Staff Picks 

Best Under-Recognized Hit Single: Three 6 Mafia's "Stay Fly." In the wake of their surreal performance and chaotic victory at this year's Academy Awards, Memphis hip-hop stars Three 6 Mafia have become thought of primarily for their Oscar-winning Hustle & Flow anthem (and headline writer's best friend) "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" and as emerging media stars from guest spots on Entourage and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip to their own upcoming MTV reality series. But lost in all the hype is the group's artistic growth, best typified by the insistent, musically eloquent, epic "Stay Fly," the most commercially and critically successful single from a Memphis-based artist since Al Green's prime. These guys court their cartoonish image, but they're increasingly accomplished music makers too.

Best Reason to Support Local Music: Quality and Diversity. With another round of hand-wringing over the perceived underperformance of the Memphis & Shelby County Music Commission/Foundation upon us, it's helpful to recognize that -- despite failing to live up to the unrealistic expectations of the past -- the local music scene is in pretty good shape, with plenty of great music being made by artists all across the commercial and genre spectrum. So support local music because there's plenty of good music to support, not out of respect for the legacy or mere civic obligation.

Best Reason to Not Support Local Music: Having a Life. Though touring local musicians claim Memphis isn't unusually extreme in this regard, late start times -- especially for weeknight shows and especially at the smaller clubs most likely to host the best local or touring bands -- alienate regular music fans with kids and/or day jobs, making many shows prohibitive for people whose social lives don't revolve around late-night bars.

Best Bold Move: Trading Shane Battier. With attendance down a 1,000 people per game and fan complaint at an all-time high, Jerry West made his boldest move since hiring Hubie Brown four seasons ago. In trading the team's most popular player for 19-year-old rookie Rudy Gay, West took the right kind of gamble: Sacrificing the safety of a dependable role player for the high-risk/high-reward hope of a kid with true star potential.

Best Grizzlies Gripe to Roll Your Eyes At: The Infamous $4 Bottle of Water. A dull, slow-down style of play. A league-record playoff drought. Concession quality. These are all reasonable complaints made about the Memphis Grizzlies in the past year. But concession prices? Have Grizzlies fans been to the movies lately? Concessions prices are exorbitant everywhere -- the Grizzlies are not at all unusual in this regard.

Best Local Sports-Talk Radio Segment: "The Haters" on The Chris Vernon Show. Making a mockery of the usual bluster and gimmickry of most sports-talk radio, ESPN Radio 730-AM's Chris Vernon and regular guest Gary Parrish (formerly of The Commercial Appeal, currently of CBS.Sportsline.com) spend every Wednesday afternoon (between 4 and 5 p.m.) comically attacking those who are "better looking and more successful" or just luckier than they are, often with hilarious, envelope-pushing results. A recent fave: Parrish "hating" on Pennsylvania citizens successfully evacuated by FEMA during flooding this summer: "I want to see some white people on the roof."

Best One-Time (?) Concert Event: The Ponderosa Stomp. New Orleans' venerable roots-music festival relocated to the Gibson Music Showcase this year in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, bringing a host of great soul, blues, and country acts to play before an adoring crowd of locals and music fans from around the country who'd made a special trip. Highlight of highlights: Fifties' New Orleans soul star Clarence "Frogman" Henry, who spent most of his set sitting down and held the entire room in the palm of his hand.

Best Reason to Put Harold Ford Jr. in the Senate: Subpoena Power.

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