By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
Madonna, Music (Maverick): August: Sleater-Kinney had churned out another well-made yet totally forgettable record. I couldn't get down with the '60s redux of Aisler's Set. Li'l Kim's Notorious K.I.M., the follow-up to the 1996 classic Hardcore, was, like its predecessor, slick, redundant, name-dropping, but entirely disappointing. PJ Harvey's newest hadn't come out yet, but I knew then that it was going to be a histrionic crapfest, treading in the same water that proved successful in 1994. In short, I found myself at a total loss for quality lady music. I end up having to record my Like A Virgin record--with this summer's exception, Mirah's You Think It's Like This But It's Really Like This on the B-side--in order to drive around with my windows down. In fall, Madonna did the unexpected, putting out her best album in years. Abandoning as much of the false bravado as Madonna possibly could, Music is a dance record with genuine girlish sensibilities. Its high--combined with the thrill found in new records from millennial garage rockers The Peeps and The Gossip and the reincarnation of X-Ray Spex as San Francisco's Subtonix--made things bearable.
R&B Radio: This year was, hands down, the best in memory for radio hits. Sure, Jah Rule, Vitamin C, Shaggy, and Three Little Women took their toll, not to mention Ludicris or Mystikal. But, in addition to the joy of hearing "back that thang up" or "thong th-thong thong thong!" every time I left my house, Destiny's Child's "Say My Name" and "Jumpin' Jumpin'," Da Brat's "Whatcu Like," LL Cool J's "Imagine That," Eve's "Love Is Blind," Kelis' "Caught Out There," the number of radio hits from Dr. Dre, and the mere existence of Lil' Bow Wow reassured my faith in the music industry.
The Wimpier Indie Rock Gets, The More Jocks Love Rap Metal: Like most records released this year, I haven't heard the new Limp Bizkit. I'm sure it sucks. The thing I don't get about it is: What else are angry white guys supposed to listen to? The White Stripes? Belle & Sebastian? Death Cab For Cutie? Rap Metal exists because there's nothing better. There is no positive, uniting force in supposedly innovative indie rock. On a smaller scale, this at least explains the popularity of At The Drive-In. As for Metal-Metal, the same applies to The Fucking Champs, and the amount of play my roommates have given the Emperor boxed set and the new Nile record.
Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP (Interscope): I admitted to myself that I liked this record, and furthermore, that I have nothing new to say about it. It's not perfect; musically it's a lesser record than Dr. Dre's Chronic 2001, a fact made more glaring since Dre had his hands all over Eminem's record. It's a far less witty take on being a man than Outkast's Stankonia, and not the direct hit to rock music and rock musicianship that Cat Power's The Covers Record was. I find Marshall Mathers' stance laughable more than once--his shock value veers into Saturday Night Live territory, and he sure picks some lame targets. I find it quite hard to believe that he hates gays that much when he purportedly pops ecstasy and sports that fruity bleached Caesar cut, hoop earrings, and raver pants. Who cares that he hates the Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync? Radiohead, Elliott Smith, and Pedro The Lion are much wimpier.
Yet The Marshall Mathers LP says more about the betrayal of the American Male in its over-praised and over-feared 18 tracks than in the 579 pages of Susan Faludi's Stiffed. There's nothing enduring about this record; in fact, it's dated to the point of perfection. He's to pop stars of the '90s what Elvis was to Bing Crosby and Glenn Miller. Eminem, to make an even more pretentious analogy, is Jackson Pollock for our times. Over-hyped and over-analyzed, he sucks the air out of the room for everyone.