From the best to the worst, a pop critic's gotta do what a pop critic's gotta do.
Before I list my Best of 2000 pop albums, singles, hairdos and hissyfits, I want to say this: Friends, this list is totally subjective, like all critics' lists. I'm fussy, but probably no fussier than you. Most folks who read pop criticism dig music enough to know what stinks and what rocks the house.
You're not an idiot. No, look at me. I'm serious, you are not an idiot. If you agree with my choices, yippy yay. We can swap discs. If not, no big deal. If you strongly disagree with my list and you think I'm an idiot, good for you. Think for yourself.
But let's not do lunch.
Anyway, here's what got me giddy this year:
TOP 10 ALBUMS:
THE VERY BEST: Sleater-Kinney, All Hands On The Bad One (Kill Rock Stars) This album came out in the spring, and I'm still playing it.
All Hands does everything right. Sleater-Kinney, the critically acclaimed all-chick trio from Olympia, Wash., plays punk with brains and bravado, skewering the patriarchy, lamenting lost love, being ferocious and funny and sweet, all appropriately.
Singer/guitarist Corin Tucker goes from whisper to wail without making you feel like a chump for hanging on her every word. And the words are good. These ladies write incisively, poetically, wonderfully. Drummer Janet Weiss is sprightly: she pounds hard here, shimmies there, then clangs a cowbell for the heck of it.
Carrie Brownstein? Mark my words, this lady is going down in rock history. Brownstein has shown the world that a skinny little Jewish girl from the Pacific Northwest can play guitar like Jimmy Page, Chuck Berry and Television's Tom Verlaine all rolled into one. And, with better shoes.
THE REST: Radiohead, Kid A; Outkast, Stankonia; Madonna, Music; Johnny Cash, American III: Solitary Man; Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP; The Delgados, The Great Eastern; Rage Against the Machine, Renegades; Neil Young, Silver & Gold; Erykah Badu, Mama's Gun; Sad Rockets, Transition.
TOP SINGLES: Four radio hits made me crank up the dial, every time:
1. Madonna, Music
If this doesn't wiggle your fanny, nothing will. Madonna, 42, is still the dance club queen.
2. Outkast, Ms. Jackson
Wonky, rhythmic, intelligent. A funky message song about family.
3. U2, Beautiful Day
Bono can still do earnestness and redemption, yay! He knows he's not "a hopeless case." We do too. Now. So, Bono, babe, ditch the stupid shades.
4. Rage Against the Machine, Renegades of Funk
This just tears the roof off anything else on FM. Blistering, funky, old school meets new. Makes you squirm in your car seat, yo.
BEST LIVE SHOWS: What can I say? Sleater-Kinney's performance at Ladyfest in Olympia this summer made me crazy. So crazy that I, for the rest of the year, garnered many frequent flyer miles catching the band in New York, San Fran _ you get the picture.
S-K's live shows rejuiced me for rock 'n' roll. I'll never again make fun of Deadheads or obsessive Bruce Springsteen concertgoers. I swear.
Another highlight: seeing punk godmother Patti Smith in an outdoor park at the South By Southwest conference in Austin.
BEST LOCAL LIVE SHOWS: With the exception of Santana and Limp Bizkit, both at the Ice Palace, the best performances I saw at home this year were all by women: The Pretenders at Ruth Eckerd Hall; Fiona Apple also at Ruth Eckerd Hall, with her proud grandma sitting behind me; Wynonna at Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center; and Tina Turner at the Ice Palace.
BEST HISSYFIT: What do we call David Lee Roth? "Has-been" is so harsh. A "once was?" Sure. The former Van Halen vocalist gave Diana Ross a run for her money in the diva department when he kvetched and whined and threw a tantrum onstage at Jannus Landing, insisting someone in the audience had thrown ice in his eye. Eventually, he got over himself and gave a pretty good show.
POP STORY 2000: Napster, Napster, Napster. Geez, who would've thought a program created by a college student computer nerd would have changed the music industry?
GOOD READING: 2000 was a great year for music buffs who enjoy reading. Let It Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America's Greatest Rock Critic by Jim Derogatis is the first ever bio of a rock critic. But if you know Bangs' writing, you'll understand why he warrants it. I found the book Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday, Cafe Society, and An Early Cry for Civil Rights by David Margolick absolutely riveting.
We only get one a decade so Village Voice pop poobah Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide: Albums of the 90s, was a treat. And thank goodness Guy Oseary had the chutzpah to pen Jews Who Rock, a fun round-up of Jewish stars such as Bob Dylan, Beastie Boys, Courtney Love, Robbie Robertson and Beck.
YAY FOR GAYS: Equality Rocks, a first of its kind concert featuring gay and lesbian pop stars and their friends attracted the likes of Melissa Etheridge, k.d. lang, George Michael, Pet Shop Boys and Garth Brooks to RFK Stadium in D.C.
LOCAL COUPS: WMNF's Tropical Heatwave nabbed Alejandro Escovado. The emit series of new and experimental music brought in nutty Eugene Chadbourne and jazz master Ken Vandermark, and local promoter Jack Spatafora continues to lure cutting edge acts such as Low, Dismemberment Plan and Isotope 217 to his Ybor City haunts.
Tampa band November Foxtrot Whiskey played a showcase at South By Southwest in Austin. Ashes of Grisum, also from Tampa, showed at the CMJ Music Marathon in New York.
HAIRDO DEPARTMENT: Are you as happy as I am that Chris Kirkpatrick of 'N Sync cut off those ridiculous braids? Justin Timberlake's afro, too, is pretty righteous. Did you notice how all the ladies at this year's Grammy Awards had that same mini-Farrah flip? But Faith Hill was first, wasn't she? Mary J. Blige too. See? The flip transcends genres.
Macy Gray's hair: Batten down the hatches, it's coming right at us!
INTERVIEW WITH A ROCK STAR: Quickly, I'll address two questions I am always asked. Nothing serious about music or "how do you critique objectively?" or any of that. No, folks want to know, "Who's the coolest rock star you've talked to?" Or, as often, "Who's a real jerk? Come on, tell me."
Hey, I can only judge from my (mostly telephone) conversations with these turkeys, but here are two lists from this year that may help:
LET'S CHAT AGAIN:
Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders. She gabbed from London for an hour, giving me dish on Sid Vicious, her pal Sheryl Crow, Yoko Ono, Friends. Plus, Hynde swears even more than I do!
Tracy Chapman: She's supposed to be a real drag to interview, but Chapman and I had a blast. She was funny, self-deprecating and, best of all, she enjoyed my ribbing about her being so media-phobic.
Yoko Ono: I interviewed Ono twice, gushing like a freak both times about how I'm such a fan. Despite the rumors, Ono was warm, gracious and funny.
Tony Bennett: Refined, knowledgeable and unpretentious, Bennett talked with me about his world travels, art, jazz, racism, even his mama's spaghetti sauce. The crooner was as interested in my mom's sauce. The nicest man on earth.
Peter Tork of the Monkees: As goofy and sweet as his Monkees character. Typecasting?
Mike Love of the Beach Boys: I gotta admit, the guy was really funny.
SORRY, WRONG NUMBER:
Brian Wilson: What's that you say, Mr. Wilson? Absolutely nothing? Or near to it. For 11 excruciating minutes. Yikes. Call back when the catatonia wears off.
Warren Zevon: Excitable Boy? More like Grumpy Old Curmudgeon. And, yes, I know what "vicissitude" means, Mr. Vocabulary.