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VOA Looks at Pop Music 2001 - 2002-01-02

While the September 11 terrorist attacks overshadowed all other news in 2001, the contemporary music world still managed to surprise, amuse, and even inspire.

The year 2001 contained surprises for even the most jaded cultural observers. Stars entered courtrooms and rehab; broke up and came together; stayed home and ventured out into the world - all the while selling unprecedented numbers of records.

The year began with an unlikely pairing, as veteran rockers Aerosmith and teenaged sensation Britney Spears sang together at the Super Bowl football championship.

March saw Aerosmith again on display, this time joining Queen, Steely Dan, Paul Simon, Solomon Burke and Michael Jackson in the 16th annual Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony.

Steely Dan also figured prominently in the 43rd Annual Grammy Awards ceremony. The duo of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker received "Album Of The Year" honors for their first studio project in 20 years, Two Against Nature.

While some entertainers received awards, others were upholding their time-honored reputation of behaving badly in public.

On March 16, a New York jury found rap mogul Sean "Puffy" Combs NOT guilty on five counts of weapons possession and bribery. His highly-visible trial stemmed from a December 1999 incident in which he and then-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez were involved in a nightclub shooting. Puffy promptly changed his name to P. Diddy, while Jennifer Lopez changed companions. She married dancer Cris Judd in September.

That same month saw the glamorous singer/actress return to her home island of Puerto Rico to perform her first live concerts. She joined the ranks of several high-profile acts on the road in 2001, among them Madonna, whose highly-theatrical Drowned World spectacle was the year's fourth-highest grossing tour.

Dance artist Moby, long a favorite in Europe, finally achieved stardom in his native U.S., hosting the eclectic "Area: One" tour while recording the hit song "Southside," featuring No Doubt lead singer Gwen Stefani.

Two musical giants carry highly-different memories of 2001. Bob Dylan began his 60th year by winning an Academy Award for the song "Things Have Changed." September saw him release his 43rd album Love And Theft to nearly universal praise.

Michael Jackson, on the other hand, received decidedly mixed reviews for two September shows celebrating his 30th anniversary as a solo artist. Critics slammed the star-studded spectacles as badly-paced and bizarre. Michael's record label Sony spent a reported $30 million on his Invincible album, only to see it quickly lose ground on the chart.

As 2001 ended, the great question remained, where do we go from here? The nation and the world must re-define "normality" following the September 11 terrorism, and music will surely reflect our new reality.

At the same time, we look back with fondness at those artists who left us this year. Among them - John Phillips, who led the 1960s pop act The Mamas and the Papas; blues great John Lee Hooker; and pop star Aaliyah.

The 22-year-old singer was on the cusp of movie stardom when an August 25 plane crash ended her life. Her second starring feature, Queen Of The Damned, appears in cinemas in February.