No matter how hard Def Leppard pushed 1999's Euphoria, it just didn't take off. No matter how many times they were on VH1 in the years separating that album and its successor, 2002's X, the group failed to stay in popular consciousness as an active band -- after all, a much-repeated Behind the Music and a made-for-TV biopic aren't the best way to signal that a band is still vital. X isn't likely to change that reputation, either, since much of it sounds like the band is desperate for a hit again. To their credit, they're not chasing the new, hip sound -- no stabs at nu-metal or rap-rock here -- but they've decided to act their age. Unfortunately, that pretty much means they've left rock behind, turning out a bunch of even-handed adult-pop that is melodic without being tuneful, or memorable for that matter. Even when the tempo is kicked up a bit, there isn't much kick to their rhythms; never before has a song called "Four Letter Word" sounded so clean. There are some exceptions to the rule, where Leppard still shows signs of being a great band -- there's a chorus or a bridge here and there with spark, "You're So Beautiful" and "Everyday" are the kind of sugar-sweet, heavy-pop songs that make this band so irresistible -- but the slick production and self-conscious maturity make X a leaden affair, unfortunately.
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine