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State of the Airwaves

DJs, Dullness, and Dangerman

By Daniel J. Katz

This is the first edition of a column that will dissect and analyze the singles that are currently getting airplay on MTV and rock radio around the country. These songs range from the cutting edge of alternative music to the pop tunes that incessantly hound you like a stalker.

* Previously, it looked like the peak of electronica in the United States would always be the #1 debut of Prodigy’s “The Fat of the Land”. However, it looks like Fat Boy Slim has become the genre’s newest superstar. Although “Praise You” is not by any means Norman Cook’s best work, it has bought him mainstream exposure (due in no small part to the hilariously minimalist video), and the British DJ now has five (count ’em, five) songs that appear in current commercials. If he can get out another successful single before the public gets tired of him, he may open the door to a resurgence of big beat in America.

* Meanwhile, in a lower profile effort, Underworld is back after about three years with a somewhat repetitive but wonderfully rhythmic single called “Push Upstairs”. The length and mundaneness make it an unlikely contender for high radio play, but its likely to make a mark on the club music scene.

* If your second single is meant to show contrast and versatility, Eagle-Eye Cherry has failed miserably with “Falling In Love Again,” a song that’s not particularly better or worse than “Save Tonight” -- mainly because it sounds almost exactly the same. If you know a second rhythm to strum, Mr. Cherry, feel free to show us.

* I’ve always been a big advocate of short songs with catchy guitar riffs; it’s easy to enjoy something that gets in, makes its point in a memorable way, and gets out. In that vein, I’m very fond of Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy” and Dangerman’s “Lets Make A Deal”. The former combines an angry guitar part and melodic vocals, while the latter features Latin rhythms and backup vocals behind a lead singer with an oh so cool edge. These tracks warrant maxing the volume on my radio.

* “Everybody’s Free” by Baz Luhrmann -- okay, I admit, it’s cute at first, but if I want someone’s advice on life, I’ll listen to talk radio. I really don’t need to hear Kurt Vonnegut’s words over some badly written music instead of, say, the new Sponge single.

* In the “let’s reinvent ourselves for our new single” race, the results are in. The winners are the Cranberries and Promises, which display Irish ire not seen since Zombie. The semi-losers are Blur, who go gospel on “Tender”. It’s growing on me, but really slowly, and the nature of radio isn’t kind to songs that take a while to adjust to.

* And last, but not least, the new Ben Folds Five has finally hit the airwaves in the form of “Army”. Ben Folds peaked commercially with “Brick” and in my opinion, peaked musically with “One Angry Dwarf” and “200 Solemn Faces”. Well, “Army” seems to jump back and forth between the styles of those two songs. Guess which parts sound out of place? The Brickesque bits. But in general, still a good song.

I hope you enjoyed the first edition of this column. If you have any feedback, e-mail And until next time, keep expanding your horizons.