There are three things guaranteed to sell a story in the world of celebrity gossip: birth, death and incarceration. This year's hot list of limelight hogs queued up to face arrest ( Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie, Amy Winehouse), get knocked up or adopt ( Brangelina, Cate Blanchett) encounter the Grim Reaper (Anna Nicole Smith) or bounce back from a close brush ( Kylie Minogue).
One thing that rarely sets tongues wagging are high achievers - with the exception of Blanchett, who reprised her queenly role in Elizabeth: The Golden Age and is now on the throne of the Sydney Theatre Company, and Big Brother reject Krystal Forscutt, now queen of the lads' mags.
Any media studies textbook will tell you that tragedy sells, says University of Sydney media and communications lecturer Marc Brennan. "Additionally, it is often when tragedies impact on celebrities that they are perceived as being all the more human - more like us," he says.
Measuring the hot air expended on celebrities is an entirely scientific process involving the tallying of trash mag headlines, TV segments, Google pages, fan sites and fan clubs. In sorting Spears's encounters with the law from the Kyle Sandilands hate spiels and Posh's latest singing outrage, we also waded through Facebook groups, YouTube uploads and MySpace hits.
Notable debutantes in 2007's hot list include the singing stick insect Winehouse, lads' mag favourite Jessica Alba and our pint-sized high achiever, Bindi Irwin.
In contrast, other stars simply make us snore, namely Dannii Minogue, Beyonce, Jessica Simpson, Mischa Barton, Jennifer Aniston and Keira Knightley.
With our finger firmly on the pop culture pulse, we celebrate the end of yet another star-soaked year with our list of the 20 most talked-about celebs for 2007.
1= Paris Hilton
It was a mammoth year for the hotel heiress, who pencilled prison into her social calendar in June. Hilton's release had the whole world hanging off her every word as she revealed that God had touched her behind bars. However, you can't keep a bad girl down. A bathtime sex tape popped up on the internet, she blazed the party trail with Britney Spears and Hollywood insiders claimed Hilton was the culprit behind Nicole Richie's leaked baby shower photographs. Oh, and her mercy mission to help Rwanda's youth has been indefinitely "postponed".
1= Britney Spears
Spears went from strength to strength in 2007, starting the year with a short stint in rehab, followed by a close encounter with a pair of clippers that left her with the most famous chrome dome since Kojak. Since then she's dazzled us with more rehab and suss behaviour, temporarily lost custody of her two kids to K-Fed and been charged with driving offences. Brits also found time to release a new album, Blackout, and waddle around the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards. That performance inspired teenage fan Chris Crocker to post his emotional "leave Britney alone" rant on YouTube. Sorry Chris, we're addicted and, let's face it, she makes us feel smug and superior.
3 The Beckhams
Will we ever tire of the Beckhams? Not if the frenzy surrounding last week's visit to Sydney is any guide. We bitch about the manipulative Mrs Beckham, her lack of talent and shameless self-promotion, even though he's the one who cheated while she's raised their three sons. Becks's move to LA Galaxy means he will get more lustful glances from the woman he should care most about - Oprah Winfrey.
4 Christina Aguilera
There's no stopping this buxom blonde. Brat behaviour surrounding her pregnancy, including outrageous demands for high-end designer baby booty and a semi-nude magazine spread, won Xtina more attention than ever before. Despite her hubby's desperate pleas for a quieter lifestyle, she refuses to slow down. Aguilera is textbook diva, gossip gold and remains the queen of every red carpet.
5 Amy Winehouse
They tried to make her go to rehab but W(h)inehouse made headlines after a string of drug-taking escapades and a bloody public brawl with her husband. There's a great set of pipes buried beneath all that controversy and despite a troubled private life, there's no denying Winehouse's success. Often pap-snapped in torn, barely there clothing, this girl is a lot like a car wreck - ghastly but we can't peel our eyes off her.
6 Lindsay Lohan
Everyone loves a fallen child star and few have hit the ground harder than this former toddler model. After admitting herself to rehab in February, Lohan had to drop out of the film A Woman Of No Importance. Then she was arrested for drink-driving and bagged out by studio executives. "Her career was over long before she had these troubles ... Right now, she'd have to pay a studio [to be cast]," reported Entertainment Weekly.
7 Jessica Alba
Alba might not set the tongues of female gossip mag writers wagging but she causes blokes' jaws to hit the ground, especially after playing an exotic dancer in Sin City. Alba was voted FHM's Sexiest Woman in the World in 2007 after topping last year's AskMen.com's list of 99 most desirable women. Alba says she wants to be taken seriously as an actor but her fans apparently prefer her to be a bikini filler.
The Brangelina juggernaut gathers strength as Angelina Jolie combines a successful, even respectable, acting career with her global adoption habit. This year it was a three-year-old boy from Vietnam. Brad Pitt made the list of Time's 100 Most Influential People in the World, and continues to star in so-so movies like The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford. The next Clintons?
9 Anna Nicole Smith
High on everyone's list of celebrities most likely to die, Smith obliged in February thanks to an overdose of prescription drugs. She immediately became a Facebook star, with hundreds of groups formed to preserve her memory, including "If 100,000 people join this group, Anna Nicole Smith will come back to life". Smith's death also prompted The Washington Post to label her "a postmodern pin-up for a tabloid age". We prefer to remember her as the self-aware gal who declared: "My whole life revolves around my breasts. Everything I have is because of them."
10 Kate Moss
Wiping the slate clean was high on Moss's to-do list this year and so out came sexy new bangs, a new bloke and clothing line. Her 2007 Christmas clothing collection for TopShop is set to spark department-store havoc across the nation. Moss was also included in British Vogue's 50 most glamorous women this year. And there are not too many women who can pull off Glastonbury mud, no make-up and chain-smoking with her flair.
11 Nicole Kidman
Lensmen watch Kidman like a hawk, whether she's on horseback for Baz Luhrmann's film Australia or accompanying her better half to this year's ARIAs. Some would quite literally kill for a shot of the actress going about her daily life and when it comes to women's magazines, she's Australia's hottest property. Marriage tiffs and a creepy receding hairline - there's always something mysterious going down with our Nic.
12 George Clooney
Clooney's unpredictable love life never fails to spark discussion and those persistent gay rumours aren't letting up either. Often described as a modern-day Cary Grant, Clooney is silver-screen royalty and it helps that his multimillion-dollar grin could melt butter. Often spotted with a young Hollywood beauty draped over his arm, he is never short of female admirers. Georgie is man candy and a timeless perving pleasure.
13 Nicole Richie
Richie ricocheted into our consciousness in 2003 when she appeared in The Simple Life with Paris Hilton. Since then, she's maintained her position by writing a novel, seeking treatment for "an inability to put on weight", falling out then reconciling with Hilton and getting arrested for drug and driving offences. She's still on our radar, thanks to a celebrity coupling with Joel Madden from Good Charlotte, and a bun in the oven.
14 Kylie Minogue
The gay icon continues to attract attention without resorting to drugs, death or crime. Her diagnosis with breast cancer in 2005 won our sympathy, while we feel her pain about her on-off relationship with Olivier Martinez. Admittedly, Kyles's limited singing ability, evident yet again on new album X, tests our patience but no amount of caterwauling will dim the affection of legions of gay men. Just don't let her in front of a film camera.
15 Daniel Johns
Silverchair's lead singer waded into federal politics in July when he told Triple J listeners that he had shared a bed and spliff with U2's Bono and Peter Garrett. A few hours later, he was backpedalling faster than a politician and claimed it was "a stupid joke". Johns also topped Zoo Weekly's 50 People We Hate list, beating Russell Crowe: "Wanky orchestral pretensions ... it's simply a shame Johns's talent isn't as big as his ego."
16 Cate Blanchett
Blanchett could join the Taliban and Aussies would still love her. So what hope did actor Colin Moody have of besmirching the next boss of the Sydney Theatre Company when he suggested she should be playing one of the witches in Macbeth? Blanchett is the queen of highbrow gossip, whether she's playing Hollywood royalty, a muse for Italian fashion designers, theatrical heavyweight or climate change campaigner.
17 Jennifer Hawkins
Hawko and her hot handbag Jake Wall are Australia's very own Barbie and Ken. Bus shelters and store windows overflowed with Hawkins's mug this year. The former cheerleader signed a $4 million deal with Myer in January, becoming the department store's "face" and popped up in Guy Sebastian's Elevator Love music clip. Her lingerie-clad appearances helped her Google numbers soar past 1.5 million.
18 Bindi Irwin
It's hard to avoid the Bindi phenomenon. Mini-Irwin skyrocketed to fame in a matter of days after mourning her late father, Steve, in front of 300 million TV viewers. The following 12 months saw her launch a kid's fitness DVD and a 26-part wildlife doco called Bindi the Jungle Girl. Loud, proud and squeaky-clean, Irwin's speedy rise to the top prompts concern over the amount of responsibility the tyke has taken on.
19 Kyle Sandilands
Love him or loathe him, we can't help but take notice of this pudgy shock-jock. As Australian Idol winds down for another year, he is picking up hosting duties on next year's Big Brotherand don't forget his breakfast radio show. An interview on ABC-TV's Enough Rope shed new light on him: "I'm out to be real and blunt with people." So too is comedian Dave Hughes, who called Sandilands "a massive dickhead" at the Logies.
20 Krystal Forscutt
Her airbags may look as they're about to burst but lads' mags can't print enough of this ex-Big Brother contestant. Forscutt files a Zoo Weekly sex column and has appeared in next to nothing on the pages of FHM and Ralph to boot. She also put her highly sought-after set of lungs to use on reality singing series, It Takes Two. A guaranteed starter for any social event.