Culture

The Music

Culture | The Top 5 Pop Catalog Albums for the week ending Nov. 17, according to Billboard

Issue: "No time to celebrate," Dec. 1, 2001
1
American Patriot
Lee Greenwood 8 weeks on chart
STYLE
Middle-of-the-road, country-tempered patriotism.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
None.

WORLDVIEW
"I'm proud to be an American / where at least I know I'm free, / and I won't forget the men who died / who gave that right to me. / And I gladly stand up next to you / and defend her still today, / 'cause there ain't no doubt I love this land. / God bless the U.S.A."

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OVERALL QUALITY
Pleasant but by no means definitive.

2
Paint the Sky with Stars
Enya 86 weeks on chart
STYLE
Billowy "New Age" pop.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
None.

WORLDVIEW
"If you really want to, you can hear me say, / 'Only if you want to will you find the way.' / If you really want to, you can seize the day. / Only if you want to can you fly away" (from "Anywhere Is").

OVERALL QUALITY
Despite the exotic contours, catchy hooks, soothing glow, and overall lushness of her music, Enya the lyricist traffics mainly in foggy clichés that prove the powerlessness of positive thinking.

3
Thriller
Michael Jackson 175 weeks on chart
STYLE
State-of-the-art razzle-dazzle funk and soul, circa 1982.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
"P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)" (at least for those who can decode its man-on-the-make slang)

WORLDVIEW
That with talent comes fame, with fame comes paranoia ("Billie Jean"), and with paranoia come nightmares ("Thriller") from which one can only be awakened by true love ("The Lady in My Life").

OVERALL QUALITY
A remarkable transformation of the teeny-bopper music of Jackson's Motown youth into dance music of surprising resiliency and sophistication.

4
Human Clay
Creed 110 weeks on chart
STYLE
The thunderous guitars and lumbering tempos of heavy metal mixed with the hummable choruses and confessional tone of alternative rock.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
None.

WORLDVIEW
"I ... see a vision of a cross," sings Scott Stapp. "Only he holds the key ... to free me from my burden / and grant me life eternally"; elsewhere Mr. Stapp invites "a warrior" whose "yoke is easy" and whose "burden is light" to "come inside / and never go away."

OVERALL QUALITY
For hummable, confessional heavy metal, not bad.

5
Dark Side of the Moon
Pink Floyd 1,283 weeks on chart
STYLE
Spacey, psychedelic, progressive rock.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
"Money" (obscenity)

WORLDVIEW
"For long you live and high you fly / And smiles you'll give and tears you'll cry / And all you touch and all you see / Is all your life will ever be" ("Breathe").

OVERALL QUALITY
Engineered by Alan Parsons and recorded at London's Abbey Road Studios 29 years ago, this longtime favorite of high-end stereo owners still sounds impressive coming out of the speakers; its sophomoric cynicism, however, has never sounded less profound.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
The Swedish pop quartet ABBA (1972-1982) specialized in hit singles at a time when full-length albums were considered the measure of an act's artistic worth. Thus, despite 14 appearances on the U.S. Top 40, more than two dozen hits worldwide, the perennially bestselling ABBA Gold, and a vocal sound swirling with echoes of Connie Francis and Petula Clark, ABBA got, and still gets, short critical shrift. Yet, as the recent reissuing of its original eight albums demonstrates, ABBA began moving away from bubblegum as early as The Album (1977), developing by Super Trouper (1980) a maturity of tone, an inventiveness of melody, and a lavishness of production that rivaled anything being done by the likes of Andrew Lloyd Webber. ABBA's crowning achievement was The Visitors (1981). In addition to wistful breakup songs (at which the group had become adept in the wake of its members' unraveling marriages), there was "Slipping Through My Fingers," a masterly and moving handling of a subject that Bob Carlisle would sentimentalize 15 years later in "Butterfly Kisses": a parent's mixed emotions at watching a daughter grow up, up, and away.

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