Cover Story: A Year to Dismember

Balls, vomit and tap-dancing: A look back at what rocked the music world in 2006

J.D. Cutter

The Bengals beat the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl (pity about Matt Hasselbeck's leg), but the big news for the game was, again, the halftime show. MTV still wasn't allowed to produce the show after the Janet Jackson debacle, so sister station VH1 was brought in and the "mature" music station enlisted their reality show stars Flavor Flav, Danny Bonaduce and Hulk Hogan to sing a transcendent "I Believe I Can Fly."

But just as special guest Rod Stewart came out for the performance's climax, his grey-haired left testicle popped out of his spandex, a "zipper malfunction" for which the producers apologized profusely. "Ballgate" resulted in the FCC increasing fines for radio and TV stations that air "offensive" material to $140 million per transgression. Network television began airing Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman reruns and infomercials around the clock, while all-Anne-Murray-all-the-time radio stations popped up in every major market. Stewart's nut got a Mounds candy bar commercial.

First it was Emo, then Screamo, but 2006's biggest Rock trend was BulEmo, a genre featuring bands like TwoFingersForLunch and IpecacAttack, who sing pining songs about, like, how fat the band members have become (despite shopping for clothes in the Gap's pre-teen girl section). The punctuating "screams" from the Screamo days were replaced by puking noises. You don't want to know about the new mosh pits.

Rap music fans were stunned to discover a secret PR company, ThugMakers, had been helping rappers sell more albums by shooting them four days before their new joint drops.

The company's unearthed Web site revealed astonishing pricing details. Thigh shootings were the most popular and affordable — at $40,000 a pop, the company guaranteed first week sales of 30,000-50,000 units. More ambitious MCs could go for the right-shoulder-graze/unregistered-guns-planted-in-your-car special for a whopping $500,000, but it ensured a No. 1 chart entry.

The most luxurious package — called the "Headcase Surprise" — went for a cool million and included testimonials from psychiatrists who insist you should be institutionalized plus a limo ride to the airport, where you could attempt to board a plane with an artillery arsenal bigger than many small countries'. Unfortunately, this package was discontinued after DMX experienced no significant rise out of obscurity after repeated usage.

Indie superstar Sufjan Stevens surprised everyone by releasing the 48-disc box set, The Rest of the States, featuring the completion of his plans to write a CD for every state in the U.S. Fans were disappointed, though, when the collection revealed some less-than-spectacular songwriting. The Ohio disc, for example, included tracks like "I Think I Got Gas at a Shell in Xenia Once" and "What the Fuck Is a Buckeye?" Stevens admitted he rushed the box set out in order to get started on his new conceptual project — writing an album about every incorporated village in upstate New York.

Fergie, Gwen Stefani and Nelly Furtado were invited to perform at the Latin Grammys but were ambushed by the show's producers and lambasted on live television for 45 minutes about their annoying use of Hispanic accents when they "rap." Best 45 minutes of TV this year.

The find-a-new-singer Rockstar TV series became the summer's biggest hit when Rockstar: Resurrection set out to replace the lead singers of several classic Rock & Roll bands. A 23-year-old bartender from New Jersey became the new frontman for The Doors, a middle-aged secretary from suburban Chicago was named the new "Janis Joplin" and an adorable, precocious li'l 5-year-old became the new Kurt Cobain (she has a bad tummy ache all the time, too, and is totally addicted to gummy worms!).

Encouraged by the standards-retread success stories of Barry Manilow and Rod Stewart and further inspired by Sting's less successful album of 15th century lute music, aging Pop stars completely gave up on recording new songs and burst onto the charts with antiquated cover songs. In July, the top three sellers on the Billboard album charts were Johnny Mathis' How? Like This!: 14 Native American Classics; Hummin' and Clickin': Central Asian Throat Singing with Paul Anka; and Engelbert Humperdinck's runaway smash, Monk-y Business: The Greatest Hits of Gregorian Chant.

New anti-piracy measures were taken by the Recording Industry Association of America as CD sales fell to an all-time low. The RIAA announced that every CD would be packaged with a "Sonic Escort," a large, muscle-bound gentleman who comes home with you and stands over your shoulder whenever the CD is put into a music player.

The scheme fell apart the day after it was instituted, though, when it was discovered that Best Buy was hiring illegal immigrants to accompany customers home and a college dorm collapsed in Huntington, W.V., when a Marshall student went on a CD shopping spree and came home with 27 300-pound goombahs after purchasing the entire Beatles catalog.

Beck's new album, The Information, upped the ante in audience-engaging tactics. The album included an empty cover with three crayons and a blank CD, with instructions saying, "Draw your own cover, rent some studio time, record some tracks and burn it onto the CD." Asked about the new extreme "interactive" approach, Beck told Rolling Stone, "I would have just tried to make Odelay again anyway."

Twyla Tharp followed her successful Billy Joel musical Movin' Out and failed Bob Dylan musical The Times They Are a-Changin' with Tap-Europe Express, which interprets the greatest hits of German electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk as tap-dancing numbers. Unprecedented in the musical theater community, the show closed 48 seconds into Savion Glover's rendering of "Autobahn" on opening night.

Republicans panicked after losing Congress in the 2006 mid-term elections. Karl Rove said it wasn't the war in Iraq or the administration's now-undeniable incompetence that lost it for them, pointing instead to Neil Young's protest album, Living With War, as the crucial turning point. To ensure a return to power, Bush commissioned Toby Keith to write Cuddling With War, which ushered in the new trend of "anti-protest albums." The CD featured songs like "(Just Wait 'Til We Get Body Armor) Over There," "(Natalie Maines Is Pregnant With Osama Bin Laden's) Love Child," "I'd Enlist Right Now If It Weren't for This Danged Hangnail" and "Neil Young Is a Pussy" and rocketed to the top of the charts thanks to Clear Channel's ceaseless promotion on every radio station in the country. But polls showed 88 percent of Americans still thought Bush was a dick.

Britney Spears sued Wrigley's after a tragic accident ended her music career. She had embarked on a tireless campaign with Paris Hilton and Linsday Lohan warning against the dangers of walking and chewing gum at the same time. ©

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