Years from now — or at least in a few weeks — when I'm 100 percent deaf, I'll look back on the Aughties as the decade that turned my hearing from good to grandpa. Man, it was a LOUD 10 ticks, wasn't it? From iPod earbuds terrorizing our tympanic membranes to Green Day records railing at the powers-that-be to Miley tweens shattering noise levels, our poor ears never stood a chance. Can I get a what?! what?! Herewith, a list of the loudest noisemakers of the roarin' '00s:
1 It begins and ends with the Most Googled Midriff on Earth, the naughty Louisiana hayride who ushered in the screamtastic teen movement, helped turn pop into an iTunes-friendly "singles" market and reshaped celebrity snooping, turning TVs and computers into a hyper, hollerin' 24-7 Brit-Brit watch. If my daughters grow up to be strippers, I'm totally suing Ms. Toxic.
2 Britney was a Mouseketeer, as were '00s standouts Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake, so there's that. But Disney's most notorious achievement was its multibillion-dollar "tween" onslaught: Lizzie McGuire, Hannah Montana, the High School Musical franchise, the Jonas Brothers. Kids shrieked, parents eeked and the minivan ride to soccer practice would never sound the same.
3 The self-deifying Apple CEO introduced the iPod on Oct. 23, 2001 — and it changed everything. The portable player, as well as its iTunes feed store, would help kill, resuscitate and ultimately restructure a music industry with a woefully narrow vision of its future. Internet? What Internet? And why is everyone stealing music? Apple, making "legal" downloads seem cool, turned 21st century pop into a singles-dominant domain. In other words, Flo Rida would be smart to send Jobs a holiday card.
George W. Bush
4 From Bruce Springsteen to Eminem, Neil Young to Jay-Z, the top bold-facers in music took up artistic arms against threats to the nation: Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina, the war, the economy. But no band would mix politics, platinum profits and a punch at the sitting president like punk-pop trio Green Day, the Berkeley, Calif.-born hooligans whose seething American Idiot will go down as one of the best albums of the decade.
5 The Man of a Million Put-Downs was the oddly coiffed figurehead of a TV phenomenon. But Cowell's clout went beyond American Idol: Show discoveries Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Chris Daughtry were three of the biggest-selling acts — reality pawns or otherwise — of the decade. Idol also spawned ka-chingy merchandise, concert tours and my obsession with Amanda Overmyer.
6 The gnomish Radiohead frontman saw his Brit band release four albums — all chilly, bleepy, fascinating — in the Aughties. But none would be as bold and groundbreaking as 2007's In Rainbows, which the band released on its own. By forgoing a major label and normal chains of distribution, Radiohead further proved that the old ways of making and selling music were in need of change.
7 "They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus . . ." "Now I ain't sayin' she's a gold digger . . ." "George Bush doesn't care about black people . . ." "Hey Mama, I wanna scream so loud for you . . ." "Taylor, I'm really happy for you, and I'm-a let you finish . . ." 'Nuff said.
8 The MySpace sensation's 2006 self-titled debut has spent more weeks on the Billboard Top 200 chart than any album — in any genre — this decade. Her 2008 followup, Fearless, has spent more time at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 chart than any other album this decade. Yes, Swift is cute and gossip-friendly. But she also sings and writes her own tunes, the perfect DIY antidote to, well, Britney.
9 Never mind that the nation is in a recession and concert tickets are rocketing through the roof: Kenny Chesney became the biggest-drawing concert act in America by trumpeting the blue-collar joys of his sexy tractor. Also, sales of and interest in country music, with its reassuring aesthetic, spiked during our bleak economic times.
10 The King of Pop didn't release anything of note in the past 10 years, but therein lies his cultural clout. His death has been the most earth-shaking music story of the 21st century. It also accelerated MJ's entry into the Holy Triumvirate of Music: Frank, Elvis and Michael. Wanna play Thriller one more time? Me, too. Just make sure to CRANK IT UP. After this past decade, I can't hear a thing.
Sean Daly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at blogs.tampabay.com/popmusic.