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Year in review: 2003

Pop: An arresting year

There were losses, gains and controversies we couldn't escape. And a long lineup for jail mug shots.

Published December 25, 2003

[AP photo]
Arrested: Michael Jackson’s face is among the 2003 mug shot lineup of pop celebrities.
photo   photo
Glen Campbell
George Clinton
Wynonna Judd
Phil Spector

2003 was a busy year for popular music, marked by sad and strange events. We lost a number of performers, including two of my personal favorites, the great Johnny Cash and Nina Simone.

Both were known for an iconoclastic spirit, interpreting the material of other musicians and their wild choices. Simone, a black jazz singer, sang the tunes of George Harrison, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. Cash, a country crooner, covered tunes by artists diverse as Nine Inch Nails, U2 and Beck.

We don't get adventurous artists such as Simone and Cash often. I encourage folks who don't know their music to investigate the beautiful work they left us.

2003 also saw some strange happenings. Legendary producer Phil Spector was charged with murder and pop icon Michael Jackson with child molestation. It seems every time we turned around, we were faced with mug shots in the paper: Wynonna Judd, Glen Campbell, George Clinton.

And what about those Dixie Chicks? Who would have thought a country act would ever speak out against the president of the United States? And what a brouhaha they caused.

Of course, we had many bright moments.

These included the introduction of rap superstar 50 Cent and the solo breakouts of Justin Timberlake, who has proven that he is more than one-fifth of a dorky boy band ( 'N Sync), and Beyonce, who is as appealing on her own as she is with Destiny's Child. Did you adore the Jack Black flick School of Rock? Did it remind you why you love rock 'n' roll?

We also heard a slew of terrific albums and singles. I'm listing nine albums from the mainstream, because only nine this year knocked my socks off, and to play fair, nine from the fringes, even though I could list a dozen more from obscure acts.


1. OutKast, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (LaFace)

2. The White Stripes, Elephant (V2)

3. Pink, Try This (LaFace/Arista)

4. Shelby Lynne, Identity Crisis (Capitol)

5. Missy Elliott, This Is Not A Test (Elektra/Asylum)

6. My Morning Jacket, It Still Moves (ATO/RCA/BMG)

7. Radiohead, Hail To The Thief (Capitol)

8. The Strokes, Room On Fire (RCA)

9. Justin Timberlake, Justified (Jive)


1. The Shins, Chutes Too Narrow (Sub Pop)

2. Kings of Leon, Youth & Young Manhood (RCA)

3. The New Pornographers, Electric Version (Matador)

4. Drive-By Truckers, Decoration Day (New West)

5. Belle & Sebastian, Dear Catastrophe Waitress (Rough Trade) 6. Junior Senior, D-D-Don't Stop The Beat (Atlantic)

7. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever To Tell (Interscope)

8. Stars, Heart (Arts & Crafts)

9. Calexico, Feast Of Wire (Quarterstick)

BEST LOCAL ALBUM: Rebekah Pulley, The Real World. A sultry, rootsy Americana disc that could go head-to-head with any of the above-mentioned albums. Fans go gaga over Pulley's gorgeous voice, but she wrongly gets compared to "folkies" and Lilith Fair ladies, and not the acoustic greats who are more her speed: Cash, Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell.


1. Christina Aguilera, Beautiful

2. The White Stripes, Seven Nation Army

3. OutKast, Hey Ya!

4. Justin Timberlake, Rock Your Body

5. Beyonce and Jay-Z, Crazy In Love

BEST REISSUE: Television's Marquee Moon (Rhino/Elektra), in which we find the already perfect arty punk album from the most brilliant band of the 1970s CBGB scene with a new epic cut of Little Johnny Jewel (Parts 1 & 2).

BRAVEST SWAN SONG: Warren Zevon, The Wind (Artemis)

VIDEO OF THE YEAR: Cash's Hurt. MTV was a fool not to give Cash its Video of the Year Award. I can't remember a more eloquent, gut-wrenching piece on the network.

MOST GRATUITOUS MOMENT: That dang Madonna- Britney kiss. Saucy? Salacious? Try $uper-egocentric, $elf-$erving and $uccessful. Runnerup: anything Liz Phair did all year.

MOST EGREGIOUS HAIR: Tennessee's Kings of Leon make great music, but mercy me, they need a Queer Eye for the Straight Guy makeover. Have you ever seen such nasty hair?

PLEASE, NO MORE IN 2004!!: A tie between the arrogant, but annoyingly talented, Ryan Adams and the awful Fred Durst. How did Durst get Halle Berry in that Limp Bizkit video? Oh! I know! It's because Berry's A MAGNET FOR MISOGYNIST JERKS! (See: every man Berry has ever married/dated/stood next to.)

[Last modified December 24, 2003, 13:25:44]

This Weekend


  • At the museums

  • Dine
  • Food and wine events
  • I'll have another . . .

  • Film
  • 'America' the beautiful
  • 'Cheap' trick
  • 'Cold Mountain,' empty melodrama
  • A haunting 'House'
  • Family Movie Guide
  • It's a modest payoff
  • New 'Peter Pan' may Hook you
  • Top five movies and upcoming releases
  • Worth its weight in gold

  • Get Away
  • Get Away: Down the road
  • New Year's Eve revel-ation
  • Open today
  • Other New Year's Eve events

  • Inside Information
  • Things we like

  • Nite Out
  • Hot Ticket: Oodles of originality, $7
  • Upcoming comedy shows

  • Pop
  • Hot Ticket: A trip to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra
  • Team Pop Trivia
  • Ticket window and down the road

  • Stage
  • Down the road
  • Hot Ticket: In celebration of St. Petersburgs

  • Video / DVD
  • New releases
  • Upcoming releases and current rankings

  • Year in review: 2003
  • Pop: An arresting year
  • Art: One very bright spot in lackluster year
  • Film: At the finish line, it's 'Seabiscuit'
  • Stage: Follow the money trail
  • Television: It's not business - it's personal
  • Back to Top

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