Take a Look Around - Limp Bizkit
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #26 (Aug. 2000) buy it!
The second hit from M:I-2 is a good time musically. Rock guitars and keyboards riff on the Mission Impossible in a fairly predictable but enjoyable way and the music has a good beat and good energy. Fred Durst's rap also keeps things moving. Durst hasn't always been the most positive character so it's questionable whether he has the right to bemoan the fact that "hate is all the world has even seen lately." Of course, Durst's real concern isn't hatred in the world but people hating him. He's got a point about critics giving him a hard time but for someone who presents himself as a tough nonconformist who doesn't care what people think, it's a little inconsistent that he lets the criticism get to him.
Take a Picture - Filter
Weeks on Chart: 23 Peak: #1 (Jan. 2000) buy it!
The usually intense band follow the powerful, cynical Welcome to the Fold with a change of pace from their Title of Record CD. While mellower and slower, Take a Picture doesn't sound like a sell out and still has an edge. Take a Picture has a cool, evocative atmosphere. Richard Patrick goes into his trademark scream at the end of the song but for the most part, his vocals are appealingly restrained as he sings of trying to capture a perfect moment.
Take It Off - The Donnas
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #34 (Feb. 2003) buy it!
Take It Off is from The Donnas' Spend The Night CD. The four women in the Donnas met in school in Palo Alto. They had a rock band called The Electrocutes. The Donnas started as a side project and a bit of a goof. Inspired by Joan Jett's early band The Runaways, they presented themselves as hard rocking jailbait. The Ramones are another obvious influence for women who all call themselves Donna and play fast, hard music with as few chords as possible. Because their songs are so basic, musically and lyrically, there's a limit to The Donnas' appeal. Still, they kick the asses of the boys on both of their flanks. They rock harder and are much more fun than the self pitying whiners predictably recycling 1992 grunge and they're more substantial and grown up than the silly kids scoring lightweight punky pop hits. Take It Off is refreshingly direct. Donna A(born Brett Anderson) tells a guy to "stop starin' at my D cup" and "just feel me up." The boys should take note of The Donnas' ability to be confident without putting down their object of desire. Donna R(Allison Robertson) gives Take It Off its catchiness and heft by laying down a steady flow of time tested AC/DC or ZZ Top style guitar riffs.
Take Me Out - Franz Ferdinand
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: #32 (July 2004) buy it!
Take Me Out is from the self titled debut CD by the Scottish band named for the Austro-Hungarian Archduke whose assassination led to World War I. Franz Ferdinand are in the fairly large group of current bands(e.g. Hot Hot Heat and Interpol) who echo the late 70s/early 80s new wave sound. Take Me Out indicates that unlike some bands, who do slavish imitations of their heroes, Franz Ferdinand bring energy, novelty and wit to their retro sound. With Modest Mouse's Float On and Take Me Out topping the modern rock charts, maybe there's hope for the normally numbingly familiar, unimaginative format. Franz Ferdinand and Modest Mouse have similar surreal videos and present themselves as genial oddball Talking Heads fans. Take Me Out doesn't have a David Byrne soundalike vocal like Isaac Brock does on Float On. But Take Me On's chaotic, strangely joyful spirit and shifting rhythms bring early Talking Heads songs like Tentative Decisions, Psycho Killer and I Zimbra to mind, especially when the song slows down and beefs up the beat. Take Me Out starts with Singer Alex Kapranos crooning over a simple driving guitar line like the band is a sincere U2 or Coldplay knockoff. But a minute in, Take Me Out becomes gloriously messy. Working around a killer attacking riff, Nick McCarthy and Kapranos trade guitar lines that thrust, stomp and twist over Paul Thomson's appropriately muddied beat while Kapranos rants with a Byrne-like combination of confidence and disorientation. Synth effects complete Take Me Out's trippy soundscape. Take Me Out's is goofily melodramatic. Kapranos knows "I won't be leaving here with you" but keeps begging "take me out", warning otherwise "you'll leave me broken, shattered."
Take My Breath Away - Jessica Simpson
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #23 (May 2004) buy it!
Jessica Simpson's cover of Take My Breath Away wasn't originally on her In This Skin CD but, taking advantage of Simpson's ever growing stardom, a new version of In This Skin, with Take My Breath Away and a cover of Robbie Williams' Angels, has been released. Take My Breath Away was written by disco king Giorgio Moroder(who's also back on the charts as Beyonce quotes Love To Love You Baby). It was originally recorded by Berlin and, partly thanks to inclusion on the Top Gun soundtrack, was their biggest hit. Take My Breath Away has been covered a bunch of times. It's a favorite of mediocre lounge singers for probably the same reasons that Jessica and her people chose it. Many people are familiar with Take My Breath Away from seeing Top Gun or hearing Berlin's version on the radio. Some probably have an emotional or romantic connection with the song. Take My Breath Away is a sturdy song which builds to a big finish and allows a female singer to do a big, dramatic performance. Simpson does a standard reading, pretty closely tracking the vocal by Berlin's Terri Nunn. Most of Simpson's singing is quite annoying. In the song's quieter first half, her voice is pinched, mannered and unappealing. She actually does better in the song's more challenging second half, holding her notes and stretching them out in a showy but fairly impressive way. Still, Simpson's singing doesn't add anything interesting or new to the original. I guess it's meant to show that Simpson can sing. She kind of can, but not any better than lots of contestants in local talent shows. The new version of Takes My Breath Away is pretty pointless. It has very bland elevator music style backing, with stiff drum machine beats and sterile synths. Like her edible body products, Simpson's cover of Take My Breath Away is a product meant to take advantage of Simpson's hot name, good looks and sexy/innocent image. Besides its familiarity, I don't see any reason for covering Take My Breath Away. It's an easy listening classic but it's also kind of a sappy bore. Take My Breath Away is filled with overheated romance novel imagery. It depicts lovers in a foolish game, "on this endless ocean" and knowing no shame. The singer returns to a "secret place inside" and watches "in slow motion" as he turns and says the song's title. The lyric also has crashed mirrors, fate, anticipation and guys seen "through the hourglass" and slipping away in time.
Talk Show On Mute - Incubus
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #10 (July 2004) buy it!
The release of Megalomaniac as A Crow Left Of The Murder's first single implied that the newer record would have a harder edge than Incubus' previous CDs. It wasn't very well developed and Brandon Boyd's ranting was a little crazy but Megalomaniac had an energy and anger that was encouraging coming from the often laid back rock band. Talk Show On Mute shows that Crow Left Of The Murder doesn't completely lack the pleasant, spacy, mellow rockers that dominated the band's recent work. Talk Show On Mute has an easy, genial mood. It floats along inoffensively and has a decent flow. But even less happens on Talk Show On Mute than on other relaxed, midtempo songs like Drive, Wish You Were Here and Warning. Talk Show On Mute betrays a bit of narcissism on Boyd's part. The arrangement focuses on Boyd's vocal. The band is deferential to the point that it seems to have been decided that nothing musically interesting can interfere with appreciation of Boyd's brilliant lyric. To be fair to Boyd, his singing isn't narcissistic. He tries to sound humble to the point that his singing doesn't show any personality. Talk Show On Mute's music is smooth and well played but it's also pretty boring. On Talk Show On Mute, Boyd compares our society to the world in Orwell's 1984. His beef is with a country narcoticized by homogenized, cynically manufactured entertainment that pays "an audience to care." His solution is apparently to realize that "there's so much more." Unfortunately, Boyd's message is undermined by his bland, unvaried croon.
The Taste Of Ink - The Used
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: #47 (Dec. 2002) buy it!
The Taste Of Ink is from the self titled debut CD by the band from Orem, Utah. The New York Times' Kelefa Sanneh put The Used at the top of her list of the best non-mainstream CDs of 2002. I haven't heard the whole CD but, based on Taste Of Ink, it's hard to believe that The Used is that exceptional. It sounds like lots of 80s post punk music. I do like The Taste Of Ink. It's good, tight rock that gets good edge from Bert McCracken's screaming himself hoarse intensity and Quinn Allman's compact, stomping guitar line. McCracken, who's probably best known as Kelly Osborne's boyfriend, sings on Taste Of Ink about tolerating a miserable present for a "chance to break out" of a town he couldn't take much longer.
Taylor - Jack Johnson
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #36 (Jan. 2004) buy it!
Jack Johnson's On And On CD's stay on adult alternative radio has been extended, partly thanks to Taylor's funny video featuring Ben Stiller as a clueless director set on doing a bizarrely literal video for the song. Except for the video, not much distinguishes Taylor from other songs in Johnson's genial, unassuming oeuvre. Johnson's modesty and refusal to pander to his audience with obvious commercial flourishes are charming. The flip side of Johnson's reserve are a sameness and lack of surprise. Taylor opens and closes with Johnson's skilled, unshowy acoustic guitar solos. In between, guitar, bass and drums create a good ska gallop. The music is so quiet and unobtrusive that you hardly notice it but it has the same propulsive momentum as the music of earlier ska bands like The English Beat. Johnson's likable vocals have a smooth, easy flow though he'd be more interesting if he showed some excitement once in a while. Johnson often writes spare lyrics evoking scenes of people slowly dealing with existential crises. In Taylor, the crises are more serious than usual. Taylor, who used to be "a good girl" working the night shift, is now "working on the streets" pretending she's "two thousand miles from here." Poor Peter Patrick "thinks that singin' on Sunday's gonna save his soul" and take him out of a life where he's "got nothing."
Teenage Dirtbag - Wheatus
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #30 (Sept. 2000) buy it!
The teens were bound to love this story of a school kid who gets pushed around. Teenage Dirtbag is on the soundtrack of the movie Loser as well as Wheatus' self titled CD. The song and the movie have similar plots. Brendan Brown sings that the girls don't know who he is and the guys in the school give him a hard time. Like the movie, the song has a happy ending. The song's ending is probably supposed to be a fantasy as the girl of his dreams likes him after all and shares his love for Iron Maiden. Wheatus resemble Weezer in combining power chords and a nerdy persona. But Brown, with his twerpy, high pitched voice which he doesn't have to change much to play the song's female, is a little more of a smart ass and doesn't seem to sincerely feel his character's pain like Weezer's Rivers Cuomo does.
Telling Stories - Tracy Chapman
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: #28 (April 2000) buy it!
On her new CD, Chapman shows her weakness of often taking things a little too seriously. She relaxes a little on the title track. A nice loose electric guitar keeps things moving. Telling Stories also shows the positive side of Chapman's seriousness. Her writing and singing is characteristically simple, direct and poignant as she tells how a lie can be better than the truth.
Testify - Rage Against The Machine
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #43 (Sept. 2000) buy it!
Testify, the third chart hit from the Battle of Los Angeles, debuted on the top 50 as the band was playing a protest concert outside the Democratic Convention. One of the pleasures of the convention coverage was watching anchors trying to explain the band. Despite the impression some of the reporters gave, the band are idealistic and somewhat simplistic but they know what they're talking about. Testify is about coverage of the Gulf War. They argue that the killing of Iraqis was all about oil profits and that the media put a soothing face on atrocities but had a responsibility to expose the dark side of U.S. actions. As always, the passion of the lyrics and Zach DeLaRocha 's singing grabs you but Tom Morello's big but melodic guitar sound keeps things appealing.
Thank You - Dido
Weeks on Chart: 22 Peak: #7 (April 2001) buy it!
Dido's No Angel CD has become a huge hit nearly two years after its release. First, the atmospheric Here With Me slowly approached near hit status. Then, Eminem's use of a piece of Thank You on Stan brought attention. Now, Stan is out of the top 50 after four weeks on the chart and Thank You has easily topped its peak position. Like David Gray, another slow building success from Britain with an adult audience, Dido's charms are subtle. I find Dido's music less interesting than Gray's but No Angel does have a sleek appeal. The use of percussion and electronica effects is tasteful and minimal but it does give Thank You a good texture that makes it more than just easy listening. Dido's vocals are fluid and smart and add edge to the smooth sound. Thank You's lyrics about how "just to be with you is having the best day of my life" are sappy but Dido's story of a love that "reminds me that it's not so bad" even when everything seems to be going wrong, is sweet.
That's The Way It Is - Celine Dion
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: #26 (March 2000) buy it!
That's The Way It Is is one of the new songs on Dion's All The Way greatest hits record. Dion's music often tends towards banality. That's The Way It Is is particularly insubstantial. Its "everything will work out fine" lyrics have the depth of a greeting card and the music has the complexity of the background to a tv commercial. It's fairly inoffensive except to those who know that romantic problems aren't always easily solved.
Then the Morning Comes - Smash Mouth
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: #6 (Jan. 2000) buy it!
Smash Mouth's 2nd single from their Astro Lounge CD isn't quite as irresistable as All Star but it also has a light, sunny charm. The lyrics actually seem to be a dis of a woman living in a dream world but the message doesn't drag the song down. As they showed in their cover of Can't Get Enough of You Baby, they like a retropop sound, using fuzz guitars to good effect.
There She Goes - Sixpence None the Richer
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #19 (Sept. 1999) buy it!
Sixpence None the Richer broke through after years of obscurity with the 10,000 Maniacs flavored Kiss Me, largely thanks to prominent placement on the soundtrack of She's All That. Their new single from their self titled cd is a cover of one of the best pop songs of the 90's, originally done by the Las. The band made the smart decision to not change much from the original, leaving the great guitar riff and not even changing the lyrics' gender to reflect that the song is now sung by a woman. Leigh Nash's vocals are almost too sweet but it's still a very nice song.
There There - Radiohead
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #40 (June 2003) buy it!
I'm guessing that even some of the millions who stuck with Radiohead for their atmospheric sonic experiments on Kid A and Amnesiac found it trying to find the brilliance among the pretension and obscure experimentation. Hail To The Thief isn't a group of catchy pop songs bit it does have a bit more song form than its predecessors. It's a little closer to Radiohead's first three records, which communicated alienation in challenging but somewhat accessible rock songs. There There is one of the band's most focused recent efforts. It's a fascinating mix of evocative textures that creates a haunting effect. There There starts with Phil Selway's muffled tom toms and clicking beat. Jonny Greenwood comes in with a tense, circular riff then he's joined by Colin Greenwood's solid bass line. Distorted or muted backing vocals pop in and out. One of the worst things about Kid A and Amnesiac was the tendency to deemphasize guitars. Jonny Greenwood and Ed O'Brien's guitars give substance and form to Thom Yorke's meanderings. There There slowly works its way towards a cathartic, chiming guitar riff which clashes with a harder guitar line. Yorke's vocal, of course, is the vehicle that carries There There and most of Radiohead's music. Depending on my mood and its context, I can find Yorke's needy, sensitive tuneful whine beautful or very irritating. Regardless, Yorke's ability to immerse himself in a song is fascinating. There There is apparently a love song of sorts. Yorke sings about "walking in your landscape" and tripping on broken branches. He says "heaven sent you to me" but also warns of sirens "singing you to shipwreck." There There ends with a familiarly gloomy line("we are accidents waiting to happen") but also has a startlingly creepy reference to phantom limbs("just because you feel it doesn't mean it's there") that, coupled with the dislocation in Yorke's voice, is a reminder of Radiohead's gift for original, striking images.
There You Go - Pink
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: #27 (July 2000) buy it!
Pink is the latest female artist to have a CD released by LaFace records, who also make TLC's records. There You Go, from Pink's debut CD Can't Take Me Home, starts out sounding just like No Scrubs. Pink doesn't equal TLC's cool ease but There You Go has a decent groove and she has a fairly distinctive personality, even if song isn't particularly distinctive. The words are designed to make a female audience feel good, getting the last laugh and taunting a formerly neglectful boyfriend who's now coming back begging for her.
There's Gotta Be More To Life - Stacie Orrico
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: #25 (Jan. 2004) buy it!
There's Gotta Be MOre To Life is the second hit from Stacie Orrico's self titled CD. Orrico is only 17 but she has already made the transition from Christian pop singer to mainstream preteen favorite. As on her first hit Stuck, Orrico shows signs on More To Life, as she slides around the verse over a jaunty beat with an ease reminiscent of Blu Cantrell on Hit Em Up Style, of being a good, interesting singer. Unfortunately, More To Life's makers weren't really shooting for interesting. They just want a perky hit for the kids. The chirpy, repetitive, mindless chorus invites a segue into Hillary Duff's relentlessly sunny So Yesterday. The chorus doesn't do Orrico any favors. Each time the chorus comes back, it has a more uplifting but emptier sound. Orrico's voice sounds thin as she tries to rise above bland, smooth backing vocals. Still, while More To Life is formulaic, it is always very pleasant. Orrico sings on More To Life that she has it all but feels empty inside and that she's looking for more than temporary highs.
These Are The Days - O-Town
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #40 (Dec. 2002) buy it!
Backstreet Boys' success has apparently plummeted and N Sync is on hiatus as members put out solo records or tried to go into space. So O-Town, which was put together for the Making The Band TV show, is currently the top boy group around. O-Town's members are claiming that on the O2 CD, they're more in control of their own music and presenting a more distinctive sound. There's little sign of that on These Are The Days. These Are The Days was written by veteran pop music hack Steve Kipner. The only thing new about it is that instead of doing a squeaky clean, bland copy of an N Sync song, for much of These Are The Days, O-Town imitate a bland Bon Jovi ballad. It opens with Jacob Underwood doing a tight throated Jon Bon Jovi impersonation. Later on, These Are The Days more closely resembles typical boy group fare as a sing along chorus repeats over soaring and string effects. These Are The Days is basically inoffensive and it works OK as background music. Shep Crawford's production, with vague synths and a lame drum machine beat, is polished but innocuous. These Are The Days' lyrics allow an O-Town fan to imagine herself as saving her hero. These Are The Days' character is lonely, stuck in a place without love and trying to prepare himself for another chance.
They Stood Up For Love - Live
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #16 (Aug. 2000) buy it!
The singles from Live's The Distance To Here CD have been better than those from their previous CD, Secret Samadhi. However, The Dolphin's Cry and Run To The Water had continued Live's trend of soaring ballads that were a little overly dramatic and emotional. They Stood Up For Love is more grounded. Ed Kowalcyk still plays the dreamer as he sings about the price that romantics like him pay: "we spend all of our lives going out of our minds." However, the music has a good, big beat, a nice, edgy groove and a very catchy chorus.
Things Have Changed - Bob Dylan
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #43 (May 2000) buy it!
Dylan's renaissance, which began with his Time Out of Mind CD, continues with this track from the Wonder Boys soundtrack. Dylan continues the persona he used on Time Out of Mind of the cranky old guy who's known heartache so many times that he's almost giving up on love. He sings of being a "worried man with a worried mind" who "used to care but things have changed." But the flip side of the persona is not worrying about looking foolish, dreaming of love "as time slips through my hands", feeling "like falling in love with the first woman I meet." Dylan seems to be have fun with the light, jaunty musical tone with a loose vocal over an relaxed slide guitar and easy bluesy mood.
Think Twice - Eve 6
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #31 (Aug. 2003) buy it!
The sure touch that brought Eve 6 hits on their first two records(Inside Out on Eve 6 and Here's To The Night on Horrorscope) has apparently eluded them on the new It's All In Your Head CD. Max Collins does some annoying, cliched self dramatizing rock singing. He starts by slowly and meaningfully intoning every syllable in a style Weezer mocked on their sweater song. The songs shifts to an anonymous chorus with slamming power chords. Then it speeds up a bit with Jon Siebels playing a decent scratchy guitar sound. Think Twice starts to sound a liitle like Inside Out but without that song's intensity. Generally Think Twice lacks Inside Out's energy and excitement. In an inevitable climax, Collins ends up screaming but Inside Out never gets interesting. I find it so boring that it's a struggle to listen all the way through. Think Twice has a pretty unpleasant lyric. Collins partly tries to convince his lady that his love is better than a rival's. But Think Twice is mostly a thuggish warning to the rival that if he touches her "I'll let you feel the burn."
This I Promise You - N Sync
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #28 (Nov. 2000) buy it!
This I Promise You is the third hit from the No Strings Attached CD. It was written by Richard Marx, who had a brief period of pop rock stardom in the late 80's. This I Promse You is a fairly routine, sappy ballad. They sing about being her strength and giving her hope. They promise that "never will you hurt anymore" and to hold her "until the day my life is through" but even their preteen fans probably know that such promises, said by teens, aren't necessarily meant to be taken literally.
This Is Me - Dream
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #35 (June 2001) buy it!
Except in self confidence, the young women of Dream, the latest addition to Sean Combs' show biz empire, are unremarkable in every way. They've become MTV stars despite looks, dancing skills and voices that are, at best, mediocre. Perhaps the youth of America relate to stars who are unthreateningly ordinary. Dream vaguely recall the Spice Girls' glamorized averageness, with less personality. With a big beat and vague, smooth synths This Is Me, from It Was All A Dream, slips by innocuously. Dream are a little like N Sync with an even more lightweight sound and thinner voices. On This Is Me, Dream play the supportive girlfriend trying to convince a guy that she'll love him faithfully and that she's nothing like the girl who stole his heart and then broke it.
This Love - Maroon 5
Weeks on Chart: 21 Peak: #2 (May 2004) buy it!
Maroon 5 used to make bouncy alternative pop as Kara's Flowers. When their records didn't sell very well, they retooled and came back, with nearly the same personnel, as Maroon 5. The makeover worked. This Love is Maroon 5's second big hit from their debut Songs About Jane CD. Harder To Breathe was slick pop with a good hook but it struck me as cynical and cold. This Love was also carefully constructed with an eye on the pop charts but it's a little looser and warmer. This Love reminds me of the perky 70s pop of The Partridge Family and others. This Love's scratchy guitar riff, keyboards and steady beat give it a bouncy sound. Adam Levine's singing is a bit narcissistic but it's mostly relaxed and playful. Levine sings that a relationship with a girlfriend who acts like love is "a game, pretending to feel the same then turn around and leave again" is taking its toll. But on This Love's buoyant bridge he vows to keep making "sure everything's alright", " 'cause I know that's what you want me to do." This Love is disposable but very well made and charming pop.
This Time - Los Lobos
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #45 (Oct. 1999) buy it!
In their recent work and the work of their spinoff, the Latin Playboys, Los Lobos have been interested in creating layered, textured work that can be fascinating but also can be a little stiff and lacking in the warm melodies the band used to have. The title track from their new CD, however, is smooth and relaxed. The band created an appropriately easy groove for a song about taking things slow and appreciating the moment. David Hidalgo's clear, pure voice is one of the best in pop music and it hits the spot here.
The Thong Song - Sisqo
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #27 (June 2000) buy it!
The Thong Song is from the Unleash the Dragon CD by the Dru Hill singer. The nation's latest novelty hit is silly and insubstantial but fairly unpretentious. The song could do without its lame introduction justifying the song as "letting all the ladies know what guys talk" but the sexism of the song is so obvious and good natured that it's hard to hate. The music is fast, light, energetic and rhythmic. The lyrics are just an excuse to keep getting back to the catch phrase, "let me see that thong."
Thoughtless - Korn
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: #15 (Sept. 2002) buy it!
Thoughtless is the second chart hit from Korn's Untouchables CD. Untouchables has been called the record that introduces melody to Korn's sound. Thoughtless has a melody of sorts but it's hardly tuneful. The verses have hammering guitars. The chorus has a big rock anthem sound. Jonathan Davis' vocal takes on different tones that presumably match the different levels of anger he expresses on Thoughtless. Davis starts with a bit of falsetto playfulness mixed with his rage as he sings about pushing his mercy down, daring someone to take a swing at him so he can have a reason to put him on the ground. But he quickly shifts to a harsh bark: "why are you trying to make fun of me." Things get weird as Davis rants "got my monkey back against the wall." In between, Davis accuses others of "thoughtlessly scheming" to "tear me down" and sings about wanting to "kill and rape you the way you raped me." I'm somewhat fascinated by Thoughtless' surreal, over the top sound, especially Davis' venting of his enormous, barely controlled hostility. But Thoughtless' lack of nuance and endless barrage of noise and negativity make it unlistenably harsh for me.
Three Libras - A Perfect Circle
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: #14 (Nov. 2000) buy it!
The chart hits from A Perfect Circle's Mer De Noms keep moving Maynard James Keenan farther from Tool's harsh, dense sound. Three Libras has a Led Zeppelin style rock guitars go to the Renaissance festival sound. It's a mellow rock ballad that's a little silly but appealingly sincere. Keenan sings rather that screams. The electric guitars kick in eventually but most of the song has an acoustic feel. Keenan sings "it's difficult not to feel a little disappointed"about being passed over, presumably romantically. He sings that he did his best but "you don't see me at all."
Time Is Running Out - Muse
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #30 (June 2004) buy it!
Time Is Running Out is from Absolution, the third studio album by the Devon, England band. Muse has a reputation of sounding like Radiohead. Time Is Running Out indicates the reputation was well earned. Muse's music resembles the records Radiohead made before getting really weird and spacy on Kid A and Amnesiac. Time Is Running Out has the hallmarks of Radiohead's earlier music. Matthew Bellamy is the impassioned, troubled singer who, like Thom Yorke, loses himself as he gains intensity and drifts into falsetto. Like a Radiohead song, Time Is Running Out has music that's big, dense and dramatic. The verses have huge drums and cold piano, guitar and percussion that echo Radiohead's icy, industrial sound. The bright side is Time Is Running Out has the excitement of a good Radiohead song. It's edgy and emotionally charged. Bellamy isn't as compelling or idiosyncratic as Yorke but he is an charmismatic singer with substantial presence. Dominic Howard's pounding and Bellamy's distorted guitar help create an ambitious sound with an impressively epic scope. Muse's music copies Radiohead's and, by definition, is less orignal and innovative. But Time Is Running Out is quite a thrilling copy. Time Is Running Out's lyric is a bit overwrought. It adds to the feeling that Time Is Running Out is less than fresh. Bellamy is "drowning" and "asphyxiating." He's "addicted" and under "the spell that you've created" but he also wants to "play the game" because "I want the friction." She'll be "the death of me" but "I won't let you murder it."
Times Like These - Foo Fighters
Weeks on Chart: 28 Peak: #5 (March 2003) buy it!
Dave Grohl has become an elder statesman of modern rock. 2003 started with songs he played on by Foo Fighters, Nirvana and Queens Of The Stone Age in the top 10 and the hits keep coming. Times Like These is the second top 50 hit from Foo Fighters' One By One CD. Times Like These isn't quite as good as All My Life but it has a superficial charm and is one of the better songs on a fairly bad CD. It's got the unremarkable competence that marks so much Foo Fighters music. The most striking thing about Times Like These is its guitar riff, copped from The Cult's She Sells Sanctuary, which gives the song some excitement(and, along with the lyrical allusion to Husker Du's New Day Rising, a 1985 vibe). Otherwise, Times Like These is innocuous but fine. Grohl's voice seems even less skilled than usual. It's hard to argue with the lyrics' message that, even in a screwed up world, you have to live and love. But it ain't exactly deep and reminds me of the lame post September 11 claims that the terrorists win if we don't do things(go shopping, take that flight, go ahead with the Emmys).
Tipsy - J-Kwon
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: #21 (May 2004) buy it!
Jerrell "J-Kwon" Jones follows Nelly and Chingy as the latest St. Louis rapper with a big hit. 18 year old J-Kwon was supposedly living on the streets, having run away from home in Bellville, Missouri, when he was discovered by the Trackboyz producing team. An audition with Jermaine Dupri(famous for producing hit records and being Janet Jackson's boyfriend) led to J-Kwon getting signed to Dupri's So So Def label. The Trackboyz, Mark Williams and Joe Kent, have worked on hits including Nelly's Air Force Ones and Work It. They produced most of J-Kwon's Hood Hop CD. Trackboyz created a sound on Tipsy that Dupri is said to have described as a fusion of hip hop and a We Will Rock You style rock sound. Tipsy's music, with its crashing big beat, is compelling and stirring. Tipsy's beeping synth noises, which invite comparisons to The Neptunes' production style, give Tipsy a bit of flavor and complete the song's full, powerful sound. Scoring a big hit with the first single from his first CD, J-Kwon has immediately established himself as one of rap's most promising young stars. J-Kwon's voice has a confidence and strength that's remarkable for someone just starting out. His presence is impressive as he slowly and patiently works his way through his rap in a way that says he knows he's good. I like Tipsy's sound. My only beef is with its subject matter. At the risk of sounding like an old fool, I think it would be a better world if teenagers weren't making music, purchased by younger teenagers, presenting a positive view of getting drunk and living a thug life. Tipsy's has pretty typical hip hop lyrics but it's a bit disturbing to hear them from someone so young. Besides celebrating getting drunk, J-Kwon tells us, in a lyric he wrote, about having and threatening someone with a gun, smoking "my blunt", "gettin' head", having a woman "feelin' on my johnson" and needing two condoms.
Tomorrow - SR-71
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: #46 (Nov. 2002) buy it!
Tomorrow, the title track from SR-71's new CD, seems to confirm that the Baltimore band has no distinctive personality and merely follows trends that sell records. When Blink 182 were red hot, SR-71 was playing similar punky pop. They had a hit with Right Now, a song that was even more obnoxious and unoriginal than the other fast juvenile music of a couple years ago. Hybrid Theory was the biggest selling record of 2001 and, what do you know, SR-71 are back on the charts with a song with Linkin Park's dark, threatening sound. Tomorrow is a faint copy of Linkin Park's In The End without the flavor Mike Shinoda's rap gave that song. Mitch Allan, like Chester Bennington, sings about being in turmoil but he doesn't have Bennington's intensity. Allan does a decent job of evoking paranoia but he seems like he's ripping off Linkin Park, Korn and so many others. Similarly, the music, with its forbidding atmosphere of booming and droning guitars, feels second hand. Allan sings about an unspecified "they" who "find a way to make you feel discarded", feel "you've become a complication" and are "all waiting for the crash". He does admit that it's "myself" who makes him feel caged.
Too Bad - Nickelback
Weeks on Chart: 28 Peak: #5 (May 2002) buy it!
When How You Remind Me moved to the top of the pop charts, rock and alternative radio began to move on to a second song from the Silver Side Up CD. Too Bad alternates between mellow but dramatic verses and choruses with catchy rock guitar strumming. As on How You Remind Me, Chad Kroeger's vocals are heartfelt and the pain he describes is surely real. While he's not quite as self pitying as his trouble young white male rock contemporaries, Kroeger is very humorless and a little self important. Too Bad is serious, intense and well made but it doesn't have the mastery of Nirvana style rock dynamics that How You Remind Me, with its irresistable "Yeah"s and pounding power chords on the chorus, did. Too Bad is about dealing with feelings about the father who abandoned his family, leaving them "just trying to keep clothing on our backs."
Too Little Too Late - Barenaked Ladies
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #18 (March 2001) buy it!
BNL's main singer Stephen Page is outdone on the Maroon CD by Ed Robertson, who has two of the new CD's best songs, Pinch Me and Falling For The First Time. However, Page has a few good songs and Too Little Too Late may be the best of them. Maroon's second single is a little like Stunt's It's All Been Done. Too Little Too Late is fun, high energy straight ahead rock with Robertson's good, tight guitar riff. Page's self centered character blames his partner for his bad behavior, saying he would be good, "if I knew I was understood" and dooms the relationship by always being a little late in correcting his faults.
Toxicity - System Of A Down
Weeks on Chart: 22 Peak: #13 (May 2002) buy it!
It's probably not the main effect they're shooting for but I like System Of A Down because they're fun. Their powerful music and Serj Tankian's singing can shift in a moment from thoughtful to manic, creating an unpredictability that's nearly absent in contemporary rock. Toxicity's verses, with forboding guitar and Serj's brooding vocal, explode into choruses of Serj's rant and big guitars and drums. As Toxicity, the title track and second hit from the band's latest CD, reaches its conclusion, it becomes even more chaotic, finishing with fast hardcore style thrashing guitar and drums and Serj's bizarre chant: "when I became the sun, I shone life into the man's heart." I like System Of A Down's passion and the fact that their songs are about more than their petty personal problems. I'm not exactly sure what Toxicity is about but I guess it has something to do with capitalism and the fact that even if big business thinks it owns and can ruin the world it can't control the world's natural disorder.
Toxic - Britney Spears
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: #13 (March 2004) buy it!
Britney Spears seemed to be in danger of being more famous for being famous than for being a singer but, after a bunch of singles with mediocre chart performances, she has her biggest hit since 2000's Oops! ...I Did It Again. Britney's lack of a distinctive voice or musical image have allowed each of the producers who worked on her In The Zone CD to move in a different direction and put their imprint on their song. Britney contributed to Toxic's success by being the hot babe in the video but credit for Toxic's sound should largely go to its writer Cathy Dennis, who also did Kylie Minogue's Can't Get You Out Of My Head. Like Dennis' previous megahit, Toxic has a sleek, synthetic, cool sound. Like many producers, Dennis placed Britney's cold, thin voice in an icy synth and beats world. Toxic doesn't overuse Britney's singing. Britney's brittle vocal is on the verses but I'm guessing that on the chorus and anywhere else where there's decent singing, it's Dennis, whose Touch Me(All Night Long) was a dance pop hit in the 80's. Toxic has lots of synths and a stiff, effective beat but its futuristic sound is also fun and fast, with strings creating a goofy sense of drama. Toxic's lyric tells a guy that he's dangerous and makes her high She's addicted to him and needs a hit.
Transcendental Blues - Steve Earle
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: #31 (July 2000) buy it!
Transcendental Blues is the title track from Earle's new CD, another rich, melodic and searching work from one of our greatest songwriters. He takes something from country and rock but could give a damn about labels. Earle's voice sounds rougher and wearier than ever. Transcendental Blues is unpolished and understated but it has grit and a good guitar line. Earle is appealingly humble as he sings about wanting to live on a higher plane.
Trouble - Coldplay
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: #20 (Jan. 2002) buy it!
When she was promoting her M!ssundaztood CD, Pink made a big deal about how she was escaping the rigid hit making constraints put on her by her record company's execs. Pink took more control and her music had a little more edge, especially on her Linda Perry collaboration Get The Party Started, but she was still making radio friendly dance pop. Pink has recently released two rocking singles and has apparently found the limits of how far she can challenge her pop audience. Both Feel Good Time, from the Charlie's Angels 2 soundtrack, and Trouble, the first single from the Try This CD, quickly climbed into the pop top 20, had a very short stay then quickly fell off the charts. Feel Good Time, written by Beck and William Orbit, was cool and trippy and apparently a little too weird for the masses. Trouble's relative lack of success brings into question the commercial wisdom of Pink's decision to give up working with Perry and write most of Try This with Rancid's Tim Armstrong(who, with modern rock hits with Rancid and Transplants, has had his best year in a while). Trouble has the fun, simple feel of some of Rancid's best songs with Armstrong's rough rasp replaced by Pink's assertive and slightly husky but still poppy vocal. Trouble is energetic but a bit repetitive. Even with Pink and Armstrong's efforts to add rock trappings, Trouble is fairly insubstantial but it is fun. Trouble keeps moving with a good driving beat and a variety of sections that feature decent rock guitar, organ and an interesting looping synth effect. When Trouble really picks up steam on the last chorus, its breathless energy reminds me of Eurythmics' Would I Lie To You. On Trouble's lyric, Pink tries to perpetuate a rebellious image warning those who try "to take me for a ride" that they're facing trouble.
True Friends - Shannon Curfman
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: #25 (Jan. 2000) buy it!
True Friends is from the CD Loud Guitars, Big Suspicions. Curfman is still in her early teens. It's seems good that the latest guitar prodigy is a girl.
True To Myself - Ziggy Marley
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #35 (July 2003) buy it!
Dragonfly is Ziggy Marley's first record without The Melody Makers, the band he had with his sisters and brother(though sister Sharon does backing vocals). Ziggy made Dragonfly with a LA bunch of studio pros. He produced Dragonfly with Ross Hogarth, who's enginereed dozens of records, and REM producer Scott Litt. True To Myself's sound is smooth and professional but it does have a vibe that undeniably connects with Bob Marley's work. Ziggy, now 34, has a relaxed singing style that, like his father's, also conveys substance and confidence. True To Myself has the simple, positive, universal message and immediate familiarity and catchiness of Bob Marley's hits. True To Myself easily rolls forward as horns create a joyful mood and David Lindley and James Harrah strum and trade guitar lines. The downside is that True To Myself isn't particularly distinctive. True To Myself has the basic, concise form of Bob Marley's reggae classics but it doesn't have much appeal beyond its classic form. True to Myself is so laid back and reminiscent of other songs that it doesn't really grab your attention. True To Myself's lyrics are pleasant but a bit insipid. He shares pearls including "I can't make you happy unless I am" and "the truth it never changes."
Try Again - Aaliyah
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: #27 (Aug. 2000) buy it!
With its edgy but inobtrusive beat and keyboards and Aaliyah's confident presence, Try Again, from the soundtrack of the movie Romeo Must Die, is very cool hip hop with a good, smooth sound. Aaliyah presents herself as an appealingly strong woman. Wary of being thrown a line, keeps a guy on his toes, making it clear she's into him like he's into her but not wanting to be used and discarded. She asks to wait and see, looking for him to earn her trust and hinting that his persistence will pay off even if she "might be shy on the first date."
Turn Me On Mr. Deadman - Union Underground
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: #38 (Oct. 2000) buy it!
Turn Me On Mr. Deadman is from the An Education in Rebellion CD.Trent Reznor might have a suit against Union Underground for copyright infringement. Especially early on, Turn Me On Mr. Deadman closely resembles a harsh Nine Inch Nails song like The Perfect Drug, with its jagged beat and anguished vocals, which are whispered then screamed. But where Reznor's anger and self loathing seemed real, Union Underground's hostility is contrived and theatrical, like on a Powerman 5000 song. It's pretty funny that on a familiar sounding song, Union Underground criticize rock conformity, mocking sell out rock and roll millionaires and the simple minded audiences who lap up their music.
Turn Me On - Kevin Lyttle
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: #34 (July 2004) buy it!
Kevin Lyttle is a singer from St. Vincent who has scored an international hit from his self titled debut CD. Turn Me On's music fits in the genre of soca, a calypso-like island sound. Turn Me On was produced by Jeremy Harding, who has worked with Sean Paul and various reggae performers, and Adrian Bailey. Turn Me On is 2004's quintessential summer single. Its irresistable upbeat music moves quicky and easily with a brittle beat and an emphatic sample that's periodically enhanced by a bubbly swirl of synths. Lyttle's very high voice is odd but strangely buoyant. It sounds like a mix of Lyttle's hero Michael Jackson and a helium enhanced cartoon character. Turn Me On's remix benefits from the presence of dancehall rapper Spragga Benz whose tough interjections lend weight to a song with a vocal that sounds like it might float away. Turn Me On feels like an evening island party. It's not meaningful but it's fun especially if you don't take it too seriously. Turn Me On's lyric is suitably lightweight. Lyttle tries to convince a woman who's got him very excited(he puts it in more graphic terms) to come home with him and caress him.
Turn Off The Light - Nelly Furtado
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: #21 (Oct. 2001) buy it!
On her second single from the Whoa, Nelly CD, the Portugese-Canadian singer is again a cool, refreshing presence on pop radio. Turn Off The Light has an even looser feel than I'm Like A Bird. Furtado's vocal is easy and appealing. Turn Off The Light has a trippy feel with ringing synths and record scratching but it also has good, tight beats. On Turn Off The Light, Furtado says she acting tough after a breakup but when she's on her own at night she's troubled and lonely.