Swimming up (and down) the mainstream

By The Columbia Chronicle

Singles are the songs that give you an impression of an artist. Singles are the ones you remember. Last year, it was a “Semi-Charmed” kind of summer. There wasn’t a rock heavy enough to crawl under where you couldn’t hear the incessant “Doo doo doo, doo doo-doo doos” echoing across the airwaves.

This year was full of highs and lows, just like any other year in the mainstream of music consciousness. Some singles made me get up and dance. Others made me want to vomit.

In no particular order, here is what I loved about 1998:

“Rockafeller Skank,” Fatboy Slim. Sure, he may not be the purest DJ on the market, but he gets to the point. “Right about now, the funk soul brothers.”

“Jump Jive An’ Wail,” Brian Setzer Orchestra. I love my Gap Khakis. They swing.

“Fly Away,” Lenny Kravitz. He may have shaved off those awesome dreads, but Lenny can still lay down some great licks.

“Intergalactic,” Beastie Boys. “If you try to knock me you’ll get mocked / I’ll stir-fry you in my wok.” That is the lyric of the year.

“My Way,” Usher. This kid has the skills to be a huge star, and “My Way” has to be the smoothest jam of the year.

“Crush,” Dave Matthews Band. MTV and the radio (except for XRT) did no justice by chopping this one apart, cutting it down by almost three minutes. But when I hear that opening bass line, I start to melt almost immediately.

“Too Close,” Next. I just love getting jiggy to this song. And speaking of that….

“Gettin’ Jiggy Wit’ It,” Will Smith. There’s no two ways around it. Big Willie put out the best dance track of the year. And I can’t stop saying that I’ve got to get jiggy with everything.

“London Rain (Nothing Heals Me Like You Do),” Heather Nova. She is one of those “first-track-wonders.” On her previous album “Oyster,” “Walk This World” was a great lead into a less-gratifying complete record. It is the same way with her 1998 effort, “Siren.” Nova puts the best song first, and leaves only a few highlights scattered across the rest of the album. I must admit that I liked this song even more after it was used as the “Dawson and Joey Song” on “Dawson’s Creek.”

“It’s All About Me,” Mya. It’s all about her, her, her, her, her.

“Walking After You,” Foo Fighters. What a nice song. That is about the only thing I can say about it. While listening to it, I just felt really nice all over.

“Doo Wop (That Thing),” Lauryn Hill. L-Boogie took time out from her fellow Refugee All-Stars to create one of the best albums of the year. “That Thing” was the single that I couldn’t get out of my head, but I didn’t mind it being there.

“Inside Out,” Eve 6. One of the few good tunes to come out of the Q101 ranks this summer.

“You Get What You Give,” New Radicals. The lead singer has Marilyn Manson after him now and that is good enough for me.

“Changes,” Tupac Shakur. Puffy ripped off The Police, so when Tupac reached for his copy of Bruce Hornsby and The Range, it seemed like the next logical step. Yes, this is a new single, and I think it proves what I’ve been thinking about for the past two years: He’s not dead. I’m telling you, Tupac (or Makaveli, or whatever he wants to call himself) is living in the Alps somewhere, and soon enough, maybe in 1999, he will reappear with the phattest hip – hop record of all time!

Now for the fun part. Some music has a way of bringing out a sheer hatred from deep inside of me.

Here is what I hated about 1998:

“Torn,” Natalie Imbruglia. This song was much better in 1995 when a Los Angeles band called Ednaswap played it with the enthusiasm and wailing guitars necessary to make it an alt-radio hit. But nobody listened, and three years later it has come to this: a sappy pop song sung by an Australian soap star.

“I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” Aerosmith. Please. I mean, did you see the video for this? It was a two-and-a-half hour waste of money called “Armageddon.” Yikes.

“Sex and Candy,” Marcy Playground. Perhaps the worst song of the year, Marcy Playground hit it big with lyrics like “Mama this surely is a dream, yeah.” I nearly shot many a speaker after hearing the first five seconds of this one and I’m glad to see they are finally starting to go away.

“The Way,” Fastball. Another radio staple this year, but certainly not one of my favorites. I can’t remember how many times I had to change the station after hearing the start of this song.

“Flagpole Sitta,” Harvey Danger. Could this song be any more annoying? I just wish this guy would shut up.

“The Boy Is Mine,” Brandy and Monica. This song might have made these two young divas as angry as it made me. The rumors of a catfight between them continue to swirl. If the rumors are true, they ought to just set up a ring on the UPN and have the ladies duke it out after “Moesha.”

“Lullaby,” Shawn Mullins. He doesn’t sing, but instead speaks through the verses the way Lou Reed has done for many years. He’s not Lou Reed. “Everything’s gonna be all right” if they stop playing this song on the radio.

“My Heart Will Go On,” Celine Dion. Do I have to explain?

“Closing Time,” Semisonic. These guys are this year’s version of Better Than Ezra, and that is not necessarily a “Good” thing (sorry, I couldn’t help it). I know it’s not the worst song of the year, but do I have to hear it every time I am forced to leave a bar?

Well, that seems like a fitting end to my rants and raves. And that just about does it for this year in the mainstream. I hope that we don’t have to party like it’s 1999 too much next year, because I might have to get angry again.