1. KIDZ BOP 8 -- Kidz Bop Kids
WEEKS ON CHART: 1
STYLE Contemporary rock and pop chart-toppers covered note-for-note by anonymous teens (and younger?).
WORLDVIEW That "kidz" who "bop" to the hits of Kelly Clarkson, Alicia Keyes, Franz Ferdinand, U2, Gwen Stefani, Green Day, Avril Lavigne, Gavin DeGraw, Usher, Mario, Nelly, et al., will also bop to them when performed by sound-alike performers who in previous generations would've been auditioning for Up with People.
OVERALL QUALITY The essence of superfluity.
2. MOONLIGHT SERENADE -- Carly Simon
WEEKS ON CHART: 3
STYLE Golden-age-of-Broadway standards.
WORLDVIEW "Songs you can dance to, make love to and engage perhaps in a dry martini or a pre-dawn swim to. . . . I hope that you put [this album] under your pillow and see if the tooth fairy comes. I have often been mistaken for the tooth fairy" (from Ms. Simon's liner notes).
OVERALL QUALITY Well-sung and lovingly arranged if by no means definitive.
3. X&Y -- Coldplay
WEEKS ON CHART: 9
STYLE U2 minus the fire in the belly and the apocalyptic context.
WORLDVIEW Not much worldview in the lyrics; the booklet does, however, list the websites of Greenpeace, Amnesty International, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and World Vision.
OVERALL QUALITY The numerous stretches of glacial beauty and arena-rock grandeur notwithstanding, little in the way of excitement; or all "cold" and no "play" makes Chris, Jon, Will, and Guy dull boys.
4. THE LIVING ROOM TOUR -- Carole King
WEEKS ON CHART: 4
STYLE Live, unplugged renditions of Ms. King's four-decade cache of hits and misses.
WORLDVIEW "Everyone comes from one father, one mother. / So why do we complicate our lives so much / by being at war with each other? / Maybe I'm crazy, but I don't understand it."
OVERALL QUALITY Too loose (no drums) and bathetic (no brains) to replace Tapestry in the collections of anyone for whom one King disc is enough.
5. WHAT I MEANT TO SAY -- Donny Osmond
WEEKS ON CHART: 7
STYLE Adult-contemporary pop.
WORLDVIEW That old teen-idols never die, they just remain afloat (on Broadway or in Branson) until their ship comes in again.
OVERALL QUALITY The middle-aged white-man's electro-funk numbers are an embarrassment, but Mr. Osmond still has a sweet and innocent way with slow-dance love songs ("Keep Her in Mind," "Right Here Waiting," "Whenever You're in Trouble," "Broken Man") and the well-chosen oldie ("This Guy's in Love with You").
In the spotlight
On first listen, Carole King's The Living Room Tour (Rockingale/Concord/Hear) seems little more or less than a document of the bonding of a beloved '60s/'70s singer-songwriter with her audience. Ms. King plays eight cuts from her perennially best-selling album Tapestry, she rolls out a medley of her Brill Building collaborations with Gerry Goffin that became classics when recorded by the Monkees, the Shirelles, Little Eva, Bobby Vee, James Taylor, Steve Lawrence, and Herman's Hermits, and she makes cute small talk between songs.
Eventually, however, cracks in Ms. King's connection with reality begin to appear. Not only are the non-hits sentimental to a fault, but she also includes both "Love Makes the World Go 'Round" and "You've Got a Friend," the mini-set that she performed for Fidel Castro in 2002. People who unfairly malign Wagner because Hitler was a fan now have a genuinely dictator-friendly composer worth boycotting.