Posts Tagged ‘OutKast’

Aught Lang Syne: Tim’s Video Hitlist

I want to make one thing clear from the start: This is my hitlist. John, Josh, and Pierre had nothing to do with it, and I don’t want to sully their reputations or that of the blog as a whole in presenting it. You know what I think about music.

But the following is a list of eight music videos from the Aughts, loosely defined as “my favorites.” I was late to the music video party, not getting MTV until it stopped playing music videos.*

*I mean “getting” there in the sense that I did not have it as a channel on my television. I did understand what MTV was.

If you want to make the case that I don’t “get” music videos, go ahead.

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Aught Lang Syne: 25 Best Songs of the Decade

So you thought we were done discussing the music of the decade? Well, think again. We didn’t get to what is arguably the most important list of all: The Best Songs of the Decade. When Tim introduced Aught Lang Syne last week, he discussed how certain cultural events will always be linked to events in our lives. Songs may be the best example of this phenomenon. Unlike albums or even music videos, which are generally experienced individually, we tend to listen to songs in groups: They’re on the playlists at the parties we go to; they’re in the background of the bars we drink in and the restaurants we eat at; they’re the songs we dance to when we go to clubs; they’re on the radio when we take road trips. In short, they are the soundtrack of our memory. These are the songs that we will inevitably remember when we think of the Aughts.

Of course, out cultural memory does not always have the best taste: It will probably be impossible to remember the Aughts and not think of the Black Eyed Peas, but God knows I’ll try. What follows, then, is not an attempt to capture the most popular, memorable, or iconic songs of the decade; it is merely a list of the 25 Best Songs. Nevertheless, it is often difficult–and generally undesirable–to dissociate a song from the positive memories of the context in which you heard it. So even without actively trying to incorporate these qualities, the Best Songs of the Decade will inevitably include some of the Most Popular, Most Memorable and Most Iconic.

Anyway, on with the list: Continue reading

Aught Lang Syne: Musical Artist of the Decade

Ten years can be an eternity in music. Ten years after The Beatles released Please Please Me, they had become the biggest band in the world, recorded 12 more albums, and been broken up for three years. Ten years after Elvis came onto the scene and practically invented rock and roll for most of the country, he was an old clown singing boring movie soundtracks. Ten years after Nirvana released Nevermind, Courtney Love had more or less undone the grunge movement with the help of her band Hole.

The lesson: It’s really hard for a band or performer to be good for 10 years. This is probably why we end up remembering decades for small snippets: The 1970s are forever linked to disco, which was popular for a little over two years. The 1990s are best remembered for grunge’s dominance, which was waning by 1994. It’s hard to the think of a similar “moment” from the 2000s.

What we instead remember, with regard to music, are acts. Think of the ’50s and you think of Elvis, the ’60s and The Beatles, the ’70s and Led Zeppelin (or The Clash, or Pink Floyd), the ’80s and Guns N’ Roses (or Bon Jovi), the ’90s and Nirvana, etc. I’ve hypothesized about how this decade will be remembered musically, but that may be less important than who this decade is remembered for. What band or performer had the best decade from 2000-2009? Well, before we breakdown the list of contenders, let’s go over the criteria: Continue reading

Aught Lang Syne: The Decade in Music

I’ve never been a big fan of Kanye West. I generally think he’s overrated,* and I find his antics off-putting. None of his big singles—“Jesus Walks,” “Through the Wire,” “Gold Digger”—ever really resonated with me; I didn’t really think they were bad, but I never went out of my way to listen to them (not that I ever had to). But when I first heard “Stronger,” I remember thinking that West had trapped some kind of “cultural sound” in a bottle (I didn’t think it in those words, exactly; it was probably something more like This song is awesome!). “Stronger” was the kind of “cutting edge” song that sounded both ahead of its time and of the moment.

*Truthfully, this impression is mainly of College Dropout, which I really didn’t like. Most of his work since that is more or less accurately rated.

Rock music stopped being the most interesting genre of pop music at least ten years ago. This isn’t to say that there are no more good rock and roll bands, or that rock music has nowhere left to develop—both of these statements are flatly false—but simply that the dominant sounds of popular culture were not rock and roll this decade. Part of this is rock’s own fault: Watch a movie from that late 1990s and you’ll hear what a lot of “rock” sounded like then—a lot of Third Eye Blind, Sixpence None the Richer, Vertical Horizon, and, of course, Barenaked Ladies. Not exactly riveting stuff.

But even more of it had to do with the flourishing of other genres, most notably rap and hip hop. Almost every artist to get that elusive combination of commercial and critical success this decade was working within those genres: Jay-Z, Kanye, Eminem, 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, Usher, etc. The only rock bands to approach the success of those acts in the 2000s were Coldplay and Green Day…and those bands fucking suck. Continue reading

Brief Complaints About Pitchfork’s Latest List

Pitchfork recently released its list of the 500 best songs of the decade to predictable controversy. The truth is, I’ve long since passed the point at which Pitchfork’s opinion still bothers me. Pitchfork has a built-in audience that it constantly has to stay one step ahead of, so the lists and reviews it churns out are alternately predictable and erratic. It may seem capricious and arbitrary as to whom it deigns to support with its god-like power over hipsters, but there is a method to its madness.

It comes as no surprise, then, that certain songs by trendy and atrocious acts like Antony and the Johnsons, Cat Power, and Sufjan Stevens make this list.

What really puzzles me, though, is when crappy, uncool songs make the list. It makes absolutely no sense to me that a list that has Spoon’s “The Underdog” at 130 would also have “Party Hard” at 129. Andrew W.K.? Really? I used to play Madden 2003 on mute to avoid hearing that song. And if you’re going to include two Coldplay songs, don’t you also have to include “Vertigo” by U2 or some crap like that? Continue reading

Letter to the Letterwriter

I’ve long thought that people who write letters to the editor aren’t held accountable for much of what they write. This is an attempt to change that.

Dear John James,

Your letter to Esquire, which received its own byline online, starts off so promisingly. You come off immediately as more than the standard reader, as one who thinks deeply about music, about art, about music as art. Your case for the cover song is a good one, and one I appreciate and endorse.

However, John James, like Brett Favre, you lose credibility the more you continue. First, you are unable to resist the human urge to write at length about your own experience. You can argue that I care about why you love cover songs: The whole “art as a crossroads of the predictable and unexpected” is a theory that transcends personal tastes. You cannot argue, though, that I care about how you came to love cover songs. The intimate details of your adolescence, your strong sense of personal nostalgia for a bygone era of music, and the editorialization that almost inherently accompanies them are of no interest to me.

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