Culture

The Music

Culture | The Top 5 CDs for the week ending Oct. 20, according to Billboard magazine

Issue: "Elaine Chao: Unlikely star," Nov. 3, 2001
1
Pain Is Love
Ja Rule 1 week on chart
STYLE
Sample-heavy "thug" and "playa" rap.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
All 16 tracks.

WORLDVIEW
Everything worth saying about love, pain, and competitors can be expressed in five or six frequently repeated obscenities, profanities, vulgarities, and racial slurs-a couple of which might even still be prohibited by the FCC.

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OVERALL QUALITY
Abundant proof that rappers are the naked emperors of our time, wildly celebrated despite their complete lack of talent by a public too afraid of being called unhip or racist to do otherwise.

2
The Blueprint
Jay-Z 4 weeks on chart
STYLE
Sample-heavy, playfully boastful rap.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
All 13 tracks (and both hidden ones).

WORLDVIEW
A boy who is abandoned by his father and reared by his mother in the wrong neighborhood will become a man whose expression is limited to five or six frequently repeated obscenities, profanities, vulgarities, and racial slurs.

OVERALL QUALITY
The attitude and musical skills are a step or two above the bottom-feeder level of most rappers, but if Jay-Z isn't exactly a naked emperor, he's in his boxers.

3
A Day Without Rain
Enya 46 weeks on chart
STYLE
Billowy "New Age" pop.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
None.

WORLDVIEW
"Each heart is a pilgrim, / each one wants to know / the reason why the winds die / and where the stories go. / Pilgrim, in your journey / you may travel far, / for, pilgrim, it's a long way / to find out who you are" (from "Pilgrim").

OVERALL QUALITY
Despite its exotic contours and soothing glow, Enya's music exists mainly to sell a pseudo-romanticism that in its dreamy vapidity has few contemporary equals.

4
Songs in A Minor
Alicia Keys 15 weeks on chart
STYLE
An inventive, frequently appealing piano-based synthesis of contemporary and traditional soul.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
"Piano and I" (obscenities), "Girlfriend" (racial slur)

WORLDVIEW
Anyone intent on true love and happiness must rise to the challenge of self-giving.

OVERALL QUALITY
Once past tracks one and two, wherein Miss Keys feels obligated to establish her bona fides with rapper slang, the music floats, dips, glides, and soars like no other soul-jazz-R&B in recent memory.

5
Silver Side Up
Nickelback 15 weeks on chart
STYLE
Hard, aggressive, minor-key rock, like Creed revved up a notch.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
"Never Again," "Woke Up This Morning," "Hangnail," "Good Times Gone" (obscenities)

WORLDVIEW
"Well, you can bribe the devil, you can pray to God, / You can sell off everything you've got, / And you still won't know" (from "Good Times Gone").

OVERALL QUALITY
Chad Kroeger and Nickelback are to Scott Stapp and Creed what Scott Stapp and Creed are to Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam, i.e., talented purveyors of somebody else's formula.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Bob Dylan's Love and Theft (Columbia) is an artistically ambitious, emotionally complex, and esthetically potent distillation of nearly a century's worth of American popular song. As such, it performs a service most useful in these troubled times: that of capturing much that's unique and worth treasuring in our culture. But it does more. "Look up, look up," sings Mr. Dylan in "Sugar Baby." "Seek your Maker 'fore Gabriel blows his horn." In addition to sounding a note of humility, the line-which is drawn from the old spiritual, "The Lonesome Road"-reminds us that there are more important reasons for looking up than avoiding terrorist fallout. Critics are declaring this album one of the finest of Mr. Dylan's 39-year-career, and in its exuberant abundance it does recall the quintessentially Dylan-esque Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde. Those albums, however, only partially concealed the callowness of their creator. Love and Theft sounds like the work of someone who put away childish things long ago.

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