The generation gap took on new meaning as teen poppers and warhorse rockers dominated 2000's polarized musical landscape

By Chris Willman
Updated January 19, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

It goes without saying that 2000 was a boom year for adolescent pop, with the music on the heaviest and lightest ends of the scale unapologetically targeted at teens — to wit, romper-room antagonists Fred Durst and Christina Aguilera. On the flip side, it wasn’t a bad year for golden agers, either, with Tina Turner commanding the year’s highest tour grosses and the Beatles topping charts in every territory short of Tom Hanks’ island.

It’s only if you already have your driver’s license, but not yet your AARP card, that you might have felt a little let down by the year in music. It’s that negligible little 18-to-58 demographic that looks like the biggest loser as we round up the annum’s victors and vanquished.

WINNER PEACH-FUZZ SOUL PATCHES ‘N Sync busted SoundScan’s first-week record and won 2000’s top sales honors with the 9.9 million-selling No Strings Attached. In the we-should-all-be-so-bruised department, the Backstreet Boys’ Black & Blue (4.3 million after six weeks) was considered a disappointment for lagging behind.

LOSER THE CLASS OF ’96-97 If you really want a whiff of disappointment, check out No Doubt (1.1 million), the Offspring (695,000), Green Day (676,000), Smashing Pumpkins (521,000), the Wallflowers (378,000), and Marilyn Manson (294,000). But for bona fide belly flops, there was no beating the Spice Girls’ 126,000-selling Forever. Only three years ago, the Girls moved more than 40 times that many and had the year’s best-seller. Can ‘N Sync look forward to the same cold shoulder in 2003? Maybe not, but you can bet Scary is sticking pins in Justin’s action figure as we speak.

WINNER MASS MERCHANDISERS AND SUPERSTARS In May, the FTC abolished the music industry’s minimum advertised price (MAP) policy. That freed superstores like Best Buy to advertise best-sellers by the likes of Britney and Limp Bizkit for below-wholesale prices as low as $10 to lure customers who’ll theoretically get distracted by higher-ticket items on their way to the ‘N Sync aisle. As a consequence, probably more 13-year-olds bought microwaves than ever before in history.

LOSER MUSIC-ONLY RETAILERS AND UP-AND-COMING ACTS While album sales were up 4 percent, the increase was a not-so-bullish 1.6 percent among beleaguered music chains. Unlike general merchandise superstores, shops that sell only CDs can’t afford to drop below wholesale, alienating kids who saw DMX going for a ten-spot elsewhere. And with the world’s Wal-Marts selling more of the blockbusters than ever, but not bothering to stock lesser acts, lower-profile artists languished amid the boom.

WINNER HATE SPEECH Eminem’s critics were a nation divided … even within themselves. An EW reviewer awarded The Marshall Mathers LP an A- for artistry and D+ for moral turpitude; a New York Times critic punished Eminem’s ”unacceptable” homophobia by downgrading the album to the bottom of his top 10. Consumers weren’t so conflicted: Mathers wound up the year’s second-highest seller (7.9 million). Limp Bizkit used their M:I2 track to bemoan how ”hate is all the world has seen lately,” then contributed their fair, profane share with Chocolate Starfish (3.7 million). They’re the haters you playa-haters love to hate to love!