1. How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb - U2
Weeks on chart: 5
Style: U2's now familiar blend of chiming guitars and keening vocals expressive of spiritual desire.
Worldview: "Take this city. / A city should be shining on a hill. / Take this city / if it be your will. / What no man can own, no man can take. / Take this heart . . . and make it break" ("Yahweh").
Overall quality: Revisits the classic U2 sound with a minimum of
2. Genius Loves Company - Ray Charles
Weeks on chart: 16
Style: A cornucopia of 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, Norah Jones, and Willie Nelson duets, the music only really comes to life when Mr. Charles begins to sing.
3. American Idiot - Green Day
Weeks on chart: 12
Style: Catchy if derivative punk.
Objectionable material: Obscenities ("I Don't Care," "Tales of Another Broken Home," "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," "Letterbomb," "Homecoming," "East 12th St.," "Nobody Likes You," "We're Coming Home Again," the title cut).
Worldview: "On a steady diet of soda pop and Ritalin, / no one ever died for my sins in hell / as far as I can tell."
Overall quality: Latchkey angst effectively (if crudely) expressed.
4. Greatest Hits - Shania Twain
Weeks on chart: 7
Style: A sparkling marriage of catchy country and big-beat pop.
Objectionable material: "Honey, I'm Home," "You Win My Love" (casual cursing and/or double entendres).
Worldview: "If you're not in it for life, . . . let me make it clear to you, my dear. / If you're not in it for love, / I'm outta here!"
Overall quality: The aural equivalent of her playfully flirtatious (yet for the most part wholesome) public persona.
5. Stardust - Rod Stewart
Weeks on chart: 9
Style: Gershwin and Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, Hoagy Carmichael, Cole Porter, Frank Loesser, et al.
Worldview: There's no business like show business.
Overall quality: At its best, the strongest of Mr. Stewart's three forays into Broadway-musical song, marred only by two gimmicky duets (Bette Midler, Dolly Parton) and a nondescript "What a Wonderful World."
In the spotlight
Christians of a certain generation have been scrutinizing U2 albums for clues to Bono's spiritual condition for almost a quarter of a century now, and at times the enterprise has felt like (and been about as rewarding as) a shell game. With How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (Universal), however, the detective work will no doubt resume in earnest. Despite his many allusions to Christianity in the past, never before has Bono used them to unify an album to such an extent.
The disc's most explicitly Christian song is the concluding cut, "Yahweh," but even its nakedly spiritual expression only makes full sense if heard as the logical culmination of the 10 songs that precede it. Whether inspecting the intricacies of romance or lifting his eyes toward more global concerns, Bono (sometimes with co-lyricist help from the Edge) imbues his words with biblical phrases, suggesting an increasing intimacy on his part with the inseparability of private devotion and social revolution.