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Best-selling CDs

Notable CDs | The top five best-selling CDs according to Billboard magazine, Sept. 11

Issue: "Rathergate," Sept. 25, 2004

The top five best-selling CDs as of Sept. 11

According to Billboard magazine

1. LIVE LIKE YOU WERE DYING - Tim McGraw

Weeks on the chart 1

Style Commercially flawless contemporary country.

Objectionable material "Everybody Hates Me" (for those who object to S.O.B.); "Kill Myself" (casual cursing).

Worldview "Everybody just wants to get high, / sit and watch a perfect world go by. / We're all looking for love and meaning in our lives. / We follow the roads that lead us / to drugs or Jesus."

Overall quality Top-drawer professional country songwriting efficiently if not passionately interpreted.

2. HAPPY PEOPLE / U SAVED ME - R. Kelly

Weeks on the chart 1

Style Contemporary R&B.

Objectionable material "The Greatest Show on Earth" (explicit sex talk).

Worldview The power of positive thinking.

Overall quality Mr. Kelly is more convincing, if less savory, as the male Mary Kay Letourneau than as the soulful Norman Vincent Peale.

3. STRAIGHT OUTTA CA$HVILLE - Young Buck

Weeks on the chart 1

Style Low-balling thug rap.

Objectionable material Relentless profanities, vulgarities, obscenities, racial epithets, and other insurmountable impediments to remotely intelligible versification.

Worldview "You won't see me with a cross on my back. / Gotta do my own thing, can't copy that cat" ("Do It like Me").

Overall quality None.

4. WELCOME BACK - Mase

Weeks on the chart 1

Style Rap.

Objectionable material "Breathe Stretch Shake" (vulgarity).

Worldview "I could do nothin' of myself. / It's all through Him. / It's all through Him, so all around the world you don't even know success until you know Him, / and Him is Jesus."

Overall quality The almost total absence of objectionable language plus references to Mase's being re-born in Christ make this the rap album to tolerate if tolerate one you must.

5. ...THAT'S WHAT I CALL MUSIC! 16 - Various artists

Weeks on the chart 5

Style One-half hip-hop, one-tenth airhead languor, one-third modern rock, one-twentieth Gretchen "Redneck Woman" Wilson.

Objectionable material The occasional muted vulgarities and lasciviousness of the hip-hop half.

Worldview Meet the new Now That's What I Call Music!, same as the old Now That's What I Call Music!

Overall quality Fool me once, shame on you; fool me 16 times, shame on me.

In the spotlight

Like Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, Pee Wee Herman, Kobe Bryant, and Bill Clinton, the R&B impresario R. Kelly finds himself in the unenviable position of having to seek public absolution for unsavory randy behavior (sex with underaged girls in Mr. Kelly's case). Complicating the task is that for the repentance to be convincing, the penitent must avoid giving the impression that he's waxing contrite merely to preserve his marketability.

Mr. Kelly's approach with his new self-indulgent double album Happy People/U Saved Me (Jive/Zomba) is twofold: to silence his critics by demonizing criticism as "negative" (Happy People), and to convince his fans that because a prodigal has returned it's time to kill the fatted calf (U Saved Me). Fair-minded listeners will be grateful for the positive tone and hope that the new leaf Mr. Kelly has turned over grows from the True Vine. But usually he's guilty of the kind of "overdoing it" that Shakespeare might have called "protest[ing] too much."

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