Our Critics List the Best Music of 2003

The Year in Music

Our Critics List the Best Music of 2003

The Year in Music

Our Critics List the Best Music of 2003
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The year on rewind.
Dec. 18 2003 1:57 PM

The Year in Music


Sasha Frere-Jones:

Best song criticizing plastic surgery: Missy's "Pump It Up."


Band I am surprised I learned to love: Radiohead.

Band I am still surprised I can't love: the Darkness.

Band I can now love in public: Coldplay.

Band I am surprised we didn't mention: Pretty Girls Makes Graves, who put on the best live show of the year.


R & B comeback so convincing that I am unsure it is a comeback: Ron Isley.

R & B comeback so convincing it almost made me forget that dude is going straight to hell, boys: R. Kelly.

Genre that I still can't identify, because all of the definitions I've heard could apply to any rock from any time in the last 20 years: emo.

Album I never went from liking to loving: the White Stripes' Elephant.


Best radio ballad: Xtina's "Beautiful."

Best bootleg-up: Go Home Productions' "Making Plans for Vinyl," which is the vocal from Tweet's "Oops" over XTC's "Making Plans for Nigel."

Hip-hop performance move of the year: At the Source Awards in December, David Banner ran into the audience, knocking over chairs and people then apologized by distributing dollar bills from a McDonald's fries carton.

Best microhouse record: Superlongevity 3. (Definition of microhouse: What's left over when you subtract nonessential elements [e.g., melodies, lyrics, instruments] from dance music.)


Musicians who seemed to have a new record out without having a new record out: Eminem, the Cure, Rolling Stones.

Evidence that the right time to decide you're 60 years old is when you're 20: Mark E. Smith and Bob Dylan.

Unpleasant but true fact: Hip-hop ceded its crown for "Most Homophobic Genre" to dancehall.

Songwriter who should not be forgotten: "Crazy in Love" 's Rich Harrison.


Take on Beyoncé that I enjoyed the most: the Maoists', which Keith Harris pointed out.

Best song about the fear of being normal: "Red Light Fever," from Liz Phair.

Best song about divorce from a child's point of view: "Little Digger," from Liz Phair.

Best song about divorce from a parent's point of view: "National Holidays," from Spymob's Sitting Around Keeping Score, which you can finally buy on their Web site.

There's a normal list of what I loved in 2003 posted here.

Rob Sheffield

Best Albums, and the Best Song on Each One

1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever To Tell, "Black Tongue."
2. White Stripes, Elephant, "The Hardest Button To Button."
3. Stephen Malkmus, Pig Lib, "The Ramp of Death."
4. King Sunny Ade, Best of the Classic Years, "Synchro System."
5. British Sea Power, The Decline of British Sea Power, "Blackout."
6. The Strokes, Room on Fire, "Reptilia."
7. Missy Elliott, This Is Not a Test!, "Pass That Dutch."
8. Radiohead, Hail to the Thief, "There There."
9. Nada Surf, Let Go, "Blizzard of '77."
10. The Electric Six, Fire, "I Invented the Night."

Best Singles

1. The Stratford 4, "Telephone."
2. 50 Cent, "In Da Club."
3. The Electric Six, "Danger! High Voltage!"
4. Franz Ferdinand, "Darts of Pleasure."
5. R. Kelly, "Ignition (Remix)."
6. OutKast, "Hey Ya!"
7. Beyoncé, "Crazy in Love."
8. The Fever, "Bridge & Tunnel."
9. !!!, "Me and Giuliani Down by the Schoolyard."
10. The Darkness, "Get Your Hands Off My Woman."

Best album title: the Scene Creamers' I Suck on That Emotion.

Best comedy album: Dave Attell's Skanks for the Memories.

Live by the 4 Non Blondes career graph, die by the 4 Non Blondes career graph: Pink.

Least convincing live delivery of the climactic line of "Academy Fight Song": Ted Leo.

Worst live band I've ever seen: TV on the Radio.

Most touching lyric: "I saw her dance beneath the chandelier/ I offered her chocolate and some beer" (Elefant's "Tonight Let's Dance").

Forgotten but not gone: Metallica.

Best New York song: the Fleshtones' "Destination Greenpoint."

Best rock 'n' roll movie: Lost in Translation—I admire this film because it's a de facto remake of Meatballs, except Bill Murray is in a Tokyo hotel instead of summer camp, and his sad li'l buddy is 19-year-old Scarlett Johansson instead of 15-year-old Chris Makepeace.

Keith Harris

Best Albums

1. Liz Phair, Liz Phair (Capitol).
2. Drive-By Truckers, Decoration Day (New West).
3. King Sunny Ade, The Best of the Classic Years (Shanachie).
4. Bubba Sparxxx, Deliverance (BeatClub/Interscope).
5. Dizzee Rascal, Boy In Da Corner (XL).
6. Buck 65, Talkin' Honky Blues (WEA import).
7. Basement Jaxx, Kish Kash (Astralwerks/XL).
8. Kaito U.K., Band Red (SpinArt).
9. Junior Senior, D-D-Don't Don't Stop the Beat (Crunchy Frog/Atlantic).
10. Lyrics Born, Later That Day ... (Quannum Projects).

Best Singles

1. "Crazy in Love," Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z.
2. "Hey Ya!" OutKast.
3. "Seven Nation Army," White Stripes.
4. "Ignition (Remix)," R. Kelly.
5. "Beware of the Boys," Panjabi MC featuring Jay-Z.
6. "Get Low," Lil Jon and the Eastside Boys featuring Ying Yang Twins.
7. "Danger! High Voltage!" Electric Six.
8. "I Luv U," Dizzee Rascal.
9. "So Gone," Monica featuring Missy Elliott.
10. "Like Glue," Sean Paul.

Best political songwriter I forgot to mention: Ted Leo.

Let it be, already: Buffing the schmaltz off "The Long and Winding Road" is like mopping a dirt floor. What next—"Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey (Bhangra Mix)"?

Not mourned deeply enough: Chic drummer Tony Thompson.

Apparently way too retro for a blog: The Diary of Alicia Keys.

Best thing I learned from "The Fray": "Hip hop is rap. Calling it hip hop or house or whatever you choose to call it next year does not change the fact that it is rap."

The record industry's most desperate hope for salvation: Middle-aged guys baffled by file-sharing. (How many Eagles Best Ofscan you buy in one year?)

He's not crazy, he's just a little unwell: "On an album, the artist creates a full work of art with songs that fit together and create a mood. If we become a single-minded nation, where careers depend on hits, you won't hear challenging music that takes risks."—Matchbox Twenty auteur Rob Thomas in USA Today