The baby-dangling. The Sony-bashing. The heartfelt acceptance speeches for imaginary awards he didn't win. The rumors-- lost fortunes, shady dealings, mystery children. The nose. For pure, batshit craziness, this was Michael Jackson's year, and there's no reason to believe he'll be around for too many more. The Wacko Jacko suicide clock is ticking....
2. R. Kelly Gets Busted for Allegedly Urinating on a 14-Year-Old Girl
Nothing revs up humanity's schadenfreude like a felon stupid enough to videotape his crimes. But when the crime in question is deviant sex with a minor, the act of videotaping is more than a dumb idea--it's a whole new degree of felony! R. Kelly's Watersportgate started the year off with a whiz-bang, and neither he nor we will ever likely recover.
3. Bastard Pop Imagines a Better World
It started as a joke, with the now-classic "Christina vs. the Strokes" mega-mix. But with each new entry in the "Bastard Pop" canon--in which two wildly disparate songs are blended to create a hot new beast--the joke gave way to an art form. In the best cases--Missy Elliott meets Joy Division, "Bootylicious" meets "Smells Like Teen Spirit"--the boundaries between pop, rock, and rap (not to mention between the artists themselves) seem to dissolve, giving a glimpse of a world beyond labels and cliques, and creating the most exciting pop music since "Blitzkrieg Bop."
4. Rock and Commerce Make Creepy Bedfellows
Using rock to sell products isn't inherently evil; nothing that puts big wads of cash in the wallets of James Brown, Iggy Pop, and the Clash can be all bad. Still, 2002 brought further blurring of the line between pop song and sales jingle (see Dirty Vegas' "Days Go By"), while Levi's bad-faith edit of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son"--transforming the classic protest song into a pro-America anthem--is worthy of a lawsuit. Canniest sellout: Modest Mouse, who placed a bit of melodic noise from The Moon & Antarctica--recognizable only to diehard fans--in a Budweiser ad.
5. Last Year's Records Kick This Year's Ass
Further exacerbating the arbitrariness of year-end "best of" lists, a good number of 2002's most vital and defining records (as listed in other publications)--White Stripes' White Blood Cells, Andrew W. K.'s I Get Wet, Drive-By Truckers' Southern Rock Opera, Pink's M!ssundaztood--were released (or originally released) in 2001. What's more, the year's "greatest rock record"--the Hives' Veni Vidi Vicious--was released in Europe two years ago, while the year's "second greatest rock record"--Bob Dylan Live 1975--was recorded 27 years ago.
6. Eminem Becomes America's Sweetheart
Just two years after being crucified as the most offensive rock star since Hitler, Marshall Mathers won the hearts of the masses with a musical/cinematic double whammy. The Eminem Show found the former mother-fucker ditching rape and murder for social critique and Aerosmith samples, while 8 Mile served as a veritable Eminem for Dummies, turning Slim Shady into a word-slinging Rocky Balboa for the new millennium. Now there's talk of an Oscar nomination, which isn't as far-fetched as some people think; I say he deserved one two years ago, for his blood-chilling delivery of The Marshall Mathers LP's murder ballad "Kim."
7. Rolling Stones Get Greedy, Everybody Wins
Just in time to bankroll the band's hip replacements, ABKCO offers gorgeous reissues of the Stones' '60s catalogue, from England's Newest Hit Makers to Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! No crappy additional tracks, no bloated essays on significance, just a handful of the greatest rock records ever made--Now!, Aftermath, Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed--looking and sounding better than ever. And only $18.99 apiece!
8. Sharon Osbourne Battles Cancer
Maybe it's her brains, or her beauty, or her hyperactive cackle as she chases her daughter around with a vagina-smeared finger. Whatever the reason, I've come to love Sharon Osbourne more than I've ever loved anyone I've never met, and if her recent bout with colon cancer had killed her, I would've mourned my face off.
9. Andrew W. K. Visits North Carolina Central University
Despite the limited appeal of his music, Andrew W. K. has always struck me as an undeniable force for good. This view was confirmed when MTV sent Mr. W. K. to North Carolina Central University for a weekend, during which the rocker made friends with a group of hilariously bemused young African American women, who threw him a slumber party (complete with chitlins and custom cornrows) before joining him onstage at a blowout show. Easily the best non-Osbournes program MTV has aired in years.
10. Lots of People Die
The Grim Reaper got greedy this year, claiming a host of music's beloveds. RIP Dee Dee Ramone, George Harrison, John Entwistle, Layne Staley, Lisa Lopes, Merle Haggard, Jam Master Jay, and Lucia Pamela.