Reviews > Culture

The Music

Culture | The Top 5 Internet CDs for the week ending May 26, according to Billboard magazine

Issue: "Abolition of C.S. Lewis?," June 16, 2001
1
Wingspan: Hits and History
Paul McCartney 1 week on the chart
STYLE
Whimsical, melodic, "classic," and occasionally hard-rocking '70s pop.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
None.

WORLDVIEW
Undefined. The critic who once described this music as "pop for potheads" may have overestimated the influence of Mr. McCartney's intoxicant of choice on his compositions, but there's no denying the pleasure the ex-Beatle took in appearing to wax hitbound with a minimum of stress and deep thought.

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OVERALL QUALITY
The hits for the most part remain likable when not irresistible; the "history" half suggests Wings wasn't much of an album band.

2
Trouble in Shangri-La
Stevie Nicks 2 weeks on the chart
STYLE
Carefully produced, mid-tempo rock accompanying openly narcissistic, mystifying confessions.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
None.

WORLDVIEW
Like an adolescent girl whose diary is her oyster, Miss Nicks, 52, inhabits a small and fragile world: "Why am I always so intense / In this same place I sit?"; "I don't understand the way that I feel / I am terrified of being wrong / Well, I am not happy / And I am not crazy ... Everything happens for a reason."

OVERALL QUALITY
Hummable if not humble.

3
The Sopranos: Peppers & Eggs
Various Artists 1 week on the chart
STYLE
Easy listening, rock, techno, soul, gospel, opera.

WORLDVIEW
From the dialogue montage: "The world is a jungle, and if you want my advice, Anthony, don't expect happiness. You won't get it, people let you down, and-I'm not naming any names-but in the end, you die in your own arms.... It's all a big nothing. What makes you think you're so special?"

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
"Battle Flag," by Pigeonhed, "Dialogue from 'The Sopranos'" (obscenity, profanity).

OVERALL QUALITY
A stylistic omnibus that sometimes feels like a roller coaster.

4
Moulin Rouge
Various Artists 1 week on the chart
STYLE
Atmospheric techno, camp, glam, pop, and rock.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
"Lady Marmalade" (at least for speakers of French).

WORLDVIEW
That in the roiling, seductively decadent underworld thriving beneath life's bourgeois surface, dreams come true. The historic Moulin Rouge, to quote the film's website, was "a cabaret, a dance hall, a bordello ... where art, poetry, and syphilis flourished."

OVERALL QUALITY
With superstars singing songs associated with other performers and Nicole Kidman singing anything at all, a playfulness at odds with typical pop-star pretensions prevails.

5
Survivor
Destiny's Child 2 weeks on the chart
STYLE
Slick, dance-oriented pop and R&B.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
"Bootylicious," "Apple Pie à la Mode" (lascivious).

WORLDVIEW
Confused. In "Nasty Girl" the perpetually underdressed trio removes a splinter from its sister's eye while ignoring the plank in its own ("Nasty, put some clothes on!"); elsewhere there's a gospel medley, a recitation of 1 Corinthians 13, and a liner note from lead singer Beyoncé Knowles thanking God "for writing my songs" ("Bootylicious" included?).

OVERALL QUALITY
Long on gimmicky sound effects and sampling, short on distinctive singing.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Given the hoopla that often accompanies celebrity conversions-usually to the detriment of convert and fan alike-the lack of fanfare greeting Randy Travis's rebirth is a relief. The one drawback is that in a market obsessed with Tim McGraw and other riders of country's newest wave, the ripples created by Inspirational Journey (Atlantic/Warner Bros.), Mr. Travis's 13th album and an overt declaration of faith, have gone relatively unnoticed. Perhaps to emphasize its significance, the singer discusses it at length on his website. "I pray every day now," he says. "I finish every day by reading my Bible.... My own recognition of my need for God is pretty central to a lot of these songs." "Amazing Grace" aside, the songs on Inspirational Journey are anything but obvious. With three co-written by Mr. Travis and eight others chosen especially for the project, the cliché quotient is refreshingly low, the problem of overfamiliarity almost nonexistent. Best of all, the care Mr. Travis and his musicians have put into their singing and playing results in nearly every song's taking on a beauty-accentuating glow entirely appropriate to its subject matter.

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