The 42 most memorable pop music moments of 2009: Part I
There’s no question that Michael Jackson’s passing was the biggest music story of 2009, but a host of much smaller moments involving some also very famous and/or lesser-known artists helped shape the sound of the last 12 months too. What follows is a collection of 42 of the best, the worst and the most unexpected things to happen across the fractured pop landscape -- in no particular order -- as compiled by the Pop & Hiss staff.
Best extended metaphor: Neko Case is the high priestess of post-apocalyptic Americana, a red-headed Diana with a voice as rich as Middle Earth and a poetic vision that strikes a profoundly ecological balance between the naturalistic and the surreal. On “This Tornado Loves You,” the standout track from her fantastic fifth studio album, “Middle Cyclone,” Case embodies the killing wind with a force and subtlety that makes weather personal, and reminds us of how much emotions can feel as arbitrary and irresistible as … the weather. (Ann Powers) Photo: Jason Creeps
Best comeback we wish never had to happen: Kelly Clarkson fought for herself as an artist with “My December,” a dark, raw 2007 album that didn’t please the suits involved in her career. Relatively modest sales further dampened her efforts at independence. Two years later, Clarkson had made up with her higher-ups, and she returned with “All I Ever Wanted” -- a confectionary effort that paired her with such reliable hit makers as Ryan Tedder and Max Martin and produced one of her biggest singles, “My Life Would Suck Without You.” It would have been a sellout, except that Clarkson’s defiantly optimistic, sassily independent voice and spirit still ran the show -- and as the season-closing number on the very Clarkson-esque television show “Glee,” “My Life” became an unlikely anthem for an imperfect year. (AP) Photo: Associated Press
Phrase that should be retired immediately: “I’mma let you finish.” Yes, Kanye made a fool of himself interrupting Taylor Swift on the Video Music Awards, but haven’t we punished him enough for his impulsive move? The scolding has started to seem a lot like bullying. (AP) Photo: Associated Press
Best ‘better late than never’ moment: It doesn’t exactly make a case for the relevancy of the Grammys, but the nomination of local distortion quartet Silversun Pickups for best new artist was still a welcome nod from the big kids. So what if it should’ve happened in 2006, when their debut album, “Carnavas,” was released, or 2007, when the single “Lazy Eye” warmed the airwaves with its fuzzy hooks? The truth is that plenty of people slept on that album, including this here paper. But hey, it’s never too late to wake up. (Margaret Wappler) Photo: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times
Best L.A. record label turning out edgy pop: Some labels are run with all the meticulous care of a Culver City gallery or a London fashion house. IAMSOUND is currently the city’s front-runner for cool, conceptual pop from L.A. and England. Behold the roster of stars in the making: producers of washed-out psychedelia Telepathe, Afropop channelers Fool’s Gold, Mercury Prize-nominated Florence and the Machine and the tightly choreographed dance machines We Are the World. (MW) Photo: Fool's Gold. Credit: Marianne Williams
Most absurd nonviolent outburst: If Chris Brown is intent on reclaiming his reputation after his assault on Rihanna in early February, he might need to forever stay away from social-networking sites. Days after releasing his comeback effort, “Graffiti,” Brown revealed to the world that his sentence of five years' probation and 180 days of community service has not yet resulted in a kinder, gentler R&B star. After visiting a Wal-Mart store that he claimed did not have his album in stock, Brown lashed out via Twitter at retailers and his label, Jive, for not properly promoting “Graffiti.” Typed Brown on his now removed Twitter account: “im not biting my tongue about [expletive] else… the industry can kiss my [expletive]. … yeah i said it and i aint retracting [expletive].” (Todd Martens) Photo: Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times