Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Totally Hits [Arista, 1999]
Of course it cheats--every compilation cheats. Inferior Sugar Ray, Monica, and Madonna, ringer from the hapless Five, awful hit from the imitable Sarah McLachlan. But given its BMG-WEA limitations, this is premier radio fodder. It rescues Cher and LFO from their meaningless albums as it repackages ace Whitney Houston and Deborah Cox remixes, and from "No Scrubs" to "Bawitdaba" it establishes a flow that sets off "Smooth" and "Ray of Light" and the formerly execrable "(God Must Have Spent) A Little More Time on You" as the touchstones they are. The mood is hiply happy and humane--the exceptions, a would-be suicide and some heavy yearning, mean only to prove that this is the real world, troubling at times but always manageable. The stylistic signature is keyb/electric guitar as acoustic guitar, rippling its quiet riffs over the intricate rhythms of a body at peace with itself. As composition, I find it as convincing, if not as elegant or organic, as Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians or Franco & Rochereau's Omona Wapi. Note, however, that the only energy rushes come from Cher's Eurodisco and the show-topping Kid Rock, who's also the only true rapper here. It's a relief to know Arista needs him to put its lovely lies over the top. A-