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The ABCs of the year in music
An alphabetical look at 2007’s key artists, recordings and trends

by David Stout . Q-Notes staff

Amy Winehouse was the top musical story of 2007. ‘Back To Black’ was the pop and R&B album of the year.

Amy Winehouse was 2007’s biggest musical story. The critically-acclaimed Brit singer-songwriter steamrolled into the mainstream, providing welcome respite from prefab artists and cookie cutter “product.” Her desperate battle with drugs — sadly, ongoing — made Britney’s vagtastic exploits seem damn near calculated.

“Back To Black,” Winehouse’s star-making album, deserves its own entry as the year’s best pop and R&B CD. It also provided 2007’s best single, “Rehab.” Look for both to clean up at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards. Here’s hoping that Winehouse cleans up as well.

Celine Dion ended the year by completing the run of her five-year, box office-busting Vegas stage show, “A New Day.” She released a new studio album, “Taking Chances,” in November. An 18-month world tour starts Feb. 2008.

“Duets” paired Reba McEntire with a host of great country and pop stars, including Justin Timberlake, Kenny Chesney, Faith Hill and Kelly Clarkson. In a promotional interview for the album, McEntire spoke in support of gay marriage.

Melissa Etheridge released a greatest hits album in February. She returned in full in September with the confessional and political “The Awakening,” her ninth studio collection.

“Feedback,” the first single from Janet’s forthcoming album “Discipline,” leaked in December and fans nearly broke the internet downloading it. If the club-ready track isn’t a massive hit, Nipplegate is clearly still in effect.

Apparently, “Growing Pains” are a good thing when you’re the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. Mary J. Blige’s ninth album extended her winning streak with fans and critics alike. No more drama, for real.

Hilary Duff recorded the dance-pop album of the year. In fact, she simultaneously buried her “Lizzie McGuire” past and resurrected her artistic “Dignity” with the appropriately titled CD. Dismal result: Europe fawned while the tired U.S. yawned.

“Irreplaceable” was Beyonce’s fiendish attempt to turn all of humanity into swivel-necked, finger-snapping drag queens. Worked like a damn charm.

Milo Ventimiglia became an instant video star in Fergie’s ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ clip.

Half-gay Danish duo Junior Senior cribbed from the sounds of disco and early ’80s electro funk and hip-hop to create their party-starter sophomore album. It’s 34 minutes of rhythmic joy titled “Hey Hey My My Yo Yo.”

Alicia Keys served up her third helping of modern-day soul with “As I Am.” Label daddy Clive Davis gave her all the promotion she could want. A number one album and a number one pop hit, “No One,” were the payoff.

“Life In Cartoon Motion” was the homo debut of 2007. The poptastic 12-track album from ambiguously gay singer-songwriter Mika drew instant comparisons to the works of Elton John, Scissor Sisters, David Bowie and in particular the late Freddie Mercury.

Madonna was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on her first appearance on the ballot. The Material Matron and her co-honorees will be inducted at a March 10 ceremony at New York’s Waldorf Astoria.

Meshell Ndegeocello kept her batting average stellar with the release of “The World Has Made Me The Man Of My Dreams.” The openly bi artist’s sexy, soulful, space-funk album was one of the year’s most adventurous listens.

While “Out Of Sync” wasn’t the salacious tell-all we’d hoped for, the autobiography of former ’N Sync member Lance Bass succeeded as a fascinating look at what it’s like when you’re secretly gay in the world’s biggest boyband.

Producers exerted their dominance over mainstream pop and R&B perhaps more than ever before. In 2007, the fact that a track was produced by Timbaland, will.i.am, Pharrell or a handful of their contemporaries was often a more reliable predictor of success than the identity of the artist or group performing the song.

Queer music took another step forward with the release of “Revolutions,” a diverse 11-track album issued by LGBT-targeted, major label imprint Music With A Twist, a subsidiary of Columbia Records. The compilation features tracks by The Gossip, Jonathan Mendelsohn, Kirsten Price, Tangela Bell, Levi Kreis and more.

Rihanna ruled the dancefloor this summer with her smash hit “Don’t Stop The Music.” Remixer Jody den Broeder’s “Big Room Mix” in particular blazed peak hour DJ sets from coast to coast.
Sting finally relented and got back together with fellow Police-men Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers. After two decades apart, the acclaimed three-piece scored the the year’s top moneymaking tour, $212 million and climbing.

“The Evolution of Robin Thicke” was released in Fall 2006. The blue-eyed soul album broke through in 2007, however, on the strength of Thicke’s sultry love song “Lost Without U.”
Carrie Underwood ensured that country drag queens had something to lip sync to when she recorded “Before He Cheats,” one of the best woman-done-wrong songs since Loretta Lynn’s heyday.

Milo Ventimiglia (otherwise known as my baby daddy) became the year’s biggest music video star with his cameo as a shirtless, tattooed badboy in Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry” clip. In the vid, he’s involved in some shady dealings so she leaves him. Girl, is you crazy?

Rufus Wainwright fans had plenty to celebrate this year. The gay singer-songwriter-pianist issued another great studio album, “Release The Stars,” then followed it up with a live DVD and CD capturing his recreation of Judy Garland’s famous Carnegie Hall show from 1961. The DVD is titled “Rufus! Rufus! Rufus! Does Judy! Judy! Judy! Live at the London Palladium” and it’s fab!
The Xtreme Industry Makeover of the music biz accelerated in 2007. Digital download sales grew, CD sales withered and powerhouse artists including The Eagles, Madonna and Radiohead eschewed major label deals in favor of newer business models.

YouTube emerged as the no-doubt-about-it place to find anything relative to music and video under the sun. Official videos for the latest hits, check. Fan vids, check. Clips from old tv performances, check, Clips from concert appearances, check. Folks demonstrating how to play a particular song’s lead guitar part, check. Bad lip sync or karaoke covers, check. It’s all just…there.

Zac Efron (aka the pretty boy with the questionable sexuality) became the teen idol of 2007 with back-to-back star turns in the hit musicals “High School Musical 2” and “Hairspray.” His squeeing fans pushed both soundtracks to the top of the “Billboard” charts.

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