Friday, January 8, 2010

My random musings about music in the 2000s

This has been a rather strange decade for music. When you think about what music dominated this decade, can you really name one specific genre? You had British invasion pop and psychedelia in the '60s, disco and punk in the '70s, new wave and hair metal in the '80s, grunge, gangsta rap, and boy bands of the '90s.... but what about the '00s?

The 2000s featured bastardized versions of the music that dominated the '90s... if we're talking mainstream, that is. I don't want to get too much into how much mainstream music sucked in the 2000s, but what I will say is that where there's grunge in the '90s, there's post-grunge of the 00's; when there's boy bands of the '90s (and lord knows that's bad enough as it is), there's every single musical act associated with Disney of the '00s. Since when did Disney decide to invade the music industry? I PREFERRED it when girls were obsessed with Backstreet Boys and NSYNC. Doesn't it just seem weird and wrong that there are all these "musicians" that come from straight from the Disney channel that dominate the charts? Literally every fucking star on Disney can sing. Why? I just heard of Selena Gomez a few weeks ago, she's the star of the "Wizards of Waverly Place" show on Disney. Fine. Then I see her singing on ABC's New Year's Eve party last week. Why? That just doesn't seem right to me. And the Miley Cyruses, Selena Gomezes, and Jonas Bros' of Disney aren't even catchy. Seriously, they are so bland, they make water taste like vodka. At least Backstreet Boys had "I Want It That Way" as much as that song makes you roll your eyes, you know all the words to that song. I bet you do. Everybody does. At least it does its job.

Now I'll give hip-hop a pass this decade because we did have some good rap albums and rap artists. I enjoyed DMX when he dominated mainstream rap and MTV, Jay-Z also has made some very good albums (two great ones), Kanye West's rap albums (that is, the ones not named 808s and Heartbreak) are instant classics, then you have Lupe Fiasco, Li'l Wayne is oddly appealing in his own way as well. Although it took me awhile to get into Li'l Wayne. 50 Cent's "Get Rich or Die Trying" was also a really good album, although I haven't really liked any of his albums since. Sure you had some embarrassments like Soulja Boy and pretty much every rap-metal/NU metal band that existed earlier in the decade, but they are minor complaints.

The decade that had it worst was rock music. The aforementioned Nu Metal dominated the radio earlier this decade and even though we had a brief period of confusion (which caused actually talented bands such as Shins, Modest Mouse, and Franz Ferdinand to be played on the radio) thankfully, we had post-grunge to make up for that confusion. And wow, is mainstream rock radio ever dominated by post-grunge... I swear to God if I hear "so sick of these hobos, always begging for change" once again I'm going to hang myself. This is some of the most embarrassing, god awful music ever made and the radio plays it proudly. How did this happen?

The sad thing is that there were some gems this decade... Queens of the Stone Age, Radiohead, White Stripes... the three of whom all consistently made great music for the masses. And you had the Foo Fighters who never got sucked into that post-grunge blackhole. Audioslave had some decent tunes, but egotism ultimately proved to be the demise of that band. And even Metallica enjoyed a comeback after their first album this decade was proven to be a disaster.

On the whole, however, thanks to things such as file-sharing, a ton of indie bands that would've never seen the light of day in this environment, were able to become moderately successful this decade. In fact, I'd say that "Indie" rock had a good decade. I use the term indie loosely, of course because it could indicate a lot of different genres. And there are some bands that only get slapped with the Indie title because the mainstream are too stupid to play them (like Spoon or Les Savy Fav).

Anyway, let's make some lists...

My Top 15 albums of the decade...

  1. Modest Mouse "The Moon & Antarctica"
  2. Broken Social Scene "You Forgot It In People"
  3. Kanye West "Graduation"
  4. Radiohead "In Rainbows"
  5. Wilco "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot"
  6. Outkast "Stankonia"
  7. White Stripes "White Blood Cells"
  8. Queens of the Stone Age "Songs for the Deaf"
  9. Jay-Z "The Blueprint"
  10. Animal Collective "Feels"
  11. The Wrens "The Meadowlands"
  12. Spoon "Ga Ga Ga Ga"
  13. My Morning Jacket "Z"
  14. Mclusky "Mclusky Do Dallas"
  15. The Shins "Chutes Too Narrow"
Favorite 25 Songs of the Decade (in no particular order, except the first five)

  1. The Wrens "13 Months in 6 minutes"*
  2. Kanye West "Everything I Am"
  3. Broken Social Scene "7/4 (Shoreline)"
  4. The Strokes "Hard to Explain"
  5. MIA "Paper Planes"

Yeah Yeah Yeahs "Maps"
Walkmen "The Rat"
LCD Soundsystem "All My Life"
Modest Mouse "3rd Planet"
Talib Kweli "Get By"
The Shins "Phantom Limb"
Radiohead "Everything in its Right Place"
Les Savy Fav "The Sweat Descends"
Jay-Z "Dirt Off Your Shoulder"
Outkast "I Like the Way You Move"
Spoon "I Turn My Camera On"
Band Of Horses "The Funeral"
At the Drive-in "One Armed Scissor"
Ted Leo & the Pharmacists "Hearts of Oak"
Queens of the Stone Age "No One Knows"
My Morning Jacket "Mageetah"
Air "Cherry Blossom Girl"
Animal Collective "My Girls"
Metallica "Cyanide"
Outkast "BOB"

*I reserved a special spot for this song. This song was my life for a good year and a half. I'm not saying I obsessively listened to this song, but I would say for a good part of my junior year of college, this was the song I played the most. I wasn't even going through that rough of a time, really, it was just something that really struck a chord with me. Something that really spoke to me and really made me think about where I'd taken my life so far. The song is so incredibly sad. It's sad in a way that's refreshing. It's completely passive. It's not overly self-loathing, he's not complaining or contemplating suicide. God no. By the end of the song, I feel like the singer just shrugs his shoulders and says "oh well" then the song changes pace. Of course, that "oh well" comes after a good three and a half minutes of complete lament. Like the singer had something big to get off his chest. The way the music perfectly synchronizes with the whispery vocals is just fantastic. And once the "forward seven months" part kicks in, it's just complete bliss. I'm in awe of this song. If I was a musician, I'd try my whole career to try to make a song this honest, this complete, this densely layered. I mean, production-wise, this song has it all. For a "lo-fi indie" band, this song is pretty rich when you listen to it with headphones. Every space in your head is filled with some form of music. Not a single note is wasted. This is a carefully made, deliberate song. Though the lyrics are specific to one man's problem, the emotion and tone of this song can apply to anybody in any woeful/sorrowful situation. Emo music is an insult to this song. This is what real emotion is like. This song is about life slowly and helplessly slipping by. I feel that's something everyone can relate to.

The Wrens - 13 Months in 6 Minutes:

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