Once again Turkey Day is upon us, and it's time to take a moment to reflect on what we're thankful for. Of course, we at MTV are in the business of music, so it's only natural for us to examine all the musicians who made this year a memorable one. Since change was the mantra in this election year, we thought we'd highlight the artists who bent the rules and weren't afraid to be different.
Why We're Thankful: If there's anyone who stuck their neck out and did something different this year, it was Kanye West. His fourth album, 808s & Heartbreak, is brand-new, but we've already taken a liking to it because it's quite a bold statement. Instead of rapping, Kanye takes a complete left turn and tries his hand at singing — shocking for a hip-hop artist, but a point well taken.
Why We're Thankful: The biggest metal band in the world came back with a vengeance, blowing us away with the thrash-metal masterpiece Death Magnetic. Producer Rick Rubin really brought out the best in Metallica, and the songs hearkened back to the days of Master of Puppets.
Death Cab for Cutie
Why We're Thankful: Ben Gibbard and company returned with their sixth album, Narrow Stairs, and challenged us with an eight-and-a-half-minute single, the absolutely gorgeous "I Will Possess Your Heart." Possess our heart? It did.
Why We're Thankful: Britney finally did something right in 2008. After wallowing in pop purgatory the past couple of years, she won big at the VMAs and made a major comeback. "Womanizer," from her upcoming album Circus, was quite the catchy single — her best since "Toxic" — and its scorching video shows Brit at the top of her game. It's Britney, bitch, and she's back on track.
Why We're Thankful: Voters made history this year with the election of Barack Obama. Will was more than happy to provide the soundtrack, weaving Obama's victory speech after the New Hampshire primary into "Yes We Can," an anthem for those who dared to hope. The speech-set-to-music and the accompanying video reached millions, young and old, and spread Obama's message of change.
Why We're Thankful: Lil Wayne was once again the hardest-working man in hip-hop this year. It's no secret that the economy took a big hit in 2008, and everyone knows that the music industry isn't doing so hot either. But Weezy's Tha Carter III sold a whopping 1 million copies in its first week, proving that it's still possible to be a powerhouse in the age of album leaks and illegal downloading.
Why We're Thankful: One of the most ubiquitous singles this year was T.I.'s "Live Your Life." Thank to Rihanna's yodeling hook, we couldn't get the song out of our heads, but that's OK. It was a cool song. But we're also thankful for the way the rapper turned his life around. After getting arrested on weapons charges last year, T.I. began carrying out his community-service sentence by speaking to kids and encouraging them to stay in school.
Why We're Thankful: R.E.M. could've easily rested on their laurels and put out another boring album, but they didn't. Accelerate was not a return to form, but it was a return to quality. The album sounded urgent and of-the-moment, with political lyrics about the fragile state of the economy, corrupt politicians and wartime anxiety — a refreshing dose of straight talk.