Billboard Artists of the Decade

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10

"George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People"

Before NBC's Hurricane Katrina benefit concert, few people outside of the hip-hop world knew Kanye West. But during a fundraising segment with actor Mike Myers, West went far off-script and began rambling on about his dissatisfaction with the way the media was portraying African-Americans caught in the crisis. At the end of his tirade, he blurted out seven infamous words that, for better or for worse, propelled him into the national spotlight, where he stayed for the remainder fo the decade. And, as the heartless Taylor Swift VMA fiasco proved, live television and Kanye West still don't quite mix.
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9

Led Zeppelin Flies Again

By 2007, even classic rock giants like Cream and Pink Floyd had gotten into the reunion business game. Still, no announcement shocked and awed the rock world more than the news that the surviving members of Led Zeppelin would perform their first full-length concert in 27 years at a tribute show for late music executive Ahmet Ertegunt at London's O2 Arena. With the late John Bonham's son Jason on drums, the band played a tight set of 16 songs for rabid fans who still had a whole lotta love for the heavy metal fab four.
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8

Britney Goes Bald

Not since Sinead O'Connor has a crew cut on a woman spark such controversy. But when Britney took out the clippers, it wasn't so much a political statement as it was a signal that she had simply gone bats**t crazy. Visits to rehab centers, a disastrous VMA performance and the custody loss of her two sons followed, all of which accelerated the rapid and very public decline of the once untouchable pop star. For a while, her antics threatened to eclispse her hits, but a late-decade resurgence in the form of a chart-topping album, a successful world tour and record-breaking single has put Britney back on top one more time.
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7

Aaliyah's Devastating Death

Aaliyah's untimely death marked not just the passing of a pretty pop star, but the loss of a musical force wo has just started to realize her potential. With Timbaland and Missy Elliott in her production corner, the 22-year-old was a muse who revolutionized R&B with her honey-coated voice and sultry mix of pop, soul and hip-hop. Her third and final album, 2001's "Aaliyah," sold 2.6 million copies and the feature film offers she had on the table (including a role in the second "Matrix" film), indicated that Hollywood was ripe for her picking. Nine years after her death, the R&B world continues to mourn her loss.
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6

Radiohead Bitch-Slaps Music Industry

For decades, the acquisition of music worked this way: record labels set the price for an album, music fans paid it, no questions asked. When online file-sharing and digital-music distribution came along, it was mostly buyers -- not artists -- who skirted the system. All that changed when Radiohead introduced "In Rainbows." Working as free agents, the acclaimed British rockers self-released their 2007 studio album in a pay-what-you-want format, meaning the customer set the purchase point for a download, even if that price was nothing. For an industry that was already experiencing a tumultuous decade, the little stunt was an unexpected curveball that proved the old rules could be broken by everyone in the brave new digital world.
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5

Nipplegate

Even without the wardrobe malfunction, Justin Timberlake's choreographed grab of Janet's little Jackson was probably too salacious for Superbowl Sunday. But JT's offensive touch went way too far. "Nipplegate" set off a fierce debate about indecency, the FCC's role in censorship and sexual content within music. What followed were a host of new restrictions for live broadcasts, increased fines for indecency violations and a sheepish apology from Timberlake on that year's Grammys. The plus for classic rock fans was that old, "safe" dudes like Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen finally got tapped to play halftimefollowing the fiasco.
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4

YouTube Makes Everyone a Star

Andy Warhol famously predicted that everyone in the world would have 15 minutes of fame. With the ubiquity of cell phone cames, Flip-cams and the catch-all aggregation site YouTube, that time-frame has been shortened to an attention-span-friendly 15 seconds. The concept -- a site where anyone in the world could upload a video and have it viewed by everyone else for free -- was advantageous to amateur filmmakers and obsessive attention seekers, but it was also great news to musicians. Videos came back -- though so did cease and desist orders and a whole new set of intellectual property rights issues. Yet, Youtube remains an essential marketing tool in the DIY digital revolution. Just ask Tay "Chocolate Rain" Zonday.
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3

America Freaks Out Over 'Idol'

Could a bona fide pop star be made on live television with the help of the American viewing public? Why not, thought TV producer Simon Fuller, who launched a U.S. version of his hit British show "Pop Idol" in the summer of 2002. Texas girl-next-door Kelly Clarkson won "American Idol's" first season and went on to become one of the decade's top-selling artists. Platinum powerhouses such as Clay Aiken, Carrie Underwood, Daughtry and Jennifer Hudson followed, proving that democracy, music and three months of "Survivor"-style competition could indeed transform unknown dreamers into chart-topping superstars.
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2

R.I.P. King of Pop

Michael Jackson's death impacted the world in ways that both his fans and his critics are still trying to comprehend. Once news of his passing began to spread, the personal dramas that follow him throughout his adult life -- the Jesus Juice, the numerous noses, the decision to wear pajamas in court -- all faded into the background (though new drama about the circumstances of his death began filling the tabloids almost immediately). As sales of Jackson's old albums soared over the summer, it became clear that his rich contribution to American pop culture was all that anyone wanted to remember.
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1

The iPod Changes Everything

In the time period we can now dub 'B.I.' ('Before iPod') there were numerous restrictions to how much music you could physically take with you. Enter 2001 and the iPod, a revolutionary rectangle that gave portability to those MP3 files stuck on your hard drive and made life much easier those who just had to carry the entire Beatles' catalog with them at all times. With the advent of digital music becoming the only way for the masses to enjoy music, the iPod became the ubiquitous symbol for the decade's transformation into a digital, on-demand lifestyle. Wear your white earbuds well.
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