top ten update--anniversary edition

Yes, this is the first anniversary of the Illiterate Top Ten Review or, as JSM might describe it, my little corner of the world to be cynical in. Since Kelly Clarkson has been on the chart almost the entire time, it's only appropriate that she should reappear this week (it's not a very good record, but it's interesting). I would gladly tell you all I've learned in the last year, but I'm not sure I've learned anything, or at least nothing I could set down in such a limited space. To sum up: the basic theme of pop over the last year has been power; white boys still whine; white girls play tough; black girls play tougher; and male pophop is largely ruled by nitwits who think of nothing but Hennesy's and doggy style (if I hear one more rapper whisper about his dick I may have to get a machete).

There have been good records this year, but with the possible exceptions of "Don't Phunk With My Heart" or "Rich Girl" or "Since You Been Gone", no great ones. And there have been fewer records to actually make the top ten than any time since 1954, which either means the audience has lost all interest, corporate conglomeration has frozen the talent pool, or the music really sucks. It may also mean that musical genres have become so separate and isolated that crossover is almost impossible and those in the middle reaches of their demographic can't summon up enough airplay or sales to make an impression beyond it. Or the music really sucks.

And then there's downloading, which will, as soon as somebody gets up the guts to try it and the universe of active downloaders gets large enough, cough up entirely new stars, and maybe whole new genres. All it needs is for some DJ to push a record that the corporations don't think much of and for it to sell a couple of million copies on downloads alone, and it's the end of the world the world as we know it. Reports are that "Hollaback Girl" is primed to become the first million selling download, but that means nothing--Stefani has a career and hype and corporate power behind her, and the record would have been a hit anyway. When some unknown makes it big on downloads alone--that's when it will mean something.

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