The 10 Most Annoying Things About Music in 2000 . . .
Napster hysteria Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton's recent book Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey (Grove) spends part of an early chapter detailing what happened when the earliest disc jockeys first spun records on the radio in the late 1920s. Big record companies sued stations for playing records. Music publishers vowed litigation against any broadcaster who played recordings of songs they administered. Musicians' unions, fearing the loss of jobs from records competing with then-standard live on-air performances, called the trend a "prime evil" and eventually called a strike. According to one historian the book's authors quote, the Federal Radio Commission, forerunner of today's Federal Communications Commission, "attempted everything this side of public hangings to curb the practice."
Now, of course, record companies hire whole staffs of people to do nothing but try to get records played on the radio. In fact, many labels have paid dearly for the privilege of airtime, legally or not. All those long-ago labels and publishers and musicians were right--radio did change the way the music business worked. But what seemed like a pending disaster at the time is now the status quo; music and musicians survived, even flourished. Since the little blue demon of downloadable music is already out of the bottle, the smart money might be on keeping calm and keeping an eye on the long view.
Eminem hysteria The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation obviously hasn't listened to much hip-hop if it thinks The Marshall Mathers LP represents a new standard for homophobia in the genre. Ditto for misogyny, although Eminem's name-checks of specific female members of his own immediate family puts a twisted new twist on things. It seems to me that folks are getting their madface on here because not only are white kids buying this stuff by the pallet, a white kid's doing it and making big piles of dosh in the process. It's the kind of reaction you would expect if soda companies suddenly started marketing malt liquor like Mountain Dew. Doesn't that seem just a little bit more twisted, on the whole, than anything going on inside Slim Shady's sizable, messed-up, but not abnormal brain?
The music "business" As movie buffs nowadays compare opening-weekend grosses the way they might have once studied cinematography or editing, Soundscan-tracked sales figures have become as much a part of pop-music discourse as the music itself. But what does it really matter if 'N Sync's No Strings Attached sold 2.4 million copies its first week while the Backstreet Boys' Black and Blue sold a mere 1.6 million, or that sales for Limp Bizkit's Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water slipped 66 percent after the first week? A more telling statistic might be how many copies of each you will find languishing in used-CD stores in five years.
And then there's the ongoing round of major-label mergers, which have left many artists without stable deals and which promise to put more and more signing power in the hands of fewer, ever-more-profit-minded execs. If you thought major labels were a dubious proposition before . . .
Creed As much as disgruntled rockers like to dis the 'N Syncs and Britneys of the world, the plain old generic rock bands are doing a fine job of sucking the character and creativity right out of contemporary music. Creed isn't the only offender, just the most egregious, given frontman Scott Stapp's can't-miss blend of insipidity, pretension, and bombast. Extra annoyance factor: Stapp posed shirtless and oiled up for a Spin magazine cover-photo shoot, only to reportedly call the magazine after the issue came out to complain that the picture made him "look gay."
The backstage riot at the Source Awards This is why hip-hop can't have nice things.
Radiohead hysteria Groundbreaking album or big letdown? How about a bit of both?
Charlotte Church Be gone.
Madonna's cowboy outfit It's the first desperate-seeming thing she's done in years, and strangely reminiscent of Buck from Boogie Nights besides. And then there's that BRITNEY T-shirt she wore at a club performance last month. Snap out of it, for God's sake--you're Madonna.
Oh death Since last year's Top-10 issue, the world has lost, among others, beloved British pub rocker Ian Dury, the inimitable Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Israeli diva Ofra Haza, Bobby Marchan (outrageous frontman for vintage New Orleans-based act Huey "Piano" Smith and the Clowns), the great R&B auteur Curtis Mayfield, man-behind-the-scenes Jack Nitzsche, Cars bassist Benjamin Orr, timbale titan Tito Puente, portly rapper Christopher "Big Pun" Rios, Tex-Mex cult figure Doug Sahm, country legend Hank Snow, soul man Johnny Taylor, saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, reggae drummer Winston Grennan, and Baltimore Blues Society president Marcia Selko. Rest in peace.
The Year In Tracks (12/15/2009)
. . . just in the case the album really is dead.
The Year in News (12/9/2009)
The Year in Movies (12/9/2009)
The Lady Vanishes (8/4/2010)
Meet Henrietta Vinton Davis-one of the most amazing women you've probably never heard of
Blaster Master (7/14/2010)
Landis Expandis can't live without his radios
The Black Box (6/16/2010)
Baltimore's African-American indie filmmakers search for an audience
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