Superficially, everything in the music industry is collapsing. The future is black as night. Nothing feels good. This is the end of the world as we know it -- unless, of course, you simply like music and don't care about all the peripheral nonsense that comes with it. In that case, you probably feel just fine.
Politically, things are amok. If you run a record label, you are nervous, because nobody seems to buy music anymore (except music by artists who have been shot in the face). If you're a person who values privacy, you're disquieted because John Ashcroft wants to know everything about you.
We lost a lot this year, and some of what we lost shall never return (including Johnny Cash, Warren Zevon, and Elliott Smith). But a few of the things that did return made our current dystopia a little less oppressive: We were granted albums by America's hippest band (the White Stripes) and England's smartest band (Radiohead). Two years after Is This It, the Strokes fell off their bar stools and made a record that (thankfully) did not suck at all. OutKast released the hip-hop equivalent of The White Album. Led Zeppelin put out a DVD that was so good we seriously considered shooting ourselves in the head while watching it, because everything else in our lives suddenly seemed empty. And the boys from Coldplay -- a rock outfit few took seriously just 18 months ago -- wore down their critics and proved they are the world's most relevant band (at least for the moment).
This was not the year to live dangerously, even though some of us did. This was the year to live dangerously in love.
40 Best Albums of the Year