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Best-selling CDs

Notable CDs | The top five "HEATSEEKER" CDs according to Billboard magazine, Aug. 14

Issue: "2004 Election: GOP's encore," Aug. 28, 2004

Best-Selling CDs

The top five "HEATSEEKER" CDs according to Billboard magazine, Aug. 14

1. SCISSOR SISTERS - Scissor Sisters

Weeks on the chart: 1

Style: '70s Brit-pop with contemporary electronic touches.

Objectionable material: "Laura," "Music Is the Victim" (obscenity, crude slang), "[Crudity deleted] on the Radio" (crude if pointed social commentary), "Lovers in the Backseat," "Filthy Gorgeous" (lasciviousness), Ana Matronic's see-through clothing.

Worldview: "If Jesus has the power, then so do I, / to rise up from the dead and take up to the sky."

Overall quality: They love the Me Decade, they love it not.

2. DRUNK IN PUBLIC - Ron White

Weeks on the chart: 34

Style: Stand-up comedy: raunchy but clever when not clever but raunchy.

Objectionable material: All 15 routines.

Worldview: What doesn't kill you (e.g., in-laws, adultery, alcohol, vegetarians) only makes you funnier (and raunchier).

Overall quality: The raunch on this album is so deeply woven into its very fabric that unlike, say, the Steve Martin albums of the '70s, no amount of editing can render it suitable for those under 21.

3. DRAG IT UP - Old 97s

Weeks on the chart: 1

Style: Spectrum-spanning alternative-country (aka No Depression, Triple-A) music.

Worldview: "I'm gonna toil away until my Judgment Day. / I will be rewarded for the good things I did" ("In the Satellite Rides a Star").

Overall quality: Enhanced by self-effacing drollery and Rhett Miller's youthfully Alex Chilton-esque singing, the fast songs gallop, the mid-tempo songs shuffle, and the slow songs drift like the smoke of a solitary cigarette on a moonlit night.

4. THE BRIDGE - Letter Kills

Weeks on the chart: 1

Style: Music for mosh pits.

Worldview: "Don't believe in me because I will let you down" ("Don't Believe").

Overall quality: The letter does in fact kill, but, unless adrenaline and amplification count, there's no compensatory spirit giving this music life.

5. . . . CHERRY BOMBS - The Notorious Cherry Bombs

Weeks on the chart: 1

Style: The country-rock Traveling Wilburys (with Rodney Crowell, Vince Gill, and Richard Bennett instead of Bob Dylan, George Harrison, and Tom Petty).

Objectionable material: "Let It Roll, Let It Ride" (casual cursing); "It's Hard to Kiss the Lips at Night That Chew Your [crudity deleted] Out All Day Long."

Worldview: When the going gets tough, the tough get together and make an album.

Overall quality: Tuneful country-rock cruise control.

In the spotlight

Theoretically at least, expletives, when used sparingly and/or with skill, can serve as rhetorically useful intensifiers or agents of catharsis. The problem with too many contemporary comedians is that their use of such terms is neither sparing nor skillful. Drunk in Public (Hip-O), which captures the nightclub routine of the Texas comedian Ron White, illustrates both the problem and its primary unintended consequence: the watering down of a comedian's God-given wit until it's little more than a source of base titillation. The funniest of Mr. White's routines makes the absence of any family-friendly material particularly regretful. In "Outlaw Video Games," for instance, which takes as its point of departure the cause-and-effect relationship between video games and teenage violence, there's even a grain of wisdom ("It's not a parenting problem, oh noooo," Mr. White remarks sarcastically). And the concluding line of "Osama Bin Laden"-"Comedy's not always pretty, folks"-is similarly astute. But comedy needn't always be ugly either.


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