Which stars had the biggest 2009? Over the next week, we’ll be unveiling our top nine most newsworthy, controversial and fascinating men and women of the year. We based our list on factors like music sales, box-office performance, MTVNews.com headlines and traffic, overall reach (crossover singles, appearances in movies, licensing of songs for commercials, clothing lines, etc.), plus X-factors like “impact” and “buzz.” (And no, President Barack Obama didn’t make the list — we’ll leave that to the folks at Time.) This is by no means an exact science, but we think the list we’ve put together represents the men and women who helped make 2009 the most exciting and memorable 12 months in recent history.
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.
2009 Highlights: Well, for starters, there was Relapse, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard albums chart in May, with sales of more than 608,000 copies, the year’s biggest bow (until Susan Boyle dethroned him in December). But in the months leading up to the album, Em hyped it with big-name collaborations (“Crack a Bottle,” which featured his old running mates 50 Cent and Dr. Dre) and videos that saw him revisiting his trash-talking ways (the now-infamous “We Made You” video, which slammed the likes of Jessica Simpson, Sarah Palin and a whole lot of other folks).
That, of course, of course, was followed by a public spat with Mariah Carey and her husband Nick Cannon. (He paid for his transgressions by being symbolically run over by a bus in Carey’s “Obsessed” video.) He then met the wrong end of Brüno at the 2009 MTV Movie Awards, in an incident he would later refer to as a “gag.”
There were the controversies, too. “We Made You” got Bill O’Reilly all hot and bothered, and as the year drew to a close, Em was getting heat for perceived anti-gay lyrics in a new song, “Elevator,” which took aim at the likes of Adam Lambert and Clay Aiken.
But 2009 will be remembered as the year Eminem returned to prominence. Relapse was a smash, and songs like the gory “3 A.M.” and the somber “Beautiful” earned him critical acclaim. His verse on Drake’s “Forever” arguably outshined the likes of Kanye West and Lil Wayne. He was nominated for four MTV Video Music Awards, second only to Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, and won Best Hip-Hop Video. And as ’09 drew to a close, he was touting a re-issue of Relapse. He capped things off by being named the best-selling artist of the decade by Nielsen SoundScan, having sold more than 32 million albums in the ’00s.
He also joined Jay-Z for a surprise performance at the party announcing their “DJ Hero” game. … Was lightheartedly accused of cheating at Pac-Man by Fif. … Channeled Rain Man in the “We Made You” video. … Inducted heroes Run-DMC into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. … Promised to reunite D12 for a new album. … And made a cameo in Judd Apatow’s “Funny People.”