October 1, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 19  

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Nelly and Missy win the race

the single guy
By Brian Wong

Nelly Furtado:

Music's other Nelly makes her long-awaited return with a surprising country-dance song that's as joyous as Alanis' "So Pure." No joke! The first single from her upcoming Folklore disc (Nov. 25) begins innocently enough with some laid-back, bossanova-style guitar strumming. But then a thumping dance beat kicks in! And then a frenetic banjo enters! Furtado's vocals are in top form - almost like those of feisty Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks - as she muses, "'Cause this life is too short/To live it just for you." It would have been the perfect Blackout 2003 theme song.

Missy Elliott:
"Pass That Dutch"

Fresh off her MTV Video Music Awards victory, Missy Elliott will release her fifth record This is Not a Test (Nov. 25). There's even one part on this kooky first single in which a breathless Elliott cries, "Oh, thank you! You all are so wonderful!" to the sounds of a cheering crowd. It's not as instantly classic as "Work It," but its mix of deep robotic bass line, patty-cake handclaps, tribal chants, rubbery synths and orgasmic yells eventually makes it irresistible.

Saves the Day:
"Anywhere With You"

There's something pure about Chris Conley's voice, especially on this Ash-like track off their latest release In Reverie. It's a voice that's simply squeaky clean, bringing to mind the wholesomeness of Buddy Holly, as Conley croons about a dream girl. With muscled, distorted guitar riffs (the Weezerness inside them), a hard-driving beat and some peppy "whoooo!" harmonies, the song reveals their love for inoffensive '50s and '60s rock 'n' roll.

Michelle Branch:

Here's someone I wish would be more offensive. The scowling and growling on "Are You Happy Now?" had as much vitriol as when baby Bubbles of the Powerpuff Girls gets angry. She should be more like dark-haired Buttercup who can pull off the girl-with-rage act. Man, I love the Powerpuff Girls. Anyway, I'm still waiting for Branch to snap. It's not going to happen with "Breathe" though - the song is another catchy, watered-down anthem geared to teeny-boppers who think they rock but really don't.

Josh Groban:
"You Raise Me Up"

Clay Aiken's biggest competition outdoes himself - if you can even call it that. The cinematic violins, the lilting piano, the gospel choir... Who needs church?




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