NEW YORK — – Congratulations. You just won best album of the year — or at least your hard drive did, according to Spin magazine.
The magazine's December issue, which divulges its picks for music highlights of 2000, gives a nod to Napster's song-swap service by naming "your hard drive" the No. 1 album of the year.
"What industry-sanctioned product could compete with 20 million Napster users collaborating on the greatest mix tape never sold?" the editors write, explaining the top of their album list.
Hmm. Sounds like some opinionated staffers couldn't agree on a No. 1 record and copped out.
"There was not really a clear consensus-rallying-point album this year," admits Spin editor-in-chief Alan Light. "We know it's a little bit of a shtick to do it. But the truth is, those technologies are longer lasting than any album that came out this year."
Still, hardware doesn't make for an eye-catching cover. For that, the magazine highlighted its "artist of the year": Eminem, holding up a big, pointy knife in one hand and a glass of milk in the other in a nod to a different sort of bad boy — A Clockwork Orange's Milk Bar gangsters.
"There was no other artist who loomed as large and had the importance — for better or worse — that Eminem did," Light avers.
The qualifying "for better or worse" is apt. Although the scrappy blond rapper had one of the year's best-selling albums with The Marshall Mathers LP and dominated MTV with singles such as "The Real Slim Shady" and "Stan," he also created a buzz of negative attention with his misogynistic and anti-gay lyrics.
In addition, he engaged in court battles with his mother and estranged wife. And this Friday, the rapper will enter a plea on weapons charges from one of two arrest-provoking scuffles earlier this year.
Still, Light says, "Once we got over the, 'What is our responsibility in terms of dealing with Eminem,' there was nobody else that had even close to that sort of impact. It became more of an argument more about treatment [of the topic]."
Eminem also had the No. 3 album of the year, behind top band Radiohead's Kid A. Radiohead earned the magazine's "band of the year" distinction. The English band, known for its space-age arrangements, aversion to publicity and inscrutable lyrics, released its follow-up to 1997's acclaimed OK Computer, attracting attention and debate.
Kid A had some naysayers. One Salon critic called it "an uneven collection of songs weighed down by a paradoxical combination of overambition and underproduction." SonicNet said, "It's amazing that some people have actually weighed in with the opinion that this is difficult music."
And then there's novelist Nick Hornby's review in The New Yorker, which suggests that most of us have better things to do than figure out lead singer Thom Yorke's lyrics.
Spin, however, backs the hype. "People here were excited about it. It was surprising and unpredictable," says Light.
What made the band so noteworthy, the editors posit, was less the album itself than the fact that its elaborate anti-Napster-leak efforts failed; and that in the end, it didn't matter anyway. Kid A debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's album chart without the help of MTV or radio exposure.
Other highlights: Memorial of the year went to John Lennon; hype of the year to dance music; and the drug scare of choice? Ecstasy.
Rolling Stone and MTV just put out their top 100 pop-song picks, and it seems every other issue of Entertainment Weekly contains a ranking of some sort. Didn't Spin pause before committing the media's No. 1 cliche cover?
Nah, says Light. "God knows VH1 has built a whole network around [lists] at this point. If you can still come up with interesting ways to do it, they still seem to sell, and get reaction and press attention and start arguments ... People like to fight about stuff."