By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
1. Christina Aguilera,Stripped (RCA): Last year was Christina Aguilera's for the taking: Stripped, the long-awaited follow-up to her smash 1999 debut, arrived just as teen-pop took its first steps into a delicate post-pubescence, with artists making bolder creative statements and listeners actually taking them seriously. But instead of delivering a thoughtfully considered, tightly conceived treatise on what a woman wants, Aguilera tried to be everything to everyone, recklessly mashing together pretty Pinkish pop and roll, droopy neo-soul balladry and verry corrny robo-funk into an hour of half-finished songs and half-started ideas. Unclothed, perhaps, but hardly revealing. --Mikael Wood
2. LeAnn Rimes,Twisted Angel (Curb): On which the Garland angel traded teen tit for an ankle tat and begged her lover to "come inside [her] walls of ecstasy," and assume she wasn't talking about a mobile home. Sad, innit, when a prodigy discovers she's washed-up and tossed out before she's old enough to legally drink? That's why Rimes figured it's better to go down swinging like Christina and Britney than to go down singing like Patsy Cline, which worked when she was prepub but not since. In all, not a little depressing, though not as unnerving as Rimes' Blendernudie cover shot, which reminds us that "soft-core" Rimes with "that whore." At least Rimes allowed us to refer to her and Elvis Costello in the same sentence; something about "all grown up and you don't care anymore," and we hate all the teen-age country singers that we used to adore. --Robert Wilonsky
4. Boston,Corporate America (Artemis): Just the other day, I was sitting at Starbucks in Uptown wondering when a bloated, generic, radio-ready band from the late '70s was going to come along and shed some revelatory insight into why we're all getting fucked in the ass by the Enrons and WorldComs of the world. They would know, right? With their CBS deal and accusations of payola, they were willing tools for the original Reagan/Bush template back in the day. On the other hand, I was also contemplating gouging my own eardrums out with a Garden Weasel. --Jeff Liles
5. Various Artists,American Idol: Greatest Moments (RCA): Stripped of Simon Cowell's jabs at the contestants (and fellow judge Paula Abdul), the only great moment on this disc is when it's over. --Z.C.
6. Nick Carter,Now or Never (Jive): Pretty sure the choice is obvious. --Z.C.
7. Good Charlotte,The Young and the Hopeless (Epic): Maryland-based ne'er-do-wells Good Charlotte had the right idea for their second album of tuneful, vacuum-packed pop-punk, suffusing their MTV-ready tunes with a playful acknowledgement of the form's teen-set melodrama and an awareness of just how ubiquitous bands of young dudes with three chords have become. So how come the music still felt as cold and contrived as a Santana single? And who said black eyeliner was back? --M.W.
8. Toby Keith,Unleashed (DreamWorks): As I've said before, apparently, the best way to battle the Axis of Evil is to get shit-hammered on the tailgate of your truck. Come back, Lee Greenwood. All is forgiven. --Z.C.
9. Chris Robinson,New Earth Mud (Redline): In other words, the sound of a man taking a shit in his own back yard. Black Crowes mike stroker Chris Robinson delivers this Baby Ruth for no other reason than to prove to his other bandmates he can Do This without them. Sorry, pally. There ain't enough incense and Ozium in the world to cover up the stench of this coaster. You owe everyone here (on earth) an apology; the fans, your record label, your bandmates and, most of all, your wife. She has to be seen with you in public. --J.L.
10. Jimmy Fallon,The Bathroom Wall (DreamWorks): Fallon, prettier than Tina Fey but not by much, released his first "comedy" album in 2002 and front-loaded it with Dr. Demento demos that struck all the wrong notes; not funny, not rockin', not worth talkin' about or tokin' to. And the comic relief on "side two" consisted of college humor with a third-grader's insight; if he weren't live from New York, Fallon couldn't even get his own Comedy Central special, which everyone else in America is in line for. Funniest thing about The Bathroom Wall: It debuted in the cutout bin, swear to God. --R.W.