Michaelangelo Matos

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80 ’08 (and Heartbreak): Announcing Idolator’s Year-End Extravaganza

What were the 80 most important musical recordings, artists, trends, events, and performances of 2008? What were the eight things this year that broke our hearts—or, at least, our ears? We’re happy to announce 80 ’08 (and Heartbreak), Idolator’s year-end overview. The list is below the jump.

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What were the 80 most important musical recordings, artists, trends, events, and performances of 2008? What were the eight things this year that broke our hearts—or, at least, our ears? We’re happy to announce 80 ’08 (and Heartbreak), Idolator’s year-end overview. The list is below the jump.

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No. 2: Lil Wayne Is All Things To All People

What didn’t Lil Wayne do this year? Well, he didn’t run for president, but that’s about all. He played guitar (badly). He launched a champagne brand, because when we think of Lil Wayne imbibing something, it’s champagne. (Additionally, many Americans listen to Wayne’s music while they drink champagne, too.) OK, he had some E as well. (And he got arrested again, that time with guns.) He got remixed a bunch of times. He didn’t die. His “Daddy” gave him a million dollars in cash. The American people gave him a million record sales. He inspired one of the best music essays anyone wrote all year. He kept showing up in Blender. He moonlighted on other people’s records. And he made the absolute knock-’em-dead single of 2008—which, depending on who you ask, is either “Lollipop” or, if they’re me, is “A Milli.”

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What didn’t Lil Wayne do this year? Well, he didn’t run for president, but that’s about all. He played guitar (badly). He launched a champagne brand, because when we think of Lil Wayne imbibing something, it’s champagne. (Additionally, many Americans listen to Wayne’s music while they drink champagne, too.) OK, he had some E as well. (And he got arrested again, that time with guns.) He got remixed a bunch of times. He didn’t die. His “Daddy” gave him a million dollars in cash. The American people gave him a million record sales. He inspired one of the best music essays anyone wrote all year. He kept showing up in Blender. He moonlighted on other people’s records. And he made the absolute knock-’em-dead single of 2008—which, depending on who you ask, is either “Lollipop” or, if they’re me, is “A Milli.”

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No. 1: Ne-Yo, “Year Of The Gentleman”

The title piqued my interest. Well, I figured, he’s going ahead and making it explicit: “grown and sexy,” that restrained-allure masterwork of recent phrasemaking, and the title of the 2005 album by Babyface (to whom we’ll return), would be the outright theme of Ne-Yo’s third album. I figured I’d like it. He’d been a great singles guy but I never got all the way into the first two albums, but maybe I would with this one. I hadn’t thought much about “Closer” either way, but my hunch demanded I buy the album day of release. I played it five times and wrote an enthusiastic review while still not convinced I’d heard all there was to hear. Then I really started listening.

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The title piqued my interest. Well, I figured, he’s going ahead and making it explicit: “grown and sexy,” that restrained-allure masterwork of recent phrasemaking, and the title of the 2005 album by Babyface (to whom we’ll return), would be the outright theme of Ne-Yo’s third album. I figured I’d like it. He’d been a great singles guy but I never got all the way into the first two albums, but maybe I would with this one. I hadn’t thought much about “Closer” either way, but my hunch demanded I buy the album day of release. I played it five times and wrote an enthusiastic review while still not convinced I’d heard all there was to hear. Then I really started listening.

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No. 11: The Year Of The Remix

Remixes have been a constant since the late ’70s. Artists have been holding remix contests since at least 1983, when Tommy Boy advertised for a prize to the chancer(s) who best recast G.L.O.B.E. & Whiz Kid’s “Play That Beat, Mr. DJ” and inadvertently birthed unto the world Double Dee & Steinski, the latter of whose What Does It All Mean? overview was released this year to great (and deserved) acclaim. R&B and hip-hop and disco and indie rock and house and techno and dub and mainstream pop with its different mixes for different formats and even country (what’s Up!, Shania Twain): all not only utilize the remix, each genre has its own set of rules for it. And between NIN and Radiohead’s fan-made deconstructions grabbing headlines and cut-up disco ruling clubland, not to mention the usual fusillade of hip-hop mixtape posse cuts, dance producers trading tweaks as normal, and—fuck it—Girl Talk, 2008 is a Year of the Remix if any has been.

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Remixes have been a constant since the late ’70s. Artists have been holding remix contests since at least 1983, when Tommy Boy advertised for a prize to the chancer(s) who best recast G.L.O.B.E. & Whiz Kid’s “Play That Beat, Mr. DJ” and inadvertently birthed unto the world Double Dee & Steinski, the latter of whose What Does It All Mean? overview was released this year to great (and deserved) acclaim. R&B and hip-hop and disco and indie rock and house and techno and dub and mainstream pop with its different mixes for different formats and even country (what’s Up!, Shania Twain): all not only utilize the remix, each genre has its own set of rules for it. And between NIN and Radiohead’s fan-made deconstructions grabbing headlines and cut-up disco ruling clubland, not to mention the usual fusillade of hip-hop mixtape posse cuts, dance producers trading tweaks as normal, and—fuck it—Girl Talk, 2008 is a Year of the Remix if any has been.

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Heartbreak No. 6: Everyone In The Music Business Losing Their Freakin’ Jobs

The never-ending slough both the people who deal with music directly (making it, releasing it, booking it) and those of us who cover it for a living have been dealing with is made even worse by the simple fact no one likes admitting: we’ve seen this coming. For years. And those of us who are starting to feel the pinch—not to mention my many peers and colleagues who’ve lost their jobs outright in recent months—are to some degree kicking ourselves for not, you know, getting out of the business earlier. I can speak only for myself when I say that I haven’t because I still like doing it better than anything else in the world, and that I’ve been lucky enough to keep going with it for a while, but I have no idea what’s around the corner, and neither does almost everyone else I know.

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The never-ending slough both the people who deal with music directly (making it, releasing it, booking it) and those of us who cover it for a living have been dealing with is made even worse by the simple fact no one likes admitting: we’ve seen this coming. For years. And those of us who are starting to feel the pinch—not to mention my many peers and colleagues who’ve lost their jobs outright in recent months—are to some degree kicking ourselves for not, you know, getting out of the business earlier. I can speak only for myself when I say that I haven’t because I still like doing it better than anything else in the world, and that I’ve been lucky enough to keep going with it for a while, but I have no idea what’s around the corner, and neither does almost everyone else I know.

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No. 8: The Ron Clark Academy, “You Can Vote However You Like”

In the final weeks of one of the most high-intensity elections in the history of American democracy, both left and right were able to put their differences aside for three minutes and 56 seconds, thanks to a group of students at the Ron Clark Academy taking over YouTube, Good Morning America, and even the most hardened political observers’ hearts with their election-themed version of T.I.’s “Whatever You Like.”

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In the final weeks of one of the most high-intensity elections in the history of American democracy, both left and right were able to put their differences aside for three minutes and 56 seconds, thanks to a group of students at the Ron Clark Academy taking over YouTube, Good Morning America, and even the most hardened political observers’ hearts with their election-themed version of T.I.’s “Whatever You Like.”

More »


No. 13: M.I.A., “Paper Planes”

I left Slumdog Millionaire during the mansion scene—I couldn’t watch someone be that stupid anymore, sorry. Flimsy framing device, too. But even I had to admit that when “Paper Planes” came on it matched the images perfectly—even if I also think playing the entire song in the middle of the movie was, well, kind of unnecessary.

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I left Slumdog Millionaire during the mansion scene—I couldn’t watch someone be that stupid anymore, sorry. Flimsy framing device, too. But even I had to admit that when “Paper Planes” came on it matched the images perfectly—even if I also think playing the entire song in the middle of the movie was, well, kind of unnecessary.

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No. 16: Global Reissues Bonanza

Originally I was going to put “African,” not “Global,” in the title of this post. (I haven’t thought of anything better than MABEL or ANABEL yet either.) You could well imagine that between three Nigeria Specials from Soundway, one Nigeria 70 from Strut, not to mention two double-CD Franco overviews—one messy and fun, one chronological and really fun—plus Sir Victor Uwaifo (also Soundway’s) and the African Analog series, and the blurbs write themselves, right?

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Originally I was going to put “African,” not “Global,” in the title of this post. (I haven’t thought of anything better than MABEL or ANABEL yet either.) You could well imagine that between three Nigeria Specials from Soundway, one Nigeria 70 from Strut, not to mention two double-CD Franco overviews—one messy and fun, one chronological and really fun—plus Sir Victor Uwaifo (also Soundway’s) and the African Analog series, and the blurbs write themselves, right?

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No. 20: James Sullivan, “The Hardest Working Man: How James Brown Saved The Soul Of America”

You want a Great Pop Moment? James Brown playing Boston Garden right after MLK’s assassination, having it broadcast live on TV, and having the city respond by largely staying home and not destroying the city—that’s one for the ages. Which makes it kind of odd that no one thought to write a book about it until now.

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You want a Great Pop Moment? James Brown playing Boston Garden right after MLK’s assassination, having it broadcast live on TV, and having the city respond by largely staying home and not destroying the city—that’s one for the ages. Which makes it kind of odd that no one thought to write a book about it until now.

More »


No. 29: Fred Schneider On “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart”

Portishead, GNR, MBV, yadda yadda—the comeback no one much talks about from this year was actually one of the better ones: The B-52’s Funplex, which adapted the group’s classic sound to modern ends with very little strain. My favorite track, “Eyes Wide Open,” even resembled high-end DFA, no small thing. But the album’s relatively quiet aftermath might be due to Fred Schneider completely upstaging it with a short appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

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Portishead, GNR, MBV, yadda yadda—the comeback no one much talks about from this year was actually one of the better ones: The B-52’s Funplex, which adapted the group’s classic sound to modern ends with very little strain. My favorite track, “Eyes Wide Open,” even resembled high-end DFA, no small thing. But the album’s relatively quiet aftermath might be due to Fred Schneider completely upstaging it with a short appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

More »


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