Waiting For Tonight - Jennifer Lopez
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #31 (Dec. 1999) buy it!
Waiting For Tonight is a well made, very danceable single. However, you'd figure that Lopez would want her music to have a little more personality. Waiting For Tonight sounds like tons of other dance songs. The lyrics, with Lopez singing "I've dreamed of this night for so long", as if she was a plain schoolgirl, are ridiculous when sung by a beautiful movie star.
Wait - Seven Mary Three
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #15 (June 2001) buy it!
On 1995's Cumbersome, Jason Ross was one of the first singers to borrow Eddie Vedder's serious, deep vocal style for a successful rock ballad. Wait, from The Economy Of Sound, starts pretty well with mellow guitar and a tale of a dream. Then the chorus comes and Seven Mary Three are just another band, like Collective Soul and countless others, making catchy but glossy, anonymous music with overdone, emotional singing. Cliches like "I never found a gift you get for free" pile up as Wait goes on.
Walk On - U2
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: #3 (March 2001) buy it!
Walk On, the second chart hit from All That You Can't Leave Behind, shows how U2 have returned to the sincerity and idealism of their 80's work but express it in a more subtle, mature way. Walk On is a tribute to Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her brave struggle against the repressive Burmese government. Bono's admiration is clear as he sings, "you could have flown away, a singing bird in an open cage who will only fly for freedom." But Walk On avoids the stridency of the band's early political songs. Bono's vocal is appealingly restrained. The music, with The Edge's glistening guitar line, has a quiet beauty as well as a solid Larry Mullen beat.
Walking Away - Craig David
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #44 (July 2002) buy it!
Craig David has come close to replicating in the U.S. the huge success he's had in England. Walking Away is the third single from the Born To Do It CD he made when he was 19. Walking Away, like David's first two hits, has an appeal that's modest at best. David seems like an unremarkable rehash of relaxed American R&B singers. My favorite part of Walking Away is the riff taken from U2's One, which gives the rather bland song most of the flavor it has. But Walking Away does what it's supposed to. It's a smooth, soothing ballad, with a steady, decent beat, that's softened further by strings. David's singing isn't amazing but it's genial. He doesn't have that annoying cockiness he had on his first two hits. David sings on Walking Away about leaving a woman who was too prone to fight and listen to gossip about him.
Want You Bad - The Offspring
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #25 (March 2001) buy it!
The second single from the Conspiracy Of One CD follows the colorful silliness of the rock/hip hop hybrid Original Prankster, with a returns to The Offspring's punk pop signature sound. Want You Bad is also stupid, a dopey male fantasy, but it's very energetic with fast, fun guitars and drums. With his typical yell, Dexter tells his girl "you're too nice" and advises her to get tattoos and mistreat him.
Warm Machine - Bush
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #30 (June 2000) buy it!
Bush haven't gotten worse or significantly changed their sound but the audience for their derivative rock has largely left them. Even their quite good last single, the ballad Letting The Cables Sleep, went nowhere. The third chart hit from the Science Of Things CD somewhat resembles the record's The Chemicals Between Us, without that song's energy. Grinding guitars create a good, tense mood but the cryptic lyrics and Gavin Rossdale's icy vocals, while creating a sense of forboding, don't make the song very interesting or enjoyable.
Warning - Green Day
Weeks on Chart: 38 Peak: #4 (Jan. 2001) buy it!
Incubus keep giving us likable, unremarkable atmospheric rock songs. Warning, third chart hit from the Morning View CD, is appealing. Warning is even more laid back than I Wish You Were Here and Nice To Know You but it has a similar vibe. On the verses, Brandon Boyd's vocal drifts along with some minimal guitar and sonic effects. The chorus, with Mike Einziger's electric guitar strumming, is harder and more focused, but the song retains it's dreamy feel. Warning is positive and spacy, advising that as you float "in this cosmic jacuzzi", "count your blessings", "don't ever let life pass you by" and love yourself. Warning seems intentionally inconsequential but it is quite appealing.
Wasting My Time - Default
Weeks on Chart: 39 Peak: #2 (April 2002) buy it!
It's depressing that, besides offering a watered down version of bands like Pearl Jam, Creed now seem to be inspiring a bunch of new, success hungry bands with their serious, literal minded rock. Wasting My Time, from the Fallout CD, is another overdone rock song. Dallas Smith has the requisite unnaturally deep, intense vocal. The Canadian band try to show that they're sensitive but can rock too. Wasting My Time is remarkably uninteresting, following the very familiar pattern of starting quietly with a meaningful guitar riff before letting the power chords crunch in on the chorus. The verses sound like With Arms Wide Open. The chorus is generic guitar rock. Wasting My Time's lyrics justify a breakup with a girlfriend.
Wasting Time - Jack Johnson
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: #35 (Oct. 2003) buy it!
The Horizon Has Been Defeated, the first chart hit from Jack Johnson's On And On CD, was one of the year's more likable singles. The Horizon Has Been Defeated, a wry shot at corporate greed, showed Johnson at his charming best. Horizon's good, reggae inflected music fit Johnson's positive vibe and was a little more substantial than some of Johnson's work. Wasting Time, written by Johnson with drummer Adam Topol and bassist Merlo Podlewski, has an even more overt reggae flavor and an interesting guitar sound. Wasting Time isn't quite as irresistable as Horizon but it is appealing, easy listening. Johnson often walks the line between relaxed and complacent but his music is generally appealing and usually works, at least as background music. Wasting Time's lyric is typical Johnson. He often depicts himself as a stoner with a very laidback but confident approach to women. As on Flake, Wasting Time paints a world of people barely energetic enough to care about anything. Wasting Time has a cutesy theme: "I'm just a waste of her energy and she just wasting my time, so why gon't we get together and we could waste it all tonight."
Was - Kenny Wayne Shephard
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: #45 (April 2000) buy it!
Shephard's talent as a player and love of his blues rock predecessors is always more apparent than his originality. Was, from Shephard's Live On CD, starts well in a gritty, spare blues setting. Was has a pretty authentic feel but it evolves into his usual showing off and overdone music. The lyrics, about being under a woman's spell, feel pieced together from other songs, with their repeated references to moonlit nights and madman's walks.
The Way You Like It - Adema
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #41 (March 2002) buy it!
The Way You Like It is the second single from Adema's self titled CD. Adema is perhaps the best example of what's wrong with today's mainstream rock. They inspired a bidding was among record labels, presumably partly because Adema's singer Mark Chavez is the half brother of Korn front man Jonathan Davis and partly because they sound so much like other bands that have had big record sales. There is a similarity between Korn and Adema in the way they try to mix hard rock guitar and synths to create a meaningful atmosphere. The difference between them is that Korn sometimes actually achieves real meaning while Adema's music is garbage that resembles more meaningful work. With a high pitched, spooky riff, The Way You Like It tells us from the start that it's grasping for significance. But even more than Adema's first single Giving In, which at least had an interesting topic(an alcoholic's inabiliy to avoid self destruction), The Way You Like It has a dark surface but no substance. On The Way You Like It, Chavez is apparently already complaining about how fame attracts fake friends and nasty gossip. Adema partly resemble Linkin Park, whose angry hard rock Hybrid Theory CD was the biggest selling CD of 2001(how 'bout that for a depressing sign of the times). But Adema doesn't have Linkin Park's hip hip fluidity. The only thing vaguely hip hop about The Way You Like It is its complaint about player hating. The Way You Like It's crunching guitar and Chavez' staccato, often yelled, vocal are hostile enough to make it on rock radio but it's not good or interesting.
The Way You Move - Outkast
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: #12 (March 2004) buy it!
Outkast's popularity has grown the last few years. They made our top 50 with Stankonia's Ms. Jackson and The Whole World, from the Big Boi and Dre Present collection. Still, I thought Outkast, who seem more interested in doing what they want than in selling records, were a bit too weird to become big pop stars. So it's a bit of a surprise that Outkast are currently the biggest pop stars around. Outkast dominated the Grammy awards winning, among others, Album of the Year and The Way You Move immediately followed Hey Ya, which spent a bunch of weeks at #1, to the top of the pop charts. Outkast's huge success is especially remarkable since the duo seemed on the verge of breaking up when they released their two CD set, which is really two solo records. Andre 3000 and Big Boi are almost totally absent from each other's disc. Hey Ya is on Andre 3000's weird, silly, inconsistent but fun The Love Below, which doesn't fit under any musical label. The Way You Move is on Antwan "Big Boi" Patton's Speakerboxx, which has a variety of sounds but is mostly tight, danceable hip hop. The Way You Move is a great example of Speakerboxx's smart, state of the art sound. The Way You Move is brilliantly constructed. With its crisp hand clap like drum machine beats and Big Boi's remarkably adroit rap, The Way You Move is slick and efficient. It also gets a retro, human feel from real horns playing a catchy riff and Sleepy Brown's falsetto singing, which doesn't have the Marvin Gaye style sexiness he shoots for but does add warmth to a very polished song. Big Boi's incredibly quick rap deserves special credit. Among raps I've heard recently only Jay Z, on Change Clothes, is comparable in terms of being fast, relaxed and in control and Big Boi is even more impressive. He squeezes in a ton of words and never lets us see him sweat. Big Boi tells us that "Outkast is everlastin', not clashin'", expresses his love for all women, especially the "big girls", and admires a woman's move while the room watches his. In the last few months, Outkast has given us Hey Ya, one of the most fun singles of the last year and The Way You Move, one of the coolest.
We Are All Made Of Stars - Moby
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #21 (May 2002) buy it!
Moby's new CD is called 18, reportedly because the songs are based on music Moby was listening to in the early 80's when he was that age. You have to go back a few years earlier to We Are All Made Of Stars's most obvious influence: David Bowie's 70's work; most specifically Heroes. We Are All Made Of Stars has Heroes' patient pace and soaring guitar line. As on Heroes, an icy musical atmosphere contradicts the lyrics' optimism. In a distanced, filtered voice, Moby sings about being part of an unstoppable, growing movement that heralds the future. We Are All Made Of Stars also brings to mind Bowie's Starman, futuristic synth songs like Gary Numan's Cars and Porcelain from Moby's great 1999 Play CD. Nothing about We Are All Made Of Stars quite strikes me like the "this is goodbye"s of Porcelain's stark masterpiece of a dream evocation and the music isn't as original as on many of Play's brilliant constructions. Still, I find We Are All Made Of Stars' contrast between cold, synthetic verses and a warmer chorus, where Moby's earnest vocal overcomes the dark, mechanical mood, compelling and moving.
We Are - Vertical Horizon
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: #27 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
From the record Everything You Want, We Are is well polished hard rock with no particular personality. The lyrics are supposed to be a heavy search for meaning, trying to figure out who we are, why we are, etc.
We're In This Together - Nine Inch Nails
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #23 (Oct. 1999) buy it!
This is from the Fragile, Trent Reznor's first album in 5 years. We're In This Together is harsh with a forboding mood but the sound is clear and the music is slower and less assaultive than previous Nine Inch Nails. Reznor's screamed vocal is still troubled as he tells how an unspecified "they" are out to get him but the lyrics of the chorus could be from any love song about a man who thinks his woman is the only one in the world whounderstands him: "Nothing will stop us now, we will make it throughsomehow."
Weak and Powerless - A Perfect Circle
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: #4 (Nov. 2003) buy it!
Maynard James Keenan is apparently going to keep alternating records by his bands, Tool and A Perfect Circle. A Perfect Circle's new CD is Thirteenth Step. A Perfect Circle's sound is a little artier and marginally less dark, heavy and hard rocking than Tool's but Keenan's music is always pretty dark. Weak and Powerless, written by Keenan and bandmate Billy Howerdel, isn't fun by it effectively communicates a gloomy mood without excess. Keenan's vocal is direct and downbeat but, unlike so many of his rock contemporaries, he doesn't showily wallow in his misery. Josh Freese's angular drumming and an array of edgy guitar sounds, including a cold, metallic sound, complete Weak and Powerless' tortured feel but also keep the song from dragging. Keenan sprinkles troubled images throughout Weak and Powerless to illustrate how he's "weak and powerless over you."
Weathered - Creed
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #22 (Jan. 2003) buy it!
The title track and fourth chart hit from the Weathered CD again shows Creeds gift for predictable, blandly catchy soaring arena rock. Creed frontman Scott Stapp is even more self pitying and self dramatizing than usual. Presumably referring to his critics, Stapp complains: slings and arrows are killing me inside. He feels alone and bemoans the fact that his love is met with indifference. Though sometimes I feel like giving up, Stapp finds solace in God and his instruction to take pride and leave it behind.
Wedding Song - Tracy Chapman
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: #46 (Sept. 2000) buy it!
Tracy Chapman usually seems so serious that sweet isn't an adjective normally connected with her. However Wedding Song, the second chart song from her Telling Stories CD, is simple and sweet. The music is fairly undramatic but her voice is strong and real as she sings that no matter what situation she imagines, she always sees her partner "right beside me." She expresses a refreshing sense of trust, placing her faith in her love and expressing a willingness "to think not only of myself but of the greater union."
Welcome to the Fold - Filter
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: #20 (Sept. 1999) buy it!
Between their first hit Hey Man Nice Shot and their new one, Richard Patrick has shown himself to be one of the best screamers in the business. After taking an interesting diversion with the electronic collaboration, Trip Like I Do, with Crystal Method, they're back to rocking hard on their first single from Title of Record. Welcome to the Fold is intense, exciting guitar rock.
What a Girl Wants - Christina Aguilera
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: #24 (Jan. 2000) buy it!
Her songs are about as dopey as those of her chart mates Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears but Aguilera seems to have the best voice. What a Girl Wants isn't as musically striking as Genie in a Bottle, with its stark, crisp beat. It's more like crowd pleasing generic dance pop. Like Genie in a Bottle, What a Girl Wants makes some pretense of trying to show a strong, self respecting woman, but Aguilera seems a little too appreciative of the guy who gave her time to make up her mind.
What About Us - Brandy
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: #44 (April 2002) buy it!
In her music and as tv's Moesha, Brandy Norwood has established a sweet, slightly bland image. That image was emphasized when she played the good girl to Monica's tougher character on their hit duet The Boy Is Mine. On What About Us, the first single from the Full Moon CD, Brandy does a good job of adopting an attitude closer to that of Mary J. or the late Aaliyah, presenting a tougher, more adult persona. Brandy benefits from Rodney Jerkins' good production. What About Us has minimal backing with a hard, march style beat and limited electronic effects. Some studio tinkering gives Brandy's voice a sleek metallic edge. On What About Us Brandy complains about being neglected by a guy who made all sorts of promises to her and threatens that she won't put up with him if his behavior continues.
What Am I To You - Norah Jones
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #42 (July 2004) buy it!
Norah Jones' Feels Like Home CD apparently won't match her debut CD's extraordinary sales but, with more than four million sold in 5 months, it's solidified her position as one of music's biggest successes. I guess the secret to Jones' success is that her songs seem exotic or challenging to her adult listeners but they're never so exotic or challenging that they turn those listeners off. What Am I To You, Feels Like Home's second chart hit, is more modest, tasteful, mildly edgy music. On What Am I To You, Jones does the blues. Predictably, her music don't go so far as to suggest real pain. Still, What Am I To You isn't just a smooth, good sounding ride. What Am I To You has flavor and real feeling. Jones' voice often gives her material depth that isn't in the music. Her vocal has longing and evokes an image of her in a thoughtful, private place. I also like guest Levon Helm's jagged beat. It gives a rough jerkiness to the otherwise serene music. Jones' piano has an authentic sounding bluesy moodiness but it might be better if she went beyond her typical minimalism. What I Am To You's slide guitar is fine but never surprising. What Am I To You is the only song on Feels Like Home for which Jones received sole writing credit. It has the same combination of dreaminess and resignation as Come Away With Me's title track, another Jones composition, as well as her breakthrough hit Don't Know Why. Like Don't Know Why, What Am I To You is about looking for a sign of affection from a guy she adores. She sings "you are the sea." She wants to be the person he goes to "when you're feeling low." She'd "give you my last shirt because I love you so" but wonders "if my sky should fall, would you even call." The personal feeling of Jones' voice elevates her easy, nice sounding adult pop.
What If - Creed
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: #8 (March 2000) buy it!
What If, featured on the band's Human Clay CD and the Scream 3 soundrack, finds the band in an even angrier mood than usual. Mark Tremonti plays a hard heavy metal guitar. Scott Stapp screams with uncontrollable rage about society's unfairness and hypocrisy. But Stapp's not going to play the victim. Typically, he invokes the Bible and threatens to avenge, taking an eye for an eye. Perhaps the band's success has gone to Stapp's head. He apparently now believes that the band's fans are a legion of minions willing to fight for the causes he chooses.
What It Feels Like For A Girl - Madonna
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: #49 (May 2001) buy it!
The third single from Madonna's Music CD has become a hit despite MTV's refusal to play its violent video, directed by Madonna's husband Guy Ritchie, depicting a woman's crime spree. What It Feels Like opens with a sample from the movie The Cement Garden which mirrors the lyric's mix of softcore titillation and genuine attempt to sympathize with the plight of a girl who's "strong inside" but encouraged to be weak. Madonna's vocal wisely doesn't tease. It's restrained and pleasant. The music, by Bjork collaborator Guy Sigsworth, has a simple beat and is good, relaxed and atmospheric.
What It Is To Burn - Finch
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #40 (April 2003) buy it!
What It Is To Burn is the title track from the debut record by the band from Temecula, California. What It Is To Burn isn't awful but it is a fairly standard power ballad. The chorus, with a huge sound of crunching guitars and string effects, has a big, yearning feel reminiscent of Our Lady Peace's Somewhere Out There, with the power and excess that suggests. The verses, featuring showy guitar effects, are less interesting. Singer Nate Barcalow seems to have a good, big voice but he's very earnest. He mixes things up, staying restrained on the verses, getting intense on the chorus then going nuts and shrieking "she burns." His explosion into ranting would be more striking if it hadn't already been done on so many other modern rock hits. Finch's big rock anthem sound seems sincere rather than just calculated to make a hit but it's both overly familiar and over the top in being so serious and trying too hard to create a meaningful feel. What It Is To Burn has dramatic imagery. Barcalow wonders about the price of glory and, I guess, admires a woman who's taken chances.
What It Is - Mark Knopfler
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #38 (Oct. 2000) buy it!
Since the huge success of Dire Straits' 1985 Brothers In Arms record, Mark Knopfler has kept a fairly low profile, working on soundtracks and not trying to be too commercial in his subsequent Dire Straits and solo work. What It Is is from Knopfler's new Sailing To Philadelphia CD. What It Is is reminiscent of Knopfler's great work before Money For Nothing. It's a distinctive, textured rocker like Making Movies' Tunnel Of Love. Knopfler's guitar playing is seemingly effortless as he unshowily sprinkles interesting riffs. His assuming voice easily twists around the shifting meters. What It Is is nicely detailed with vignettes about a small Scottish town and lots of observations including the fact "everybody's looking for somebody's arms to fall into."
What Would You Do - City High
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: #24 (Aug. 2001) buy it!
Beyond the facts that their CD is on Wyclef Jean's label and coproduced by him and, like Lauryn Hill, they're from Jersey, comparisons with The Fugees are somewhat appropriate. City High's debut CD is very good, filled with easy grooves that make it a great summer record. They also show a little social consciousness on What Would You Do. What Would You Do, originally featured on the soundtrack to the movie Life, has a smooth feel and good beats. It has nice contrasts. Claudette Ortiz' fluid singing alternates with her bandmates' harder vocals. On What Would You Do, Ortiz plays a single mom explaining how a sad past and financial struggles led her to be a stripper/prostitute. The music toughens up in the song's middle as Robby Pardlo challenges her to "let go of every excuse."
What You Are - Audioslave
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #27 (May 2004) buy it!
A year and a half after its release, Audioslave's debut CD is still yielding modern rock radio hits. What You Are is the fifth top 50 song for the band formed by Rage Against The Machine's musicians and Soundgarden's singer. All the chart hits been solid, ranging in quality from decent to very good. What You Are is unremarkable but fine. It's another showcase for Chris Cornell's quite incredible voice. Cornell's doesn't show much of a sense of fun but he's got quite a set of pipes. Cornell floats along easily with a pensive vocal on the verses. On the chorus he shifts, seeming effortlessly, into a full voiced howl that sounds like he's ripping up his throat's lining. Audioslave's musicians, who played flamboyant, charged music with Rage Against The Machine, have proved surprisingly competent as Cornell's dependable, unshowy backing band. What You Are has more sturdy music. Brad Wilk supplies a steady beat. Tom Morello rumbles quietly and effectively under Cornell on the verses then plays big, arena style power chords on the chorus. He only really musses things up on a short, pointedly unmelodic solo which isn't much but does supply a little variety. What You Are is workmanlike, listenable mainstream rock. Cornell's shifts in intensity reflect the lyric's content. The verses are a resigned recitation of all the things he did for his girlfriend("when you asked for for light, I set myself on fire", "when you wanted blood, I cut my veins"). The chorus reflects the release and exultation of being free from someone who always "wanted more."
What's Luv? - Fat Joe featuring Ashanti
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: #20 (May 2002) buy it!
What's Luv is the first mainstream hit for South Bronx native Joseph Cartagena. Fat Joe, like Ja Rule before him, has made the pop charts by placing his rough voice into a light hip hop setting. What's Luv is laid back and slight like Ja Rule's hits and perhaps even more engaging. What's Luv sounds like Ja Rule's Always On Time and the remixes of J. Lo's I'm Real and Always On Time, which is not surprising, considering that many of the same people were involved in making each record. Fat Joe's voice isn't polished but his parts are wrapped with a relaxed beat in a catchy, bubbly synth riff and surrounded by choruses with Ashanti's ultrasweet singing and Ja Rule's distinctively cocky voice. What's Luv's lyric doesn't say much beyond it's what's love got to do with it(as long as we trust each other) chorus. Fat Joe tells us he doesn't care if you've got a man or whether you're "the office type or like to strip" as long as you have "thick hips" and don't "talk too much." What's Luv is from Fat Joe's Jealous One Still Envy CD(his 1997 CD was called Jealous Ones Envy so he presumably will eventually get around to a CD called something like Jealous Ones Still Envy my Phat Heaviness).
What's My Age Again - Blink 182
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: #9 (Sept. 1999) buy it!
Blink 182 are proudly juvenile. In the video, they play the song and run the streets naked. The lyrics are about doing youthful antics like making tasteless, phony phones and getting nabbed because of caller ID. They called their cd Enema of the State and put a trampy, male fantasy of a woman on the cover. Luckily for them, What's My Age Again has the appealing youthful energy to go with their stupidity. The music is basically a ripoff of Green Day but it's unpretentious fun, fast 3 chord rock.
Whatever It Takes - Sinead Lohan
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #48 (Sept. 1999) buy it!
From the Irish singer/songwriter's No Mermaid CD, Whatever it Takes is good, melodic rock. The story is of a spiritual, centered person feeling compassion and pity for someone living a less reflective life. Lohan creates a nice, cool, smooth mood.
When I'm Gone - 3 Doors Down
Weeks on Chart: 39 Peak: #1 (Feb. 2003) buy it!
Kryptonite, Three Doors Down's breakthrough single off their The Better Life CD, wasn't brilliant but it was at least spirited and gave some sense that the Mississippi band weren't run of the mill rockers. When I'm Gone Away From The Sun is very run of the mill. It's another offering from the intense, humorless school of Creed and their brethren. Brad Arnold's clenched teeth, tough guy delivery is a bore. When I'm Gone definitely isn't fun. Everything about it is meant to show how serious the band is. The power chords pound and When I'm Gone slowly slogs forward. The lyric isn't awful but it's a lot like those by other sensitive hard rockers and its vulnerability is undercut by his vocal's self righteous tones, making his needy requests sound like orders. Arnold tells his love he lives in darkness burdened with secrets. He's partly redeemed by the depth of his love but he's very dependent, needing her to "hold me when I'm scared" and love him even when he's gone.
When It All Goes Wrong Again - Everclear
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #13 (Dec. 2000) buy it!
AM Radio, the second single from Learning How To Smile, the first volume of Songs From An American Movie, has just followed Wonderful to top 40 radio. It will have to compete for airplay with the first single from the new CD: volume two, Good Time For A Bad Attitude. A lot of Everclear's music sounds alike. When It All Goes Wrong Again sounds like Santa Monica and You Make Me Feel Like A Whore, from Sparkle and Fade. Still, it's a good formula. Everclear create an exciting, full sound. Everclear songs, like Wonderful, often start quietly and build to an intense finish. When It All Goes Wrong Again, has an energized sound from start to finish with big drums and guitar chords. Art Alexakis sings and, as usual, screams in the end that he's not afraid of life's inevitable downturns and, in fact, relishes facing his next crisis.
When It's Over - Sugar Ray
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: #7 (June 2001) buy it!
When It's Over is from Sugar Ray's new self titled CD. It wasn't that long ago that Sugar Ray mostly played fast, anarchic ska/metal/dance music. Since then they've found big success by easing to a genial pop sound, especially on 14:59's hits: Every Morning, Falls Apart and Someday. Sugar Ray's sound is likable, even if it's unexciting. Sugar Ray has Someday's charming, unassuming feel. It's well constructed with a pleasant beat and good, subtle keyboards and guitar. Mark McGrath's voice is a little flat and not great but it fits with the music's mood. He's amiable even as he mourns a lost relationship, idealizes his ex, denies it's over("can I still come over") and feels sorry for himself.
When Worlds Collide - Powerman 5000
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: #34 (Oct. 1999) buy it!
Rob Zombie makes an appearance on the band's Tonight the Stars Revolt! CD and When Worlds Collide shares his silly theatrical, wildly overdramatic type of presentation in predicting "the end of all time." The song has a sci-fi feel asking, "is anybody out there."
When You're Falling - Afro Celt Sound System
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: #41 (Sept. 2001) buy it!
Simon Emmerson founded Afro Celt Sound System, bringing in African Irish musicians to experiment with rhythm based sounds. When You're Falling, from the group's third record Further In Time, features long time world music fan Peter Gabriel on guest vocals. Nine years after his last record, Us, it's nice to have Gabriel back on the radio, showing that, working with good material, he can avoid his late career tendency to be overly serious. Gabriel anchors When You're Falling with the kind of passionate but controlled vocal he used for Biko, In Your Eyes and Come Talk To Me. The group's backing vocals, evocative, exotic percussion and string instruments create a joyful mood. When You're Falling is a tribute to a woman who's "a fallen angel with your wings set in light." A warning if you're considering buying the CD: When You're Falling is much more focused than most of Further In Time, which is generally fairly vague beat and atmosphere exercises.
When Youre On Top - The Wallflowers
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #33 (Dec. 2002) buy it!
Jakob Dylans bands Bringing Down The Horse CD, which had the hit One Headlight, went multiplatinum. The Wallflowers success proved short lived. The Breach CD died after getting early radio interest, falling far short of its predecessors sales. When Youre On Top, off the Red Letter Days CD, is largely about wanting to get back with an ex but its also informed by Dylans new commercial reality. Dylans more modest expectations suit him on When Youre On Top. Jakob cant avoid that genetics and upbringing gave him a similar voice to dads. On When Youre On Top the resemblance in Dylans deliberate phrasing and nasal, slightly angry delivery suits him. Jakobs writing will never have the power of Bob Dylans best work but When Youre On Top is dense, rich and good. When Youre On Top is about being jaded and depressed. Bored by a life where hes making new friends but none of them matter, Dylan is looking for new experiences and a thought that I can believe in. Musically, When Youre On Top is a step in the right direction. In the past, The Wallflowers music has often been overly slick and shallow. When Youre On Top strips down the sound and finds a more interesting edge. The verses evoke disconnection, starting with no beat and a cold, throbbing synth then adding a stiff drum machine beat. The chorus is brighter and catchier but its restraint underlines Dylans theme that he feels fine and is doing better but not doing as well as when he was with the one he needs now more than ever.
Whenever Wherever - Shakira
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: #16 (Jan. 2002) buy it!
Colombian soap opera and pop music star Shakira learned English before she wrote and sung the Laundry Service CD. She's charming, pinching or stretching out words and giving them novel pronounciations. The lyrics, about being willing to travel the globe to keep a relationship going with a distant lover, including "lucky my breasts are small and humble so you don't confuse them with mountains", often have a goofy charm. Otherwise, Whenever Wherever has the charms and annoyances of much mainstream Latin pop. Whenever Wherever has a broad, fakey sound and a repetitive beat. It also has the genre's big, loose charm. Shakira's voice is theatrical and slightly hysterical. A pan flute sound supplies an exotic touch.
Where Are We Runnin' ? - Lenny Kravitz
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #2 (June 2004) buy it!
Dig In, from Lenny Kravitz' 2001 Lenny CD, was a pretty perfect piece of psychedelic rock. It was tight and fun. It showed its influences but sounded fresh. Where Are We Runnin', from Kravitz new Baptism CD, is a lot like Dig In but not as perfect. Where Are We Runnin' isn't as developed as Dig In. It's really just a couple of guitar riffs. In some ways, Where Are We Runnin' is just an uninspired classic rock pastiche. As on many Kravitz songs, Sly Stone's anarchic spirit is present. But, especially when Kravitz does a spoken part, the odor of BTO's stale 70's hit Takin' Care Of Business is there too. The start of each verse also resembles ZZ Top's Sharp Dressed Man. Where Are We Runnin' isn't very original but it is mostly enjoyable. Where Are We Runnin' is an unpretentious retro rocker. It doesn't have the attitude of some Kravitz songs. Like Dig In, Where Are We Runnin' has a big, buoyant beat. It also has a fun, fuzzy metallic guitar sound. Where Are We Runnin' is a little like Are You Gonna Go My Way. It doesn't have that song's energy but it also doesn't have that song's sense that Kravitz is showing off that he can replicate his guitar heroes' moves. Where Are We Runnin' is short, simple decent guitar rock. On Where Are We Runnin', Kravitz decides that a life "chasin' the money" in the fast lane is "cloggin' up our soul" and that "we need some time to clear our heads."
Where Are You Going - Dave Matthews Band
Weeks on Chart: 21 Peak: #9 (Sept. 2002) buy it!
The Dave Matthews Band recorded an album's worth of songs in 2000 with producer Steve Lillywhite. Unhappy with the results, the band started from scratch with producer Glen Ballard and a new set of songs and made the Everyday CD. DMB have returned to the songs from the Lillywhite sessions and rerecorded some of them for Busted Stuff, a CD produced by the band and Before These Crowded Streets engineer Steve Harris. They also wrote a few new songs including Where Are You Going. On Where Are You Going DMB do what they do best. Like Crash Into Me and Crush, Where Are You Going is a love song with relaxed, dreamlike music, a leisurely pace and an appealing Matthews' lyric. In an unassuming voice, Matthews sweetly tells a troubled woman "I have no answers for you", "but I do know one thing, where you are is where I belong." With subtle guitar, drums, piano and Leroi Moore's horn, Where Are You Going easily and likably floats by.
Where Do We Go From Here - Filter
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: #16 (Aug. 2002) buy it!
Like much of Filter's music Where Do We Go, the first single from their third CD The Amalgamut, is atmospheric and intense. Musically, Where Do We Go From Here fits somewhere between Take A Picture, Filter's dreamy, mellow hit from their Title Of Record CD, and harder songs, like Hey Man Nice Shot from the Short Bus CD and their Crystal Method collaboration Trip Like I Do. Unfortunately, that means Where Do We Go From Here lacks the energy of Filter's more rocking songs and Take A Picture's pop focus. Where Do We Go From Here, with its steady rock guitar strum, sounds O.K. It has a pretty catchy chorus. It's just not that interesting. Richard Patrick's vocal is fine but, for better or worse, he never really lets loose like he has on Filter's previous radio hits. "Bruised from your fickleness", Patrick sings about wanting "ease from creatures of your greed."
Where Is The Love? - Black Eyed Peas
Weeks on Chart: 24 Peak: #12 (Aug. 2003) buy it!
Black Eyed Peas are a LA based group, led by Will.I.Am, who have made music that combines various forms of hip hop and rock and usually has a positive message. Black Eyed have flirted with success before. Request Line(featuring Macy Gray), from the Bridging The Gap CD, was a minor hit as was Long Beach All Stars' Sunny hours, which had a rap by Will.I.Am. Black Eyed Peas have broken through in a big way with a smash hit that brings to mind classic R&B reflections on the state of the world by Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder as well as more recent ones by Arrested Development, Outkast and Fugees. Where Is The Love, from the Elephunk CD, has a good, light touch. Justin Timberlake helps out, doing a good job singing the chorus in a sweet falsetto. Strings give Where Is The Love a majestic, hopeful feel. The verses are helped by a simple skipping riff under the raps. Black Eyed Peas' three rappers each take a verse. They all have distinctive voices and, even while bemoaning various problems, they don't contradict the theme that the situation can be helped with love. The first verse urges people not to just focus on terrorism but to work on the hatreds that exist within our country. The second verse starts with the fairly standard idea that love is better than dropping bombs then refers to a war going on for a secret reason. The third verse attacks a world where "most of us only care about money makin'" and "wrong information is always shown by the media." Regardless of the specifics of the words, Where Is The Love's easy flow and upbeat vibe make it one of the summer's best singles.
Where My Girls At? - 702
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: #43 (Sept. 1999) buy it!
The hit from the female vocal group's 702 CD is well crafted with a good beat and a nice shifting dynamic though you might feel like you've heard it before. The song is fairly repetitive, always getting back to the warning not to "try to take my man."
Where The Party At - Jagged Edge
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: #44 (Oct. 2001) buy it!
Where The Party At is from the Jagged Little Thrill CD by the group led by twin brothers Brandon and Brian Casey. Nelly contributes his distinctive rap and uh-ohs. Like Nelly's work, Where The Party At mixes lyrics glamorizing a silly, decadent lifestyle with very appealing, relaxed music. The lyrics depict a cartoonish, Bacardi filled world where you've got to "represent your side" or "catch a hot one" and girls are "showin' that skin tryin' to make a nigga wanna spend." But Jermaine Dupri's production is remarkable, keeping things easy but never letting the energy wane. Where The Party At has good beats and subtle, tuneful guitar and piano sounds. The vibe is almost too mellow but the vocals are good and smooth.
Wherever You Will Go - Calling
Weeks on Chart: 32 Peak: #3 (Jan. 2002) buy it!
Wherever You Will Go, from the Camino Palmero CD, spent six weeks on the chart this summer thanks to rock radio play. It's returned to the chart and rocketed near the top as the kind of catchy, sappy song pop stations love. Wherever You Will Go's extreme earnestness and Alex Band's deep, prematurely old sounding vocal place Calling along with Lifehouse as followers of Creed's model. Wherever You Will Go is apparently about someone contemplating his death and how his wife will go on without him. Band wonders "who will be there to take my place when I'm gone" and hopes to come back as some sort of spirit "to watch you, to guide you." The maudlin lyrics aren't helped by the dopey "if I could, then I would", "way up high or down low" chorus. With sensitive verses and rock guitar on the chorus, Wherever You Will Go has the slick lite rock sound nailed.
White Flag - Dido
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: #22 (Dec. 2003) buy it!
White Flag is more polite, ambient music from Dido Armstrong. Dido originally broke through after piece of her song Thank You was used on Eminem's Stan. White Flag, from Dido's Life For Rent CD, is another pleasant song that could use a more exciting context. It begs for a big beat remix. Dido wrote White Flag with her regular song writing partner, her brother Rollo, and Rick Nowels, who's worked with mellow artists like Clay Aiken and Belinda Carlisle. With its atmospheric synths and muted beats, White Flag is sleek and cool but kind of drab. It's perfect yuppie background music. It has a touch of style that differentiates it a little from other easy listening. White Flag is a bit of a bore but I enjoy its smooth ride. Though she could show a little more life(her delivery of the start of the verses is painfully slow), Dido's voice is clear, straight forward and good. She and the song have a British reserve that I find fascinating. On White Flag, Dido quietly proclaims that she won't give up hope that a seemingly dead relationship can be revived.
Whole New You - Shawn Colvin
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: #47 (April 2001) buy it!
The title track for the Whole New You CD isn't as striking as Colvin's fluke smash hit Sunny Came Home but it's another nice addition to her body of smart, tuneful adult pop rock singles like Steady On and Round Of Blues. Colvin gives a friend a pep talk, advising "shake the loneliness and shine the light." Whole New You has a good, easy feel with understated but effective guitar and keyboards. The chorus is likable and it's probably not Colvin's fault that it reminds me of Starship's 80's relic Nothing Gonna Stop Us Now.
The Whole World - Outkast
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: #47 (April 2002) buy it!
After getting surprising but well deserved Grammy nominations and awards for the Stankonia CD and Ms. Jackson single, Outkast are back on the pop chart with a new song from their hits collection Big Boi & Dre Present Outkast. Besides having great beats and the skilled raps of Andre 3000 and Big Boi, Stankonia bursted with ideas. Its two dozen songs mixed smarts and goofing around, often on the same song. The Whole World's sound is more on the goofy side. The backup vocals sound like they're sung by Muppets. The music track has a loose feel with chimes and a repeated beat that's like machinery clanging. Whole World's three rappers are all fast and fluid but otherwise provide interestingly contrasting styles. They only touch on the chorus' idea that "the whole world loves it when you sing the blues." Andre 3000 presents a confused mind. He urges haters to look forward not behind but threatens "your head I'll sever from the neck." Guest rapper Killer Mike does the most standard rap, telling us "my focus is crime" and bragging "my words are diamonds" and "I catch a beat runnin' like Randy Moss." Big Boi is depressed by what he sees on the TV but still hopeful about dismissing hate and extreme prejudice and doing "all things that are doable." Regardless of the sentiments of its raps, nothing about them stops The Whole World's easy, likable flow.
Why Can't I - Liz Phair
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #31 (Dec. 2003) buy it!
Liz Phair gained a devoted following with her debut CD Exile In Guyville. Exile's songs presented a confident, complicated woman who reveled in her sexuality. The fact that Phair's voice wasn't big or smooth only increased a sense of individuality. When Phair's self titled fourth CD came out last June, it was met by accusations of betrayal and a clear sense of abandonment from some fans. Most notably, a review(titled Exile In Avril-ville) on the front of the New York Times' Arts and Leisure section charged her with selling out and basically selling her soul for a chance of mainstream success. It seems a little harsh to begrudge Phair a shot at bigger sales, especially since the record isn't that bad. Liz Phair, recorded in many sessions with various producers during the five years since the release of her whitechocolatespaceegg CD, is of mixed quality but mostly good, especially on the songs produced by Michael Penn and Phair. It combines songs with commercial ambitions and more personal ones in a somewhat unwieldy manner. Liz Phair has a very sweet song about her son, a dumbed down rocker(Rock Me), songs(appreciating a guy's "hot, white come" and comparing a guy to her favorite underwear) which try a bit too hard to be outrageous and a bunch of likable pop rockers, like the ones she had on her previous two CDs, that are less raw than Phair's Exile songs but still have her personality. The songs that most rile Phair's longtime supporters are the four co-written and produced by The Matrix(Lauren Christy, Scott Spock and Graham Edwards), who have done hits for Avril Lavigne and other teen favorites. Among them are two slick, musically anonymous rockers that merit disdain. But Why Can't I, which finally made it to the top 50 after spending more than five months near it, is a near perfect match of Phair's charms and The Matrix's studio smarts. Phair's vocal is polished up but her idiosyncracies still shine through in lines like "we're already wet and we're gonna go swimming." Why Can't I's music has a touch of tv commercial type glibness but it's quite brilliantly constructed. Pieces I like include Corky James' watery guitar sound and the way the chorus crashes in a little bigger the last time around. The hook, with power chords stomping in all the right places, is ridiculously catchy. Why Can't I does a nice job of capturing the excitement of a new romance.
Why Does It Always Rain On Me - Travis
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: #42 (June 2000) buy it!
Travis have replaced Oasis as the biggest pop band in the U.K. To an extent, Travis seem like the anti-Oasis. Oasis are always internally feuding and seem obnoxious and arrogant. Except when their lyrics are dissing Oasis and others, Travis came across as polite and unassuming. Oasis' music is often based on electric guitar and psychedelic era Beatles. Travis is much mellower. Their Man Who CD is pleasant but hardly rocking. Why Does It Always Rain On Me, based around an acoustic guitar and violin, is typical of the Travis sound. The singing and lyrics are sad and sincere. Fran Healy sings that he can't stand himself and is unable to find peace even when "everybody says everything's alright." He seems serious when he asks if his luck is bad because he lied when he was 17.
Why Don't You & I - Santana
Weeks on Chart: 22 Peak: #9 (Nov. 2003) buy it!
The success of Carlos Santana's two comeback CDs has got to be one of the oddest recent stories in pop music. Santana doesn't sing or write most of the songs. His contribution is mostly a bit of guitar doodling, his name and a hippie/classic rock vibe. The key to Santana's late career resurgence is the idea, originally hatched by Clive Davis, of pairing him with singer/songwriters who are less than half his age and popular with the kids. Santana's teammates seem to be getting steadily younger. The Shaman CD's first single teamed Santana with prototeen Michelle Branch. Why Don't You & I teams Santana with Alex Band, the 22 year old singer from The Calling. Why Don't You & I is very lightweight bubblegum pop but it is charming. Band's vocal is almost unbearably sunny but it fits the song's upbeat feel and is much more appealing than his showily earnest singing on The Calling's hit Wherever You Will Go. There's nothing new to Santana's playing but he has a great sense of crowd pleasing sounds. His easy riffs help the verses' breezy mood. Crunching power chords alternate with Santana's jamming to make the chorus irresistably catchy and Santana's solo is smart, tight and unshowy. The surprise about Why Don't You & I is that it was written by Nickelback's Chad Kroeger, who sings the album version. Light and fun are not words I associate with the normally lugubrious, overly meaningful Mr. Kroeger but Why Don't You & I has a nice light touch. Why Don't You & I's "heads we will and tails we'll try again" line is cute. So are the sweetly deployed cliches images(perfect for Mr. Band's youthful persona) of being "a lovesick puppy" with a stomach "filled with the butterflies" "bouncing round from cloud to cloud" and "walking around with little wings on my shoes".
Why Georgia - John Mayer
Weeks on Chart: 21 Peak: #31 (April 2003) buy it!
Why Georgia is the third chart hit from the young singer/songwriter's Room For Squares CD. More than a year after No Such Thing first hit the chart, my thoughts about Mayer are basically the same. Mayer has a mellow, mildly whimsical style that would normally be consistent with an older artist who is tired and slowing down or bemused after years of facing life's absurdities. It's odd to me that someone in his mid 20s seems so unambitious and self satisfied. The frankly sexual Your Body Is A Wonderland was charmingly cheeky but Yes Georgia is just more pleasant, vague, easy listening. Mayer again deploys a vocal that's sly and engaging but has little force. Mayer is apparently a good guitar player but he's careful not to be too showy, only displaying his skills in very limited bursts. I don't know whether it symbolizes an urge to leave his mild, smooth work behind and make more challenging music but on Why Georgia, Mayer sings about being tempted to leave his drab, lonely Georgia life behind, asking "am I living it right?" Mayer asks whether he should take a chance and tells himself he can't be satisfied with "everything happens for a reason."
Why I'm Here - Oleander
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: #12 (Sept. 1999) buy it!
From the cd February Son, Why I'm Here is extremely reminiscent of Nirvana's Heart Shaped Box or Rape Me. That's not a bad thing. The whisper to a scream dynamic with a touch of strings is quite gripping. The intensity is real and the hook is still catchy. However, the gloominess and lack of originality put a limit on how good they can be.
Why Part 2 - Collective Soul
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: #3 (Nov. 2000) buy it!
Why, Part 2 is the first single from the Georgia band's Blender CD. Like Gel and Where The River Flows from their debut record, Why has a chunky, hard guitar riff. However, they hedge their bets, trying to appeal to a mainstream audience with keyboards and sleek production. Typically for Collective Soul, the result is music that's listenable but not particularly distinctive or memorable. In the lyrics, Ed Roland feels sorry for himself and wonders how love slipped away, leaving him "alone with the blame."
Wild, Wild West - Will Smith
Weeks on Chart: 1 Peak: #31 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
Smith has a clear pattern for his recent music. He picks a very popular 70's song for the backing track and doesn't mess with it too much. The goal is to appeal to hip hop fans and a broader pop audience. Smith is a very popular performer and has an appealing rap persona. He showed skills on Gettin Jiggy Wit It but generally he could be more adventuresome. The best thing about Wild, Wild West, from the soundtrack of his movie, is that it reminds you how great Stevie Wonder's I Wish is. But like other rap pop hits it makes you wonder, if he's not to going to add much to a classic, why not just do it as a straight remake or leave it alone.
Will You - P.O.D.
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #16 (Dec. 2003) buy it!
For anyone who didn't understand the obvious, portentous imagery P.O.D. tries to evoke with their name, they've called their new CD Payable On Death. For a while, P.O.D. found success and a comfort zone for their big, self important sound in big topics like school shootings(Youth Of The Nation) and being born again(Alive). When they tackle more mundane subjects, their bloated self righteousness seems more ridiculous. By nearly quoting it, Will You brings to mind Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, reminding us that fraught emotions can be communicated simply and much more appealingly. As usual, P.O.D.'s guitars are pretty good but trapped in an overblown song and forced to follow Sonny Sandoval's histrionics. Will You apparently is about an unhappy woman who's manipulated by her man. But Sandoval's whining, ranting and emoting totally undercut any empathy he's trying to show.
Will2k - Will Smith
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: #44 (Dec. 1999) buy it!
The first CD from his Willenium CD is more genial, mass appeal rap from Smith. Rock the Casbah was a good choice of a backing track and the rap and the music flow nicely. Smith is almost proudly edgeless. He avoids the misogyny or politics of other rappers. Will2k doesn't have any apocalyptic concerns, he mentions Y2K fears of chaos then says, who cares, he just want to have a fun New Year's eve party.
Wish You Were Here - Incubus
Weeks on Chart: 33 Peak: #5 (Dec. 2001) buy it!
Incubus follow their mellow megasuccess Drive with a song reminiscent of Make Yourself's other singles. Wish You Were Here, the first single from the Morning View CD, has Pardon Me's record scratching and Stellar's spacy atmosphere. As on Drive, the lyrics show a sincere, slightly sappy, decency. Brandon Boyd sings about being in an idyllic setting. The you he wishes were here are apparently extraterrestrials. Wish You Were Here is good sounding, if unremarkable. Big guitars beef up a basically poppy song.
With Arms Wide Open - Creed
Weeks on Chart: 43 Peak: #2 (Nov. 2000) buy it!
There probably will always be a demand for big, pretentious arena rock. After a year in the top 50, Higher is finally off the chart but With Arms Wide Open and other songs from the Human Clay CD will keep Creed on the chart for a while. With Arms Wide Open is another sweeping and basically empty rock ballad. Scott Stapp copped Eddie Vedder's serious intensity and delivers it with even less of a sense of humor. With Arms Wide Open has the band's typical big guitars and extremely serious vocals. At least, the subject matter is more appealing than Stapp's usual religious tirades. He actually sounds a little humble as he welcomes his baby to the world.
With My Own Two Hands - Ben Harper
Weeks on Chart: 14 Peak: #35 (June 2003) buy it!
Ben Harper's new CD is called Diamonds on the Inside. Harper often integrates various world musics into his music. He's done other songs with a reggae flavor but With My Own Two Hands is probably his most complete evocation of the Bob Marley & The Wailers sound. With My Own Two Hands sounds very authentic. It's got the right keyboard skank, a big, rubbery bass and nice light, slinky drums. With My Own Two Hands sounds right but it doesn't do anything for me. It shows an ability to recapture a sound but doesn't add anything new or personal to that sound. I prefer The Horizon Has Been Defeated, the recent single by Harper's buddy Jack Johnson, which has a reggae flavor but also has a distinctive personality. Harper's vocal is always confident and it's usually appealingly cool. But especially in the unoriginal context, Harper comes across as complacent. It's hard to argue with the message that we can all make the world a better place but Harper seems a little too pleased with himself for having the idea.
With You - Jessica Simpson
Weeks on Chart: 22 Peak: #10 (March 2004) buy it!
I don't know much about Jessica Simpson except that she's married to some guy from boy group 98 Degrees and that she seems like an air head. Obviously, someone has decided that she should be a star because she's on tv a lot and she's gotten the star treatment with a carefully produced single that can't help be a hit. With You, from Simpson's In This Skin CD, is nicely constructed, if somewhat generic easy listening music. It reminds me of other hits including TLC's Unpretty or Natalie Imbruglia's Torn. With You, written by pop journeymen Billy Mann and Andy Marvel has a decent skittery beat and lite pop guitar, synths and backing vocals. Simpson's breathy voice is pleasant enough to help the song move along innocuously. The sensuality of her vocal has undoubtedly help it become a big hit. But Simpson's singing otherwise so lacks edge or substance that it helps confirm the impression of Simpson as fakey and a bit cartoonish and having little but her sexiness to offer. So does With You's video, which ridiculously depicts the fabulous babe starlet as a regular gal working around the house. With You's awful lyric is like a bad soft core porn script or the article around Playboy pictures. We're told that Jessica is a regular gal who wears Levis, likes to sit around "with nothing but a t-shirt on" and laugh all night and didn't feel beautiful before she was "with you."
Without Me - Eminem
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: #4 (July 2002) buy it!
The anticipated first single from The Enimen Show is no disappointment unless you expect Marshall to suddenly become mature. Like most of Eminem's work, Without Me is a mix of good music, very strong rap technique and lyrics that are simultaneously smart, stupid, interesting, offensive and ridiculous. Musically, Without Me is as impressive as anything he's ever done. Without Me is a little like The Real Slim Shady but it's tougher and sharper. Dr. Dre has wisely dropped the broad, cartoonish sound he used on Slim Shady and other songs in favor of an austere sound that's mostly just a driving beat. Eminem's rap is amazingly tight. He doesn't seem to take a breath as the words race out of his mouth. Aided by Dre's menacing touches, Eminem is more aggressive and focused than ever but he still displays the distinctive personality and his words still flow smoothly. Without Me has Eminem's usual mix of rants, good jokes and idiocy. While his negative image is largely self inflicted and has undoubtedly sold records, Eminem's paranoia is somewhat justified. It's hard to argue with his premise that the same media that "try to shut me down" likes it when his controversial acts give them material. But Eminem shows the same anger over trivial grievances as substantial ones. Calling Moby a "36 year old baldheaded fag" seems like a strained effort to be provocative by obviously showing he's still homophobic. Given the issues he could address, dissing N Sync again seems like a waste. Eminem shows his skills at packing in a lot of topics so we also get Eminem cursing his mother out for suing him, his backhanded boast that he uses "black music so selfishlessly", "to get myself wealth" and a reference to Malcolm McLaren's Buffalo Girls. Without Me is another look at Eminem's often foolish, self centered worldview but also another interesting, musically compelling work.
Woke Up This Morning - A3
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: #25 (March 2000) buy it!
It's unlikely Woke Up This Morning would be a hit if there wasn't such a buzz around the Sopranos. The song has a cool, hip edge. But unlike the great HBO show, it seems a little gimmicky, with beeping electronic music. The writing of the series is usually more subtle then the lyrics of its theme, "woke up this morning, got myself a gun."
Wonderful - Everclear
Weeks on Chart: 22 Peak: #1 (Aug. 2000) buy it!
Everclear has two new CDs released under the name Songs From An American Movie. The single version of Wonderful is from Volume One: Learning How To Smile. After disclosing some of his life story on So Much For The Afterglow's Father of Mine, Art Alexakis shares more on Wonderful and his story about the effect his parents' breakup had on him is pretty touching. Alexakis sings as an angry youth who wants his life to be the same as it used to be and doesn't want people to insult him by saying things are fine now. The music resembles I Will Buy You a New Life and other Everclear songs, starting quietly then building in force with undulating keyboards, power chords and Alexakis' screamed no's. However, the mellower start is a little longer and sadder than usual, consistent with the sad tone of the song.
Work It - Missy Elliott
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: #22 (Dec. 2002) buy it!
After having her pop breakthrough with Get Ur Freak Out, one of the best singles of 2001, Missy Ellott has come back in 2002 with another great single thats an even bigger hit. Everything about Work It, from Elliotts Under Construction CD, is cool, smart and appealing smooth. Work It, produced by Timbaland, is ingenious. Tight editing, unrelenting music and Elliotts fast, fluid vocal create an irresistable urgency but Work It also feels relaxed and unrushed. Elliots rap is both confident and playful and unpretentious. Work It refreshingly presents a young woman whos overtly sexual but is neither a slut nor a maneater. Elliott knows that she doesnt look like a Halle Berry poster but shes lost a few pounds and knows her smarts accentuate her sexiness. Work Its sound, with emphatic sonic effects in place of naughty words and tape reverses, is appropriately loose and irreverent. Work It keeps moving with a sensual looped sample and a good, inobtrusive, percussion laced beat thats steady except for breaks allowing Elliott to emphasize key points. Like Eminems best 2002 work, Work It combines skilled technique, smart production and a confident persona, to make one of the best singles of the year.
Workin' It - Don Henley
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: #13 (April 2000) buy it!
Workin' It is from Inside Job, Henley's first studio album in more than a decade. Judging by Workin' It, the new music wasn't worth the wait. Workin' It is a tired diatribe. Henley, who made millions making easy rock with the Eagles, delivers the shocking news that we live in a society where "packaging is all there is" and corporate America tries to sell us things we don't really need. Workin It' is similar to Dirty Laundry, an earlier Henley protest song. The music here is big and overproduced but is pretty draggy and unmelodic and definitely doesn't rock.