinds of old fashioned sound effects and a similar loose sound. Orrico's vocal is reminiscent of Cantrell's, except that Cantrell's attitude is replaced by with youthful exuberance. Orrico does a decent job, twisting playfully around the verses. The choruses aren't as interesting but they're catchy with good crunching chords for emphasis. The keyboards are a little fakey and the sound is too slick. Still, Stuck is enjoyably buoyant if insubstantial. Stuck's I hate you but I love you's lyrics, are helped by Orrico's frisky delivery. Stuck, cowritten by Orrico, tells a standard story of not being able to forget about a guy who doesn't treat her like he should.
Stupid Girl - Cold
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: #10 (July 2003) buy it!
Jacksonvilles Cold have always seemed like just another hard rocking band with a serious, intense singer and an unoriginal, hard rocking sound. Stupid Girl, from the Year Of The Spider CD, doesnt do much to change that impression. Scooter Ward does a tough guy vocal, ranting out his ambivalence(wanna love ya, wanna bug ya) about a girl whos leaving him. The surprise fact is that Weezers Rivers Cuomo co-wrote and played guitar on Stupid Girl. Its unclear whether Ward or Cuomo, whos often written about being unlucky in love, contributed the self pity(Im a loner, Im a loser) but its a safe bet that Cuomo had a lot to do with Stupid Girls catchy chorus. The chorus simplifies the lyrics to shes going away, whats wrong with my life today. The sound is seductively smoothed out with an appealing wash of power chords. Unfortunately, Stupid Girl keeps returning to verses with standard hard rock theatrics and Wards silly barking and draggy enunciation. Stupid Girl is half fun, dopey arena classic and half, lame routine modern rocker.
Stupify - Disturbed
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: #22 (Aug. 2000) buy it!
Stupify is from Disturbed's Sickness CD. Stupify starts with a promise of a mix of hard rock and rap like Rage Against The Machine and Limp Bizkit. It soon degenerates into an unpleasant rage from singer David Draiman, who calls himself a sick animal. The harsh, menacing mood is apparently the appeal of Stupify but the sound certainly doesn't have the full, overwhelming power of bands like Nine Inch Nails. The hard edged guitars and electronics seem a little thin at times. The first verse is an excuse for Draiman to repeatedly spit out a profanity that Gordon Gano of Violent Femmes used more interestingly on Add It Up, telling us he just wanted to have sex once. Because of Draiman's nasty delivery, I don't really care that he lives his life in a daze, his sense of reality slipping and that he's breaking down.
Stutter - Joe
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: #38 (May 2001) buy it!
MTV's now playing a remix of Stutter. The second pop hit from the My Name Is Joe CD needed a little more edge. Stutter is inoffensively sleek with bland verses. The chorus is better but repetitive, telling us over and over that he can tell she's lying because when she's replying, she stutters. Joe has a decent, smooth voice but Stutter only really comes alive on Mystikal's angry, attitude filled rap.
Suffocate - Cold
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: #29 (Nov. 2003) buy it!
Suffocate is the second chart hit from Cold's Year Of The Spider CD. On Suffocate, Scooter Ward's in his usual angry, very serious mode. Vocals by Dollshead's Sierra Swan polish things up a bit but Suffocate is still pretty unpleasant. Suffocate's lyric is a familiar diatribe about wanting to leave a girlfriend who lies, takes and plays games.
Suga Suga - Baby Bash
Weeks on Chart: 21 Peak: #16 (Jan. 2004) buy it!
Baby Bash is from Tha Smokin' Nephew CD by the California born/Texas based rapper. Suga Suga was co-written by Baby's Texas buddy Frankie J, whose Don't Wanna Try was a hit earlier this year. Suga Suga is one of the more surprising hits of the year, passing songs by bigger names on its way to the top of the pop charts. Everything about is smooth and appealing. With relaxed beats and a good looped guitar riff, Suga Suga is a very easy ride. Baby Bash's rapping on the verses and Frankie J's singing on the chorus flow nicely into each other. Both are cool, confident and alluring. Suga Suga also has a sped up tape sound that adds some flavor but don't disturb Suga Suga's cool flow. Suga Suga is very well constructed. I feel like it's good rather than great and don't totally understand how it's become such a big hit but there's no question that Suga Suga is seductive and very easy to listen to. Suga Suga has a pretty basic lyric. Frankie J thanks his girl for lifting him and wonders how she got so fly.
Summer Girls - LFO
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: #46 (Sept. 1999) buy it!
With lines like "New Kids on the Block had a lot of hits, Chinese food makes me sick", the rhymes are so bad they make Vanilla Ice seem like Shakespeare. Hopefully, this isn't the start of a trend of bad, hunky white rappers. It isn't clear if the success of the song comes from its repetitiveness or from the familiarity of the banal, nostalgic images.
Summertime Thing - Chuck Prophet
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #45 (Aug. 2002) buy it!
Chuck Prophet used to be the guitar player in the 80s paisley underground band Green On Red. Summertime Thing is from his No Other Love CD. On Summertime Thing, Prophet successfully creates an easy, summery bluesy rock feel with relaxed but evocative keyboards and slide guitar. Prophet does a good job vocally of playing the cool delta bluesman, confidently asking a friend to "take off your clothes and jump into the river."
Sunrise - Norah Jones
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: #34 (March 2004) buy it!
Especially in a downloading world where sales are down, Norah Jones is a goddess of the music business. Her debut Come Away With Me CD has sold more than eight million copies in the US alone. Feels Like Home, her followup, sold one million copies the week it came out and two million in its first month. The consensus regarding Feels Like Home is that it's fairly cautious. Jones is apparently most comfortable in a mellow mode. It does seem like there's more going on in Feels Like Home than there was on Come Away With Me, which was well played and sounded good but, at its worst, had a polite, boring, elevator music quality. On Feels Like Home, some of the songs have an alt country feel but Jones' music still generally fits somewhere between jazz, lite pop and country. Feels Like Home is a bit more confident and personal. As before, the saving grace of Jones' music is her supple, quite amazing voice. Jones' singing nicely carries Sunrise, one of the best things she's done. Jones shows confidence in eschewing a big beat and letting Sunrise's arrangement stay muted. Good, quiet playing twists around Jones' voice. Sunrise has an unshowy jazzy looseness with a mandolin and an unobtrusive, throbbing bass. Jones even plays a good little piano solo. Sunrise has Jones' typical modesty but it's also warm and relaxed. Like much of Jones' music, Sunrise is easy listening but it's not pandering and button pushing. Sunrise is charming. It sounds like Jones and friends are having good, if subdued, fun. Sunrise, written by Jones with bass player and boyfriend Lee Alexander, is about a couple spending a relaxed day in bed with a broken clock stuck at 9:15. Jones shows mild surprise that "we've made it through another day."
Superman Inside - Eric Clapton
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: #22 (April 2001) buy it!
I'm indifferent to Clapton's new age lyric about "gettin' closer to peace of mind" and finding the Superman inside but his "need to let it out" is matched in the music's buoyant mood. The new Reptile CD has good musicians including Billy Preston and Paul Carrack on keyboards. Superman Inside has the kind of loose, rollicking piano Preston did for the Rolling Stones. Clapton's recent singles have been so mellow and serious that it's good he's doing the kind of fun song he hasn't done much since Forever Man. Superman Inside has a big sound with slide guitar, backing vocals and Clapton confident's lead.
Superman - Eminem
Weeks on Chart: 29 Peak: #7 (Dec. 2001) buy it!
Superman is the third hit from The Eminem Show CD. In 2002 Eminem had his two biggest pop hits so far, Without Me and Lose Yourself, songs where the raps were so fluid and the music had so much momentum that it almost seemed irrelevant whether Mr. Mathers is a screwed up, misogynist jerk. Superman isn't as appealing. It gives a listener a chance to remember what's annoying about Eminem. On Superman, Eminem offers glimpses of his fast, smooth rapping skills but it's largely bad jokes and a fairly uninteresting, unvaried backing track. Superman is mostly stupid and pointless. It's basically about how "I'll never let another girl bring me down" and how he's basically resigned to a life of one night stands with "tricks" he'll more likely than not dis once they're done. In a mock sensitive voice, Eminem goofs on the idea of a caring guy "here to save you girl" and grow together with her. In case you don't get the joke, he follows that with "bitch, you make me hurl." He also says "don't put out, I'll put you." Dina Rae plays the role of the object of Eminem's affection and hostility. As often is the case with Eminem, you have to choose between whether to like him as a gifted artist or despise him as a hateful person. Superman, unlike most of Eminem's music, isn't musically likable enough to let you overlook his deficiencies. I don't really understand why Superman was released as a single(and why the mediocre rock rap of Sing for The Moment is the next single) when The Eminem Show has so many good songs(I would vote for one of the Hailie songs). And why isn't the fun, loose title track from 8 Mile a single? The main appeal of Superman is the insight it gives into a messed up brain. If you believe the lyrics, Eminem's experiences have made him so fearful and paranoid that he's doomed to shallow, unsatisfying relationships.
Survival Of The Sickest - Saliva
Weeks on Chart: 1 Peak: #29 (July 2004) buy it!
The title track from the new Survival Of The Sickest CD confirms Saliva's position as one of rock's most annoying successful bands. Survival Of The Sickest is terrible. Josey Scott's thin, whiny but confident voice is one of the worst in popular music. On Survival Of The Sickest, Scott oddly emphasizes words and generally oversings. He tries to display a bad attitude but just seems silly. Survival Of The Sickest's music is cliched southern style hard rock. Survival Of The Sickest's lyric is filled with silly proclamations of toughness. So, he's(meaninglessly) the hand under Mona Lisa's dress, the smile on every criminal and he's get one hand "on the bottle and the other in shit." Whatever. Scott has issues with people who counted him "out of the game" and vows he "will keep getting higher." I just hope he doesn't go any higher on the charts.
Survivor - Destiny's Child
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: #16 (May 2001) buy it!
It's hard to argue with the premise of the title track of Destiny's Child's new CD. The group's history has been like a version of the TV show. Members have been regularly booted and Kelly Rowland and leader Beyonce Knowles have emerged as tough, very wealthy survivors. I like the way Knowles' voice twists around the cheesy synth string effects but the song's unrelenting torrent of self assurance is exhausting. As on Independent Women, the boasts about success become mean taunts. The lyrics specify the many ways "now that you're out of my life I'm so much better", mocking the unnamed person who thought she'd be weak, broke, scared and helpless with the facts that she's wise, tougher and, most importantly, has sold nine million. The women claim they're better than compromising their christianity by dissing the person in interviews or on the internet but apparently doing so in a hit song is OK.
Sweetness - Jimmy Eat World
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: #19 (Sept. 2002) buy it!
Sweetness is the second chart hit from the CD originally called Bleed American that, since September 11, the record company wants known as just Jimmy Eat World. Sweetness is a good example of why Jimmy Eat World has been labeled an emo rock band and of why the Arizona based band can be so appealing. Everything about Sweetness is done with great intensity and sincerity and its eager attempt to ingratiate is successful. Jim Adkins is very likable. His full voiced vocal never flags. Stopping and starting on a dime, Tom Linton and Adkins's impressive barrage of guitars gives Sweetness a rock and roll edge but doesn't overwhelm the band's open, positive sound. Sweetness reminds me of a big, glossy Cheap Trick song like Surrender or Dream Police, with good natured seriousness taking the place of that band's tongue in cheek goofiness. Sweetness rocks harder than Jimmy Eat World's surprise monster hit The Middle but like that song, it has high energy that seems to keep building. Instead of The Middle's Major Tom synth riff, Sweetness builds to a climax by adding a perky, one finger piano line. Considering the music's upbeat mood, Sweetness has a surprisingly dark subject matter. Adkins sings that a relationship used to be like a sweet game but, feeling tethered, he doesn't want to play the game anymore. I still find Jimmy Eat World's over the top, innocent enthusiasm tough to take in large doses but short shots like Sweetness are hard to resist.
Swing Swing - All-American Rejects
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: #25 (March 2003) buy it!
Modern rock radio play put Swing Swing, from the Stillwater, Oklahoma band's self titled CD, on the top 50 for three months early this year. Swing Swing returned to the chart as the latest emo band to charm pop radio. All-American Rejects share a love of a big, basic, upbeat, enthusiatic sound with Jimmy Eat World and other emo practitioners. Swing Swing's mix of crunching guitars and shaggy goofiness brings to mind emo predecessores and godfathers Weezer. Swing Swing adds cheesy keyboards to glossy guitar rock in a way that recalls an earlier generation of bands like Cheap Trick and Split Enz. Swing Swing is a good time. It easily shifts musical focus from a jagged gutar riff to keyboards to a good bass line. Tyson Ritter is appealingly earnest as he intensely yells. On Swing Swing, Ritter admits being devastated by a breakup but puts on a brave face, vowing to find someone new.
Swingin' - Tom Petty and the heartbreakers
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #13 (Sept. 1999) buy it!
This is the third chart song from TP & the Heartbreakers' solid if unspectacular Echo CD. The verse of Swingin' is classic Petty. It's well played, laid back rock with great lyrical details about an independent woman who lives life, gets in trouble but ends up O.K. The chorus, where Petty lists every jazz musician or boxer who went down swingin', is fairly annoying.