DOWNLOAD THE FULL MIX HERE

As is often the case, ideas for this feature seem to pop up while driving to and from work – which is when I do most of my music listening.  Because I’m one of those annoying people who has an iPhone, and am a slave to Apple products, I have the so-called “Genius Mixes” loaded onto the iPod portion of my phone. Lately, there’s been an abundance of Yaz on there, and while I do like the group, it was one too many songs — which gave rise to fidgety fingers on the audio controls.  After scrolling through song after song from Yaz, I settled on one by Vanessa Carlton (featured in this mix) —  which started me thinking about all those late ’90s early 2000 singers who were so earnest and confessional back in the day. So get comfy ’cause it’s time to have a good cry.

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“I Could Break Your Heart Any Day of the Week,” Mandy Moore (Download)

I still can’t get over how Mandy Moore’s “handlers” were grooming her to be a kind of Britney clone when she first burst on the music scene.  There was something rather sickening watching a not-quite-developed Mandy strutting around in her video to “Candy.”  I mean, she looked like she was 15 – and that’s because SHE WAS 15!  Anyway, I thought she would fade away after the first album, but the gal had staying power and talents beyond singing.  Her acting career isn’t Academy Award stellar, but it’s not too shabby compared to, say, Mariah Carey.  Anyway, “I Could Break Your Heart Any Day of the Week” is the lead single from her album she released last year (Amanda Leigh), and despite the fact that this song only peaked at #90, it’s catchy as hell and should have charted higher.

“Black & White,” Sarah McLachlan (Download)

It’s amazing to think that Sarah McLachlan reached the apex of her songwriting abilities on Surfacing. It’s a great album, but one wonders why, for an artist who likes to take her sweet time writing and recording albums, has she churned out a fair number of dirges that sound alike?  That wasn’t the case for the songs on Surfacing, and “Black & White” is an example of how much she had stretched out from her piano/synth-based ballads on that album. Alas, that was the last time she did so…

“Summer Time,” Michelle Branch (Download)

I’ve made no bones about being a fan of Michelle Branch. And while I found the songs on her EP, Everything Comes and Goes, to be too ballad-heavy for my tastes, I’ve grown to really like this tune.  It’s a bitter sweet song about a long lost love, and how a particular season stirs memories of happier times.

“Stay Here Forever,” Jewel (Download)

For me, there are artists who remind me of certain people, and Jewel will always remind me of my daughter.  My kid had some kind of weird fascination with the CD cover of Pieces of You back when she was three, and would walk around with that CD cover as a kind of comfort object.  She also loved Jewel’s music at the time, so I got my fill of that album — since I had to play certain songs for her over and over and over whenever we got in the car.  So it was a surprise (for me, anyway) to find out that Jewel has new material out (since I had long forgotten about her and her music career).  The songs on this album are not the strongest work she’s done, but “Stay Here Forever” is a catchy song that finds Jewel sounding an awful lot like Dolly Parton.

“Hands on Me,” Vanessa Carlton (Download)

Some things come in threes (mostly celebrity deaths), but in the film and music biz, it seems like things come in twos.  Case in point:  Michelle Branch and Vanessa Carlton.  Both are auburn hair/pale skin ladies who have similar sounding voices.  And while Branch eventually went a little bit country in her career,  Carlton stayed true to her piano-based songs that explored the pain of relationships and the struggles to find an identity.  Sadly, she hooked up with Stephen Jenkins for a time — whose  Svengali-like hold over her music made her veer into aping Jenkins’ vocal phrasing on a number of songs.  But on this album (which Jenkins had a hand in producing), she sounds less like a retread of Third Eye Blind and more like herself.

“Time Enough For Tears,” the Corrs (Download)

The Corrs are kind of lite-rock version of Clannad, and like Clannad, they had Bono’s help on a song.  “Time Enough For Tears” is classic Bono both in vocal styling and in the lyrics, but it gave the group a song that had enough heft to lift them out of  adult contemporary mediocrity.