2001 Year in Review: Music

By Kevin O'Hare
2001 Year in Music: George Harrison


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Perhaps in his next book, Harry Potter will decide to become a rock star.

It's the sort of awakening the music industry could use right now—a new phenomenon that could trigger a rush of buying among a frenzied public. The Beatles and Elvis wrapped into one. Frank Sinatra meets Michael Jackson and Kurt Cobain. Somewhere out there, there's got to be a new sensation, and despite all those millions of albums sold, it still doesn't sound like *N Sync.

Music didn't have anything like its own version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in 2001. If there was a trend at all, it was the return of rock and a shift to dark, anguished, hard rock. The turning point came in May when Staind, a raging Western Massachusetts band fronted by High Times poster child Aaron Lewis, sold 716,000 copies of its album Break The Cycle the first week after it was released.

It wasn't the only hard-rock band that made the most of 2001. System of a Down, Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Creed, Tool, Slipknot, and Nickelback all scored big at the cash registers and on the road, but none of that was enough to lift the industry out of a year of stagnation. Instead of concentrating on new acts, labels often seemed distracted, mostly by their obsession with digital copying of CDs and Internet trading. Napster was forced to take thousands of titles off its website, but countless other web-based music services were popping up in Napster's place, on a daily basis.

Just how distracted was the industry? When all was said in done, Billboard reported that its No. 1 album of 2001 in terms of sales was the Beatles hits collection 1. That sure says a whole lot about a band that's been out of business for 30 years, but it doesn't say much about the state of music at the moment.

Fortunately, there were some positive developments amid the malaise, and there were highlights and lowlights galore in 2001. Here's a sampling:


The band toured all year and provided hope and inspiration to hundreds of thousands while successfully meeting its stated goal: to reclaim its mantle as the best rock 'n' roll band in the world.


Males like Maxwell and D'Angelo were dominating this movement up until recently, but lately it's been ladies like Jill Scott, Angie Stone, and Macy Gray at the forefront. But none of them made as much of a splash as did 20-year-old Alicia Keys, whose debut disc, Songs in A Minor, was a masterpiece. Hands-down, Keys was this year's best new artist.


New York and the nation could both use a boost and we got it thanks to the rush that came with listening to the punk-edged fury of the Big Apple's new saviors The Strokes, and their scorching debut disc Is This It.


Bob Dylan Love and Theft. The fact that this album was released on Sept. 11, just adds a strange and weird footnote to its timeless wonder. It is, in fact, a far better disc than his widely acclaimed Time Out of Mind from four years earlier, and ranks as one of the best of the bard's offerings since his primetime in the 1960s and '70s. Stately, yet sparse, and filled with subtle humor, it traces the roots of American folk, country, and blues and brings them brilliantly into the new century. Dylan's creaky voice may reveal that he just turned 60, but his artistry is still in full bloom.


In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, major stars from the U.S., England, and Ireland lent their time to raising funds for the families left behind. Three shows in particular stood out: The Concert For New York City, which featured Paul McCartney, The Who, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and others; America: A Tribute to Heroes, a Sept. 21 telethon whose cast included Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Alicia Keys, and U2; and United We Stand: What More Can I Give, which featured Michael Jackson and Destiny's Child, among many others.


The music may be pre-processed, the voice may be mediocre and the body may be . . . well, let's just say it's a Britney world right now. For better or worse, the snake-taming Ms. Spears was a trend all by herself.


After having a very public meltdown, including a bizarre striptease on MTV's TRL, Mariah Carey was treated for "exhaustion" and reportedly spent a lot of the summer in and out of mental-health facilities. Like rehabbing Backstreet Boy AJ McLean, the Diva will be looking forward to 2002.


And none of life's dreams can last. Joey Ramone, John Lee Hooker, and rising R&B star Aaliyah were among the many great artists lost forever in 2001, but former Beatle George Harrison's passing in November left a void that shook the world like few other pop star passings.

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