Eight Steps to a Better 2009

We hate to be the critic who laments the present, but it must be said: The music zeitgeist is suffering through its own recession these days. After 2008 hit with the thud of a throwaway track on an overlong CD, we're thrilled to have made it to the next song in this new year.

Though critics might not want to admit it, the signature band of these past 12 months wasn't TV on the Radio or Fleet Foxes, but Coldplay. With a sense of whimsy borrowed from the guards at Buckingham Palace, the band was most indicative of the sound shooting around listeners' cortexes. On the pop front, the most striking development was Katy Perry, not for the pseudocontroversy stirred by her massive hit, "I Kissed a Girl," but for the extent to which she dumbed down the game of pop provocation. Her phony bi-curiosity was plodding enough to make Britney's late-inning rally look sophisticated by comparison — Britney's nudie video absolutely withstanding.

So here we are — it's 2009, and we're eager to re-engage with another year in music. So eager, in fact, that we've assembled this can't-miss plan for our next trip around the sun. If we all do our part and stick to the script (that means you, Axl), we guarantee this will be the best 365 days in song since the last one where Oasis didn't put a record out. Which brings us to step one:

1) Oasis doesn't put a record out
After more than 40 years in the vaults, the Beatles' legendary opus "Carnival of Light" is finally released. The 14-minute work is so awful that Oasis changes allegiance and begins ripping off Manfred Mann instead. It takes at least 12 months for the Gallagher brothers to retool their oeuvre. In the meantime, we check music blogs without our usual trepidation.

2) Brandon Flowers comes clean
On the arena-rock front, Killers' frontman Brandon Flowers comes out of the closet as dull. He apologizes for the feathers and eyeliner he'd been wearing to distract us from the fact that he has no personal charisma.

3) The industry tanks
In 2009, CD sales see a further decline, sealing their fate as an obsolete format. Surprisingly, MP3s also fade as many top bands offer their services directly to fans for weddings, bat mitzvahs, and lawn care. 

4) Lil' Wayne is human after all
With millions in sales, Lil' Wayne proves for a second year in a row that he's recession-proof — though after a 12-date tour of the Midwest, Weezy finds he's not syphilis-proof.

5) The Smiths reform, sort of
The recent trend of blockbuster reunions steps into an even higher gear as a number of sorely missed bands — and Creed — reunite. After years of prodding, the Smiths are finally coaxed to headline Coachella. However, since Morrissey and Johnny Marr sit out this round, Patti Smith takes up vocals, while Robert Smith fills in on guitar. Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce, the Smiths' original rhythm section, are replaced by Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, who shakes Elliott Smith's urn in time to Will Smith's "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It." At year's end, nostalgia once again gets the best of the editors at Q magazine, who vote these Smiths as runners-up in their Best Band poll. For a miraculous 16th year in a row, first place goes to Wings.

6) Katy Perry puts her mouth where her money is
Never to be outdone is shock-songstress Perry, who finally kisses a girl only to find it tastes less like cherry ChapStick and more like homemade curry.

7) Axl Rose repents
In an attempt to right his wrongs from 2008, Rose dissolves Guns N' Roses and joins Velvet Revolver, taking over cowbell and MySpace admin duties.

8) Grunge returns
The biggest story of 2009 is the resurgence of grunge, which steals the spotlight from grime. But neither genre puts up much of a fight against a dash of Comet and some vinegar, which rule the charts throughout the summer, delighting nervous record executives and finicky house guests alike.

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