4. Garth Brooks unleashes Chris Gaines
Maybe it was the Y2K scare or a fear of all those zeroes, but Mariah Carey wasn't the only '90s music superstar to lose the handle as the 2000s arrived. Garth Brooks, for example, had been named the second-best-selling solo artist of the 20th century behind Elvis Presley by the Recording Industry Association of America. Four of his first six albums between 1989 and 1997 sold more than 10 million copies, with 1990's No Fences nearly doubling that mark and 1992's The Chase not missing it by much. He got to collaborate with Kiss on a cover of Hard Luck Woman in 1994 and the debut of his seventh album, 1997's Sevens, was so big that it warranted a concert on the Great Lawn in Central Park. Even if music fans knew nothing about modern country in the 1990s, they knew Brooks because he took it to them.

Then he went crazy.

Like Fleetwood Mac did when it followed up its inescapable Rumors album with the more experimental Tusk, Brooks decided at the height of his powers that success meant unlimited artistic freedom. With backing from Viacom's ( VIA.B) Paramount Pictures, Brooks started work on a movie featuring a country-singing alter ego he named Chris Gaines. It's a cute enough concept, but when you make a fake VH1: Behind the Music about that character, refer to that character in second person during a Saturday Night Live appearance and release a "prequel" album -- Garth Brooks in ... The Life of Chris Gaines -- you're going into the dark place. That little foray led Brooks to 2 million album sales, easily the lowest of any record he'd ever made, and years of semi-retirement after the release of his last album Scarecrow roughly a decade ago.

Brooks is now booked solid at the Wynn ( WYNN) Encore casino in Las Vegas and, while his sales have since surpassed Elvis', his new turn as a Vegas nostalgia act is a big step away from Central Park and a little too close to Presley's own career path.

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