Staff Top 10
Top Ten Musical Moments That Defined 2005

december is officially the month of canonization, and though we here at Stylus have done a pretty thorough job of documenting the best, we haven’t done much in the way of defining the biggest. So, in partial summation, here are the top ten musical moments that essentially created the year that was in 2005 pop music, as well as ten that, um, failed to do so.

The Ten Musical Moments that Defined 2005:

10.Sophie Muller gives The Killers a lesson in style
Before “Mr. Brightside” hit, The Killers were a bunch of indie frogs that just happened to have a fluke hit under their belt. The Muller-directed video actually did the impossible in making the band seem like alt-rock royalty, glamorous and not even the slightest bit awkward. By the end of the year, The Killers had a top ten hit, a VMA, and a triple-platinum album somehow still in the top 100, popular enough even to get sound-alikes The Bravery played on TV and to make Eric Roberts a household name (well, close enough anyway). The Maroon 5 of this year, in the most complimentary way possible.

9. ”Boulevard of Broken Dreams” climbs to #2 on the pop charts
“American Idiot” was huge, but it was “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” that officially made Green Day the Biggest Band in the World for the first time in at least a decade, starting an initially cool but inevitably regrettable trend of retro-fixation in ’05 modern rock. Virtually all the modern rock chart-toppers in 2005—Beck, Nine Inch Nails, Audioslave, Weezer, Foo Fighters, even Gorillaz—were by acts that were just as popular, or made from members that were just as popular, a decade earlier. Whether this is preferable or not to Nickelback and Three Doors Down is up for debate, but it is at least slightly discouraging for the future of the genre.

8. After two relative flops, Gwen releases the third track on Love, Angel, Music, Baby as her third solo single.
It seemed unlikely that a song that combined tuba, marching drums and a thirty-something acting like lead cheerleader at the big game would become the singalong anthem of 2005, but it was “Hollaback Girl” that cemented Gwen Stefani as the pop princess of the new millennium, revitalized The Neptunes’ sound (again) and briefly united just about everyone under the unlikeliest chorus chant in history. Whether history will fondly remember “Hollaback Girl” as Gwen’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” or as a sort of bizarro 00s Tracy Ullman single remains to be seen, but it would be hard to picture 2005 without it.

7. Some dude gets shot in the leg at the Hot 97 Studio in March
And thus, the feud between The Game and 50 Cent is officially set in motion. Three-quarters of a year later, nobody really seems to know who the dude was exactly, why he got shot, who shot him, or who he was affiliated with in the first place, but what we do know is that it certainly didn’t seem to hurt sales of The Massacre or The Documentary (at least 6 mil between the two). We’re still pretty confused about whether or not the two of them ever made up (the pic of the two kissing says yes, “300 Bars” says probably not), but it sure made for some good, if slightly forced, drama for 2005.

6. TIME magazine puts an artist that isn’t U2 on the cover of their magazine
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment that ’05 became the year of the Kanye, but appearing on the cover of TIME before he even released his album was probably a good start. His own label, videos directed for Common and John Legend, a #1 album, a #1 single, and a seemingly endless barrage of political and PR statements that made Sinead O’Connor look like Toby Keith, in 2005 Kanye arguably matched even Bono for household-name recognition in middle America.

5. Kelly Clarkson solicits Max Martin to give her sound a bit of an overhaul
Here’s the thing: this time last year you probably associated Kelly Clarkson with everything wrong and boring about pop music, not much more than a female Clay Aiken. Yet here she is popping up higher than Franz Ferdinand and LCD Soundsystem on most year-end singles lists. “Since U Been Gone” crossed over to just about everyone, with even cred-obsessed punks and tough-guy types hesitantly admitting to their friends and themselves that “hey, that new Kelly Clarkson song…doesn’t really suck” Hence, just about every other pop/rock song released in 2005, from Lindsay Lohan’s “First” to the Backstreet Boys’ “Just Want You to Know,” was qualified as “Clarkson-esque” or “Since U Been Gone redux”—inevitable for such a standard-setting song, I suppose. And surprise, surprise, they were the best thing the artists had released in ages.

4. R. Kelly selects a new musical experiment to be the b-side to the “In the Kitchen” single
Remarkably, before “Trapped in the Closet” really hit in late Spring, people were pretty excited about “In the Kitchen (Remix),” some even claiming that it matched “Ignition (Remix)” in quality if not yet popularity. It is a testament to Closetmania that by June, everyone had pretty much forgotten all about “Kitchen” in their panicked frenzy over when, when was that next chapter of “Trapped” going to leak. Half a year and twelve chapters later, 2005 was practically defined by the inundation of “Closet” radio exclusives, specials on pretty much every major music video channel, and even a DVD release of the video for each chapter. “Closet” was so unavoidable in 2005 that radio seemed to have virtually no interest in picking up any of the other half-dozen or so other, non-soapy singles Kells released this year. For pop culture fetishists 20 years from now, “Trapped in the Closet” will be nothing less than the Holy Grail.

3. My Chemical Romance and Marc Webb team up for a couple of video collaborations
“I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” was a huge modern rock and MTV hit, but it was with “Helena” that My Chemical Romance became the unlikely “it” band for 2005. “Helena” once again confirmed the iconic status that music videos could still afford, the band becoming utterly synonymous with their image in the video, so much so that they brought a bunch of black-clad dancers with umbrellas to their performance at the VMAs. What’s more, it truly brought emo to the kids for the first time—Dashbard Confessional may have had #1 albums, but MCR had #1 videos on TRL, and by the end of 2005, so did fellow emo grass roots success story Fall Out Boy. This may or may not truly represent a sea change in a year where Disturbed and StainD still had #1 albums, but let’s hope it’s at least a step in that direction.

2. The Ying Yang Twins decide to stop hollering for a bit.
The controversy and buzz over “Wait (The Whisper Song),” remarkably enough, was threefold. At first, it was “how the hell are they going to get a song this minimal on the radio?” Then it was “how the hell are they going to get a song this dirty on the radio?” And finally, it was “how the hell can we let a song this despicable and sexist get on the radio?” But get on the radio it did, creating endless debates over the song’s accessibility and morality. Aside from spawning a million pop conferences and blog wars, its influence on rap in 2005 was huge, from creating the blueprint for David Banner’s near-soundalike top ten hit “Play” as well as for the uber-minimalism in D4L’s “Laffy Taffy”—even getting namechecked in the last #1 of the year, Chris Brown & Juelz Santana’s “Run It.” Considering the song only got to #15 on the charts, that’s not bad.

1. Buzz starts to build around a song by three relatively new southern rappers.
“Still Tippin’” was technically a 2004 single, but MTV didn’t make it a slow-burn hit until it started shifting it into heavy rotation in the first few months of 2005. “Tippin’” wasn’t a huge chart smash, never even piercing the top half of the Hot 100, but its effect on rap in 2005 was practically seismic. It shifted national attention to Houston’s rap scene for the first time since the Geto Boys were big (if not ever), spawning dozens of scene articles and MTV2 specials and even managing to introduce the phrases “Screwed & Chopped” and “Free Pimp C” to national audiences. And at the very least, it exploded the careers of all three rappers involved—by the end of 2005, Mike Jones would have an extremely unlikely top 40 hit and the most famous phone number since Tommy Tutone, Paul Wall would have a #1 album and the most recognizable mouth in rap, and Slim Thug would guest on hit singles by Beyonce and Gwen Stefani. Far from the biggest, but quite possibly the most important single of 2005.

And ten that failed miserably…

10. 50 Cent follows in big brother’s cinematic footsteps a bit too closely
Not exactly a flop along the lines of From Justin to Kelly, Get Rich or Die Tryin’ was no 8 Mile (and “Window Shopper” was DEFINITELY no “Lose Yourself”). Plus, I haven’t seen it. Have you?

9. The girls go crazy for The Click Five
Seeming like they were well on their way to becoming The Knack for a new generation, The Click Five learned the hard way that teenage girls are even more fickle now than they were in 1979. Oh, and the reason why “Just the Girl” sounds exactly like Fountains of Wayne is because Adam Schlesinger wrote it. As if you even remember.

8. Kelly Osborne rips off “Fade to Grey” for her new single
Created an uproar on the internet, but it’s pretty easy to forget sometimes that the American public cares even less about Visage than they do about Kelly Osbourne.

7. J.D. Fortune wins Rock Star: INXS
I didn’t watch it, and I actually even bought an INXS album this year. Plus that new song is no “Elegantly Wasted.”

6. Eminem releases a single hinged on the word “peepee” and his feud with a puppet dog
The first time that we saw the video for “Ass Like That,” we all said “no way could the American public possibly be stupid enough to make this popular, please don’t let the American public be stupid enough to make this song popular”. And as it turns out, we weren’t. Go us.

5. The pride of Chicago releases his solo abum
Even in the year where it seemed like we were handing out platinum albums to decade-old alt-rock stars, Billy Corgan couldn’t even manage a top 30 debut for The Future Embrace. Hey, maybe going even gothier for the next one’ll be just the ticket, Billy.

4. Lil’ Kim releases her last album before going to jail
I’m pretty sure she did, anyway. She did, right?

3. Sri Lankan? Lankian? sensation M.I.A. invades U.S. shores
…and despite all the hype, news stories and MTV commercials, manages a formidable debut at #190 for Arular. Proof positive once and for all that the internet is a poor representative sample for American popular opinion.

2. Carrie Underwood defeats Bo Bice to win the 2005 season of American Idol
Despite being predicted by Simon to sell more albums than any American Idol winner to date, Carrie Underwood is unlikely to ever eclipse the stigma of releasing the most insipid American Idol single to date (no small feat in itself) with the surprisingly easily avoidable #1 hit “Inside Your Heaven”. The #30 peak (so far) for follow-up single “Jesus, Take the Wheel” (LOL) and the resorting to Kit-Kat and Sketchers endorsements are not terribly encouraging.

1. Crazy Frog threatens to conquer America
I remember how scary that one week was when Crazy Frog’s album debuted in the top 20 and “Axel F” debuted on the top half of the Hot 100 at #50. “It’s starting,” I thought. We managed to collectively stave it off for this long, but submission was inevitable, and before long, we would all have to recognize the cruel dictatorship of our new animated amphibian overlord. Then, the next week, The Frog was gone from both charts. And so I say, even though James Blunt currently resides at #22 on the singles chart, WE MANAGED TO HOLD OFF CRAZY FROG, GOD BLESS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

By: Andrew Unterberger
Published on: 2005-12-23
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