Best gadgets, songs, pop culture moments, and video games

BY DI STAFF | DECEMBER 17, 2009 7:30 AM

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Best pop culture moments of the last 10 years

From celebrity meltdowns to breakups to deaths, we’ve seen plenty in the last last 10 years — then we’ve blogged, Tweeted, and gone on Facebook about it. Here are some defining highlights from the sometimes gut-wrenching, almost-always vomit-inducing pop-culture moments of the last 10 years.

1. Britney Spears goes nuts.

Ten years ago, Britney Spears was everyone’s favorite squeaky-clean teen idol, but now, we have all witnessed her downward spiral — kicking crazy into overdrive by marrying and divorcing Kevin Federline, driving with her baby on her lap, and her infamous head-shaving stint in 2007.

2. Michael Jackson’s death.

The King of Pop’s controversial career came to an end when Jackson died suddenly on June 25, and many, many people worldwide celebrated the legacy he left behind.

3. Brad Pitt leaves Jennifer Aniston

On Jan. 6, 2005, Jennifer Aniston went from being an envied “Friends” sweetheart to “poor, poor Jen” on the front of every pop-culture magazine. Nearly five years later, the fronts of tabloids still feature stories of the feuding Brangelina/Aniston triangle.

4. Tom Cruise jumps on the couch.

In 2005, Tom Cruise released his inner-maniac on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” when he gushed about falling in love with former “Dawson’s Creek” star Katie Holmes, then jumped up and down on Oprah’s couch like a crazed-madman (and when we learned he firmly believed in Scientology, we realized he might actually be just that).

5. Potter-mania.

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series grossed more than $5 billion worldwide in the last 10 years, making it socially acceptable for people to dress up in wizard cloaks and line up in front of bookstores at midnight for Potter release parties. The fantasy trend paved the way for the now-popular Twilight series.

6. Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction at the 2004 Super Bowl.

You can’t say “wardrobe malfunction” without thinking about Janet Jackson’s faux pas at the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, when Justin Timberlake sang, “Gonna have you naked by the end of this song” and then made good on his word by exposing her right nipple.

7. Heath Ledger dies.

Ledger’s life came to a end when he accidentally took a lethal combination of prescription drugs in his New York City apartment, just months before the première of his Oscar-winning role as the Joker in The Dark Knight.

8. Paris Hilton’s sex tape.

Everyone got a glimpse of the then 19-year-old heiress’ “One Night in Paris” when the three-minute clip went viral in 2003, sparking an era of stars who became famous overnight for no reason (see also: Kim Kardashian).

9. Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin impression.

Tina Fey proved her comedic genius when she entertained us with her uncanny resemblance and spot-on Alaskan accent on “Saturday Night Live.”

10. Martha Stewart goes to jail.

The homemaker mogul went from making do-it-yourself Christmas wreaths to spending time in the Big House when she served time for security fraud and obstruction of justice in 2004.

11. Lance Armstrong’s “Livestrong” bracelets.

Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong survived testicular cancer and proved that real men wear bracelets with his yellow-rubber cancer-research bracelets.

12. Michael Phelps wins eight Olympic gold medals.

Phelps impressed the world with his super-human swimming abilities, then proved nothing gold can stay when a picture of the athlete smoking a bong leaked months later.

13.Anna Nicole Smith dies.

The sex symbol/TV personality was found dead with 11 different drugs in her system, and — after a legal battle over the daughter of her child — was buried nearly a month later.

14. Perez Hilton rises to power.

Hilton created himself a bloggy, gossipy empire, proving the reigning power of the Internet.

15. Lindsay Lohan gets messy.

The former Disney darling took a turn for the worse when she was caught doing drugs, driving drunk, and dating DJ Samantha Ronson.

16. Amy Winehouse goes to rehab.

The beehive-sporting singer won a Grammy for singing about going to rehab and then — big shocker — went to rehab.

17. Chris Brown hits Rihanna.

The seemingly inseparable pop duo got in a physical scuffle and canceled both their 2009 Grammy performances. When photos leaked of Rihanna’s black eye, Brown was slapped with a career-destructing assault and battery charge.

18. Writer’s strike.

More than 12,000 radio, film, and TV writers went on strike, demanding more compensation for their work and putting the entertainment industry on hold for 100 days.

19. Kanye West acts like a d-bag.

West took his arrogance to a whole new level when he stole Taylor Swift’s spotlight during her acceptance speech for Best Female Video at the 2009 Video Music Awards and lost a record-breaking amount of respect.

20. Jon and Kate plus Eight

Plus Jon’s girlfriend, plus her hairstyle was the biggest scandal to hit TLC, well, ever (so far as we know “ever,” which actually isn’t quite so far as “ever.”

1. Michael Jackson’s death.
2. Heath Ledger accidentally overdoses.
3. Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction.
4. Britney Spears goes nuts.
5. Lance Armstrong’s “Livestrong” bracelets.
6. Potter-mania — Harry Potter craze grosses $5 billion.
7. Tina Fey does Sarah Palin impression.
8. Brad Pitt leaves Jennifer Aniston for Angelina Jolie.
9. Michael Phelps gets caught with marijuana.
10. Tom Cruise jumps on couch.
11. Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton rises to power.
12. Martha Stewart goes to jail.
13. Paris Hilton’s sex tape leaks.
14. Anna Nicole Smith’s death.
15. Lindsay Lohan drives drunk.

Best singles of the past 10 years

They became engrained in your head, causing you to hum, tap your fingers, or sing along. These singles dominated the charts and the radio, becoming the tunes of a generation.

1. The Killers, “Mr. Brightside”

The Killers hit the scene in 2002 with Hot Fuss, an album that gained popularity thanks to the rock single “Mr. Brightside.” While the No. 1 slot is always going to be debatable, everyone knows this tune, and it’s one of the finer examples of what the post-rock scene has to offer.

2. Jay-Z, “99 Problems”

Jay-Z put out some of the definitive songs of the last 10 years, solidifying his title as one of the kings of hip-hop. “99 Problems” is one of the artist’s staple tracks, seamlessly blending the sound of old-school rap with driving rock guitars, courtesy of Rick Rubin’s legendary production. The track took the artist to superstardom and rightfully so — it’s the best moment in hip-hop of the last 10 years.

3. The Strokes, “Last Nite”

The Strokes may be strangely absent from our top album list — the rockers have always been more of a single-driven band. Pumping out such songs as “Someday,” “Reptilia,” and of course, “Last Nite,” the band proves that it can write strong alt-rock music with plenty of hooks to go around (though not be able to spell “night”).

4. The Postal Service, “Such Great Heights”

With a name such as the Postal Service, it’s no surprise that this band delivers (at least every day but Sunday and, soon, Saturday) the sonic sound of alternative rock. “Such Great Heights” is produced to machine-like precision, yet never sounds over processed. The core groove of the song revolves around an electronic drum beat mixed with soothing vocals that are a trademark of the band.

5. Grizzly Bear, “Two Weeks”

“Two Weeks” mixed psychedelic rock with ’60s-era vocals. The vocal melodies, which Grizzly Bear performs flawlessly, are a big part of the song’s success. It’s likely the band will continue to dominate the indie-rock scene for years to come.

6. M.I.A., “Paper Planes”

Boosted by the success of Slumdog Millionaire, M.I.A. finally got the respect she deserved with the alternative hip-hop song “Paper Planes.” The artist’s music always conveys a strong message and fits the film perfectly.

7. Outkast, “Hey Ya.”

“Hey Ya.” is energetic and insanely catchy. The song, which blends elements of funk and rock, is one of Outkast’s better-known hits and coined the phrase “shake it like a Polaroid picture,” which Polaroid later used in an advertising campaign.

8. The Darkness, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”

When The Darkness released the single, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love,” it was a breath of fresh music. Vocalist Justin Hawkins played the frontman perfectly, wearing flamboyant costumes and screaming in falsetto vocals. “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” is arguably the best “classic rock” song of the last 10 years.

9. Animal Collective, “My Girls”

“My Girls” is catchy enough to satisfy casual listeners while at the same time delivering the noise rock nerds crave. The song is a prime example of the band’s talent and is original enough to put the group ahead of the indie pack.

10. MGMT, “Time to Pretend”

Although MGMT only formed in 2005, the band managed to create a career-defining album with Oracular Spectacular. On the opening track, “Time to Pretend,” the band employs a mix of synthesizer and rock instruments to create one of the most memorable songs of the last 10 years.

11. Dream Theater, “The Glass Prison”

Dream Theater continually proves why it is the top progressive-metal act of all time with each release, but no song showcases the band’s ability to mix elements of sound such as “The Glass Prison.” It is one of the few 13-minute songs that can hold your interest for the whole ride.

12. Tenacious D, “Tribute”

Jack Black and Kyle Gass’s concept behind “Tribute” is brilliant — a tribute to the best song in the world, which Tenacious D wrote and subsequently forgot. This is one of those songs that most people know the words to and enjoy hearing at parties.

13. Coldplay, “Viva La Vida”

In 2008, Coldplay wrote the best U2 song of the last 10 years. All jokes aside, “Viva La Vida” is an emotional orchestrated ride that broke digital-sales records and put the band’s popularity at an all-time high.

14. Eminem, “Stan”

Eminem broke out on the scene in 1999 with the tongue-in-cheek single “My Name Is.” On the follow-up, Marshall Mathers LP, the rapper released what is probably his deepest track, “Stan,” telling the tale of an obsessive fan who commits suicide. The song brilliantly samples Dido’s “Thank You,” to create a hypnotizing chorus and is one of the Eminem’s finest moments.

15. Tool, “Schism”

Tool is definitely a thinking man’s music. The band’s lengthy songs aren’t exactly radio-friendly, but the catchy bass hook and vocals made this song a radio staple. “Schism” is the song that Tool fans play their friends to get them into the band.

16. My Chemical Romance, “The Black Parade”

My Chemical Romance has gained a lot of haters over the course of its career. However, there is no doubting the band’s effect on the music scene with “The Black Parade.” The song is an epic mix of orchestration and rock instruments that brings back memories of Queen rocking the world.

17. Taking Back Sunday, “Cute Without the e”

Taking Back Sunday is good at what it does — no-frills, infectious pop punk that will stick in listeners’ heads for days. “Cute Without the e” is a perfect example of the group’s formula and is one of the better pop-punk tracks of the last 10 years.

18. Bon Jovi, “It’s My Life”

Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” is a love/hate sort of song, but truth is, everyone knows the infectious lyrics, making it the ultimate karaoke experience. The band’s comeback track also features one of the best uses of talk box ever put to record by guitarist Ritchie Sambora.

19. John Legend, “Ordinary People”

It’s hard not to be blown away by Legend’s soulful voice. When he is not lending his talents to the likes of Jay Z, Alicia Keys, and Kanye West, the vocalist belts it out with his own solo tracks. “Ordinary People” proves why Legend is a six-time Grammy winner.

20. Say Anything, “Alive With the Glory of Love”

Say Anything’s punk-rock song is deeper than it first lets on. The energetic band weaves the tale of a couple separated by the Holocaust, based on real events.

1. M.I.A., “Paper Planes”
2. Outkast, “Hey Ya.”
3. Postal Service, “Such Great Heights”
4. The Strokes, “Last Nite”
5. The Killers, “Mr. Brightside”
6. Bon Jovi, “It’s My Life”
7. Taking Back Sunday, “Cute Without the ‘E’”
8. John Legend, “Ordinary People”
9. The Darkness, “I Believe In a Thing Called Love”
10. Coldplay, “Viva La Vida”
11. Eminem, “Stan”
12. My Chemical Romance, “The Black Parade”
13. Dream Theater, “The Glass Prison”
14. Tool, “Schism”
15. MGMT, “Time to Pretend”
16. Tenacious D, “Tribute”
17. Jay-Z, “The Black Parade”
18. Say Anything, “Alive With the Glory of Love”
19. Grizzly Bear, “Two Weeks”
20. Animal Collective, “My Girls”

Best video games of the past 10 years

Video games came into their own this last 10 years. Microsoft took console gamers online through an innovative online service, and Nintendo had people jumping like buffoons in front of the television.

1. Halo 2

Halo set the ground for great shooter action in the new millennium, but Halo 2 created the most user-friendly online interface, changing the way people played games forever. Sure the single player sucked, but the multiplayer aspects are still unrivaled to this day, making it the greatest game of the last 10 years.

2. Fallout 3

An open-world, role-playing shooter, Bethesda’s postapocalyptic masterpiece is an experience unlike any other. Stark images of a nuclear-ravaged Washington, D.C., and a lack of food and ammo establish what it’s like to live in a true dystopia.

3. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Duty is one of the most realistic first-person shooting games on the market to date. It is also among the top video games played online by people around the world.

4. Rock Band

The multiplayer instrumental controllers make this game truly revolutionary, and it is arguably the best party game of all time.

5. Gears of War

In one word, Gears of War is gruesome, and it follows an entertaining story-line. It also features a unique cooperative campaign mode.

6. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Everyone has a favorite Grand Theft Auto game, but San Andreas stood out from the rest of the pack. Maybe it was the controversy surrounding its depiction of African Americans in gangs, but mostly it was the massiveness of the levels. Rockstar took sandbox to the extreme, realizing some people’s inner desire to blow stuff up.

7. Mass Effect

While BioWare’s Star Wars game introduced players to a dynamic story built around their choices, Mass Effect is an experience unique to every player. The player choses which characters lived, died, or fell in love with them. Choices even dictate the environment in the sequels, making the trilogy’s middle chapter one of the most anticipated games of 2010.

8. Super Mario Galaxy

A year after the Wii’s launch, Nintendo needed to give its hard-core audience a reason to dust off the nun-chucks, and who better to do it than everyone’s favorite Italian plumber? Combining the system’s signature waggle with classic 3D platforming, even the Wii’s biggest critics can’t say no this one.

9. BioShock

Bioshock is all about the story. The morality-based utopian plot borrows ideas from literary greats, such as George Orwell, creating an underwater world that is both immersive and engaging. The ability to bash people’s faces in with a wrench doesn’t hurt, either. (That’s utopia? What’s dystopia look like?)

10. Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2

Ah, the days when Tony Hawk was king of skateboarding. This game gave even the less board-inclined a chance to pretend they knew how it felt to do a kick flip or grind on park benches. Plus, you could unlock Spiderman as a playable character. Enough said.

11. Half Life 2

Half Life 2 and Goldeneye are the two greats that define first-person shooters. The mission-based game was unparalleled at the time, and it still holds up surprisingly well. A must for any shoot-’em-up fan.

12. Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Smash Bros aficionados will argue that Melee for Gamecube is the greatest Smash game of all time, but I guarantee there are more people rocking the Wii-edition of the series than the old purple-cube version. Simple, yet deep, Brawl is the true king of fighting games.

13. World of Warcraft

While it’s easy to make jokes about Blizzard’s massive online RPG (or its players), there’s no denying the effect it has had on our pop culture. The quality of play is at a level high enough to attract more than 11.5 million players, and they can’t be wrong — can they?

14. Metal Gear Solid 4

PlayStation 3 has gotten a lot of crap for not putting out good games, but Metal Gear 4 easily shuts the haters up. Lead character, Solid Snake, will always be synonymous with the Sony brand, even if he has appeared on other systems.

15. NHL 10

While its one of America’s least-popular sports, EA Sports’ hockey franchise is one of last 10 years’ best. Each year’s version better than the last; the latest is near perfect. Innovative analog controls and fast action puts this disc in permanent rotation until next season.

16. The Sims

Addicting and simplistic but classic. The ability to create an entire world on a computer screen or console, then to watch it grow and change on its own makes the Sims a refreshing dose of realistic unreality.

17. Roller Coaster Tycoon 2

While Sim Theme Park had fancy graphics, designer Chris Sawyer’s sequel proved the jump to 3D graphics unnecessary. All any prospective park owner needs is balanced strategy, a simple yet deep interface, and plenty of room for customization.

18. Wii Sports

The family-friendly console and game package are fun for all ages and easy to do. Players no longer just push buttons to swing golf clubs or throw baseballs.

19. Dead Rising

Dead Rising is an underrated masterpiece of a game. The story line, which George Romero inspired, allows a player to act out her or his dreams of eviscerating zombies with any item imaginable and features some of the coolest psychotic villains around.

20. MVP Baseball 2005

When EA Sports bought the exclusive rights to the NFL, it had to give up something in return. Too bad it was one of the best baseball games ever made. The franchise mode allowed players to set their stadium’s ticket, concession, and souvenir prices — which, in turn, let them build the ultimate shrine to the game.

1. The Sims
2. Wii Sports
3. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
4. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
5. Halo 2
6. Rock Band
7. Super Smash Bros. Brawl
8. Fallout 3
9. Gears of War
10. Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2
11. Roller Coaster Tycoon 2
12. Half Life 2
13. MVP Baseball 2005
14. Dead Rising
15. World of Warcraft
16. Metal Gear Solid 4
17. BioShock
18. Mass Effect
19. Super Mario Galaxy
20. NHL 10

Best gadgets of the past 10 years

From touch screens to traveling information — and whether you’re a Mac or PC, there’s no doubt whether these were technology times.

1. iPod

Combining all needed elements — style, quality, and practicality — Apple’s iPod revolutionized how music is heard. Staying away from the clunk of CD or tape players, the iPod combines sleek looks with a solid interface. Rocking out has never been this easy.

2. USB Flash Drive

Remember what it was like to burn a CD? Or use a floppy drive? The USB flash drive changed the way people accessed information — forever. With just the quick slip in and out of the computer, information is easily accessed and delivered.

3. iPhone

Apple again scores on the Top 10 with the iPhone — the cell phone of all cell phones. Combining the innovative concept for applications with Internet, music, and, of course, talking, the iPhone is the ultimate communication tool. Plus, the phones are quite sexy.

4. Garmin GPS

Throw those thick atlases out the window and never get lost again. The Garmin GPS utilizes satellite information to guide and direct anyone who calls, without the embarrassment of stopping at a gas station to ask for directions.

5. BlackBerry

No BlackBerry, say goodbye to any other smart phone on the market. The BlackBerry was the first to combine e-mail, texting, and phoning all into one.

6. TiVo DVR

Wait. I’m watching live television and have to answer the door for the pizza guy. Don’t worry, just pause the television with TiVo’s innovative DVR system. Having the ability to pause and record live television without a VCR or tape changed the way home entertainment worked.

7. Amazon Kindle

Say you’re driving to Colorado for a ski trip over the holidays and forgot to get some books before you left. Not to worry, the Amazon Kindle can download books from any part of the world, and there is no fee for Internet use. Just click on what you want, and enjoy some Salinger or Sedaris — whatever you please (including good authors).

8. The Netbook

What do people use computers for? Communicating on the Internet. So, the inventors of this gadget decided to utilize what the everyday person uses most, and created the Netbook — an Internet-based laptop that’s light enough to travel wherever you want yet stable enough to type that philosophy paper.

9. Wii

Ever though parents and kids would play video games together? The time is now — Nintendo revolutionized the gaming industry with the Wii — so Grandma is not afraid to take her shot.

10. BluRay

Utilizing high-definition technology, BluRay changed the way people watch their favorite movies. Sometimes, it feels as if Michael Myers is in the room because it’s so lifelike.

11. Flip Video Ultra

Forget the days of tapes, the Flip Video Ultra is a small, handheld device that allows anyone of all ages to become the next Hollywood director.

12. Apple MacBook

Apple strikes again on our list with the MacBook. The innovative, sleek design combined with the flashy OSX allowed users a pain-free and exciting experience.

13. Blutooth Earpiece

In a society advanced as we are, there’s no reason to risk crashing on the road just because a friend is calling. The Blutooth Earpiece breathed new life into the cell phone, and although looking a bit goofy, let people appear to talk to themselves for the majority of the last 10 years.

14. PlayStation 3

Combining Bluray and video games, PlayStation 3 delivered the most satisfying video-game console to date.

15. Bose Quiet Comfort Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Whether flying or riding, Bose’s headphones brought together comfort and sound — allowing listeners to focus on the music they wanted.

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