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friday random ten, 2003 edition

1. Kanye West, "Through the Wire." Kanye was a well-respected producer before "Through the Wire." He struggled to get accepted as a rapper ... his image was thought to be too clean-cut. Then he was in a near-fatal car crash, which resulted in his jaw being wired shut. Two weeks later, he went into the studio and cut this track, with his jaw still wired up. He got to make a solo album after that.

2. R. Kelly, "Ignition (Remix)." What are we to make of R. Kelly? His albums still go platinum, despite the fact that he is often seen as comic fodder when he isn't being reviled for the things he is supposed to have done. Is it possible that Internet videos of a man peeing on a 14-year-old girl fall under the category of "there's no such thing as bad publicity?" (Watch the video link now ... there's no telling how long it will remain online.)

3. Britney Spears, "Toxic." Speaking of artists whose public image overwhelms their actual music. Not sure why, but I feel sorry for Britney in ways I don't for R. Kelly. Well, I feel sorry for her kids, but to the extent we know anything real about celebrities, I feel sorry for this woman.

4. Black Eyed Peas, "Let's Get Retarded." Due respect to the mentally challenged, but this song isn't the same in its NBA-approved "Let's Get It Started" mode.

5. Lucinda Williams, "Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings." I love Lucinda ... have for a couple of decades now. But you have to admit, this song title pretty much sums up her lyrics. She would have made a great guest singer on Tonight's the Night.

6. Bruce Springsteen, "Who'll Stop the Rain?" On March 20, 2003, as the invasion of Iraq began, Bruce Springsteen was playing the first date in a brief tour of Australia and New Zealand. His setlists changed immediately. On April 9 in Sacramento, he played his first show in the U.S. since the beginning of the war. He opened with the acoustic version of "Born in the U.S.A." and followed it up with a full-band treatment of this Creedence song. Backstreets.com was right when they called it "intense." (The video link is to a 1993 performance with the unfairly-maligned "Other Band.")

7. Warren Zevon, "Disorder in the House." Meanwhile, Warren Zevon was showing the world the right way to die: "enjoy every sandwich." He managed to crank out one last album, and Mr. Springsteen was inspired again, this time to lay down a few of the best guitar solos of his career, as if his guitar neck was the cancer and he was gonna strangle it right out of Zevon's body while Warren watched with delight.

8. Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, "Silver and Gold." Zevon knew he was dying. Joe Strummer couldn't say the same ... one day, he was just gone. In his prime, he was as great a performer as anyone I've ever seen. In this, his unexpected last moment, he breaks our hearts without knowing it:

I'm gonna go out dancin' every night
I'm gonna see all the city lights
I'll do everything silver and gold
I got to hurry up before I grow too old

I'm gonna take a trip around the world
I'm gonna kiss all the pretty girls
I'll do everything silver and gold
And I got to hurry up before I grow too old

Oh I do a lotta things I know is wrong
Hope I'm forgiven before I'm gone
It'll take a lotta prayers to save my soul
And I got to hurry up before I grow too old

9. Amy Rigby, "Don't Ever Change." She's never made a bad album ... just to cite one critic, Christgau has given her five albums the grades A A- A- A- A. Given that she recorded her first solo album when she was 37, and her most recent at 46, she would appear to be an outlier to my Theory of Rock Star Career Trajectories. (I may have posted that video link before, but what the heck ... it's less than a minute long, and there aren't any "Don't Ever Change" videos, far as I know.)

10. Mitch and Mickey, "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow." This song represents one of the few times in Christopher Guest's fine movie career where real emotion overcame the slightly mean treatment of human folly (funny ... but mean). Catherine O'Hara's Mickey is an actual character rather than a caricature, someone we care about, and at some point, we quit laughing at her. By the time she and Mickey sing their signature tune, the drama overtakes the parody. It's a moment that might make me retch in a more traditional film; here, it's as lovely as a snowflake.

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