Style: Campy, baroque hard rock circa 1974-1991.
Cautions: "Fat Bottomed Girls" (pedophilia), "Bicycle Race" (Christ's name taken in vain).
Worldview: "My makeup may be flaking, / but my smile stays on. / Whatever happens, I'll leave it all to chance, / another heartache, another failed romance. / On and on, does anybody know what we are living for?" ("The Show Must Go On").
Overall quality: An ecstatic but ultimately somber dance on death's grave.
Style: Middle-of-the-road guitar rock, with brief detours into mellowness and metal.
Worldview: That there is too an upside to breaking up: The resulting loneliness and pain bring the very clichés to mind without which mediocre, romantically challenged rockers would have nothing to say.
Overall quality: Yet another American Idol contestant parlaying his tube appeal into a major-label contract, thus continuing that show's foisting of homogenized predictability upon the public.
Style: Acoustic singer-songwriting evolving toward electronic blue-eyed soul.
Worldview: "We're never gonna stop the war, / we're never gonna beat this / if belief [i.e., religion] is what we're fighting for. / [...] What puts the folded flag inside his mother's hand? / Belief can."
Overall quality: Mayer gets catchier and more stylistically experimental with each release, but he still has nothing special to say and no special way to sing it.
Style: Aggressive, socially and spiritually conscious rock.
Worldview: "If your time ain't been nothing but money, / I want out of this machine. / It doesn't feel like freedom. / This ain't my American Dream."
Overall quality: Switchfoot has been integrating its love of God, neighbor, and rock quite well for some time now, and here they come as far into their own as a band that still occasionally echoes U2 can.
Style: Melodic, college-demographic rock-pop.
Worldview: "I'm doing the best that I could, / trying my best to be understood. / Maybe I'm changing slowly. / I'd get out, turn around, if only I / knew I was dead wrong all along."
Overall quality: One dose after another of moody, romantic introspection going down with the help of pretty, melancholy chord progressions, the guitars and drums a smokescreen for the centrality of Isaac Slade's piano.
During the nearly 20 years that they recorded together as Queen, Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon were often dismissed as supercilious by secular critics and attacked as corrupting by anti-rock evangelists. But, 16 years after Mercury's AIDS-related death effectively brought Queen to an end, their entire catalog remains in print. The musical reasons are obvious: No other band emerging from the "glitter" era came on so heavily metallic and flamboyantly fey simultaneously, and certainly Mercury, May, and Taylor's famously overdubbed vocals defy imitation.
What has gradually become clearer is that there are extramusical reasons for Queen's enduring popularity as well. The risqué and iconoclastic British comedy of Benny Hill and Monty Python informs such notorious songs as "Fat Bottomed Girls" and "Bicycle Race," while apocalyptic paeans to hedonism like "Play the Game" and "Don't Stop Me Now" sound in retrospect like nothing so much as a soundtrack to Edgar Allan Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death."