Beautiful South

Christina Aguilera
Image credit: Christina Aguilera: Corbis

WINNER: HOLLOW-BODIED ACOUSTIC INSTRUMENTS
What did Norah Jones' ''Come Away With Me,'' the Dixie Chicks' ''Home'' (3.7 million), and the ''O Brother'' soundtrack (which added 2.7 million to its 2000-01 tally) have in common? An upright bass. Meanwhile, pop-rock's hottest male comer, John Mayer (1.9 million), divided and conquered with an acoustic ax.

LOSER: HOLLOW-BODIED FEMALE SINGERS
It wasn't a swell year for the alumnae of ''VH1 Divas,'' even before Diana Ross' DUI. The press machinery touted decent first-week figures for do-or-die comebacks from Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston but went silent when both duds tumbled from the top 20 one (Whitney) to three (Mariah) weeks later. If the reported $100 million-plus deal Arista signed Houston to in 2001 was for real, hers may be the costliest flameout since EMI gave Carey a $28 million buyout to settle her $80 million contract last January.

WINNER: GIRLS WHO KNOW G CHORDS FROM G-STRINGS
If publicists were able to use ''They write songs and play instruments!'' to pitch Avril Lavigne (4.1 million), Michelle Branch (1.6 million), and Vanessa Carlton (1.1 million), is that progress or pathos?

LOSER: BOYS TO MEN
Justin Timberlake's solo debut (1.7 million) was the exception to the rule exemplified by O-Town's nonstarting sophomore effort (197,000). In one bizarre turn, the Backstreet Boys recently sued Jive for putting out a Nick Carter solo album because it delayed the group's next release. Yes, kids, technically, Carter is suing his own label for letting him make the disastrous ''Now or Never'' (197,000).

LOSER: FOLKS' IMPLOSION
''He's mean, racist, and very, very, very devilish.''... But why harp on Michael Jackson, the Self-Immolator of the Millennium, when we can relish fresher career meltdowns from Houston, R. Kelly, Axl Rose, and Christina ''Venereality TV'' Aguilera? Music news thrived, even if music didn't. Forget devising an online service that jaded collegiates will pay for; what the industry really needs to bottle and sell is schadenfreude.

Originally posted Jan 17, 2003 Published in issue #691 Jan 17, 2003 Order article reprints
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