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Bestselling CDs

Notable CDs | The top five bestselling Internet albums according to Billboard magazine

Issue: "Post-party election blues?," Nov. 6, 2004

The top five bestselling Internet albums as of Oct. 23

According to Billboard magazine

1. Chronicles of Life & Death - Good Charlotte

Weeks on the chart: 1

Style: Melodic alternative pop with hard, jagged edges.

Objectionable material: "I Just Wanna Live," "The World Is Black" (casual crudity and/or cursing).

Worldview: "In this world all of our sins are simple. / We choose death over innocent life, / and in this world it's not our money that's evil, / It's the ones who choose it over life."

Overall quality: Surprisingly compassionate, wise, and non-self-pitying given the group's relative youth.

2. Pressure Chief - Cake

Weeks on the chart: 1

Style: Wry alternative rock.

Objectionable material: "Carbon Monoxide" (profanities).

Worldview: "People you love will turn their backs on you. / You'll lose your hair, your teeth. . . . / People you hate will get their hooks into you. / They'll pull you down. . . . / But you still don't like to leave before the end of the movie."

Overall quality: With the best song a Bread cover, proof that man doth not live by Cake alone.

3. Smile - Brian Wilson

Weeks on the chart: 2

Style: The baroque Beach Boys pop of which "Good Vibrations" has long been the tip of the iceberg.

Worldview: "In response to the musical British Invasion, [Brian Wilson and lyricist Van Dyke Parks's] desire was to bring forth something very American and, in its humor and wide-ranging subject matter, to create something radically different from the music being made by their contemporaries" (from the liner notes).

Overall quality: California dreamin'.

4. Around the Sun - R.E.M.

Weeks on the chart: 1

Style: Ethereal, somber, electronic pop.

Worldview: More of R.E.M.'s trademark impressionistic verbal gauze, with some anti-Republican off-rhymes for the swing states ("Prop up the Omega Man. We're primed for victory. / God gave us the upper hand. There's honor among thieves. / Temper it with arrogance, a dash of sad conceit. / The top's down on the T-Bird. We're the children of the free").

Overall quality: Euphony at its gloomiest.

5. Genious Loves Company - Ray Charles

Weeks on the chart: 6

Style: Omnivorously eclectic American pop.

Worldview: Ray Charles loved every kind of music, and every kind of music loved him back.

Overall quality: Although the Michael McDonald, Bonnie Raitt, Gladys Knight, B.B. King, Johnny Mathis, and Van Morrison duets hold up better than the James Taylor, Elton John, Natalie Cole, and Willie Nelson duets, the music only really comes to life when the Genius starts to sing.

In the spotlight

It's easy to forget, but when the Beatles released the landmark Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967, Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys were considered their only serious competition, and Smile was to be the album that proved them worthy of the honor. Ambitious by the standards of the time, it was to have represented Mr. Wilson's musical and conceptual genius in full flower. Instead it went unfinished as the head Beach Boy suffered a nervous breakdown brought on by drugs and the pressures of topping the Fab Four.

Now, at 62, Mr. Wilson has completed his magnum opus. Actually, Smile (Nonesuch) is an entirely new recording, but it follows the long-documented vocal and instrumental arrangements so closely that it may as well be the 1967 original. Consisting of songs and segues evocative of the American spirit, it's more Gershwin-esque than Beatle-esque. Mostly, though, it's Beach Boys-esque, and even 37 years late it sounds ahead of its time.


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