Rap ruled again last week. Not only was Mase's "Harlem World" the nation's best-selling album for the second week in a row, but two other hip-hop collections--Jay-Z's "In My Lifetime" and Rakim's "18th Letter"--debuted at Nos. 3 and 4, respectively.
"Harlem World" sold about 175,000 copies, according to SoundScan, to win a close race against country star Shania Twain's "Come on Over," which fell fewer than 4,000 copies short of No. 1 during its first week in stores.
Making a far less impressive debut was the Spice Girls' "Spiceworld," which came in at a disappointing No. 8. The group's first album, "Spice," topped the chart for five weeks this year and still resides among the Top 20.
Meanwhile, Elton John's "Candle in the Wind 1997" sold nearly 187,000 copies to top the singles sales chart for the seventh consecutive week.
Here are some recent releases that are generating critical or commercial attention:
Bob Dylan's "Time Out of Mind" (Columbia). Rock's master songwriter has come up with what is arguably his most artful and convincing collection since the '70s.
Steve Earle's "El Corazon" (E-Squared/Warner Bros.). The veteran country rocker delivers it straight--and with a twist--as he crafts spare songs from a palette of folk, country, blues and rock.
Janet Jackson's "The Velvet Rope" (Virgin). As a musician, Michael's little sister has never seemed more confident or ambitious than she does here.
Mase's "Harlem World" (Bad Boy/Arista). With the exceptions of fellow rappers Erick Sermon and Too Short, no one with a flow as slow and nonchalant as Mase's has succeeded so well in a genre where testosterone and icy menace rule.
Shania Twain's "Come on Over" (Mercury). Predictable songs of revelry and ecstasy dominate this follow-up to "The Woman in Me," the best-selling album ever by a female country artist.
The Spice Girls' "Spiceworld" (Virgin). If you're gonna conquer the world with your outrageous antics and messages of "girl power" and "positivity," you ought to muster a bit more zest for your second album than the English quintet has done here.
Barbra Streisand's "Higher Ground" (Columbia), LSG's "LSG" (EastWest).
Tuesday: Celine Dion's "Let's Talk About Love" (550 Music/Epic), Metallica's "Re-Load" (Elektra), Kenny G's "Greatest Hits" (Arista).
Nov. 25: Garth Brooks' "Sevens" (Capitol Nashville), 2Pac's "R U Still Down? (Remember Me)" (Amaru/Jive).