Author

Elysa Gardner

Third Eye Blind

The trouble with guitar pop bands in the ’90s basically boils down to this: Too many of today’s young musicians grew up worshipping R.E.M. – and for the wrong reasons. Many aspire to the beta-male earnestness that informs both R.E.M.’s jangly songs and their anti-rock star image. But few have matched the group’s ability to use melody, rhythm, and dynamics in smart and exciting ways.

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Natalie Imbruglia is the newest angst pop princess

As Australian soap star-turned-songstress Natalie Imbruglia prepares to make her American TV debut March 6 on MTV Live, members of her sizable posse – a vocal coach, a hair stylist, a makeup artist, two managers, and assorted other handlers and hangers-on – filter into the gaudy adult playpen that is the Manhattan-based channel’s greenroom. Within minutes, their attention is diverted by a large screen flashing the video for Imbruglia’s first single, ”Torn,” an infectious slice of romantic angst that has already hit No.

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Matchbox 20 on top with ''Push''

When Matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas sat down to write ”Push,” the controversial radio hit that has shoved Yourself or Someone Like You, the debut album by this otherwise conventional post-grunge guitar-pop band, into the top 10, the singer forgot his sensitivity training. Thomas, whose Beavis-like chuckle makes him sound even younger than his 25 years, insists he had no idea that such lyrics as ”I wanna push you around…I wanna take you for granted” might be perceived as misogynistic by some folks.

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''Peace Beyond Passion'' aims for poignancy

Me’Shell Ndegeocello is a survivor of post-album depression. After her debut disc, Plantation Lullabies, was released in 1993 to wild acclaim, establishing the 27-year-old singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist as one of the freshest and most passionate voices in contemporary R&B, she found herself in a funk. ”Actually, I think I was having a spiritual death,” Ndegeocello (her surname means ”free like a bird” in Swahili) muses.

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For his 17th novel, Larry McMurtry, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Lonesome Dove and The Last Picture Show, has seen fit to take on a collaborator, Diana Ossana, whose jacket-flap biography announces with an understandable note of defensiveness that she has ”been writing ever since she learned to read.” Far be it from a lowly reviewer to plumb the mysteries of the creative mind and heart that prompted this unlikely teaming.

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Close-up on Matthew Sweet

When Matthew Sweet picked a photo of the young Tuesday Weld for the cover of his latest album, Girlfriend, it was partly because ”I figured I’d rather see that than my own face every time I have to look at my record.” Sweet, 27, can afford to be self-effacing: With its buoyant pop melodies and wistful reflections on infatuation and heartbreak, Girlfriend has won kudos from critics and is climbing the charts.

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Taped during this year’s tour to promote the Soul Cages album, this 90-minute concert features both the irresistible hooks of old Police hits like ”Message in a Bottle” and the haunting melodies of solo material like ”Fortress Around Your Heart.” Unfortunately, Sting, one of the most distinctive pop tunesmiths of his generation, appears to be having an off night.

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When last we left Bell Biv Devoe, the trio — graduates of the teenybop R&B outfit New Edition — was spewing ”Poison,” a misogynistic, if undeniably catchy, bit of sexual paranoia that was supposed to indicate that its members were coming of age. Now in their 20s, they’ve reunited with ”Edition” alumni Bobby Brown and Ralph Tresvant, staging a reunion that aims mostly for the heart but occasionally slides further down.

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