2003 411Mania Music Awards: OutKast Leads Winners With Sweep

After weeks of scientific polling, both of the 411mania.com Music Zone staff as well as readers, the time has finally arrived to announce the winners of the 2003 411Mania Music Awards.

411’s Music staff created fifteen categories – 4 reader awards and 11 staff awards (“4-11” – get it? Please say you got it.) – and voting has taken place over the past couple of weeks.

Staff Awards

The 411Manis Music Zone’s staff nominees were pretty diverse, even if not completely surprising, and seem to be representative of the tastes and opinions of our writers. The biggest winner was OutKast, a HUGE crossover star in 2003 to say the least, who came away with 411Awards for all three staff categories in which they were nominated. Another interesting not is that, while the winners in the Best Female Pop/Mainstream Artist, Best Hip-Hop/Rap Artist and Best Country Artist categories brought home the gold by large margins, there were also several categories that were deadlocked in ties down to the very last moment that votes were being accepted.

All in all, we’re pretty happy with the way this turned out. Of course, there were some minor controversies surrounding the nominations (What date did a song have to be released in order to qualify? Should Thursday really be considered a “new” artist? Does the fact that Killswitch Engage, Justin Timberlake, Johnny Cash or Christina Aguilera didn’t actually release albums in 2003 disqualify them from being considered “Best Artist” in their genres?), but that’s what makes this so much fun!

Come on, do you really want to read a list of award recipients and have NOTHING to argue about? We thought so. (Oh, and the answers to the above questions are: January 1, 2003 to December 31, 2003; sure, why not? 2003’s album was their break-through, major label album anyway; and no, you can still be a good artist even if you didn’t release an LP.)

So here we go – presenting… the winners of the 2003 411Mania Music Awards!

Best Album


  • Death Cab For Cutie – Transatlanticism
  • OutKast – Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
  • Ryan Adams – Rock n Roll
  • Warren Zevon – The Wind
  • White Stripes – Elephant

Winner: OutKast – Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, by a landslide
Runner-up: Warren Zevon

OutKast continued what Eminem started in 2002: even though rap music may seem to be in a weak, bling-bling, bitches & buddah mindstate overall, every year the C.R.E.A.M. seems to rise to the top – not only taking the hip-hop world by storm, but also proving that it was possible for them to be a crossover success. Andre 3000 and Big Boi may not have hit Eminem-level success just yet, but while bombs were falling on Baghdad, OutKast was blowing up – going from “on the verge” to over the top.

We’d be remiss, however, if we didn’t include a few words about Warren Zevon. Compare OutKast and Eminem all you want, it’s hard not to think of Zevon’s final album without remembering that only a year ago, many of us were celebrating George Harrison for similar reasons. Makes you a bit torn: partly wishing that every songwriter could go out like this, while hating the fact that too many artists hardly see their greatest works enjoyed before moving on.

Best Song


  • 50 Cent – “In Da Club”
  • Coldplay – “Clocks”
  • Evanescence – “Bring Me to Life”
  • Junior Senior – “Move Your Feet”
  • OutKast – “Hey Ya!”

Winner: OutKast – “Hey Ya!”
Runner-up: Coldplay – “Clocks”

This one was CLOSE. The two songs only finished one vote apart, with merely three votes separating the winner from the third-place song from Evanescence. “Hey Ya!” was the party song of the year, causing many a 411 staff member to break out into spontaneous shakin’ it – and by “it” I mean anything from a Polaroid picture to a booty to, in Elliot Smilowitz’ case, a big, fat can of Aqua Net (have you seen that boy’s hair?!). In fact, my sources tell me that some compromising Polaroids have been taken of Widro shakin’ his booty alongside Daniels, Evocator and … what’s that? … Claire Flynn Boyle? Let’s just hope those don’t ever surface.

“Clocks” on the other hand, would have likely won if we had additional awards categories, such as “Best Radiohead Song Not Sung By Radiohead”, “Song Most Used In TV and the Movies”, or the recently discontinued “Are You Sure That’s Not Bono?” award.

Best Male Pop/Mainstream Artist


  • Dave Matthews
  • Jason Mraz
  • Jeff Beck
  • John Mayer
  • Justin Timberlake

Winners [tie]: Dave Matthews and Justin Timberlake
Runner-up: Jeff Beck

Ladies and Gentlemen: our first tie!

There aren’t many musicians around today that had the kind of success that Dave Matthews and Justin Timberlake enjoyed in 2003. Both of them solidified their support as solo artists, cashed in with huge tours, and generally made a splash in the mainstream. In fact, Timberlake was featured on two Rolling Stone covers (including the December 25, 2003-January 8, 2004 issue that declared him “The New King of Pop”), and Matthews just graced the cover of the January 22, 2004 issue.

Of course, both Justin and Dave have to attribute their successes somewhat to a little help from their friends. Touring with Christina Aguilera and guest-starring on the latest CD from Black Eyed Peas definitely didn’t hurt Britney’s ex. And the Dave Matthews Band concert in Central Park (which raised a ton of money for New York City schools) and “Dave & Friends” tour kept Mr. Matthews on top of the pop world – not to mention the fun “Sing Along” that he performs on the very underrated Blue Man Group album The Complex.

Making sure not to forget our runner-up in this category, here’s a sentence on Jeff Beck, our unlikely entrant into the pop/mainstream race, from myself and my 411 music prodigy, Evocator:

Matt: For all of you who are saying to yourselves “Jeff Beck is still around?” the answer is a resounding YES. Just make sure you’re not operating heavy machinery while listening to this one.

Evocator Manes: Jeff Beck for decades has redefined guitar and once again he does it, laying all the contemporary slag to the wastelands where it belongs.
Evocator Manes: Yours is more than one sentence, cheater.

[For the record, the man called me a cheater, and then proceeded to ask me to “fix” the rest of the awards… Shady.]

Best Female Pop/Mainstream Artist


  • Beyoncé
  • Christina Aguilera
  • Liz Phair
  • Michelle Branch
  • Missy Elliott

Winner: Michelle Branch
Runner-up: Beyoncé

When I first looked at the final nominees for this category, I thought Miss Knowles would win this one in a landslide. Well, it was a landslide, but…

For all of Beyoncé’s fame, hotness, and critically acclaimed solo debut, it was the folksier Branch that made the biggest impression on 411’s staff. How could she not after her SWEET appearance on the cover of Maxim? And sure, the photos were hot – and one may even argue she has a nice voice – but I have a feeling it’s this quote from that magazine that sealed the deal with our writers:

“People have this notion of me being this sweet, nice girl, but…I’m kind of a pervert. We’ll be on the tour bus, and me and my makeup artist will be watching porn.”

Yeah, seriously, what a pervert.

Best Hip-Hop/Rap Artist


  • 50 Cent
  • Black Eyed Peas
  • Jay Z
  • Obie Trice
  • OutKast

Winner: OutKast
Runner-up: Jay Z

You’d think that 2003 was a great year for hip-hop, with Eminem prodigies 50 Cent and Obie Trice blowing up the way they did on the heels of the 8 Mile soundtrack, Black Eyed Peas putting out perhaps their best album to date, Missy pushing limits and rhyming backwards and forwards, Jay Z “retiring” and OutKast proving to the world that heads from Atlanta CAN deliver hot beats and sick rhymes (and at least two great singles in “Hey Ya!” and “The Way You Move”). But unfortunately, this was IT. Sure there were some solid artists doing their thing on the underground, and there were a white guy named Bubba, some hot singles (likely produced by the Neptunes), and a Ludacris’ afroed dancing baby, but something’s missing. Perhaps rap is indeed on the verge of blowing up again on the backs of OutKast and Marshall Mathers or someone we don’t know yet, or maybe it’s in serious danger of hitting its next major lull. Like most mainstream music these days, time will tell. And when all else fails, Jay Z will surely be back to try and save the day.

Best R&B Artist


  • Alicia Keys
  • Erykah Badu
  • Joss Stone
  • Mary J Blige
  • R Kelly

Winner: Alicia Keys
Runner-up: R Kelly

Alicia Keys may not be 100% diva or 100% hip-hop, but she’s definitely 100% young, sexy, and soulful. Sure her Diary of Alicia Keys didn’t have a chance of living up to the expectations set by the great success of her debut album, but she’s going to be around for a long time, has talent to spare, and even though this latest album only came out in December, we can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

And in the feel-good story of the year, R Kelly – alleged lover of underage girls, and the Jerry Lee Lewis of R&B – named his latest solo album… Chocolate Factory? Despite the scandals, the album was met with praise (as well as a nomination for the NAACP Image Award for best album and several Billboard Awards), especially when compared to the mostly disappointing Best of Both Worlds CD that he released along with Jay Z in 2002. His next album? A double-disc of collaborations with Michael Jackson.

Best Metal Artist


  • Dimmu Borgir
  • Killswitch Engage
  • Metallica
  • Poison the Well
  • The Haunted

Winner: Killswitch Engage
Runner-up: The Haunted

In the most controversial category of this year’s 411mania Music Awards, Killswitch Engage just edged out The Haunted for the Best Metal win. Sure, Killswitch’s exercise in pure METAL, Alive or Just Breathing, was a 2002 release. But with appearances on three compilation CDs in 2003 – including songs on Heart of Roadrunner Records, MTV2 Headbangers Ball, and the previously unreleased “When Darkness Falls” on Freddy vs. Jason soundtrack – the band absolutely qualifies for this nomination, and the 411 staff has named them the best in their genre for the year. Additionally, they closed 2003 as co-headliners of MTV2’s Headbangers Ball tour alongside Lamb of God and Shadows Fall.

The Haunted started 2003 with a bang, releasing possibly the best metal album of the year back in February (how time flies when deathmetal’s your game). One Kill Wonder has been praised as “lean, mean and nasty” (All Music Guide) as well as a “fierce and brutal masterpiece” (411mania.com), as singer Marco Aro gets replaced by Peter Dolving, and fans are left to wonder if the band’s next album can top it.

Best Modern Rock/Punk Artist


  • Brand New
  • Dropkick Murphys
  • Mars Volta
  • Radiohead
  • White Stripes

Winner: Brand New
Runner-up: White Stripes

2003 was a Brand New year for the winner of 411’s “Best Modern Rock/Punk” award (hey, when you only have so many categories to work with, sometimes genres need to be combined), as they attempted to break away from the “emo” label with the more pop-punk Deja Entendu. Whether or not they succeeded is up to you. What I DO know, though, is that their sophomore album contains songs with… some of the longest titles of the year: “I Will Play My Game Beneath the Spin Light” / “Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t” / “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows” / “The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot”…

I asked 411’s resident Brand New expert Elliot Smilowitz for some thoughts on the group, and came to an interesting conclusion:

Smilo: They’re a Long Island band. played most of their first few shows at Ground Zero bar in Bellmore. two albums out. ex members of Hometown Hero.

Matt: whoa. I think *I* played at Ground Zero!~

Smilo: haha thats awesome
Smilo: if you can get over the fact that they’re called “emo” by the music militia, its good rock music and you may enjoy it
Smilo: their two singles have been rather pop-punk

Yes, that’s right. I have performed – as part of the Long Island pop-punk sensations MR T (including members of the bands Inertia and Just Add Water) – at the Bellmore dive that, according to Smilo, made Brand New famous! But where’s MY award?!

[Since I apparently don’t get one, click here to see the flyer promoting the show in question – which is the last show I’ve played, four years ago this week. (You’re a better person now that I’ve shared this with you, trust me.)]

The runner-up in this category was the much celebrated White Stripes, who’s fourth album, the critical darling Elephant, was perhaps the most hyped album of the year. Unfortunately, outside of a few good singles from the CD, Jack White has proven to be much more interesting when ditching his ex-wife/sister: witness his cameo on fellow Detroit-based band Electric Six’ record, as well as his excellent performances on the Cold Mountain soundtrack produced by T. Bone Burnett (Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou). White’s renditions of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Sittin’ on Top of the World”, Ralph Stanley’s “Great High Mountain” and his own “Never Far Away” are some of the soundtrack’s best tracks.

Best Country Artist


  • Alan Jackson
  • Dixie Chicks
  • Johnny Cash
  • Sara Evans
  • Toby Keith

Winner: Johnny Cash
Runner-up: Dixie Chicks

This award was given to the Man In Black even though he didn’t release an album proper in 2003, but it’s almost impossible to argue that he doesn’t deserve it. If you disagree, get your hands on a copy of this year’s Unearthed box set, and then get back to us.

And even though they lost to Johnny Cash by a “Landslide”, you couldn’t ignore the Dixie Chicks in 2003 no matter how hard you tried, as it seems they sold out nearly every show they played, and were hardly strangers to big headlines. They will be around for years to come, and will have plenty of presidents to be embarrassed by before their careers are over.

Best New Artist


  • Evanescence
  • Mars Volta
  • Postal Service
  • The Darkness
  • Thursday

Winner: Evanescence
Runner-up: The Darkness

Thursday (who’s been releasing indie albums since 2000?) kind’ve slipped through the cracks here, but they didn’t win, so all is forgiven. Hey, at least we didn’t nominate Fountains of Wayne!

This year’s Best New Artist went to one of the most compelling new bands in a long time, Evanescence. Their first single “Bring Me to Life” (featuring Paul McCoy of 12 Stones) took off after appearing on the Daredevil soundtrack, countless times on WWE productions, and promoted everywhere but a car commercial (although don’t quote us on that). And Fallen isn’t just for goths or born-agains. You have to be dead to not be in love with Amy Lee from the moment she starts singing.

And you’d have to be crazy not to have been affected in SOME way by The Darkness, who’s debut album Permission to Land either made you sick or made you jones for more. Just make sure you keep your hands off of the other Justin’s woman.

News Story of the Year


  • Eminem/Benzino controversy
  • Great White club fire
  • Johnny Cash dying
  • Michael Jackson case
  • Return of Napster/Introduction of iTunes for Windows

Winners [tie]: Johnny Cash dying and Great White club fire
Runner-up: Michael Jackson

There’s nothing left to say here really, except that we’re all really happy that the Eminem/Benzino “controversy” – despite somehow getting a nomination – came out of this with ZERO votes. Now will you Slim Shady haters please shut up? THIS was a bigger news story than that feud….

Getting back to the News Story of the Year:

On September 12, 2003 we all woke up to the news that Johnny Cash had passed away overnight (as had beloved actor John Ritter), and we felt a little empty inside. Of course, putting things in perspective to the loss and suffering from two years earlier, I think it’s safe to say after a bit of reflection that, instead of emptiness, anyone who is a fan of Cash’s music has no choice but to be happy he was around and making music during his long, full life.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the 97 who died on February 20, 2003 at the Station Club in West Warwick, RI. That night, a freak pyrotechnic fire took way too many lives, including band member Ty Longley. The band has since been touring, trying to raise money as they deal with all of the legal issues surrounding the case, as well as the personal loss (for more information on organizations that have been accepting donations in memory of those who died, click here).

Speaking of legal issues, Michael Jackson’s bizarre ride continued throughout 2003 and don’t look like it will be slowing down any time soon. In my humble opinion, it just hasn’t been the same since he and Alfonso Ribiero stopped hanging out all the time.

Reader Awards

On behalf of everyone here at 411mania, THANK YOU to all of the readers that have shown support throughout our first “official” year, not only by voting, but by checking out our writing on a regular basis, and providing both positive and nasty feedback. Without you, blah blah blah, none of this would be blah blah blah…. And we mean that!

Now, for the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the winners of the 2003 411Mania Music Awards, “readers choice” style!

No witty banter.
No analysis.
Just the “best of the year” as voted on by you, our loyal underlings…

411 Readers Choice: Best Artist


  • 50 Cent
  • Beyoncé
  • Clay Aiken
  • OutKast
  • White Stripes

Winner: White Stripes
Runner-up: OutKast

411 Readers Choice: Best Album


  • Jay Z – The Black Album
  • Linkin Park – Meteora
  • OutKast – Speakerboxx/The Love Below
  • Radiohead – Hail to the Thief
  • White Stripes – Elephant

Winner: Linkin Park – Meteora
Runner-up: OutKast – Speakerboxx/The Love Below

411 Readers Choice: Best Song


  • Coldplay – “Clocks”
  • Evanescence – “Bring Me To Life”
  • Fountains of Wayne – “Stacy’s Mom”
  • Kellis – “Milkshake”
  • OutKast – “Hey Ya!”

Winner: Evanescence – “Bring Me To Life”
Runner-up: OutKast – “Hey Ya!”

411 Readers Choice: 411 Music Staffer of the Year


  • Aaron Cameron
  • Adam Wallis
  • Ari Berenstein
  • Brian J. Blottie
  • Claire Flynn Boyle
  • Elliot Smilowitz
  • Eric Katz
  • Evocator Manes
  • Jason Clevett
  • Jeffrey R. Fernandez
  • Jim Vanderhorst
  • Jodes Serner
  • Joe Posten
  • John Collins
  • Kenny Hammond
  • Mathan Erhardt
  • Matthew Michaels
  • Phil McCann
  • Ryan T Murphy
  • Tom Cocozza
  • Tom D’Errico

Winner: Aaron Cameron
Runner-up: Matthew Michaels

Thanks again to everyone who helped put this together, especially Smilo and Widro who put a great deal of effort into compiling votes, and getting this whole process going. And of course, thank you to the entire 411 Music staff, everyone in each of the Zones at 411mania.com, and all of our readers.

peace. love. moe.