The Top Six Reasons Why the Year 2000 Made Me Think It's Better to Be Blind Than to Be Deaf (But Not Really, Because I'm a Bit Neurotic, and That Kind of Proclamation Doesn't Really Do a Karmic Body Good. I Mean Well. Good. Well.)
1. Coldplay, Parachutes (Parlophone/Nettwerk America): I expected nada when G., the 15-year-old little sister of my significant other ("'Significant other'? Does that mean he's gay?" "No, means he's straight but inscrutable." "You sure?") brought back a copy of Parachutes, the debut album by British stargazers Coldplay, from a summer trip to England. But after a domestic release in November and two hundred listens, it's become the best thing I've heard all year. Is it derivative? Yeah, sure: Jeff Buckley and Thom Yorke have covered this ground before, and arguably in a more ambitious fashion. But listen closer to Parachutes, and you'll hear something neither of those drama queens offers: a secret smile.
2. Napster: The truth: I tried to download something once from Napster, but I couldn't figure it out. Can't remember what it was; probably something by Tenacious D or Rosemary Clooney or Sparkle. So call me a neophyte, an ignoramus even. But know this: I was pretty fucking stoked by this lil' piece of software, invented by a husky college kid in his rank-ass dorm room and embraced by a worldwide community of armchair anarchists set on freeing the world's Dave Matthews bootlegs from copyrighted bondage, if only because it made that prized Sparkle outtake so much closer. Also the truth: I found a couple of MP3s of stuff by my band on the thing, posted by some kid I've never met living in a town I've never been to. Pretty fly for a white guy.
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3. Eminem, "Stan" (Interscope): Also pretty fly were these six and a half minutes, the best Marshall Mathers has ever committed to tape. As with Coldplay's record, I didn't expect much from Eminem's sophomore disc when it hit Earth in May in a chariot of fire. And, really, I didn't change my mind till I saw the video for "Stan," starring one of my favorite D-list teen heartthrobs, Devon Sawa, and making flesh Em's riveting star-culture-as-grist-mill fantasy. Throw in an appearance by Dido, sort of the Sam's Wholesale Club version of Beth Orton, co-starring as Sawa's battered significant other (I don't think that makes him gay) and singing her own sampled hook, and you've got my favorite TV show of the year.
4. Britney Spears, "Lucky" (Jive): I found particular delight in the fact that Britney Spears, by all accounts Marshall Mathers' sworn enemy, offered up the perfect companion piece to "Stan" in her plucky "Lucky," an equally riveting star-culture-as-launch-pad-of-dreams saga. Spears' thinly veiled role as Lucky in the mini-musical showed us all what it feels like for a multimillionaire girl way more effectively than Madonna did in her attempt (um, Music's "What It Feels Like for a Girl"). An intrepid Napster user, in an inspired bout of Spears-Mathers mania, ProTooled a little ditty called "Oops... Slim Shady Did It Again" and delivered it to the world (along with the Sparkle stuff, it unfortunately remains in the province of myimagination.com), but if you've got a CD burner (the thread to Napster's Singer, natch), assemble yourself a "Stan"/"Lucky" doubleheader and check out how great it is not to be famous.
5. Björk's performance in Dancer in the Dark: Sounds like another cheat, I know, but you actually didn't have to watch Björk's performance in Lars von Trier's Dancer in the Dark to have it destroy you; you just had to listen to her strangled reading of "My Favorite Things" near the end of the film and fumble with the fleshy absence in your heart.
6. Sigur Rós, Agtis Byrjun (Fat Cat): By far the Best Record I Heard in 2000 by a Band I Hadn't Heard of in 1999, Icelandic band Sigur Rs' international debut nearly obviates the need for sight. An impossibly beautiful set of interstellar whale songs, Agtis Byrjun conjures a billowing aurora borealis inside your head, made of moaning string sections, soaring guitar lines, and singer Jón Pór Birgisson's positively angelic wail. The dark horse in this year's space-rock trifecta, along with sure-thing records by Radiohead and Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Agtis Byrjun scored movies in my mind for months. So break out the eye patches. But not really.