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Bright Eyes calls out Clear Channel
At the 3rd Annual Shortlist Awards at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles on October 6, fo-mo hero (that's folk-emo, kids) Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes complained about Clear Channel, effectively calling the world's largest concert promoter of live entertainment out to the woodshed. "The only bummer about tonight is that we're helping to earn money for Clear Channel," Oberst spat. "If there's anyone who cares about music as an art form, now's the time to make a change. There will be no more real music anymore if we keep letting people shove it down our fucking throats." Later in Oberst's set, a young man jumped onstage and spit on Oberst's shoes. No telling if it was related to the nasty comment. -- B.J.K.

The commercial rise of crunk
A Southern club phenomenon for years, crunk music -- made with loud clapping drums, faint bass lines, spooky keys and little else -- is beginning to spread like cell phones thanks to the pop chart success of Lil Jon's absurdly catchy "Get Low." The next year, as a result, promises to be fruitful for artists like the Ying Yang Twins, Bonecrusher, and David Banner -- Banner's planning two new records for early in the year. Capitalizing on the trend, TVT, Jon's label, recently released Crunk & Disorderly, a comp that's part Christmas themed and part crudely horny filler. For holiday joy true to the booty-obsessed genre, I'll gladly take the Ying Yang Twins' "Ho! Ho!" -- C.O.

The Recording Industry Association of America. Need we say more?
The RIAA can congratulate itself for conducting the worst public relations campaign since the Spanish Inquisition. The major labels' chief muscle filed 261 lawsuits this year against people who download music off the Internet. And who were the first people they nabbed? A 12-year-old honors student and a 71-year-old man named Durwood Pickle, who was subpoenaed because his grandkids downloaded songs on his computer. Now, Durwood is vowing not to buy another Rudy Vallee shellac until this whole thing blows over. More recently, the RIAA was forced to drop a lawsuit against a 66-year-old woman, agreeing no sexagenarian could possibly download Trick Daddy's "I'm a Thug." -- S.D.

Matthew Dear and Ricardo Villalobos advance glitch-techno
Even if you thought The Matrix addendums were crap, the feeling that the software kept on winning remained. Even Ann Arbor resident Matthew Dear's Detroit techno is on a funky-soul glitch trip. How his Leave Luck to Heaven stays so warm around all these metallic timbres is a mystery. Whereas for Berliner Ricardo Villalobos, an associate of Dear's from the microhouse/techno (micro-techno?) crossroads, warmth isn't on the agenda. He generally sets a dark minor-chord spell on Alcachofa Mimalistas Agonistes, maxing the tension, like an ornery medicine man DJing a packed bomb shelter. -- Piotr Orlov

Madonna's humongous miscalculation
Coming off a sweep of the Razzies, a withdrawn music video and a showdown with Kazaa downloaders that played like a Revenge of the Nerds finale, Madonna had a terrible year. Critics savaged her for repeating herself and, worse, for speeding up her voice and dumbing down her lyrics to compete with Britney. Offered as Exhibit A and B: the self-explanatory "I'm So Stupid" and "Mother and Father," which contains the worst white rapping since Brian Wilson tried it on "Smart Girls." My prediction for Madonna 2004? Her move to England will make the gap in her teeth wide enough to run a vocoder through. -- S.D.

Paris Hilton gets caught on tape
So it's not really music-related, but she did date that putz from Sum 41, and this bootleg-quality, night-vision video (was this filmed in Iraq?) is really one of the best things to surface period in 2003. That Rick Solomon is quite a lucky fellow; here's hoping that his next cinematic endeavor features his current girlfriend (and ex-wife) Shannen Doherty. -- B.J.K.

Dizzy Rascal's Boy in Da Corner
Hip-hop needs hope, and the one who might teach it is a 19-year-old from the East London projects who has one foot in the crunk nation, another in the U.K. garage underground and a head in the old school. Dizzy Rascal's debut Boy in Da Corner was the most futuristic-sounding album of the year by a long shot; that it had commercial legs in Britain made it even weirder. The self-produced beats staggered, when they weren't getting shook by slabs of grime, rock guitar and PlayStation noises; and Dizzy's desperate squeak of a voice chattered on a message for Britannia like he was Sir Melle Mel with a 21st-century teenager's outlook. -- P.O.

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Charlie Bertsch
Jonathan Bond
Serene Dominic
Contact: Serene Dominic
Brendan Joel Kelley
Jimmy Magahern
Contact: Jimmy Magahern
Christopher O'Connor
Piotr Orlov
Mikael Wood