The (formerly) Blond Bomber returned in 2009 with Relapse, his first album in nearly five years, but if he was rusty, it certainly didn’t show. Em sold a million-plus, put the entire industry on blast, feuded with his fellow MCs and reestablished himself as one of the biggest names in the game. It was just like old times. Along the way, he also managed to stir up a whole kettle of controversy, get mauled by a fictional German TV personality and make a cameo in a Judd Apatow flick. All of which made 2009 a very big year for Mr. Mathers.
Drake’s rise to superstardom was one of the biggest stories of 2009. From his humble beginnings as Jimmy Brooks on “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” Drizzy (born Aubrey Graham) took the hip-hop world by storm, thanks to the success of his So Far Gone mixtape and subsequent partnership with Lil Wayne’s Young Money label. Drake collaborated with the biggest names in the game, was co-signed by everyone from Bun B to Kanye, and didn’t let a little thing like tearing the ligaments in his knee stop his climb. Grammy nominated, often-imitated, Drake came out of nowhere to lay the blueprint for success in ’09. Now he knows G4 pilots on a first-name basis.
7. Kanye West
Last year, Kanye West placed second in our man of the year countdown, after a roller-coaster 12 months filled with just as many highs (headlined Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo, released edgy 808s & Heartbreak) as there were lows (the fact that his headlining slot at Bonnaroo didn’t begin until nearly 4:30 a.m., his punch-up with a paparazzo at LAX). This year, he lands at #7, if only because, while his highs were still plenty high, it was his lows — or, really, one low in particular — that most will be talking about for years to come.
6. Robert Pattinson
In 2009, all eyes were on RPattz. Despite only releasing one movie, there were few people whose face sold more magazines, whose every word made more of a ripple and whose public appearances caused such a stir. Under such pressure, a lot of 23-year-old actors would end up getting into trouble, indulging to the point of excess and disappointing their fans. But somehow, the uniquely suited-for-stardom Robert Pattinson took it all with a good-natured grin and self-deprecating charm. In “Twilight” and beyond, his future seems so bright that he’ll likely be sparkling for quite some time.
5. Lil Wayne
His name should be “Mammoth Wayne.” Lil Wayne is going into 2010 just like he went into 2009: on top of the music game. MTV News’ 2008 Man of the Year’s star is so huge and shines so bright that he’s remained a entertainment focal point — breaking touring records for a hip-hop act despite not releasing Rebirth, his much delayed follow-up to last year’s Tha Carter III. The New Orleans Fireman was more popular than most artists who boasted #1 albums; with hit singles, an endless string of guest appearances, introducing rap’s hottest new clique and dropping another classic mixtape.
4. Taylor Lautner
In early 2008, li’l Taylor Lautner was getting his learner’s permit, hoping “Twilight” might get him some attention, and trying on his itchy Jacob wig for the first time. Now he’s on the cover of dozens of magazines, adored by fans and one of the hottest actors in Hollywood. Not bad for a 17-year-old — and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
3. Adam Lambert
When season eight of “American Idol” premiered January 13, no one knew who Adam Lambert was or what he’d become. Sure, his first audition — he took on Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” — raised a few eyebrows, but in the early stages of the show, Lambert was outshined by the likes of Normund Gentle and that chick who wore a bikini.
That all changed with a vamping take on Michael Jackson’s “Black or White,” a decidedly demure version of the Smokey Robinson-penned “Tracks of My Tears” and, of course, his now-legendary cover of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World.” Suddenly, improbably, Lambert — the theater kid with the 100-octave voice and the penchant for dangly jewelry — became the “Idol” front-runner.
Of course, we all know how that turned out. Despite his defeat at the hands of Kris Allen in the season-eight finale, Lambert was unquestionably the biggest “Idol” star of the year, if not of all time. He graced magazine covers, pundits speculated about his sexuality — he was everywhere you looked. Post-”Idol,” well, he just kept rising. In fact, Lambert was famous for all of 2009, which is why he comes in at #3 on our list.
Jay-Z talked about his “Takeover” way back in 2001 on the very first Blueprint album. Eight years later, Young Hov is still taking charge, running the Billboard charts with a #1 song and album, running circles around other hip-hop lyricists with his wordplay and running whatever town his tour hits that night.
From Oprah Winfrey (she had Jay as a guest on her show, even heading to the projects to interview him) to Ellen DeGeneres to Rihanna to the kids in the ‘hood — everyone sang Jay-Z’s praises for Blueprint 3, Jay’s 11th #1 album. He had a string of hit songs, including “Run This Town,” “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)” and “Empire State of Mind” — his first #1 single. BP3 (released in September) was deemed an instant classic for its harmonic soundscapes and varying subject matter, which Jay articulated with his patented swagger and nimble flow.
MTV News’ #1 Man Of The Year: Michael Jackson
The King of Pop may have passed away, but he continues to influence music and culture. (12.18.09)