The Class of '03

Grab your gift certificates and trade in your white elephants -- here's what you really wanted for Christmas

2. Ryan Adams, Rock N Roll/Love Is Hell. The titles say it all. One is the gritty, alt-rock radio staple, the other the wounded, lite-rock radio staple. The two records are utterly different and clearly marketed to two distinct audiences. Listening to them, it's hard to imagine they came from the same artist. Strange, and very Wonka.

3. The Strokes, Room on Fire. Wonka because it's the exact same record the band put out two years ago, yet fans and critics ate it up anyway. That makes it more like a McDonald's combo meal than an album: You know it's processed and reheated junk, you know it's bad for you, but you eat it anyway because, hey, at least it's consistent. Also, the group's live show sucked big hairy moose balls.

4. Any Tupac release. The guy put out four records when he was alive, and eight (!) after he died. As many before me have pointed out, if it had been good enough to be released, someone would have done so while Tupac was still breathing. Profiteering from someone's tragic death is totally Wonka.

2003: The year of OutKast and Astros throwbacks.
2003: The year of OutKast and Astros throwbacks.
Ohh, yeahh. We love this CD. Honestly, we do.
Ohh, yeahh. We love this CD. Honestly, we do.

5. Michael Jackson, Number Ones. Because reports that Jackson faces allegations of child molestation were unveiled worldwide on news programs and front pages on the same fucking day -- Nov. 18 -- that Number Ones was released. Disturbingly, conspiratorially Wonka.

6. Any emo CD. Because you cannot be that distraught if your band is selling out the Verizon or performing alongside Jane's Addiction.

7. Any punk CD. Because "commercial punk" is an oxymoron. Rebellion, priced to move at $16.95, is all kinds of Wonka.

8. P.O.D.'s Payable on Death, Switchfoot's The Beautiful Letdown, and any other album by a Christian rock band that subverted its religious undertones just enough to break into a larger market. Look, I have nothing against Christians (Mormons yes, Christians no), but if you're gonna stand for something, stand for something. Put Jesus on your album cover, a picture of Abraham getting ready to knife his son on the insert. Those Bible stories, with their whales and giants and miracles, are kind of cool anyway, sort of Dungeons & Dragons, no? But don't try to turn your music into some sort of propagandizing, we-can-sneak-this-on-the-airwaves bullshit. That's so utterly Wonka.

9. Any country music CD that used patriotism to move units. Toby Keith's chart-topping Shock'n Y'all (it's a pun on "shock and awe," get it?) includes "The Taliban Song" and "American Soldier." Sample lyrics: "Now they attacked New York City/ 'Cause they thought they could win/ Said they would stand and fight until the very bloody end/ Mr. Bush got on the phone with Iraq and Iran and said/ Now you sons of bitches you better not be doing any business/ With that Taliban." Yee-haw!

10. Any American Idol CD. People, please! These CDs going quintuple platinum is one degree removed from a band called Coca-Cola or Sprint PCS spending 10 weeks at the top of the charts.

Alas, this list is a little dispiriting, I admit. There were lots of good things that happened in music this year, but I'm kind of an asshole that way: If you want the "good news" go read the Bible, or listen to Switchfoot, or check out one of the hundreds of other Top 10 lists currently hitting newsstands near you. -- Garrett Kamps

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