BEST ANTICORPORATE RANT OF THE YEAR
Conor Oberst disses Clear Channel
While performing at the Shortlist Concert in October, the Bright Eyes bard (right) used his between-song downtime to trash corporate-media behemoth Clear Channel Entertainment, a Shortlist cosponsor and exclusive booker for the Wiltern Theatre, where the ceremony was held. To cheers from the crowd, Oberst (right) called out Clear Channel as "horribly greedy," adding that "if there's anyone who cares about music existing as an art form and not a commercial thing, now's the time to make a change." He then gave a parting shot to "our idiotic, gun-toting, coke-snorting president." And who said emo was just politically empty whining about girls?CHARLES AARON
CLASS-ACTION SUIT OF THE YEAR
Fans sue Creed for sucking
In an act of divine (fan) intervention, four Chicago-area concertgoers filed a lawsuit in April on behalf of approximately 15,000 people who suffered through a December 2002 performance by Creed. The suit claimed that frontman Scott Stapp (left) was unable to sing the complete lyrics to any song and spent much of the show rolling around onstage "in apparent pain or distress" before passing out. The fans simply asked for their money back ($227 plus parking fees for them, approximately $2 million total for all in attendance). Reps for Creed defended the performance, calling it "unique." Although a judge eventually dismissed the case, the litigious foursome might have taken a giant leap forward for pissed-off fans of sucky bands everywhere.CARYN GANZ
MOST DESPERATE GRAB FOR RELEVANCE (OR WEIRDEST CHILDREN'S-BOOK PROMO) OF THE YEAR
Madonna and Britney kiss
It was only a matter of time before today's saucy pop princesses shared the spotlight with the queen mother. So there was an air of inevitability when Madonna strode onto the MTV Video Music Awards stage, eyed Britney and Christina decked out in virginal white, and slipped Britty some tongue. (Once again, Christina Aguilera was relegated to never-a-bride status: Her kiss was decidedly less French.) With Madonna's latest stab at social commentary landing as flat as her abs, and Britney desperately celebrating that, yes, she's finally a woman, this foray into frat-boy titillation left a bittersweet taste (at least in our mouths). The two seemed to cement a sort of career-survival pact during their special moment -- Madge appears on Britney's single, "Me Against the Music." But considering their S&M-tinged turn in the song's video, only time will tell who's truly dominant in this relationship. C.G.
CREDIBILITY MOVE OF THE YEAR
Ever since Micky Dolenz went up to the Monterey Pop Festival and got his Monkee ass clowned, boy-band dudes who've attempted to shed their Tiger Beat stripes and earn man-band props have done so at great peril. Which explains the twinkle that never left Justin Timberlake's eye this year -- after crab-apple rock critics and card-carrying African-Americans lined up to praise his R&B solo album, Justified. He supplemented his arena tour with a string of late-night after-shows, funking up his white-sugar image and going home every night with one of Charlie's Angels on his arm. Where were the Neptunes when David Cassidy needed them?A.P.
PET ROCK OF THE YEAR
A few years (or perhaps just a few minutes) from now, the thought of a website dedicated to the sole purpose of connecting friends of friends of friends will seem utterly obvious, if not totally ridiculous. But before it's overrun with links to online shopping and pop-up ads for 100% free dvds, Friendster still represents the ideal vision of what the Internet is supposed to be: an open forum that doesn't tell you what to do with it. If we ruined the experience by inflating our accounts with acquaintances we barely knew and inundating the site with ironic testimonials and fake profiles, we have only ourselves to blame. Because, in the end, Friendster was just here to help.D.I.
FLOPS OF THE YEAR
Sales-wise, this was another fairly disastrous year for the music industry, but some acts suffered especially sad fates. Here's a roundup of the year's biggest duds.C.A. and C.G.
First two albums, Fush Yu Mang and Astro Lounge, sold a combined 5.7 million
2003's Get the Picture?: 33,143*
Hyped New York electroclash performance artists signed to the U.K.'s Ministry of Sound for a reported $2 million, before releasing their debut on Capitol in the U.S.
2003's #1: 35,901
2000's Songs From an American Movie, Vol. One and Vol. Two sold a combined 1.3 million
2003's Slow Motion Daydream: 96,354
U.K. pop sensation signed a $125 million worldwide deal with EMI in 2002
2003's Escapology: 108,893
Second and third albums, Floored and 14:59, sold a combined 4.3 million
2003's In the Pursuit of Leisure: 118,974
1994's Throwing Copper sold 5.7 million
2003's Birds of Pray: 188,384
Third Eye Blind
1997's self-titled debut sold 3.5 million
2003's Out of the Vein: 192,561
*All figures are domestic sales at press time, reported by Nielsen SoundScan.