By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
1. Creed, Weathered (Wind-Up): Creed is the Molly Hatchet of the post-grunge era, a hairy, shambling beast that somehow continues to sell just enough records to survive, despite being woefully irrelevant. Its current audience seems to comprise an older crowd--if you're an accountant or a sales exec who loves Nevermind but not Bleach, this probably sounds pretty far-out to you--and a handful of teens who first got into hard rock via Limp Bizkit and who therefore don't know any better. Weathered is perhaps the most accurately titled album of the year; from sludgy riffs to Scott Stapp's still-insufferable poet-warrior baritone, this is a record that plays all its cards in sequence, without a single surprise. Come to think of it, Exhausted might have been a better title. --Eric Waggoner
2. Mick Jagger, Goddess in the Doorway (Virgin): Other than providing Rolling Stone boss Jann Wenner with a wealth of new masturbatory material, this latest set of Jagger solo junk serves no purpose. Oh, except to score music crits an extra fiver around the holiday season. And adding to the wealth of evidence that Matchbox Twenty heart-knob Rob Thomas is the Don Was of horseshit. --Zac Crain
3. Michael Jackson, Invincible (Epic): All we ask is just one song approaching MJ's glory days. Instead, Invincible leaves us nostalgic for Free Willy. It starts out tolerably, offering at least freeze-dried bits of Thriller carrion. Then comes the deluge of goopy Luther Vandross dreck like "You Are My Life," the (ahem) sub-"Man in the Mirror" heap "The Lost Children," a scary, third-rate "Leave Me Alone" delivered with a mummified rasp ("Privacy") and the spot-on "Don't Walk Away" ("there's nothing left to do but walk away"). Sad but true for the deposed King of Pop. --Michael Chamy
4. D-12, Devil's Night (Interscope): Further proof that giving your friends jobs is only a good idea in theory. Better check VH1, Eminem: Hammer went broke this way. --Z.C.
5. Britney Spears, Britney (Jive): She's not a girl, she's not a woman, so what is she? Oh, wait--says here in Tiger Beat (which I always confuse with The Progressive) she's a self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing pain in the ass who thinks anyone over the age of 8 gives one shit what she thinks of herself, which she's more than happy to share with you over a dozen of the most wretched, listless tracks ever laid down by silicone. Her only hope is that little girls' dads won't feel so awful about Jerkin' the Justin to her latest collection and its accompanying poster, which sells back sticky to the used-CD joints. Otherwise, she was annoying before September 11 and utterly useless afterward--the Anne Heche of pop music, in other words, so sure we care when we couldn't care less. Speaking of which, the video for "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman" makes me wonder if we're dropping bunker-busters on the wrong caves. Just thinking out loud. --Robert Wilonsky
6. Nickelback, Silver Side Up (Roadrunner): They don't rap, but Nickelback is pretty much a fusion of everything else wrong with radio rock since Nirvana "saved" it. Soulless nü-metal? It's here, but it's about as ferocious as a Furby. Overwrought Eddie Vedder-by-way-of-Creed melodrama? Oh, yes, especially on the ubiquitous hit "How You Remind Me," and on "Never Again," which is what Bush (the band) would sound like if it sang about domestic abuse on some bad Hollywood soundtrack. These Canadians are so sickeningly by-the-numbers they fit perfectly into the vapid American alt-rock tradition of the Matchbox Twenty generation. --M.C.
7. Various artists, The Concert for New York City (Columbia): There were plenty of breathtaking moments to be had, from The Who's quartet of anthems (minus one here, sadly) to Mick and Keef's resurrection of Beggar's Banquet's "Salt of the Earth," rendered working-man hymn, to Billy Joel's "Miami 2017," damned near a daring choice given its imagery ("I saw the Empire State laid low," he sang, and for a moment, the drunken cheers turned to somber sobs). But great causes do not always make for great albums; this is no America: Tribute to Heroes, with its soft-focus solemnity and candlelight hymns (no, thank you, Mr. Durst). The concert provided catharsis for a city and a nation, yes, but don't confuse this tepid, confused document with the event or its intentions. There are better ways to contribute to relief funds; this is the check that bounces, given the inclusion of Adam Sandler and the Backstreet Boys (hell's transition), Bon Jovi (what--Bruce Springsteen decided he'd already done his bit?), David Bowie (didn't anyone tell him there's music to Paul Simon's "America"?) and Paul McCartney's "Freedom," his worst since any collaboration with Michael Jackson. Let's see: "Freedom" or Neil Young turning "Imagine" into a mourner's kaddish. Dude, seriously. --R.W.
8. Sum 41, All Killer No Filler (Island Def Jam): At the risk of putting too fine a point on it--something these Canadian pop-punk ne'er-do-wells probably wouldn't mind--Sum 41 might well have been the poster band for the considerable drive of pre-September 11 Western capitalism: shiny, gratifying and a hell of a lot of fun. Now, of course, that pheromone factor rings a little hollow, as outside market forces make us all question just how important unbridled purchase power--or dildos or Judas Priest or freedom or whatever--is when we're sending troops overseas. "In Too Deep?" No shit. --Mikael Wood
9. Lenny Kravitz, Lenny (Virgin): On his sixth album of sterile, strangely anonymous cock rock, Lenny Kravitz finished what he started in 1993, when after two attempts at honesty he slapped on a pair of oversized aviators and effectively blocked his audience from his heart. Kravitz gets close to emoting on Lenny exactly once, in "Bank Robber Man," a fuzzy stomper inspired by his run-in with a couple of Miami cops who took Kravitz for a local thief who also happened to be African-American. Thing is, until this dude dispenses with the vacuum-packed pablum, he can't really blame us when we mistake him for somebody--or anybody--else. --M.W.
10. Staind, Break the Cycle (Flip/Elektra): Hurt hurt pain squeal hurt pain sad (riff) anger depression sad (chord) pain suffer neglect pain hurt ignore mope squeal hurt sad depressed angry (drum) family hurt pain emotional distance hurt cry sad (acoustic guitar) rail suffer scream stand alone survive scar damage pain bleak mope wasted tired angry hurt (solo) desolate hurt alone alienation desert pain (fade). I mean, really: If I wanted this kind of ceaseless, mundane bitching, I'd be working at the crisis hotline. --E.W.