Culture

The Music

Culture | The Top 5 "Internet album" CDs for the week ending April 15, according to Billboard.

Issue: "Cracking the code," April 29, 2000
No strings attached
'N Sync 2 weeks on chart
Position on Billboard 200: No. 1
STYLE
The latest upgrade of a high-tech bubblegum sound virtually indistinguishable from that of the Backstreet Boys.

BEST CUTS
"This I Promise You," the a cappella "I Thought She Knew"

WORLDVIEW
Thank heaven for teenage girls: Deprived of their innocence ( "Digital Get Down"), they are still gullible (other songs).

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ROLE MODEL STATUS
Liner-note Christianity notwithstanding, "Digital Get Down" celebrates cybersex.

Supernatural
Santana 135 weeks on chart
Position on Billboard 200: No. 2
STYLE
The same Afro-Latin-polyrhythmic fusion of jazz, rock, and soul with which Carlos Santana launched his career over 30 years ago.

BEST CUTS
"(Da Le) Yaleo," "Smooth," "El Farol"

WORLDVIEW
"The Santanas believe that life is a miracle (milagro) and that children everywhere deserve the opportunity to lead safe, healthy, and educationally creative lives" (from the liner pitch for his non-profit Milagro Foundation).

ROLE MODEL STATUS
Proof that a 52-year-old can impress both consumers and the Grammy committee.

Two Against Nature
Steely Dan 5 weeks on chart
Position on Billboard 200: No. 32
STYLE
Sophisticated, rhythmically varied jazz-rock, almost identical in texture to the music that made Steely Dan one of the most popular acts of the '70s.

BEST CUTS
"West of Hollywood," "Cousin Dupree," the title cut

WORLDVIEW
Complex-nostalgia filtered through wry humor and gentle self-mockery, with the verdict still out on what it means to reach middle age as an inveterate ironist.

ROLE MODEL STATUS
As two of rock's most private superstars, neither Donald Fagen nor Walter Becker has a public identity apart from Steely Dan.

Real Live Woman
Trisha Yearwood 1 week on chart
Position on Billboard 200: No. 27
STYLE
Country rock-well written, well played, well produced, and well sung.

BEST CUTS
"Sad Eyes," "Try Me Again," "Come Back When It Ain't Rainin'"

WORLDVIEW
Although "One Love"'s generic gospel imagery could apply to human romance, the liner reference to Zephaniah 3:17 suggests that Ms. Yearwood is familiar with the divine kind.

ROLE MODEL STATUS
Unlike Shania Twain and Faith Hill, Ms. Yearwood resists exploiting her sex appeal, appearing fully clothed in the booklet photos and selecting wholesome lyrics.

On How Life Is
Macy Gray 11 weeks on chart
Position on Billboard 200: No. 9
STYLE
A surprisingly subtle blend of the old (jazz-inflected singing, soul-inflected R&B) and the new (computer-generated programming and sampling).

BEST CUTS
"I Try"

WORLDVIEW
Raunchy, impersonal sex conquers all (note "Caligula," "Sex-O-Matic Venus Freak").

ROLE MODEL STATUS
In "Still" she sticks with her abusive, no-account boyfriend for the sex and drugs. In "I've Committed Murder" she murders her boyfriend's (female) boss, cleans out the safe, escapes (with him) to Jamaica.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Although Two Against Nature (Giant), Steely Dan's first new album in 21 years, testifies to Walter Becker and Donald Fagen's undiminished skills, its testimony would have been more eloquent had it featured the guitar playing of Larry Carlton. Of all the first-rate outside musicians employed by Steely Dan in the '70s, Mr. Carlton-whose resumé includes appearances on over 500 albums by other performers as well as 23 albums of his own-came the closest to becoming an integral part of the Steely Dan sound with his low-key but easily identifiable soft-jazz solos. Fingerprints (Warner Bros.), Mr. Carlton's latest solo effort, consists of nine instrumentals that find the masterly guitarist playing gently swinging melodies over the sympathetic support of other acclaimed fusioneers: Abraham Laboriel (bass), Vinnie Colaiuta (drums), Kirk Whalum (saxophone), and Matt Rollings and Rick Jackson (keyboards). It's the lone vocal track, however, "'Til I Hurt You" (featuring the blue-eyed-soul singing of Michael McDonald) that stands out. A gracefully understated lover's apology, it doesn't so much bear witness to Mr. Carlton's Christian faith as represent, like his songwriting and musicianship, one of its fruits.

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