Arguably, 2007 has been the year of the hot mess, so you could imagine how difficult it was to whittle this list down to just 10. (My first draft contained almost 50 different items, varying from the insignificant, like “furniture humping,” to the pointlessly broad, like “the music industry.”)
Therefore, some ground rules. Anyone I suspected was acting the mess just for attention’s sake was disqualified. (Sorry, Heidi and Spencer. And CoCo.) I also limited the scope to the entertainment world. (Hey, crazy astronaut diaper lady, you should have released an album.) People like Paula (Abdul and Deen), Tyra and Ellen — who all reached significant and notable levels of messiness — primarily kept the crazy contained to the boob tube, so their “messification” seemed like less of an achievement. I also paid no mind to Kid Rock. Were we really surprised that he showed up swinging at the VMAs? Or got arrested at a Waffle House ? And lastly, Paris Hilton’s stint in jail was a ghastly mess, but I’m so sick of talking about it. So before you fire away in the comments section, I’ll ask that you respectfully assume that it just missed the list at #11.
10. Foxy Brown
Foxy Brown needs to learn that beauty isn’t everything. We all know what happened in 2004 after a routine mani/pedi turned ugly (goodbye, French tips; hello, probation!). But like a moth to the flame, Foxy couldn’t keep herself away from the world of beautification, and in February she assaulted an employee at a Pembroke Pines, Florida, beauty-supply store. Her year got stranger when she denied being robbed in Brooklyn in June, even though the NYPD insisted it was Foxy who was forcibly stripped of a Louis Vuitton bag, $500 cash and a hearing aid. “A lot of the time, people mistake me for somebody else” was her defense, but how many rich deaf ladies named Inga Marchand do you know walking around Brooklyn? A month later, Foxy allegedly went all Naomi Campbell on her neighbor’s face with a BlackBerry, and before the summer was over, she was thrown in jail for violating her probation. But not even jail could prevent Miss Brown from looking foxy, as she allegedly ran hours late to a court hearing because she was too busy changing outfits and applying makeup in her jail cell. How does she not have her own beauty line yet? QVC, are you reading this?
9. Radiohead’s In Rainbows
The bandmembers’ announcement that they were releasing their seventh LP digitally by themselves was huge news that shook the record industry. The media glommed onto it, calling it Radiohead’s giant F-U to record labels, and wrote endless articles about how its release would change the face of the music industry … forever! Fans nearly passed out with excitement upon hearing that in less than 10 days they’d hear Thom Yorke’s signature croon for whatever price they chose. Audiophiles swarmed Radiohead’s site and pre-ordered the LP instantly. As the release date drew closer, details bubbled up that rubbed some the wrong way. An e-mail to purchasers casually mentioned that the album’s MP3s would be encoded using a less-than-stellar 160 kbps bitrate . Add to that a haphazard comment made by the band’s manager, implying that the unorthodox release was just a clever way of promoting the album’s proper release in 2008, and that the October download was merely an album preview. Some fans began doubting Radiohead’s intentions . By December, die-hards who bought a special edition vinyl-and-bonus-CD “discbox” (for over $80) were disheartened to learn that TBD Records was issuing In Rainbows on vinyl in early 2008 for under $20, thus making it seem like Radiohead charged fans an extra $60 for a bonus disc and slightly fancier packaging. Most important album-release ever or brilliant bait-and-switch? Probably neither, but this former obsessive Radiohead fanatic can’t shake the feeling that in the end, all In Rainbows proved was that Thom, Ed, Colin, Jonny and Phil didn’t need a record label to bleed their fans dry; they can do it themselves just as well, if not better.
In the midst of Akon’s “oh-my-word-this-guy’s-everywhere!” streak (and, ironically, while he was serving as Senegal’s youth issues ambassador), a video hit the Interwebs of the “Smack That” crooner grinding against an underage girl onstage in Trinidad. The fact that the “freak dance” recipient was a minister’s daughter made the story all the more smack-your-forehead unbelievable. Akon later apologized in an unintentionally hilarious MySpace ballad (which eventually became a single with a deliciously melodramatic music video) that featured the almost-rhyming couplet, “I’m sorry that it took so long to speak / But I was on tour with Gwen Stefani.” Best. Apology. Ever! However, that kid he tossed off the stage in Fishkill, New York, is still waiting for his singing apology-gram.
7. John Travolta in “Hairspray”
The “Hairspray” remake turned out to be a charming little movie, didn’t it? Yet amid all the winning performances from fresh-faced stars Nikki Blonsky, Amanda Bynes, Zac Efron and Elijah Kelley, there was John “Is that braised?” Travolta, looking like a Muppet and talking in a made-up bizarro accent. In Johnny Boy’s defense, it was hard to hear his dialogue over the sound of Divine rolling over in her grave.
6. Anna Nicole Smith’s supporting cast
Don’t get me wrong, Anna Nicole’s death was tragic. But everything surrounding it — the media’s titillating (no pun intended) coverage, the downright freakish parade of men claiming to be Dannielynn’s daddy, Howard K. Stern and Larry Birkhead’s never-ending appearances on “Access Hollywood”/”Extra”/”Insider”/”Current Affair”/”Entertainment Tonight”/”Today”/”Sesame Street”/”30-Minute Meals,” weepy judge Larry Seidlin getting his own daytime legal show (!!!), Bobby Trendy returning from whatever (bedazzled) rock he was hiding under — defined the term “hot mess.”
5. 50 Cent
Fiddy had an interesting marketing technique for his third LP, Curtis. Step one: Drop an absurd amount of shrug-worthy singles and new music videos until one catches on. (We’re still waiting.) Step two: Change the release date about 60 times. Step three: Fumble through a BET Awards performance (and in the process, perhaps inspire a summer game show!). Step four: Announce your retirement, pending an album-sales race with Kanye West , then retract it almost immediately once it’s apparent that you’re going to lose. Step five: Talk to the European press about how popular you are overseas (hey, so is the Knack!). Needless to say, I don’t think he’ll try this technique for album number four.
4. David Hasselhoff
Let’s face it, watching the Hoff flop around half-naked on the floor, slurringly asking his teenage daughter, “I can has cheezburger?” was simultaneously pee-your-pants hilarious and weep-like-Ellen-DeGeneres-at-a-Petco depressing. After viewing all seven minutes of it, I didn’t know whether I should go to an Al-Anon meeting or a Roy Rogers drive-thru. Yet the video felt vaguely relatable in a weird way. If the BBC produces a “Planet Earth” followup series about humans, this clip should be wedged in there somewhere. (Imagine the Hoff’s sweaty chest in hi-def. Shudder!)
3. “I Know Who Killed Me”
Sure, Lindsay Lohan had quite the wild year, but we’re keeping her off this list, since she seems to be in a good place today. Keep up the work, Linds. However, we have no qualms ragging on her hot mess of a movie (coincidentally released a few days after her arrest in July ). The box-office bomb is a trip and a half, with Lindsay painstakingly making sure her Disney image is pulverized every step of the way. She strips (sort of), she smokes and drinks, she has loud sex, she says the F-word (a lot), and, uh, she loses appendages left and right. Between the absurd “stigmatic twins” plot points, the David Lynch-worshipping first-time director and Lindsay’s deadpan/committed/insane performance, “I Know Who Killed Me” is an instant hot-mess camp classic that rose like a phoenix out of the ashes of Lohan’s depressingly out-of-control personal life. Add it to your Netflix queue immediately.
2. Amy Winehouse
The Brits were obsessed long before we caught on, but by late spring ’07, Amy Winehouse was America’s new go-to hot mess. With a ratty beehive, a missing tooth, a disappearing body (she’s admitted to struggling with eating disorders) and a performance attendance record that would make Axl Rose blush, Winehouse made it hard to resist gossiping about the sordid details of her life, splashed on the pages of the tabloids. But things turned dark very, very quickly. What started as “Amy Was Drunk On TV Again!” became “Amy Carved Her Husband’s Name In Her Belly With Glass!,” which then devolved into “Wino And Hubby Get In Bloody Brawl In Hotel Lobby” and “Wino’s Manager Quits After He Tests Positive For Heroin Use From Second-Hand Smoke!” only to finally end up as “Amy’s Husband Faces Life Imprisonment For Allegedly Fixing A Trial! A Distraught Winehouse Cancels All Public Appearances Through 2008. The sad irony is that she is an immensely talented artist; some of her gigs this year were legendary you-had-to-be-there shows, and she wrote all her own critically hailed material. (By penning “Rehab,” she’ll reap royalties from VH1 for the next two decades for every special they do on Britney, Lindsay, Nicole, Mel Gibson or Nick Nolte.) The same cannot be said for …
1. Britney Spears
Did a week go by where Britney wasn’t on the cover of a gossip rag? In fact, Britney’s ’07 life was in such turmoil that it’s hard keep all the stories straight. Obviously, none of us will ever forget her mid-February marathon of checking in and out of rehab, shaving her head and smashing a paparazzo’s car with an umbrella (-ella, -ella). But do you remember her New Year’s Eve collapse? Or her “secret” short tour where she barely lip-synched, barely danced and barely lasted more than 15 minutes? How about her cuckoo Web site posts (one of which implied she was considering naming her album, “OMG Is Like Lindsay Lohan OK Like?”). Yep, that was all 2007. After her depressing display at the VMAs, Spears had unintentionally mastered the art of the un-surprise. By the end of the year, we were immune to her antics. “So, Britney tried on underwear in the middle of a store. And …?” Perhaps the only thing left that surprises us is her music career. Not only did she get a new album in stores this fall, but it received strong reviews and sold fairly well considering the state she — and the music industry — are in. Too bad those pesky kids, those nasty custody hearings and those dang photographers’ feet keep getting in the way.