If we told you a year ago that Snoop Dogg would regain his crown in 2005, Green Day would release one of the biggest rock albums of the decade and Mariah Carey would bounce back from "Glitter" to get her groove back, you'd have thought we were high.
But all of them did just that. Along with fellow MTV Video Music Award nominees Gwen Stefani, My Chemical Romance and Coldplay, they've all undergone major transformations in the past year, beaten some serious odds, and come up with hit songs and albums that have redefined their careers. Here's how these artists pulled it off ...
Problem: Where do we start? From "Glitter" to hospitalization, bizarre Web postings and an embarrassing divorce from her former label — which paid her tens of millions to just go away — the one-time megastar was threatening to become her generation's Liza Minnelli. The R&B diva looked like a butterfly whose wings had been clipped.
Solution: Enter Mimi. We're not sure what was freed, but with The Emancipation of Mimi, Carey returned to what she does best: mixing sexy, airy pop hits with the occasional rap cameo. A big part of the success goes to the personal attention of new label boss Antonio "L.A." Reid, but the real clincher was Mariah getting lost. "It was something difficult for her to do, which is stay away for a while," said Geoff Mayfield, director of charts for Billboard magazine. "She was very prolific, especially at the point where she was getting lots of negative publicity. She needed to disappear and come back with an appealing album, and she accomplished both missions."
The moment everything started to change: Unexpectedly, the breathy ballad "We Belong Together" was Carey's biggest top 40 hit in a decade, becoming the summer jam and topping the Billboard Hot 100 for 11 weeks as it set a record for the largest radio audience ever on the chart.
Problem: Sure, he was still turning out the odd hit song, but Snoop was starting to morph into the hip-hop Paris Hilton — he was famous just for being famous. Taking his eye off the musical ball, the always diversified rapper was so busy shilling cell phones, appearing in weak movies and hosting soft-core porn vids that we were starting to forget why he used to be the Topp Dogg.
Solution: One word: Pharrell. Maybe all Snoop needs is a mentor, because like Dr. Dre, Neptunes mastermind Pharrell Williams was able to make Snoop blaze again, making "Let's Get Blown" a hit and "Drop It Like It's Hot" so smokin' that even your mom was saying it like she knew what it meant.
The moment everything started to change: Late 2004, leading up to a seven-week run at the top of the Billboard Hot R&B/ Hip-Hop chart for "Drop It Like It's Hot." The song also spent three weeks at #1 on the Hot 100, and logged an amazing 12 weeks at #1 on the Hot Ringtones Chart, which may be why it felt like everywhere you went, Snoop was right behind you.
Problem: Rock star marries beautiful movie star. Has beautiful baby, names her Apple. Ditches two versions of his band's third album over the pressure to take it to the next level. There goes the music.
Solution: Walk the walk. With one of the biggest albums of the year, a soul-stirring set at Live 8 and an unmistakable swagger, the band got back to business with a solid effort and a radio hit with the soaring "Speed of Sound." "Anyone who spent time earlier this year wondering if Coldplay's album would be successful needs to get a hobby," Mayfield said. "They'd shown decent growth from album to album, got good exposure two consecutive years at the Grammys, became a handsome touring attraction — all the things a rock band needs to do to be successful."
The moment everything started to change: Despite gripes from some critics that the group served up more of the same, X&Y debuted in June with sales of 737,000 copies, proof positive that Coldplay's fans have no complaints. The band's first #1 U.S. albums-chart debut also became the year's biggest rock debut.
Problem: Green Day have been slapped with a lot of labels over the years, but "important" wasn't usually one of them. So when the tapes from the veteran punkers' partially completed album were stolen and the group emerged with the world's first punk opera/concept album, complete with two nine-plus-minute epics and religious overtones ... uh-oh.
Solution: Can you say instant classic? Talk about right song, right time: When the "American Idiot" single began to gain traction at radio in September 2004, the country was in the midst of presidential-election mania and the song's piss-take on society spoke to everyone across the "alien-nation" who refused to bow to the status quo.
The moment everything started to change: There were many, beginning when doubting Thomases who got their hands on advance copies of the album were stunned by what they heard. In September, "American Idiot" began its six-week run as the #1 single on the Billboard Modern Rock chart, followed by the band's first #1 debut on the albums chart in October. Then February brought a Best Rock Album Grammy (one win out of seven nominations). Even after 3. 9 million in sales, the amazing run of American Idiot may actually just be hitting its peak, thanks to the mini-movie starring Evan Rachel Wood for the record's most moving track, "Wake Me Up When September Ends." That song is shaping up to potentially be as big a crossover hit as the band's 1997 smash ballad, "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)."
My Chemical Romance
Problem: Who? Exactly.
Solution: Judging by the king's welcome My Chemical Romance are getting on the Warped Tour and their summer-long run atop the "TRL" chart, there are plenty of people out there who were dying for a mix of Broadway hoofing, pancake makeup and some big, meaty hooks.
The moment everything started to change: The cinematic teen-drama-spoofing video for their first single, "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)," helped set the whole thing up by showing the band's high-energy live show and a sense of humor mixed with a dramatic sensibility. If you're not convinced of the power of a great video, go to the band's Web site and watch the old-school version of the clip. They really hit the big time, though, on June 28, the day the choreography-filled "Helena" clip debuted on "TRL," where it's lived in the top 10 for more than a month, landing at #1 more than a dozen times.
Problem: One of the most hotly anticipated albums of the year got off to a solid start, with hits like "What You Waiting For?" and the Dr. Dre-produced "Rich Girl." But neither those songs, nor Love, Angel, Music, Baby, ever quite became the megahits we all thought they'd be. Remember No Doubt's 17-million-selling 1995 album, Tragic Kingdom?
Solution: Go B-A-N-A-N-A-S. Like Snoop, Gwen knows a good catchphrase when she hears it and "it's bananas" was it. Suddenly, pop and urban radio couldn't get enough of "Hollaback Girl." When's the last time a white female rock singer got spins on tastemaker hip-hop and R&B stations like New York's Hot 97? It just doesn't happen.
The moment everything started to change: Once DJs started putting "Hollaback Girl" on mixtapes and taking it upon themselves to play it on the radio, it hit the stratosphere. The song — which Stefani recorded at the last minute for inclusion on her solo debut — has been "crazy" in clubs, Queens, New York, DJ King Smij told MTV News back in June. Smij sensed the track's power in March when he included it on one of his mixtapes. "You can bring back the intro for like two minutes: 'Uh huh, all the girls ...' It's a female anthem. A dude will say something to them and now women are starting to say, 'I ain't no hollaback girl.' I heard that and said, 'Gwen Stefani done started some sh--.' That's one of the go-to records in clubs." The song subsequently spent four weeks at #1 on the Hot 100 chart and eight weeks at #1 on the Pop chart.