Meanwhile, Out On The Edge

February 13, 2005|By Rashod D. Ollison | Rashod D. Ollison,Sun Pop Music Critic

Not all successful pop artists clung to convention last year. At least a few acts pushed the groove musically -- or otherwise.

Crunk, the riotous style pioneered by rapper Lil' Jon, was the salty antithesis to Kanye West's sweet approach. With its shrill synths and rattling beat, crunk -- a Southern slang word meaning "crazy and drunk" -- was 2004's breakout genre. The sound, which sprang from Southern clubs, was honed and best showcased on last year's most ubiquitous hit, Usher's "Yeah!," and Ciara's thrilling "Goodies," another heavily played smash.

Jon, a short, dreadlocked Atlanta resident and former DJ, produced both records. Crunk Juice, his latest album with the East Side Boyz, has sold nearly 2 million units.

The Neptunes -- Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, two Virginia Beach-based musician / songsmiths who last year at the Grammys won producer of the year award -- offered one of the year's most innovative singles. Performed by Snoop Dogg, the No. 1 smash "Drop It Like It's Hot," nominated for best rap song, featured nothing more than a droning bass line and some mouth percussion.

And in country music, which last year saw 12 percent increases in sales over 2003, newcomer Gretchen Wilson stood out simply for being a down-home chick. In her hit single, "Redneck Woman," the 30-year-old Illinois native, who's nominated for best new artist, defied the slick, "cover girl" image that recently has dominated the genre. "Well, I ain't never been the Barbie doll type," she sang. And the public appreciated her honesty. Her glowing debut album, Here for the Party, sold 3 million copies.

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