Blondes in the Barrio


Give me your heart, make it real, or else forget about it: Words that once might have been prime fodder for Engelbert Humperdinck or Tom Jones now radiate relentlessly from Rob Thomas, corpulent corporate rock misogynist rehabilitated by the magic hands of Carlos Santana. “Smooth” topped the Hot 100 for the last quarter of last year, its allure not far from Santana’s mid-’80s tress-slinging jazzercisms “Hold On” and “Say It Again,” yet with a distance cast from the days when “Evil Ways” orchestrated a Big Chill-ish kitchen fiesta for a spaghetti-sauce commercial. Because Supernatural is chockablock with Carlos’s ancient penchant for FM-only hits, chief among them Everlast’s snarling “Put Your Lights On,” the inevitable Grammy Award bearer remains represented on Top 40 by the Milquetoast Matchbox 20 vocalist’s suave paean to his muñiqueta, kicking kitsch to the curb. This “Oye Como Va” social club meeting has held us in thrall for six months, assurance that Santana was never ashamed for having spawned Journey.

So, a hit single sequel to “Smooth” falls into the lap of Vitamin C, front woman for aimless grunge opportunists Eve’s Plum and daughter of Deborah Harry and Sonny Bono in Hairspray. Colleen Fitzpatrick’s transformation into Saturday-morning superheroine borrows liberally from decade-ago catsuit casualties Apollo Smile and Betty Boo. She geared Sugar Ray-inspired raga-rap to grade-school girls on the moderate summer anthem “Smile”; by contrast, “Me, Myself and I” feigns soporific self-esteem in the face of philanderers, wrapped around the chant from Santana’s 1972 “No One to Depend On.” It’s a luckily timed offering from a disc whose detours into listless new-wave electro are more subversive than Beck’s Midnite Vultures in the grand scheme, granting the likes of Fred Maher and Melvin Gibbs a chance to interface with the tween market. Vitamin C even grafts a craftier Clash sample (“The Magnificent Seven,” on a track called “Fear of Flying”) than Will Smith does. But Vitamin C’s mañana still can’t match fellow blond barrio boy Thomas’s hip-swiveling swagger on “Smooth,”simply because Fitzpatrick is addressing her demographic from concentrate. Give me your heart, make it real, or else forget about it.