The Music

Culture | The Top 5 country CDs for the week ending Feb. 5, according to Billboard magazine

Issue: "The McCain craze," Feb. 19, 2000
Dixie Chicks
Over 3 million copies sold
21 weeks on chart
Style The fiddle and banjo may recall the Grand Ole Opry, but the arrangements and singing head straight for Branson.
Best Cut "Cowboy Take Me Away"
Worldview "The Dixie Chicks are proud to support the conservation efforts of [the] World Wildlife Fund. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this album will go to aid this mission."
Role-model statusReluctant saints-in "Sin Wagon" they go to heaven but with their "feet draggin'" and only after doing "a little mattress dancin'."
Shania Twain
Over 16 million copies sold
116 weeks on chart
Style A country-pop blend that-like Twain's voice-is too insubstantial for serious appreciation but flexible enough for massive, multiple-format success.
Best Cut "That Don't Impress Me Much," in which Twain declares for sensitivity over looks, brains, and wealth
Worldview "A little physical attraction/Romantic, old-fashioned charm /And a lot of tenderness / Is [sic] gonna get you into her arms" (from "If You Wanna Touch Her, Ask!")
Role Model Status Married and monogamous, her willingness to strike come-hither poses in modesty-flaunting outfits makes what she stands for ambiguous.
Faith Hill
Over 2 million copies sold
11 weeks on chart
Style If Shania Twain is country-pop, Hill is pop-country. And as those who witnessed her pre-game performance at the Super Bowl know, she has some voice.
Best Cut "I Got My Baby," "The Way You Love Me"
Worldview "Every knee will bow / Sin will have no trace / In the glory of His amazing grace" (from "There Will Come a Day")
Role Model Status Married and monogamous, her willingness to strike seductive poses in lingerie for her CD-booklet photos makes what she stands for not ambiguous enough.
Tim McGraw
Over 2 million copies sold
38 weeks on chart
Style Well-crafted contemporary country, the formal elements of which serve the content of songs submitted by the cream of Nashville's songwriting crop
Best Cut "You Don't Love Me Anymore"
Worldview Seventeen is the best age (cf. "Seventeen," "Something like That"), but getting old is all right ("My Next 30 Years") if you grow old with someone who loves you ("My Best Friend").
Role Model Status Monogamous and married, McGraw makes music that is, for the most part, consistent with the values he embodies as Mr. Faith Hill.
Over 1 million copies sold
34 weeks on chart
Style More assembly-line country, with the anonymous vocal harmonies, instant-jackpot hooks, and sensitive-man clichés common to the type
Best Cut "Don't Let's Talk About Lisa," co-written by Tom Petty's keyboardist Benmont Tench, and "What About Now," Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress" cut down to country-rock size, believe it or not
Worldview Lyrics that say as little as these lyrics say don't have a worldview; they have a market value.
Role Model Status Singers and musicians whose songs say as little as these aren't role models, they're role mannequins.
In the Spotlight
BJ. Thomas responded to his early-1980s ostracism from Contemporary Christian Music with a string of chart-topping country songs extolling family values and the simple life, thus proving himself as resilient and adaptable as he was talented. Until the release, however, of New Looks and Old Fashioned Love: The Best of B.J. Thomas (Razor & Tie), this phase of Mr. Thomas's career remained undocumented, to the impoverishment of Christians, who could've learned from it how to translate biblical spirituality into the language of middle-American popular culture, and those who simply value that vanishing breed: the interpretive pop singer. Mr. Thomas has never let his position in the middle of the road keep him from traveling it to places that the bigger stars tend to regard as fly-over country. It's fitting, then, that New Looks salvages not only Mr. Thomas's '80 s hits but also seven songs from his 1986 collection of country standards, Night Life. His versions of "My Elusive Dreams," "Make the World Go Away," and "He'll Have to Go" must be special-they make his duet with Dusty Springfield (on the theme from Growing Pains) feel anti-climactic.

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