1. FIRED UP! 2 - Various Performers
Weeks on chart: 5
Style: Dance-club hits circa 1998-2003.
Objectionable material: "Sexual (Li Da Di)," by Amber.
Worldview: Not only that people will dance to anything as long as it's set to an unvarying, electronically enhanced beat but also that they're more likely to buy it if it's labeled "As Seen on TV."
Overall quality: Monotonously homogeneous despite the occasional comic relief (e.g., Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice").
2. COSMIC GAME - Thievery Corporation
Weeks on chart: 3
Style: Thirteen co-credited special guests singing and rapping subversively in four languages atop global trance-dance beats both slow and not so slow.
Worldview: "Miss Liberty turn inna Jezebel. / All de dreams you go sell, de whole dem turn inna hell. / Her bed of roses are filled with thorns. / Her righteous robes are tattered and torn" ("Amerimacka," featuring Notch).
Overall quality: Less tuneful than thoughtful, less thoughtful than the Scissor Sisters.
3. GIVE UP - The Postal Service
Weeks on chart: 101
Style: Airy, minimalistic electronic pop.
Worldview: "I am thinking it's a sign that the freckles in our eyes are mirror images, and when we kiss, they're perfectly aligned, / and I have to speculate that God Himself did make us into corresponding shapes like puzzle pieces from the clay" ("Such Great Heights").
Overall quality: Less meaningful than tuneful, more tuneful than any other top-five electronic-chart album except the Scissor Sisters.
4. SCISSOR SISTERS - Scissor Sisters
Weeks on chart: 33
Style: '70s Brit-pop with contemporary electronic touches.
Objectionable material: "Laura," "Music Is the Victim" (obscenity, crude slang), "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.
5. PUSH THE BUTTON - The Chemical Brothers
Weeks on chart: 7
Style: Six co-credited special guests singing and rapping subversively in one language (English) atop ominously abrasive trance-dance beats both fast and not so fast.
Worldview: "Don't hold back. Don't think about it too much . . . / World, the time has come to galvanize" ("Galvanize"); "I need you to believe in something" ("Believe," featuring Kele Okereke).
Overall quality: The album title notwithstanding, hardly the thing to start a global conflagration.
In the spotlight
If dancing is supposed to be fun and the target audience for the music on Billboard's "electronic" chart is dancers, one would think that today's best-selling electronic music would be fun. But aside from Scissor Sisters (whose album is only tangentially electronic), and the Postal Service (whose album is only tangentially dance friendly), the music suffers from a monotony that afflicted its most obvious forebear-disco-only at its most decadent extremes.
One reason is the absence of any noticeable soul or rhythm-and-blues influence. Another reason is the absence of humor. Disco, especially early on, was anything but grim. But, again, aside from the Scissor Sisters, whose Bee Gees-styled discofication of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" is genuinely funny, the current crop works so hard at the fun they're allegedly having that it seldom seems worth the trouble.