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EMINEM & KYLIE M, MISS DIDO & GO RUSS GO: WIND BACK WEDNESDAY DOES A YEAR IN REVIEW FOR … 20


The pick of this year’s offerings, according to these ears anyway, will be with you shortly. And elsewhere you’ll be getting variations of that and end of the decade blather for a while yet.

In the meantime let’s take a look at what set the world on fire, and what didn’t, who put on the great shows, and who didn’t, at the beginning of the decade. Oh yes, and a film star who wanted to be a rock star.

We'll get to Russell Crowe in a minute but, first, what was the news in music fashion this year? Black in or out? Hemlines up or down? Well, if your name is Kylie Minogue, the answer to the last question is hemline, what hemline?

The Minogue buttocks made something of a splash last year, marginally ahead of her music, appearing in a film clip being not exactly contained by a flimsy piece of what used to be called hotpants.

Having revived interest in a non-core constituency - straight males - Minogue this year went one further with the film clip to Can't Get You Out Of My Head, the first single from the album Fever. In the film clip the littlest Australian wore some white material that approximated a dress wherever it occasionally affixed itself to her body.

Those boys who buy FHM and Ralph for the stories suddenly had a reason to attend Minogue's concerts, not at all threatened by the bevy of appliquéd girls or the Oxford Street contingent in their muscle shirts and tight jeans. It was a canny marketing move by the Minogue camp, which saw its charge consolidate last year's surprising return to chart success.

That the music on Fever was patchy (three great bits of disco fluff and a lot of marginalia) and her concerts small beer on the pop-spectacle meter mattered little in the heady rush of national love for Our Kyles.

Some of us grumpier types might have pointed out to the hetero boys that Polly Jean Harvey, who was here a few months earlier in the heat of summer, was infinitely sexier. That is, if you want a woman with a dangerous brain that matches a dangerous mouth.

Then again we can console ourselves with the fact that we were only metres away when Harvey declared to the Enmore Theatre: "Lick my legs, I'm on fire/Lick my legs, I am desire."

Neither Minogue nor Harvey came close to the dominance this year of Dido, who proved that being innocuous to the point of offensiveness is no barrier to success. Dido's album No Angel was the soundtrack to every order of Fluffy Duck, the background to every special occasion dinner at Sizzlers and the essential purchase for Stevie Nicks fans who finds "modern music too loud".

She deserved to be sent to bed and made to learn by listening to Goldfrapp's gorgeous and vaulting Felt Mountain, Bjork's intimate and odd Vespertine or, better yet, one of the outstanding albums of the year, Lucinda Williams's Essence, in which grown-up emotions are channelled through some of the most emotionally pure music you'll hear in a year of Sundays copycats.

While Minogue's buttocks couldn't even raise the ire of Fred Nile and "Disgusted of St Ives", a more cunning marketing strategy by rapper Eminem sure did.

It wasn't enough that Eminem ditched a perfectly good stupid name - Marshall Mathers III - and rapped about sex, death, violence and fast food. Sometimes all together. It wasn't enough that he helped sell the Grammy Awards this year by earning them massive airtime and column inches as various righteous protest groups did their bit for publicity.

It wasn't even enough that he was white when dismissable black men usually do "this sort of music". No, he had to be funny, too. Bastard!

The fact that Eminem came, saw and left with no virgins sacrificed, goats slaughtered or Harry Potter look-alikes beaten up escaped the wowsers. Maybe they couldn't hear laughing, or anything at all, after coming within a few kilometres of wherever AC/DC were playing and having their eardrums disassembled and sent home in a separate box.

Sent off in boxes this year were three figures who in their own way touched thousands beyond the eardrums. Graeme 'Shirley' Strachan, once of Skyhooks and always of the '70s for a generation of Australians, kicked off this mortal coil. So did Ted Mulry, whose songwriting was never fully appreciated by a country he gave one of our favourite songs about underage sex, Jump In My Car.

And as the year ended, George Harrison, who did more than be a Beatle but never was allowed to forget those 10 years of pop perfection, set off to discover whether there is truth in reincarnation.

At this point we could mention Russell Crowe's music. But let's not just yet. Better to remind ourselves that the decade that made Strachan and Mulry was still gripping us by the satin smalls this year.

French duo Daft Punk gave us the best disco album in two decades. The Strokes repackaged mid-'70s New York. Icelandic quartet Sigur Ros displayed why King Crimson and Kraftwerk crossed with the sound of icecaps shifting was not a bad joke but thrilling music. Radiohead took similar material and added the shifting sands of electronica while confirming they are probably the most important mainstream band in the world.

And the reissues of George Harrison's All Things Must Pass and Marvin Gaye's What's Going On explored some of the great spiritual moments of pop's short history.

There wasn't a lot of spirituality in the spurious but nonetheless irresistible attempt mid-year to classify Australia's greatest-ever songs. You say potato, I say potato, you say Khe San, I say Into My Arms. Whatever, it got Australian music talked about for a few minutes. Even if barely any of it was Australian music being made now.

Then again, that's the state of Australian music radio. Or was until a new radio station, Nova, decided on something radical: playing more than one new song a month and playing more than one kind of music. It'll never work. But it did. Enough to scare the life out of the moribund behemoths of 2DAY and 2MMM who were busy changing playlists and promo slogans daily.

If it was Australian music you heard on the radio, it probably was Savage Garden. Though they announced during the year they wouldn't play in each other's sandpits any more, Savage Garden still dominated, the only local act to matter internationally in a decade.

Who can say whether Powderfinger, the Brisbane quintet who seemingly sold into every second home in your street this year, can match them? Who can say whether the famously diffident Powderfinger want to?

Unlike Russell Crowe who ... oh, sorry, ran out of space.

#WindBackWednesday

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