Reviews > Culture

The Music

Culture | The Top 5 CDs for the week ending March 30, according to Billboard magazine

Issue: "Guns & Poses," April 13, 2002
1
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Various Artists 64 weeks on the chart
STYLE
Old-time country, folk, gospel, bluegrass, and blues.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
None.

WORLDVIEW
Like wine, music rooted in the truth gets better with age.

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OVERALL QUALITY
As music, this collection of traditional songs is a bearer of good news; as the soundtrack to the Coen Brothers' cinematic adaptation of Homer's Odyssey, it's surreal and at times comical; as the recent winner of the album-of-the-year Grammy, it's musical proof that that which is not eternal is eternally out of date.

2
B2K
B2K 1 week on chart
STYLE
Boy-band bubblegum, urban division.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
"Gots ta Be" (for wanting a girl "so damn bad"), "Come On" (for trying to talk her into playing Truth or Dare after school), various other songs (for insinuating a sexuality entirely inappropriate to a quartet with an average age of 15)

WORLDVIEW
When "Lil bow wows" act like "big dawgs," the end of puppy love is near.

OVERALL QUALITY
State-of-the-art production at the service of equally state-of-the-art juvenilia.

3
Drive
Alan Jackson 9 weeks on chart
STYLE
Country.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
"Designated Drinker" (to those who don't get the irony)

WORLDVIEW
"I know Jesus and I talk to God / And I remember this from when I was young / Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us / And the greatest is love."

OVERALL QUALITY
The care with which Jackson writes, chooses, and performs his material is as evident as his desire to avoid challenging preconceived notions of what it means to be a contemporary country-music superstar.

4
Under Rug Swept
Alanis Morissette 3 weeks on chart
STYLE
Catchy, angst-ridden, hard-rocking feminist pop.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
"21 Things I Want in a Lover" (frank sexual references), "Narcissus" (obscenities)

WORLDVIEW
(From "Utopia") "We would stay and respond and expand and include / and allow and forgive and enjoy and evolve / and discern and inquire and accept and admit / and divulge and open and reach out and speak up"-i.e., paradise as Clinton administration.

OVERALL QUALITY
Morissette's best-she has devoted as much attention to her singing and her melodies as to her venting.

5
Full Moon
Brandy 2 weeks on chart
STYLE
Slick, dance-oriented R&B.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
"When You Touch Me," "Like This," "Come a Little Closer," "What About Us?" (obscenity), "Die Without You" (casual profanity)

WORLDVIEW
According to the liner notes, these songs represent actual experiences from this 22-year-old's recent three-year "journey" into "higher self" discovery, a journey apparently full of flirting, sex, and heartbreak.

OVERALL QUALITY
The mean of contemporary urban dance music as purveyed on major labels by young, gifted, and underdressed women.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
At 27, Alanis Morissette is in no hurry to outgrow the self-obsession that's both the result of and her defense against the fallout of an adolescent sexual relationship that, judging from her songs, was traumatic. Those sympathetic to her pain will cite its enduring presence in her music as proof of the permanence of such damage; cynics will note the financial savvy of perpetually peddling one's woundedness in a culture where a victim is born every minute. Further confusing the issue of Miss Morissette's "sincerity" is that as a former child actress she's well-trained in the use of masks to sell fiction. Fiction, however, has value to the extent that it effectively dramatizes such universal realities as the loss of happiness attendant upon a loss of innocence. And Under Rug Swept (Maverick) is good fiction. In addition to the lyrics' quality of insight-Dr. Laura could base a month of shows around them-the music and the singing are the most disciplined of Miss Morissette's career. The content is occasionally for adults only, but for once such moments don't feel like exploitation.

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