Active Rock Playlists Get Some Disturbing Shakeups

Al Shipley | April 17, 2008 10:00 am

Since many people find it hard to tell the great from the godawful when it comes to 21st-century mainstream rock, welcome to “Corporate Rock Still Sells,” where Al “GovernmentNames” Shipley examines what’s good, bad, and ugly in the world of Billboard‘s rock charts. This time around he looks at the return of nu-metal in the guises of Disturbed and oddly rap-free rap-metal.

After a few sluggish months of slow-rising hits, the past few weeks have seen some major movement on the Billboard rock charts, with several new entries making big impacts. And the biggest comes from Disturbed, the Chicago nu-metal band distinguished primarily by frontman David Draiman’s resemblance to Howie Mandel with multiple facial piercings, as well as his usually annoying, occasionally awesome Korn-meets-Shudder-To-Think vocal tics. “Inside The Fire,” the lead single from their forthcoming album Indestructible, entered the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart at a staggering No. 5, and moved up to No. 4 last week–pretty impressive, considering that even the biggest monsters of rock tend to take at least a few weeks to reach that high on the chart. This marks the band’s tenth consecutive top 10 hit, and it’s also quickly becoming one of its biggest hits to date on Hot Modern Rock Tracks, where it’s historically had less traction. But since Draiman neither goes “oooh-wah-ah-ah-ah” nor covers Genesis on “Inside The Fire,” the song is not one of the rare instances where I will refrain from changing the station when a Disturbed song comes on the radio.

Elsewhere on the Mainstream chart, a number of recent entries suggest the following theory: rap-metal is back, just without the rapping. The chart is still littered with holdovers from that widely maligned subgenre’s turn of the century heyday, but right now three of those acts have hits rising up the chart without busting a single fresh rhyme: Linkin Park’s “Given Up”; P.O.D.’s “Addicted”; and Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long.” Now, don’t get me wrong. Mike Shinoda, Sonny Sandoval, and Bob Ritchie are not among my top five MCs of all time; they wouldn’t even make my top 10. (Sorry, Sonny!) But these bands’ early hits were at least a lot more fun than listening to these jokers and their bandmates decide to get ‘melodic.’ Please, nobody tell Fred Durst that all he has to do to get back on the radio is start earnestly crooning. He might cover The Who again.

As Chris Molanphy noted in his last 100 And Single column, the other big Modern Rock debuts come from the Raconteurs and Death Cab For Cutie. “Salute Your Solution,” the lead single from the Raconteurs’ Consolers Of The Lonely, is at No. 11 after entering the chart at No. 26 for the first week that anyone, including radio stations, had a copy of the song, given that the album it comes from was made available in “EVERY FORMAT AT ONCE” on March 25. Although Jack White’s insta-release stunt was ostensibly done in part to circumvent the major-label “first-week sales” mentality, both the album and the single got off to very strong starts. Still, “Salute Your Solution” is one of my least favorite tracks off the album, and I can’t see it topping the chart like “Steady, As She Goes” did in 2006. Death Cab, whose 2005 album Plans was just certified platinum this February, are right behind the Raconteurs at No. 12 with “I Will Possess Your Heart,” an ambitious eight-minute single that most stations are presumably playing in its four-minute radio edit.

So what isn’t on the Modern Rock chart? Two big rock hits currently in the upper reaches of the Hot 100 and the Pop 100. • Three Days Grace’s actually-kinda-good “Never Too Late” was one of the most-played Modern Rock hits of 2007, but it dropped off the chart well before its current crossover to VH1 and adult top 40 stations. That crossover was helped by program directors being made less squeamish about the song’s anti-suicide theme through a new edit that changes the chorus line “you want to end your life” to “you want to change your life.” • Meanwhile, Fall Out Boy’s cover of “Beat It,” which has already been hailed by one Idolator contributor as potentially the best rock song of 2008, is all over pop radio, but it has yet to crack the rock charts. I’m not shocked, given that one of the big theories put forth in my ’07 wrap-up was that FOB are quickly losing their rock radio support. But I wonder if those stations will keep holding out on this one, considering that many of them still play that damn Alien Ant Farm version of “Smooth Criminal.” Personally, I think the band’s take on “Beat It” is weak sauce–Patrick Stump earns his better-than-your-average-emo-frontman bona fides much more easily when he’s not held to the higher standards of pop and R&B vocals. Nonetheless, when he hits the Rod Stewart Great American Songbook phase of his career in a couple of decades, he’ll have a head start thanks to this cover, not to mention his previous work interpolating Supertramp and Jermaine Stewart with Gym Class Heroes and covering Go West with New Found Glory.