2000 In Review:
Teens, The Beatles dominate charts
The year 2000 marked the continued dominance of "teen pop" on the charts, with poster boys Backstreet Boys, 'NSYNC and BBMAK and poster girls Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Mandy Moore all scoring big hits (despite the fact that Spears' second album was no more than a second-rate copy of her debut and Aguilera was still milking the success of her 1999 debut). The Backstreet Boys and 'NSYNC, however, set new records for sales on the release of their new discs (and 'NSYNC's latest disc turned into the biggest-selling single album of 2000). It remains to be seen whether any of those acts will sustain themselves for years or fizzle out like the manic craze over New Kids on the Block did.
However, the release of The Beatles 1, a collection of No. 1 hits from the group more than 30 years after their demise showed some teen-manias never end. With 5 million copies sold, the collection has held the top spot on the Billboard albums chart for a month, edging out albums of new material by the likes of Backstreet Boys. The sales of Beatles 1, combined with the sales figures for the rest of The Beatles catalog, earned the long-defunct act the highest total certified catalog sales of any act in 2000.
If there was one big music story of 2000, it was the legal saga of Napster, the Internet music trading site. Napster's story may signal the beginning of a full-scale revolution in the distribution of music. Both big- and small-name artists from Courtney Love to The The railed against the "slavery" contracts of the big music labels in 2000 and took to the Internet to distribute their artistic endeavors. Whether they can deliver music to fans via the Web and still make a living remains to be resolved. But if it's any indication of things to come, for the first time ever, two of my Top 10 CDs this year turn out to be artists who are mainly selling their albums through the Internet. If music didn't change substantially in 2000, a new future in its delivery may have begun.
While there were no amazing new musical trends in 2000, there were some solid breakout releases. The Jayhawks scored big after years of semi-obscurity with their retro-flavored pop-rock disc Smile, and Chicago's Nina Gordon left the crunchy guitars of Veruca Salt behind to score with a near-perfect pop album in Tonight and the Rest of My Life. Fellow Chicagoans Smashing Pumpkins released an average disc at the start of the year, a free Internet-only follow-up later in the year and announced their dissolution after a decade of trend-setting this fall. Along the way, plenty of other artists put out some fine songs.
Following is my ranking for the Top 25 albums and Top 10 singles of 2000, based both on my original Pop Stops review star ratings and on how often (original rating aside) I felt myself compelled to return the albums to my CD player for pleasure-listening. As always, some of those discs that I only gave 3½ stars ended up spending far more time in my CD player than some discs I initially gave higher ratings to. As in all things, time proves the great equalizer!
1) Nina Gordon — Tonight
and the Rest of My Life (Warner): Chicago's Veruca Salt rocked the alternative
world in the mid-'90s, but in 2000, co-singer/songwriter Nina Gordon stepped
out of the band and into a solo career with the smash title track ballad "Tonight
and the Rest of My Life." The amazing part was, every song on Tonight
listens like a pure pop confection that the best Madonna tracks would have trouble
keeping up with. After six months of listening, I still can't put this album
(out of 5)
Matchbox 20 — Mad
Season (Atlantic): Mad Season was the surprise of the year for me.
I found the bulk of Matchbox 20's debut album in 1996 derivative and uninteresting.
But after scoring big in collaboration with Santana on "Smooth," leader Rob
Thomas went back to Matchbox and crafted one of the sharpest pop rock albums
of the year in their sophomore CD. Every song on Mad Season is perfectly
orchestrated and filled with hooks and emotion to spare.
3) The Jayhawks — Smile
(Columbia): After laboring in obscurity for years, Minneapolis' Jayhawks finally
got their due with their best album yet. Filled with the kind of crossover folk-rock
vibes that George Harrison and The Travelling Wilburys crafted numerous hits
with, Smile will do nothing if not bring a grin to your face. This gets
warmer with every listen.
4) Red Radio Flyer — Gettin'
Somewhere (Mother West): Not many people heard Red Radio Flyer's debut this
year since it's on a tiny label, but Gettin' Somewhere is an album worth
searching for. Mix up the slow, brooding twang of Chris Isaak, the charisma
of Live, the early rootsy twang of the BoDeans and the classic '50s falsettos
of Roy Orbison, and you get a hint of the heart-stopping brew that Red Radio
November Project — A
Thousand Days (self-released): Rising from the ashes of the early '90s band
October Project, this EP weaves gorgeous melodies with the same sort of folk-meets-pop
flair that brought success to Loreena McKennitt. The five songs on this independent
debut are stirring creations of depth and beauty, centering around newcomer
lead vocalist Maryanne Marino. I couldn't stop listening to this disc.
6) Green Day — Warning
(Reprise): Green Day's return after a three-year silence is the band's most
measured and thoughtful disc to date. Sharp, inciteful, catchy, up, down, fast,
slow ... Warning has it all.
7) Slowrush — Volume 1
(Epic): An intoxicating grind of electronic grooves, samples and buzzsaw guitars,
this was my disc of choice for loud driving music over the summer.
8) Zoppi — Suspended
(MCA): Another new band with an infectious big rock style, Zoppi didn't hit
the top of the charts in 2000, but one listen to the sometimes contemplative,
more often crunchy rock of Suspended will have you wondering why. Produced
by Matthew Wilder, the guy who put No Doubt on the map, Suspended owes
occasional nods to the pop genius of Cheap Trick and Jellyfish and just never
stops churning out the head-swaying, can't-turn-it-off rock jams.
gilli moon — Temperamental
Angel (Warrior Girl): gilli moon, a Californian these days by way of Australia
by way of Italy, released her second solo disc on her own label this year, an
amazingly mature and complex album. Temperamental Angel speaks to the
bare emotions of love, hate, empowering sensuality and hand-tying vulnerability
in all of us, and it proves that you don't have to be on a major label with
a million-dollar budget to make a great record. Because gilli moon's not, and
Temperamental Angel is.
10) Paul Thorn — Ain't
Love Strange (Ark21): The funky title track kicks off this album with just
one of the sharp kaleidoscopes examining in detail exactly how strange love
can be. The son of a Mississippi minister and a former prize fighter, Thorn's
sophomore disc features one of the hottest mixes of roots rock, swamp blues
and R&B that you're likely to find this side of New Orleans. With a heavy, weathered
voice somewhere between Richard Thompson and John Hiatt, Thorn tosses back mug
after mug of lovelorn sorrows with a steady wry chaser of humor. No fancy tricks
or gimmicks here; Thorn's pen is smart and simple and his music classic and
timeless. Ain't Love Strange is a welcome new milestone on the road of
Sound Poets — Sound
Poets (self released): A surprisingly well-produced bit of independent folk-influenced
pop with a touch of Quarterflash.
12) Stir — Holy
Dogs (Capitol): a mix of Matthew Sweet pop with Toad the Wet Sprocket contemplativeness.
13) Snake River Conspiracy — Sonic
Jihad (Reprise): Slinky tease tunes mixed with intense techno anguish anthems
— Nine Inch Nails bred with Garbage.
No Doubt — Return of Saturn
(Innerscope): After a five-year absence, the return of No Doubt was marked by
this well-produced collection of pop, harmony, ska and heart.
15) Michelle Tumes — Center
of My Universe (Sparrow): Big, beautiful, breathy harmonies, warm, vibrant
synthesizer blankets of sound, catchy head-nodding melodies and inspirational
16) Fastball — The
Harsh Light of Day (Hollywood): The Austin, Texas, trio stacks on the instant
classics in a solid line from one to 12 on their third album demonstrating that
old fashioned three- or four-chord catchy tunes a la The Everly Brothers and
Buddy Holly still work well in a modern world.
17) John Wesley Harding — The Confessions
of St. Ace (Mammoth): Harding's latest folk-pop effort continues his decade-long
pedigree of strong, insightful — and often funny — songwriting.
Michal — Sky With Stars (RPM Columbia):
Whether she's singing like a peppy teenybopper, an angst-ridden Gen X rocker,
a crown princess of Bangles-derived harmonic pop, or a wise and sensitive Tori
Amos wannabe, this 19-year-old singer-songwriter scores on nearly all counts
on her across-the-board debut.
19) Apollo Four Forty — Gettin'
High On Your Own Supply (Epic 550): A wild ride through the blissfully manic
world of oddball vocal samples, gritty guitar riffs and big beautiful beats.
Five For Fighting — America
Town (Aware/Columbia): America Town is filled with powerful songs
of love and pain and self affirmation and self doubt. It's an album about all
of us, told with a hypnotic voice.
21) Cowboy Mouth — Easy
(Blackbird Atlantic): With a manic energy, roots-rock tribal rhythms and charismatic
drummer-singer, this is a band that screams "good time party" with almost every
22) Bad Religion — New
America (Atlantic): Old school, socially conscious punk rock lives!
The Cure — Bloodflowers
(Fiction/Elektra): The Cure's 13th album returns to the melancholy fields of
1989's Disintegration for an album of long, slow, dark jams.
24) Radford — Radford (RCA): Twining guitar
lines, thoughtful bass twirls and an earnest pop rock vocal style puts Radford
at the head of the Toad the Wet Sprocket-revisited pack (which also includes
Vertical Horizon and Mars Electric).
25) Kansas — Somewhere
to Elsewhere (Magna Carta): With the collaboration of Kerry Livgren,
who has been away from Kansas for the bulk of two decades, Kansas created a
solid return to its heyday form. Somewhere to Elsewhere listens like
an unburied (but actually brand new) treasure.
* * * TOP 10 SINGLES * * *
1) Fastball — "You're An Ocean": One of those songs that gets in your head and just WON'T STOP PLAYING, this was, without a doubt, the most infectious song of the year.
2) Nina Gordon — "Tonight and the Rest of My Life": Easily the most affecting ballad of the year.
3) Matchbox 20 — "If You're Gone": Gorgeous orchestration and a timeless lyric could have made this a hit as easily in the '70s as today.
4) BBMAK — "Back Here": It's sometimes hard to tell one boy band from the next, but BBMAK set the slick harmony pace for all of them with the infectious yearning pop of "Back Here."
5) No Doubt — "Simple Kind of Life": A heartrending lyric and a super sweet melody made this single memorable on several levels.
6) The Corrs — "Breathless": Chimey, lightweight pop ... dessert in a world of Kid Rock.
7) Creed — "Higher": Inspirational and still heavy, Creed proved it's both cool and catchy to "think" with your rock.
8) Jayhawks — "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me": An instantly familiar sounding single, The Jayhawks' breakthrough sounds like the best of George Harrison and The Travelling Wilburys.
9) Madonna — "Music": a welcome return to infectious danceable pop from the Material Mom.
10) Faith Hill — "The Way You Love Me": The catchiest country crossover since Shania Twain.
* * * TOP LOCAL RELEASES * * *
1) Lisa McClowry — Spyglass Hill (Lisant): Dreamy and lush, occasionally treading on Sarah McClachlan territory, McClowry should be making waves at adult contemporary radio with her smoky voice and emotive ballads. (www.lisamcclowry.com)
2) Mark Watson Band — Coulda ... Shoulda ... Woulda ... (Big Blast): Watson's guitar kicks out some undeniably peppy Todd Rundgren-influenced tunes. (www.markwatsonband.com)
3) Lisa Brandt — I'll Send An Angel (AEMMP): The former G-Men singer's solo debut on Columbia College's AEMMP label offered seven songs of often ethereal beauty that should hold great appeal for the Sarah McLachlan set. (http://bigfoot.com/~lisamusic)