Culture

Best selling CD's

Culture | Music

Issue: "Spain waves white flag," March 27, 2004

TALKIE WALKIE

Air

7 weeks on chart

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Style Airy, minimalistic electronic pop, French division.

Worldview &quotI need your DNA, / your fingerprints, the flesh around your bones- / I'd like to know why all these things move me. / Let's fuse our cells to be as one tonight."

Overall quality Annoyingly somnolent with words, pleasantly somnolent without ("Mike Mills," &quotAlone in Kyoto"), visually nondescript on the enclosed performance DVD.

FEELS LIKE HOME

Norah Jones

7 weeks on chart

Style Breathy, after-hours nightclub folk.

Worldview &quotI'm on my knees empty / You humble me, Lord / You humble me, Lord / Please, please, please forgive me" (from the Kevin Breit-penned &quotHumble Me").

Overall quality More hushed-soft than hushed-intense; despite the cameos of such theoretically incompatible participants as Dolly Parton and the Band's Garth Hudson and Levon Helm, stylistically similar enough to Miss Jones's octuple-platinum debut to ensure widespread appeal.

MARGERINE ECLIPSE

Stereolab

6 weeks on chart

Style The art deco of electronic music.

Worldview &quotPeople are pressed, liberties crushed. / Shouldn't it resound, / cry of our soul? / It is so faint I can't hear it. / I know it's there somewhere." (Translation: Like, original sin is such a bummer.)

Overall quality As if Brian Wilson had fiddled with synthesizers instead of orchestras during his drugged years and replaced the Beach Boys with a singing French model.

EDUCATED GUESS

Ani DiFranco

7 weeks on chart

Style Melody-resistant, radically leftist folk-punk.

Objectionable material &quotGrand Canyon" (obscenity).

Worldview &quotwhen they said he could walk on water / what it sounds like to me / is he could float like a butterfly / and sting like a bee / literal people scare me / out there trying to rid the world / of its poetry / while getting it wrong fundamentally" (liner poem).

Overall quality See Howard Dean.

SILENCE IS EASY

Starsailor

5 weeks on chart

Style Further proof that U2 is the most influential band of the last 25 years.

Worldview &quotBut for the grace of God, she cries herself to sleep. / But now the grace of God's the reason why she weeps. / Oh, it won't be long / Before their hold is broken." (Translation: Evangelicals are bad.)

Overall quality Will help U2's less evangelically fervent fans endure the wait between albums.

In the spotlight

It won't show up on William Bennett's list of leading cultural indicators, but the discrepancy in CD sales between Norah Jones, 24, and Ani DiFranco, 33, is one sign that, contemporary headlines to the contrary, the Left may not be winning the culture war after all. Although Miss DiFranco, a one-woman Beat Movement whose music is often as abrasively anarchistic as her politics, has managed to lodge eight albums on the Billboard Top 200 since 1989, only one of them has cracked the top 25, and nine haven't charted at all.

Miss Jones, on the other hand-an &quotAnti-Ani" in every noticeably significant way-has seen her debut album (2002's Come Away with Me) and its follow-up (the recently released Feels Like Home) become instant chart-toppers. If people vote with their feet, why may they also not vote with their ears? One thing's certain: Where Miss Jones and Miss DiFranco are concerned, people are voting with their money.

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