Music world gives plenty of wacky, tacky to entertain

Posted: Thursday, December 27, 2001

At the end of the year, it's customary to look back and make lists: who sold the most albums, who had the biggest song, the best tour, and so forth.

Sure, its important to celebrate music's loftiest accomplishments of 2001. But it's more fun to remember what really kept us entertained, from the wretched songs to the shameless outfits to the scandalous antics of entertainers. Here's a rundown of that side of 2001 in music -- for better or for worse:

Act most in need of a hiatus -- Destiny's Child. Don't get me wrong -- they're gorgeous, talented, delivered up some of the year's best jams, and even added the much-appreciated ''Bootyli-cious'' to our vocabulary. But after seeing Beyonce & Co. in Target commercials, in toy stores (they have their own dolls) and all over television, we're getting a little tired of saying this trio's name.

Biggest Flop -- So many flops, so little space. 2001 could go down as the year of the backlash: Fans avoided Grammy-winner Macy Gray's ''The Id'' in droves; Sisqo, who had one of last year's biggest hits with ''The Thong Song,'' found his follow-up disc, ''Return of Dragon,'' tossed aside like yesterday's underwear. Even veterans Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger saw their projects ignored despite massive publicity. But the most amazing flameout had to be Mariah Carey's. She signed a reported $100 million contract with Virgin Records only to have her album, ''Glitter,'' barely go gold. Her movie of the same name tanked, and she suffered an emotional breakdown.

Biggest Sensation -- Alicia Keys. The 20-year-old shocked the music world by debuting at the top of the charts with her first disc, ''Songs in A Minor,'' even before its first single, ''Fallin''', was a hit. Her Mariah-like pipes, combined with street edge and model-worthy good looks, made her one of the year's most celebrated entertainers.

Most Over-Hyped -- Alicia Keys. Sure, she's talented, and her debut disc shows great promise. But equating ''Songs in A Minor'' with recent classics like ''The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill'' or ''Who Is Jill Scott?'', as some critics did, shows some fallin' out of touch with reality. There are only two outstanding tracks here, and they are her first two hits -- ''Fallin''' and ''A Woman's Worth.'' The rest is typical R&B fare we've all heard too much before.

Best Cameo -- Ja Rule, for taking Jennifer Lopez's super-corny ''I'm Real'' and transforming it into a gruff, sexy R&B smash. The remix was so good it made you actually forget J.Lo's minuscule vocal talents. Honorable mention: Gwen Stefani's funky turn on Eve's ''Let Me Blow Ya Mind,'' and Moby's ''Southside.''

Worst Career Move -- This could have gone to Mariah Carey on so many levels: her decision to make the ''so-bad-it's-fun'' movie ''Glitter,'' that ill-advised popsicle-striptease on MTV's ''TRL,'' and so on. But her missteps pale in comparison to those of Michael Jackson. Proving that he has an over-inflated sense of self-worth, he staged not one but two tacky, over-the-top tribute concerts to himself that embarrassed not only him, but plenty of stars who should know better (Jill Scott performing as a scarecrow from ''The Wiz''?). Instead of generating anticipation for his new disc, ''Invincible,'' the concerts only served as a reminder of how freakish he has become.

Most Unnecessary Remake -- ''Lady Marmalade,'' a collaborative assault on the LaBelle classic by Pink, Mya, Lil' Kim and Christina Aguilera. It's hard to tell what was worse, hearing Aguilera screech her part on the radio, or seeing her do it with full-fright wig in the video. Some things are better left unsung.

Best Comeback -- Rock music. After being pushed out of the limelight by teen pop and rap over the last couple of years, bands such as Linkin Park, Staind, P.O.D. and Nickelback put the genre back on the best-seller list. By the end of the year, Creed's latest disc was dominating the charts. Lighters, anyone?

Guiltiest Pleasure -- Enya's ''A Day Without Rain.'' Most of the songs on this New-Age singer's disc make elevator music seem wild and innovative. Still, it's soothing and relaxing, which is the primary reason why the album surged up the charts after Sept. 11. After such horror, her light fare is just the pick-me-up so many of us needed.

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