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Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2003

For the record

Rewinding the year in music, and what a year it was


Special to The Japan Times

It's a Long Way Down Award:

News photo
Russian pop idols t.A.T.u

The debut album from t.A.T.u. was released in Japan last spring and quickly became the country's biggest-selling foreign CD, not to mention the third biggest-selling album of the year, Japanese or foreign. The Russian teen duo eventually squandered their store of good will during two disastrous promotional visits to Japan. During the first, they canceled TV and showcase performances at the last minute, and during the second they appeared at college festivals where no one seemed to care about their sort of music. According to various reports, their Japan debut at the Tokyo Dome in early December sold so poorly that ushers brought people in the cheap seats down to the arena floor. The promoters were so desperate, they even advertised that patrons were free to take their cameras and snap away.

The R. Kelly "Children Are Our Future" Awards:

* To Pete Townshend, for his dedicated Internet research activities.

* To Michael Jackson, for explaining the difference between murdering a child and sleeping in the same bed with one.

* To Mike Gordon of Phish, for taking "art photos" of a 9-year-old girl in a closed-off shed backstage at a Dead concert without her parents knowing.

Best Black Music by Non-Americans Award:

* Basement Jaxx: If Prince had followed his instincts through the '90s, he might have eventually come up with something like the hilarious, nonstop rock-funk of this British production duo. A dirty mind is a terrible thing to waste.

* Dizzee Rascal: A British MC who takes the American overground hardcore style to the next level. And you thought Jay-Z was retiring to spend more time on his clothing line.

* Hil St. Soul: Zambia-born Hilary Mwelwa's album "Copasetik & Cool" cleared the neo-soul decks this year. With better singing and much better songwriting than the albums released this year by Mary, Erika and Alicia, it has yet to be released in the United States. Think about it.

Homicide is Bad for Business Award:

Last fall, rap mogul Irv Gotti changed the name of his record label Murder Inc. to The Inc., because, according to Gotti, people tended to "focus on the negative word 'murder' " rather than the records. Earlier in the year, Gotti's main rival, Suge Knight, changed his label's name from Death Row to Tha Row, but has since changed it back.

Adventures in Diplomacy Award:

Last February, the godfather of Okinawan rock, Shokichi Kina, played a special peace concert in Baghdad during which he called for George Bush and Saddam Hussein to "come up on the stage and dance with us. You can't go to war when you're dancing." Unfortunately, neither world leader was in the audience at the time.

Sympathy for the Devil Award:

In negotiations to play their first-ever concerts in China, The Rolling Stones agreed to not play a number of their best-known songs, which the Chinese authorities said were too sexually suggestive.

What's Love (or Race) Got To Do With It? Award:

American soul legend Ike Turner was denied a visa at the last minute to play at the Japan Blues Carnival last May because of a "prior conviction for a drug offense," according to the Justice Ministry, despite the fact that, in the previous seven months, Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney, who also have drug offenses on their records (McCartney's in Japan), were allowed in the country, and also despite the fact that Turner had paid his debt to society with a jail term. His band played the festival without him.

The RIAA Good Capitalist Award:

Major label rapper LL Cool J, in testimony before a U.S. Senate subcomittee investigating file-sharing, condemned the practice by comparing his work to that of a building contractor. "Should people be allowed to move into the building for free?" Mama says kick them out.

The RIAA Rotten Apple Award:

Unsigned rapper Chuck D, who followed LL Cool J at the same subcommittee hearing, defended file-sharing. "I trust the consumer more than I trust the people at the helm of those [record] companies." Fight the power.

The Boys With Toys Awards:

To Phil Spector, for allegedly killing a woman with the gun he's been waving at musicians for years.

To David Lee Roth, for hitting himself in the head with a staff during a demonstration of his martial arts skills in a concert in Philadelphia. The wound required 22 stitches.



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