Summer suns and some aren't

Going steady with the singles of the summer

LEN, "Steal My Sunshine": A song so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, you expect it to follow you to school then jump up and lick your face, but the rest of the album gets electronica-geeky with the quickness, so, like, beware. Somewhere Andrea True is cashing a much needed check, which is reason enough to show these Canadians some love. (7.0)

Lenny Kravitz, "American Woman": Mind you, it's not a good song, but it sounds so much like a demo that you wonder why it's on the radio, and suddenly you're focusing on the fact that Kravitz is able to actually pull it off. A little. Lenny's always tried to make that anxiety-of-paisley-influence thing work for him, and mostly he's failed, but if you're gonna cover a bombastic '60s hit, it takes a certain kind of cajones to remove most of the bombast. Apparently American Teens, about half of them of them American Women, had no idea this was a cover. It stands to reason they're also not sure that it was intended as a dis at the time. Hell, maybe Lenny doesn't know either. A good three points added for the hottest video maybe ever, featuring girls, bikes, girls on bikes, flags, explosions, exploding flags, more girls, and Heather Graham playing The American Woman Sex Goddess Of The '90s If Not The Late 20th Century And Don't You Forget It. (6.9)

LFO, "Summer Girls": So completely a ready-made summer hit that the whole thing nearly smacks of effort, which I'd never thought I'd say about a song from guys secure enough in both their masculinity and their wallets to call themselves Lyte Funky Ones. The year they're talking about is 1989 (the number, another summer, sound of the funky drummer -- oops, sorry) for those of you up nights wondering. The girls come, the girls go; some write you when you get back to school, others you never hear from again, and you shake the sand from your suit. My only caveat: When was the last time you saw a girl in an Abercrombie and Fitch ad? (8.9)

It doesn't matter how much you pray, Puffy. Biggie ain't coming back to revive your career.
Yariv Milchan
It doesn't matter how much you pray, Puffy. Biggie ain't coming back to revive your career.
From Mouseketeer to "Genie in a Bottle": Christina Aguilera delivered one of the finest singles of this, or any, summer. Well...
From Mouseketeer to "Genie in a Bottle": Christina Aguilera delivered one of the finest singles of this, or any, summer. Well...

Limp Bizkit, "Nookie": It's nice to know that some people still have no idea that the phrase "rock and roll" at one time stood, more or less, for "nookie." As a wise man once said of AC/DC, "not a brain cell to spare." But it's important to remember that there was a time when these guys were worse. And as someone who sat through OZZFest this year, I can tell you that second-tier neo-metal-hop acts get much, much worse. You don't have to make it a way of life to bang your head to the giant choruses, and in fact, please don't. Point added for a guitarist much scarier than the first hour of The Blair Witch Project. (6.0)

Lil Troy and, like, 30 of his closest pals, "Wanna Be a Baller": Make 'em say "dirty, dirty," baby. Troy jumps out like the bastard son of Nate Dogg (somebody remembers) and our man P in New Orleans. Indeed, continuing to show Yankees that Southern hip-hop can clock dollars jes' like the left and right coasts is indeed "makin' money the fly way." (8.0)

Madonna, "Beautiful Stranger": Her Worship buries her best song-qua-song since "Like a Prayer" on a soundtrack, which is only the latest trick she yanked from black pop. (Check out the otherwise uninteresting 1997 Money Talks soundtrack for the astonishing title track, a mob epic starring Lil Kim and Timbaland's all-time deepest groove -- but I digress.) Listen to that glorious nasal break on the chorus: talk about old-school -- that's a "Borderline" sound, baby, a sound that takes you back to being touched for the very first time. Beautiful strangers are the staff of life, and this three-minute heaven-slice makes you feel like you just got home better and clearer than Ray of Light's music-of-spheres shtick. (9.5)

Puff Daddy, "P.E. 2000": It was a rough year for pretty much everyone in hip-hop whose joints went skyrocket in the nine-seven. Look at the Wu: a tribe of gods in disarray, like the Norse deities after Ragnarok, or the Olympians after they realized Christianity was around the corner. The new GZA? Terrrible. Deck? About a third as good as it should've been. Puffy's empire is in tiny pieces, what with Mase off with Jesus and the Lox out the door, and he responded by damn near having a breakdown right in the public eye. This useless Public Enemy jack didn't really help. (2.5)

Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Scar Tissue": It's tough to figure out which Peppers are more annoying: the frat-funkers or the post-dryout crooners. Man, talk about scar tissue: Have you seen John Frusciante lately? The man is a walking Partnership for a Drug Free America ad. Take a look at the photos circa Mother's Milk for details. Yes, ladies, he was beautiful once. A mopey L.A. ballad cut from the same mopey L.A. ballad cloth that brought 'em all the Behind the Music fuel they could handle when this song was called "Under the Bridge." (4.0)

Chris Rock, "No Sex": Cornbread -- ain't nothing wrong with that. Ain't nothing wrong with a song parody that doesn't even count as one, really, because even six months after the fact, no one remembers Baz Luhrmann's "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)" moron-a-thon. You got sage advice from the most deservedly popular comic ever, a dope beat thanks to Prince Paul (whose A Prince Among Thieves is the most consistent and complex hip-hop album of the year), and guest moaning courtesy of Gerald Levert. Ain't nothing wrong with those things either. Perfect. (10.0)

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