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Memorable music of 2005

by David Stout
Q-Notes staff

Wonder-ful comeback was a 2005 highlight.






Ashley Simpson had a Mickie D’s meltdown.

Here are the music related events and trends of 2005 that caught our attention.

Return to splendor. One of the true musical joys of each year comes from experiencing the triumphant returns of a few older or established artists who’ve been missing from the scene for a while. Within the last two decades unforgettable comebacks have been achieved by Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Tony Bennett and Carlos Santana, to name just a few.

The most welcome return of 2005 was probably Stevie Wonder with the release of his long-delayed (we’re talking years here, not months), “A Time 2 Love.” After so much fiddling, the album could have easily felt overcooked or belabored. What a pleasure then to hear Wonder sounding so effortless as he makes full use of his talents. “AT2L” trumps every album the legend has released since his mid ’70s heyday.

Other fine returns were made by the notoriously reclusive Kate Bush (critics loved her double CD set, “Aerial,” and thankfully so did the fans who had waited a dozen years since the previous record), Neil Diamond (super-producer Rick Rubin helped Diamond mine arguably the best “12 Songs” of his career), and Fiona Apple (after nearly two years on the shelf, the first version of Apple’s “Extraordinary Machine,” produced by Jon Brion, was leaked online to raves, a year later, Mike Elizondo’s reworking of the album was commercially issued to even greater acclaim.)
Box offal. Hollywood’s track record for producing good movies featuring music artists in starring roles (e.g. Diana Ross in “Lady Sings The Blues,” The Beatles in “A Hard Day’s Night,” Bette Midler in “The Rose,”) is checkered to put it mildly. For every “Mask” (Cher) there are a half-dozen “Glitters” (Mariah Carey).

Despite the abysmal odds, hope springs eternal and singers continued to chase their silver screen dreams in 2005. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a “Purple Rain” (Prince) in the bunch.
50 Cent, hip hop’s man of the moment, was aptly named in “Get Rich Or Die Tryin,’” an A-list project that, relative to its budget and industry expectations, earned about that much at the box office. Usher, who’s the new Michael Jackson — minus half the talent and all the charisma — had an even bigger flop with “In The Mix.” While “The Dukes Of Hazzard” fared better, Jessica Simpson (Daisy Duke) proved once and for all that T&A does not stand for Talent & Ability.

Three films to keep an eye on in 2006: Outkast’s “Idlewild,” Justin Timberlake’s “Alpha Dog” and Beyoncé’s star vehicle, “Dreamgirls” (yes, the Broadway smash).

Something we 8. On July 2 the music world stopped in its tracks for Sir Bob Geldolf’s massive Live 8 benefit concerts, just as it had 20 years earlier for his never-yet-topped Live Aid shows. Billions of TV viewers watched dozens of bands perform around the globe to raise awareness of the underlying causes of African poverty and the ways that Western nations can end their economic oppression of the continent.

For a few reasons, Live 8 wasn’t as compelling as its predecessor. We’ve seen too many of these types of concerts since 1985 for one now to ever have the same impact. And because the show was raising awareness rather than money, it was more difficult to feel like you were part of it —making a donation was a concrete way of connecting with the cause. Also, Live 8’s stars simply didn’t seem to shine as brightly as Live Aid’s, although, in fairness, that’s more a comment on current popular music than on the event.

Regardless, Geldolf and all involved pulled off a worthy, gargantuan undertaking and for it they deserve nothing less than appreciation and admiration.

Didn’t you used to sing? Like any year, there were a number of artists who got press for seemingly everything but their music. Britney Spears was again the main culprit, but whereas 2004’s headlines stemmed from her January 55-hour marriage to a long-time friend and September’s do-over with back-up dancer Kevin Federline, this year was devoted to her barefoot pregnancy and the birth of son Sean Preston.
Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston put their über-dysfunctional family on full display with “Being Bobby Brown,” a Bravo reality show made compelling by its car-wreck-you-can’t-help-looking-at factor. The show, courtesy of Whitney, gave 2005 its hippest catchphrase: “hell to the no!” If only these two had told their dealers this at some point...

Lastly, we have a sister act: Ashley and Jessica Simpson. The latter was the focus of non-stop relationship scuttlebutt with observers rabidly debating the health of her marriage to Nick Lachey. The question was answered just before Thanksgiving when the pair officially announced their split. Ashley kept pace with a drunken bender at a Toronto McDonald’s that was recorded and circulated online. In the clip little sis climbs on the service counter and tells an employee who threatens to get the manager, “Bitch, stop talking to me! I’m nice!”

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