Tops Of 2002: Music

Music, schmusic. The whole business is going bankrupt anyway. Let's talk about what we really noticed about pop music this year: practically everyone on MTV made their lives just a little bit messier in 2002.

Instead of Tom versus Nicole, we had Justin versus Britney. Instead of Winona Ryder getting arrested for shoplifting, we had dangerous problems from Michael Jackson. Instead of Julia Roberts, we had J. Lo, J. Lo and more J. Lo. Herewith, a rundown of the year's memorable moments in music--the good, the bad and the baby dangling.


During this year's Video Music Awards, we saw that Eminem really is as angry as he seems. Triumph the Insult Comic Dog was in the middle of interviewing Moby for the MTV cameras when Eminem--who's frequently dissed Moby in his lyrics--stuck his middle finger into the techno singer's face, causing a disruption to the program. Then, just minutes later, when Eminem won the trophy for Best Male Video, he called Moby a "little girl" and added, "I will hit a man with glasses." Though the rapper's actions made him look pretty bad, fans quickly forgave him. His 2002 album, "The Eminem Show," has more than 7 million copies and was the top-selling CD of the year. Plus, his semiautobiographical movie, "8 Mile," cracked the $100 million mark.


Who won the most awards at February's Grammys? Alicia Keys? Think again. U2? Nope. Actually, the soundtrack from the movie "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" took home the most awards that night--six altogether. That's one more than Keys won for her smash, "Songs in A Minor." Selected as Album of the Year, "O Brother" beat out competition from India.Arie, Bob Dylan, OutKast and U2. Said Emmylou Harris, who was featured on the CD, "We are very, very surprised." Us, too. All this for a movie barely anyone saw?


After years of gossip--and one arrest for marijuana possession in 2000--superstar Whitney Houston attempted to clear the air with a Dec. 4 television interview. But did it help much? Asked Diane Sawyer: "Is it alcohol? Is it marijuana? Is it cocaine? Is it pills?" Houston answered, "It has been at times." "All?" Sawyer pushed. "At times," the singer replied, "Uh-hmm." Midway through the interview--timed to the release of her new CD, "Just Whitney"--the singer was joined by husband Bobby Brown. "I'm diagnosed bipolar," he told Sawyer. "Every now and then ... I smoke a joint ... It's not an everyday thing ... it keeps me calm." Finally, asked about her dad's $100 million lawsuit against her, Houston said, "We'll work it out, because no matter what, he's my dad." Though, she added, "they'll never get $100 million out of me." Ratings were great, but we're still not sure the interview did Houston any good.


Although music has always reflected the times--and rock and roll is particularly sensitive to social and emotional upheaval--it was almost a year before an album even addressed the impact of 9-11. Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising," released on July 30, contained not only songs about the people whose lives were shattered that day, but also tracks about the spirit he saw across America in the weeks afterward. Still, Springsteen's CD has sold just 2 million copies. That's a good number, but it's hardly Zeitgeist-shifting. Perhaps it's still too early--and world politics are still too shaky--for people to really look too hard at the longterm effects of that dreadful day.


The lead singer of 'N Sync and Ms. Not-That-Innocent called it quits in March, leading schoolgirls everywhere to wonder what the world was coming to. The singers' publicists blamed that old standby, conflicting schedules. Now, we can't say that their breakup led directly to the end of the teenpop phenomenon, but wouldn't it be nice if we could? While Spears went on a six-month hiatus in the latter part of the year, newer, slightly less fluffy singers such as Avril Lavigne, Michelle Branch and Vanessa Carlton (she actually plays piano!) emerged on the scene.


Christina Aguilera's smash 1999 CD "Genie in a Bottle" had the 18-year-old pictured on its cover wearing a simple white shirt. This year, her second album, "Stripped," had a thoroughly different Aguilera. The album front has her in chaps, with her long hair covering her breasts. In her video for "Dirrty," she wears red panties and a bikini top and does some very serious grinding with gaggles of dancers. Oh, and did we mention that she's under a shower for a lot of the video? "I just get really bored with sticking to the norm and having the proper conservative image," she said. "That's just so not me." We believe you.


Jennifer Lopez's new CD is titled "This is Me ... Then." And when people look back on 2002 in the future, they may point to it and say, "That's when J. Lo became the new Madonna." Now stay with us here. She sings, she dances and she acts--and though her movies (this year there was "Enough" and "Maid in Manhattan") aren't exactly blockbusters, her reviews have always been fair to good. (So already she's ahead of Madonna.) Lopez has also trumped Madonna in other ways, mainly by exploiting her brand. The ultrapopular singer gave herself a nickname, "J. Lo"--remember, Madonna has always hated being called the "Material Girl"--and established clothing and perfume lines, making money where Madonna has never imagined. Last, consider how J. Lo's private life has continued to intrigue the gossip-reading masses. When a woman can start a year married to a backup dancer and end it engaged to a movie star, who wouldn't wanna know just how she does it?


It wasn't a 10th anniversary of anything in particular. After all, Nirvana's "Nevermind" came out in 1991 and Kurt Cobain died in 1994. But Riverhead Books released Cobain's "Journals" this fall and got people talking about the life and death of the musician all over again. The book published years of diary entries found in Cobain's personal notebooks after he died. Besides charting the rise of the band that defined music in the early '90s, the book did something else, as well: it detailed, better than any anti-drug commercial, the trauma of addiction.


This year, Axl Rose from Guns N' Roses reemerged--only to crawl back into obscurity a few months later. After nine years of absence from the public eye, the singer showed up as the surprise finale of the MTV Video Music Awards. (Former bandmates Slash, Duff McKagan and Izzy Stradlin had been replaced.) The new Guns N' Roses--dubbed "Guns N' Posers" by some--then launched a tour. It began with a Nov. 7 concert in Vancouver, only Axl didn't show up. A spokesman said Rose's flight had been held up in L.A. Fans rioted and smashed windows. Rose made the next few dates on the tour, even playing at New York's Madison Square Garden in a critically praised performance. But then, once again, Rose cancelled a Dec. 6 date in Philadelphia. This time, a spokesperson blamed illness of a band member. Finally, on Dec. 11 promoter Clear Channel Entertainment dropped the entire rest of the tour--without even offering a reason why. Talk about an appetite for destruction.


The last six months of 2002 saw more weirdness than ever from Wacko Jacko. First, this summer he somehow sprouted a third child--allegedly named Prince Michael II. (The baby's older brother is named Prince Michael, his older sister is named Paris.) In November, Jackson showed up in court in Santa Maria, Calif., with a nose that appeared to be deteriorating; that week, even his own onetime plastic surgeon released a statement saying he hadn't touched Jackson's beak since 1998. But the strangest behavior of all came on Nov. 19 when he briefly dangled his 9-month-old baby off a fourth-floor balcony in Berlin, showing off the kid for the fans below. The pop star later said he was sorry, saying he got caught up in the moment. But it seemed like fans weren't so quick to accept that apology. This was the year his behavior went from decadent to downright disturbing.