Reviews > Notable CDs

Best Albums

Notable CDs | The Top 5 Internet CDs for the week ending July 6, according to Billboard

1. Come Away with Me

STYLE Breathy, acoustic love songs, evocative of coffeehouses, jazz clubs, and other bohemian haunts.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL None.

WORLDVIEW When experienced as ends in themselves, the pleasures and pains of romance are largely indistinguishable.

OVERALL QUALITY High; unlike her father, Ravi Shankar, Miss Jones operates strictly within the Western pop-musical tradition, sounding older than her 23 years and giving rise to hopes that her career will be long.

2. The Eminem Show

STYLE Hard-core rap.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL All 20 songs and skits, especially "My Dad's Gone Crazy," a graphically pornographic performance featuring the recording debut of Eminem's daughter Hailie.

WORLDVIEW "More pain inside of my brain than the eyes of a little girl / inside of a plane aimed at the World Trade."

OVERALL QUALITY Catchier and more revealing than most gutter-level rap, but entirely inappropriate to anyone other than licensed psychopathologists.

3. Heathen

STYLE Art-pop.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL "I Would Be Your Slave" (casual swearing)

WORLDVIEW Despite the irreligious implications of the album's title, several songs, perhaps inspired by 9/11, seem haunted by the meaning of suffering, with "A Better Future" consisting of an apparently sincere, if churlishly shallow, conversation with God.

OVERALL QUALITY Enjoyable; surprisingly modern sounding for an album hyped as a return to "classic" David Bowie.

4. Divine Secrets

STYLE Old-time blues, folk, gospel, jazz.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL None.

WORLDVIEW None; the 19 songs merely create a sepia-tinted atmosphere for the feminist-empowerment film whose soundtrack they are.

OVERALL QUALITY The hodge-podge feel is mitigated somewhat by collector-oriented new songs (Bob Dylan, Tony Bennett, Alison Krauss, Macy Gray, Lauryn Hill) recorded to sound as old as the classics (Jimmy Reed, Ray Charles, Slim Harpo, Mahalia Jackson) with which they're interwoven.

5. Josh Groban

STYLE Performing-arts-school theatricality for classically trained baritone voice and orchestra.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL None.

WORLDVIEW As Mr. Groban is a singer, not a composer, his worldview is inseparable from those whose material he records, hence "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" (Bach), "Vincent" (Don McLean), and a good deal of generalized romanticism in between.

OVERALL QUALITY Slick; well within the parameters established by Andrea Bocelli, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Charlotte Church.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Legend has it that in the days of royalty naked emperors sometimes passed for well dressed. In our day, when Jerry Springer is king, it's rappers to whom we attribute imaginary qualities. Eminem has been misidentified as an artistic genius by many who should know better, yet, as a case study in the extremes of mass-marketable pathologies, he's not without interest. Those who listen between the lines will note that he fully acknowledges his own wretchedness, considers homosexuality abnormal, claims he won't let his own daughter listen to him, warns parents that if they're not careful their kids could turn out like him, and promises he'll change if left alone. So far, so good. The problem is, the reason he's one of the top-selling performers in America has less to do with what's between his lines than with the lines themselves, which in their relentless profanity, vulgarity, and obscenity provide overabundant evidence of an intelligence too underdeveloped to take seriously.

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