Washington City Paper

Dec. 26, 2003 –
Jan. 8, 2004



Arts in Review 2003

Songs of Praise

Open Up and Say...Daaa!

I totally creeped out Bret Michaels this year. There I was, hanging with Poison’s hirsute, middle-aging howler on the Poison tour bus drinking Poison beer after a late-summer Poison show at Nissan Pavilion. Behind me was a combustibly cleavaged groupie who looked like a wrinkly reimagining of E! babe Brooke Burke. After spotting my reporter’s notebook—out for show at this point—Old Brooke smiled and said, “You’re a music writer? You have the greatest job ever.” This shallow ego boost triggered me to confront Poison’s bug-eyed frontman, throw a fist in the air, and shout far too loudly, “I’m the only one keepin’ metal alive, Bret!” I still have no idea what that means or why I said it—and neither did the security guard who gently guided me off the bus.


Now, I’m telling you this sad but true tale for a few reasons: (1) You should know that I have no shame. (2) You should know that I really like hair metal, especially Ratt. (3) You should know that I’m a shameless man who really likes hair metal, especially Ratt. And only a person with nothing to hide should be allowed to concoct a best-of list. Did you see the Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time? What were the White Stripes doing on there? Where was Supertramp? That pisses me off. I take a lot of guff for my love of cheez, but at least I’m no poseur.

So here we go: This will be the most straight-up best-of list you’ll read all year, which was a pretty damn good one for guilty-pleasure pop music. The following selections are based solely on how long a CD stayed put in my stereo. Remember: I have no shame. Oh, and the White Stripes suck.

1. The Black Album, Jay-Z. Jigga rides off into a supposed sunset with Seussical flow that never fails to thrill. You know damn well that he’ll be back. You just don’t know if he’ll ever sound this good again.

2. Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, OutKast. OK, so maybe Dre and Big Boi don’t need each other anymore. Nevertheless, this two-disc fun house of musical mutations is silly and scary, sexy and soulful. Sure, it’s on every other best-of list, too—but the poseurs ain’t lying about this one.

3. “Welcome Interstate Managers”, Fountains of Wayne. I live in the suburbs now—not Columbia, exactly, but you can see it from there. I think of this tragically uplifting album every time I take the recycling out on Thursday. Or is it Friday?

4. Try This, Pink. Did you see that Pink and Tommy Lee are dating now? What took them so long? I bet they play this loud, lewd blend of R&B and R&R when they film themselves humping.

5. Everything Must Go, Steely Dan. Apocalyptic tour guides Fagen and Becker make sure that when we all go out for good, we’ll go out swingin’.

6. La Bella Mafia, Lil’ Kim. Queen Bee went Old Navy on us way too early. But before she started pushing hoodies, she scrumped out the catchiest album of her career. C’mon, Kim: Fellating a Sprite can is way more respectable than getting chummy with Fran Drescher.

7. The Neptunes Present... Clones, the Neptunes. The party platter of 2003, with makeshift mayors of Virginia Beach Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo saving some of their best neck-breaking beats for Ludacris, Dirt McGirt, and Snoop.

8. 12 Memories, Travis. Fran Healy’s political musings are the stuff that yawwwns are made of, but when he’s feeling sad and lonely, he still makes the most heart-smushing Britpop around.

9. Chain Gang of Love, the Raveonettes. Listening to this is like having sex with sexy, switchblade wielding Danish zombies. In Phil Spector’s jail cell. And covered in sand.

10. At Last, Cyndi Lauper. This collection of covers is the most surprising album of the year, not because it’s so good, but because it’s so unbelievably heartbreaking. Goonie love lasts only so long.

The best single of the year was Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” followed closely by “Undercover” by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton—what took them so long?—“Whenever I Say Your Name” by Sting and Mary J. Blige—ditto—and “Got Some Teeth” by Obie Trice. Best greatest-hits package? Reloaded, Tom Jones. Best reissue? The entire AC/DC catalog. Best concert? It’s a tie: Duran Duran at the Warner Theatre and Radiohead at Merriweather Post Pavilion.

And finally, this year’s I Really Like Barry Manilow—No, I’m Not Being Ironic—Award goes to Hall & Oates, not so much for the duo’s not-awful 2003 album, Do It for Love, but for all those years of soft-rockin’ service. You see, I was listening to Darryl & John as I drove my newborn daughter home from the hospital. Singing along to “Private Eyes” kept me from driving off a bridge.

Of course, when she’s older, I’m gonna introduce her to Ratt. After all, someone’s gotta keep metal alive.

—Sean Daly

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