Best of the Rest:
Music in 2002...
Best Remix: "Don't Mess With My Man" and "Unfoolish"
This was a toss-up between Nivea's "Don't Mess With My Man," and Michelle's #7 song, Ashanti's "Unfoolish." While both Nivea and Ashanti may not have much talent, with the right production team they can actually sound good. It's not that they can't sing, it's that they can't find the right song. With Ashanti, you have your "Baby" and your "Happy" (both decent songs, but nothing astounding). In "Unfoolish," Notorious B.I.G. shines post-mortem to give the song an extra boost of energy. Similarly, Nivea's "Don't Mess With My Man" was okay with back-up vocals from Brian and Brandon Casey of Jagged Edge fame, but really enjoyed a makeover with Mystikal. Best bet: Girls, keep teaming up with rap stars.
Feud of the Year: Eminem vs. Moby
You had your Nas and Jay-Z, your Ja Rule and DMX, but all those petty arguments pale in comparison to Eminem's veiled threats towards Moby at the 2002 MTV Music Awards. It began with Comet the Wonderdog (who was last seen occupying the top left square at "Hollywood Squares") interviewing Moby in a seemingly innocent comic bit. He then went on to harass Eminem, who, flanked by his entourage, pushed Comet away in mild annoyance. Minutes later, Eminem was called to the podium. In front of millions, he called Moby a "girl" and said he wasn't afraid of "hitting someone with glasses." Moby, meanwhile, went a different route and retaliated with booing and hissing while Eminem accepted his award. Bury the hatchet, you say? Only in a perfect world.
Worst Effort of the Year: Murder Inc.
Murder Inc., headed by Irv Gotti, received modest success this year with its triple assault of Ja Rule, Ashanti, and newly-signed Nas. It didn't matter that Ja Rule has lost his touch since guesting on Jay-Z's "Can I Get A…" or that Ashanti, live, sounds like a little lost sheep. In the spring, Ja Rule et al. could be found everywhere - from BET to MTV to BET again, not to mention all the countless magazine articles and self-proclamations of "R&B Princess" this and "The Family" that. Nas aside, Murder Inc. has shown that selling records and "selling out" are synonymous, as exemplified by hordes of teens (and non-teens) eating up Ja Rule's weak rhyming style or Ashanti's sugar-coated hooks. The last straw was "Down 4 U," which sounded like a hastily put-together song to shamelessly showcase the talents of Vita, Charlie Baltimore, Ja Rule and Ashanti. It remains to be seen if Murder Inc. can surpass its own suckiness and put out an even worse album in 2003.
Worst Dis of the Year: Ashanti Can't Sing (For Us)
Ashanti, recipient of the 2002 Soul Train Lady of Soul "Aretha Franklin" Award (for best entertainer of the year), received a minor setback when an Internet petition was started to protest her achievement. Hundreds signed, proving that good taste is still alive and well. Regardless, she went on to accept the award, while Aaliyah rolled over in her grave.
Dissed Woman of the Year: Michelle Williams
When Destiny's Child took a break from their world domination, each girl went their separate way to see if they could make it as solo artists. It began with Michelle Williams, who, sadly, is the lesser-known Child and the lesser-talented singer. Heart to Yours, her gospel effort, fell on deaf ears, so to speak, and she disappeared from the limelight, occasionally emerging from her closet to attend special events and promotions. Then, Kelly Rowland enjoyed tremendous success with her duet with Nelly. Then, Beyoncé Knowles went on to play second fiddle in Jay-Z's hit, "'03 Bonnie and Clyde." Then, rumours emerged about Kelly and Nelly possibly being an item, and Beyoncé's secret engagement to Jay-Z. Which leaves us to wonder: won't someone team up with Michelle and give her a hit, and possibly a date or two?
Worst Live Performer of the Year: Avril Lavigne
Bet you thought I'd say Ashanti, Ja Rule, or the whole friggin' Muder Inc. family. And I kind of want to. But as atrocious as their live performances are, the one who takes the cake is Canada's own Avril Lavigne. Sure, she may "punk" it up with the best of them, but the renditions of her own songs leave something to be desired. Not only does she always sound out of breath and twenty octaves lower than her CD version, she also doesn't engage the audience at the performance or at home. It doesn't help when her band totally overpowers her or that her pretty, pretty hair is covering her face and mouth to the point of suffocation. Word of advice: At least pretend like you're having fun on the stage.
Wacko of the Year: Michael Jackson
There's no denying that Michael Jackson is crazy, crazier than a rabid dog, crazier than the craziest person in a mental institution. Even when he attended Liza Minnelli's wedding to David Gest, he was still the craziest person there. The fall of an icon is never an easy one - and no one does it more clumsily than Michael. Last seen with a missing nose while battling it in court with promoter Marcel Avram (who claims Michael broke contract over two Y2K concerts back in 1999), the dethroned King of Pop added insult to injury by dangling his infant son over a balcony in Berlin. You know, it's no coincidence that "Jacko" rhymes with "wacko."
Spurned Lover of the Year: Justin Timberlake
Come on, Justin Timberlake, just let it all out. Oh, you did, if "Cry Me A River" is any indication. From the scathing lyrics, like the gems "You don't have to say / What you did / I already know / I found out about him" and "Now there's just no chance / For you and me / There'll never be," to the Britney Spears look-alike in the video, there's no hiding that Justin is hurt. And angry. And sticking it to his ex-girlfriend. And going to make millions in the process.
From the Grave: Aaliyah, TLC, Tupac
One of this year's hottest trends seems to be capitalizing on the untimely death of talented and well-known singers. From Aaliyah to Lisa "Left Eye" Lopez of TLC, to Tupac (who seems to work harder than anyone who's alive), the post-humus hits just keep turning out. Did you know that Tupac currently released a double CD with all-new material? Tupac is by far one of the most influential and talented rappers of our generation, but…the hell?
Best Looking Newcomer: John Mayer
Geek chic is in, and no one does it better than John Mayer, who really is a cutie. With his debut, Room for Squares, he proved that you can still rock with the best of them without trashing hotel rooms or eating the head off bats. His soulful, slightly folksy brand of music has taken "geekiness" to a whole new level, making women swoon and men wish that they had been writing poetry in high school instead of drinking and sneaking into strip bars. "Your Body is a Wonderland," John's latest, was definitely written about me, although he probably doesn't know it yet.
Music as Therapy
Psychologists have been trying this for decades, but it didn't really catch on until Eminem burst into the scene and bared his soul for all to hear. See, Eminem had a difficult childhood, and his problems grew even worse when he fathered a child with a woman he would love to see dead. Of course, rappers have been doing this for a while now - Eminem is by no stretch a pioneer in this department. But CD after CD, Eminem drew on his own life experiences to pen his lyrics, often writing whole songs about his lovely wife or his latest feud with everyone in the world. Another notable example is P!nk, who shed any persona she created with her first CD to re-emerge as an artist comfortable enough in her skin to show us a glimpse of her life (her real life - not the "celebrity life" that we've come to learn is all about how hard it is to be so loved, or how handsome and caring your new fiancée is). Jennifer Lopez, take note.
Coolest Music Video of the Year: "Precious Illusions," Alanis Morissette
Alanis Morrisette's "Precious Illusions" video utilized split-screen images, one of present day and the other of a medieval setting, to convey its story. With its innovative concept and carefully choreographed sequences, the video adds even more to the song. Kind of refreshing, considering the amount of gyrating women and fancy cars we've seen this year.
Best Alternative Love Song of the Year: "Wherever You Will Go," The Calling
What constitutes a good love song is subjective. Depending on how you feel, a love song can inspire, can bring on melancholy, and can even depress. But enough about this - one of the best alternative love songs this year comes from The Calling, who penned "Wherever You Will Go." Not only is the song catchy, but it's also moving. For anyone who's ever been in love, or been in love with love itself, this is the song for you.
Best Dance Song of the Year: "Gotta Get Through This," Daniel Bedingfield
Michelle rolled her eyes at me when I told her, but Gotta Get Through This by Daniel Bedingfield is one hot track. So hot, in fact, that every time I hear it my toes go a-tappin'. True story. Close runner-up is Italian import Laura Pausini's "I Surrender," a sweet, playful track that, unfortunately, doesn't get enough airplay.
Worst Dance Trend: "The Ketchup Song" Dance
The "Ketchup Song" is the newest thing to hit us since the "Macarena," and comes courtesy of Spain's Las Ketchup. Although it's definitely a passing trend, it couldn't pass fast enough. The dance is asinine and, truthfully, if someone came up to me at a club and started moving like that, I'd seriously punch them.
Best Established Canadian Group: Our Lady Peace
Yes, yes, Nickelback is great. Yes, they rule. Okay, now it's time to pay homage to Our Lady Peace, who has been setting the pace for Canadian music for years. "Somewhere Out There" was a great single, but the cream of the crop is "Innocent," a melancholy song about lost youth and all that sad stuff. And yes, Rain still manages to stay hot after all these years. ¤ C.Ho.