The Last Word: 2008 Edition

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Quite

simply, it was 2008.

 

From the highs of watching history unfold with a new

President to the lows of wading through an economic cesspool of unemployment

and changing food and gas prices, there was always entertainment. And our stars

did not disappoint.

 

R. Kelly became a prime example of the benefits and pitfalls

of celebrity in 2008. More than six years after being charged with 14 counts of

child pornography for allegedly having sex with an underage girl on video, the

Grammy-winning hitmaker finally answered for the charges when the case went to

trial in May. And while a widely circulating video and opinions from insiders

and outsiders seemed to lean towards certain jail time from Kells, Chicago

jurors sent shockwaves around the country by acquitting the crooner on all 14

counts. Conversations about the verdict continue to linger as the currently

low-key Kelly plots his next move.

 

R. Kelly may have weathered his legal storm, but Jennifer

Hudson is still reeling from her own personal black cloud as she deals with the

recent murders of her mother, brother and nephew. With a role in the box office

smash Sex in the City and a hit single

(“Spotlight”) to build anticipation for her self-titled debut album, the world

looked ready for the taking for the Oscar winner.

 

That outlook virtually changed overnight as she became

embroiled in the shootings, which took place in October. William Balfour, the

estranged husband of Hudson’s sister Julia, was taken into custody the same day

of the shootings and was later charged with three counts of murder in the

killings.

 

Despite talk of coming out of seclusion to shoot the video

for her second single, “If It Isn’t Love,” media sources report that Hudson has

scrapped plans to film the clip as she continues to grieve for her relatives.

Nevertheless, the singer’s 2008 did end on a high note as she collected four

Grammy nominations.

 

As Grammy voters give a wink to Jennifer Hudson, a former

award winner continues her descent from potential greatness. Amy Winehouse

started the year off in high fashion with multiple Grammy wins only to have it

come apart amid near daily tabloid stories regarding her erratic behavior and

drug problem. Redemption was almost in sight as the embattled diva headed back

in the studio to record the theme song to the latest James Bond film, Quantum

of Solace with producer Mark Ronson. The

reunion became short-lived as Ronson revealed the singer was “not ready to record

any music” as he cited the singer’s legal problems.

Goodbye comeback, hello rehab and hospital life. Winehouse

is currently holed up in a hospital, where she is recovering from a bad

reaction to medication for her health problems. The stay is the latest

development since Winehouse was reportedly showing early signs of emphysema in

June as well as other conditions related to smoking cigarettes and crack

cocaine.

 

As Amy tries to stay on the road to recovery, a new invasion

of international talent filled her place with their own vocal stylings. British

soulsters Duffy and Adele joined fellow songstress Estelle in establishing

themselves in their native UK homeland as well as the U.S.

 

Talented overseas artists weren’t the only ones finding

success. Stateside vocalists such as Beyoncé, Chris Brown, Rihanna and Mariah

Carey were very much alive and well in the eyes of fans. While Bey unveiled her

aggressive alter ego on the double album I Am…Sasha Fierce, Mariah broke records with the lead single off her

latest album, E=MC2.

 

With “Touch My Body,” Carey replaced Elvis Presley as she

ranked second to the Beatles with the most number-one singles among all artists

in the rock era. The Fab Four have 20 number ones on the Billboard Hot 100 to

Carey’s 18.

 

Chris Brown made major moves in his own right as 2008

yielded success for the re-release of his latest album Exclusive, a project that featured four new songs that

included the hit “Forever.” To add to his solo success, Brown became the go-to

guy for many rappers as he lent his voice and talent to songs from Ludacris

(“What Them Girls Like”), Nas (“Make the World Go Round”) and David Banner

(“Get Like Me”). The result of his hard work came in the form of being

Billboard’s top artist of 2008.

 

The magic of a re-release also proved golden for Rihanna,

who added to her résumé of hits with new songs from her album Good Girl Gone

Bad: Reloaded. “Take a Bow” and “Disturbia”

became radio mainstays as they both achieved number one status. And like Brown,

the young diva took full advantage of her collaborations, whether they were

with Maroon 5 (“If I Never See Your Face Again” remix), Justin Timberlake

(“Rehab”) and T.I. (“Live Your Life”).

 

The songs as well as a solid opening spot on Kanye West’s

Glow in the Dark tour this summer were enough to put 2008 in the favorable

column for Miss Fenty.

 

Professional success may be good, but it was personal goings

on that intrigued fans as much this year for Beyoncé and Co. By the end of the

year, Miss Knowles renounced her state of denial on the subject of boyfriend

Jay-Z as she revealed little details regarding their top-secret wedding in New

York City. No self-respecting website or publication was caught not

capitalizing on reports of the nuptials taking place in April. Although she continued

to downplay the event, Bey eventually let the world see what Jay put on her

finger during the Fashion Rocks concert in New York in September.

 

Beyoncé and Jay-Z coming together in holy matrimony may not

have surprised many, but Carey’s marriage to Nick Cannon on the same month

shocked fans and non-fans alike. The union, which was the result of a whirlwind

romance between the entertainers, took place in the Bahamas at Mariah’s private

estate on Windermere Island.

 

They may not be headed down the aisle anytime soon, but

Brown and Rihanna took a page out of the Jay-Z/Beyoncé playbook as they denied

talk of them being a couple. Nevertheless, the power of the paparazzi prevailed

with pictures of the singers relaxing together at various locales and even breaking

bread at Kentucky Fried Chicken and sitting next to each other at awards shows.

So much for being low key.

 

No to be outdone, Akon and T-Pain gave fans something to

dance and sing to with both artists putting out albums and songs that promoted

romance as well as the excess of being “so paid.” From Kardinal Offishall to

Lil Wayne to Rick Ross and New Kids on the Block, the power of Pain and Kon

were undeniable in making whatever song they collaborated on a hit.

 

Not even a Smoking Gun story that put his criminal past and

actual time spent behind bars on blast with claims he didn’t serve three

straight years in prison could sour fans on Akon, who blasted the web site for

trying to “discredit” him.

 

Out of everyone that shared some reasonable amount of good

fortune during 2008, Janet Jackson seemed to catch more than her share of bad

luck with only 415,000 copies for her latest album Discipline sold in the US and a 14-week stint on the Billboard

charts. The singer/actress alluded to a lack of promotion for the project as

the reason behind her parting with her label Island Def Jam.

 

And with the label split came the early cancellation of her

Rock Witchu tour from migraine-related vertigo and the loss of her opening act,

LL Cool J. Overall, Miss Jackson has seen better days.

 

Now that the year is over and 2009 is coming on the horizon,

veteran hitmakers are gearing up to make full-fledged returns to music. Whitney

Houston laid the foundation for her imminent return this year as a song called

“Like I Never Left” leaked on to the internet. D’Angelo and Maxwell followed

suit as they spent ’08 in the studio composing future classics for their

respective albums.

 

Maxwell even went so far as to appear on this year’s BET

Awards and later preview new songs such as “Pretty Wings”, “Bad Habits”, “Never

Do W/Out You”, “Help Somebody” and “Cold” on his fall tour.

 

With less than a few days to go, 2008 is history. Whether it

goes down for being good, bad, or questionable, the fact remains that through

it all, we were entertained. Anybody ready for an encore?

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