My wife won’t let me play this in the house any more so listen to it and remind me how it goes :(
Here’s a deliberately cryptic question for the Tumblr masses:
When you think of key figures in popular music whose careers either began or hit their stride around 2004 and then transformed substantially (for better or worse) by 2008, who do you think of (I won’t give you my answers yet)?
ETA: Named so far: Black Eyed Peas, Keane, Scissor Sisters, Ciara, Colplay. These are good answers!
ETA2: OK, I’ll share mine — I had Kanye, Rihanna, Ashlee Simpson, M.I.A., and Arcade Fire on my list, along with a few other lesser names — Annie, Robyn, Fiery Furnaces.
I got 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die on super-sale the other day and am enjoying it — it hearkens to my teen days of reading consumer guides as introductions to movies and music. Is this a good one? Are there better ones? Inquiring dilettantes want to know!
While I shuffle my feet on the 2001 NOW post (my newborn fog has lifted somewhat, which means I’m no longer completely delusional about time management) here are the albums that I haven’t heard many people talk about that are pretty good this year:
After School - Dress to Kill: AS’s Japanese album is one of those things that I listen to and just shake my head at the dominance of small-fry artisanal pop in the states. Big but not pretentious, hits its marks, doesn’t overstay its welcome. Also digging, to a lesser degree, 15&’s Sugar. Most K-pop releases are, frustratingly, mini-albums, EPs, and “single albums,” and I tend to wait around until I can get a good 10 songs consecutively, followed by year-end ketchup. Wish I had more albums like this on my plate.
Nick Cannon - White People Party Music: Did I mention that this awful album is actually pretty good? There is only one (one!) tongue outta cheek song on here, and it’s about how great Mariah Carey is, but sung in a way that presumes that you, like, have no idea who Mariah Carey is (because who could know her like Nick Cannon does?). Big and goofy and ridiculous. Kind of like…
Duck Sauce - Quack: Too bad “Barbra Streisand” feels so (so) old. This album is a bosh-y mess and seems like precisely no one can be bothered to care about it, which is well deserved, I guess, but a shame nonetheless. Too many skits.
Apollo Brown - Thirty Eight: Is there such a thing as crate-digger MOR? Well, this is it. Perfect summer album, asks for nothing in return.
Cibo Matto - Hotel Valentine: I thought they were a bigger deal? This album is amazing — little Frankenstein monsters of pop gems sneaking around in an empty, haunted hotel. Season-Four-of-Angel pop?
Lily Allen - Sheezus: OK I guess a bunch of people are talking about this one — the Xgau refugees over at Odyshape are stanning for it a bit. I wouldn’t go that far — there are at least three songs on here that are among her (or maybe anyone’s? Nah.) worst ever.
Haven’t clicked with Miranda Lambert yet; the rest of Shakira didn’t (couldn’t?) live up to “Empire,” which may not even live up to itself; I’m pretty sure I’m wrong about Nick Cannon, but I’m not sure in which direction; still on the Angel Olsen and YG trains (see I can like things other people like); there is a LOT of pleasant music that I couldn’t care less about but listen to a lot this year, something something Spotification?
Ghana has been knocked out of the Pop World Cup, which is my cue to share my favorite picks from the past five months of scouring YouTube for everything I could think of.
The full playlist was fifty songs deep at one point; I’ve whittled it down to the ten unmissables; first the five songs I did play, then the two I would have played had I stayed in (the final clincher features a South African, about which I was prepared to be cheeky), and finally three songs that I deeply loved but knew would never have stood a chance with the voters.
In some ways it seems appropriate to have gone out to Nigeria, which in pop terms could be considered the UK to Ghana’s Ireland, or maybe the US to its Canada: a far larger, wealthier, and cooler near neighbor, with deeper pockets and a vastly more wide-reaching command of media resources. I’ve always liked underdogs better.
Edit: Ah, Christ, Tumblr won’t let me embed the playlist. Here’s the link.
It occurs to me that if we really cared about omnivorousness as a virtue etc. we would talk more about location (in the mostly literal sense, not just the more identity-based sense of one’s place in the world, though that’s important, too) and less about genre, or the disingenuous appeal to genre that is mostly undergirded by issues of social class distinction. That is, there’d be more thinkpieces about what a travesty it is that we are or aren’t listening to Ghanaian (etc.) pop than that we are or aren’t listening to [insert American pop artist]. I never feel guilty for liking or disliking Beyonce or knowing or not knowing about an American in-genre highlight or two, but I always feel guilty when I follow the Pop World Cup and realize how myopic my musical breadth is from a global perspective.
(Side note: One of the interesting things about Let’s Talk About Love is that its very Candianness is just slightly off-center from general US criticism’s close-mindedness about Celine, or rather the incorporation of specifically Canadian angst (from its Canadian writer) gives more depth to the knee-jerk hate, esp. in re: the chapter on Quebecoise baggage, than the conflation of US/Canada critical disapproval that guides more of the book.)
Actual title: The Musical Landscape: Music, Place and the Regionalization of Cultural Policy
Turn your dissertation into clickbait!
This reminds me that my wife and I tried to watch Where the Wild Things Are last night and we started bawling when Max pulled at his mom’s stockings under her desk. Then the movie got really bad and we turned it off because the baby was crying, which is as good an excuse as any to turn off a movie. (There’s no wrong reason to turn off a movie. Watching movies all the way through is pathological.)
I’ve joined in with the mockery (defensive and otherwise) of the “music critics should know music theory dammit” pieces doing ‘the rounds’. My non-trolling POV is the boring one that it rarely hurts, usually helps, but isn’t a precondition.
BUT it seems to me there’s a bigger idea behind the…
From Frank Kogan’s "The Bird Is the Word":
Meltzer noticed that environmental art and happenings did with great effort what rock’n’roll simply did, which was to include the context—and therefore the audience—in the artwork. Context includes “money, competition, survival, acceptance by adolescents, reaction by standard adults,” not to mention screaming teenies, fan magazines, girls holding signs (“We Love You Paul”), radio countdowns, marketing strategies, etc., and when you add to this people’s lives(I dare you not to listen to music in the context of your life), it also includes joking and gossiping and flirting and fighting and whatever (e.g., there’s this pet bird that likes to hear this Johnny Rivers song, and the girl who owns the bird has nice tits). And it also includes the listener who writes about music,e.g., Meltzer or me or you, who—duh!—has the same right as any fan or musician to use music in any way that he or she wants, to create context in any way he or she can; which in Meltzer’s case, after rock seemed to him to have calmed down and normalized itself in the late ’60s, meant mangling, altering, reinventing, and being the context. On the page, in his writing. And if the rock’n’roll mind had gone dead in the music—pertinence now seemed to stay where it was told—pertinence could still be anywhere he wanted on his page
I find myself thinking about the ending of the piece a lot:
Meltzer’s review of an album by Ned: “Asphalt can be used to cover cobblestones. It can be taken home (if no one is lookin’). Asphalt should not be confused with, with, with, with … asbestos. Confuse them at your own risk. Insects will sometimes live in cement but never asphalt. Asphalt soup tastes like tar. Asphalt soap does not clean especially well. Asphalt dopes are QUITE dopey. They know nothing of asphalt (having never seen it); some live in Alaska.” And now, here, the subject matter is simply gone, erased; it’s not even a point to be walked away from. The screen, camera, page is blank, and Meltzer is just writing. How does it feel to be on your own?
If we give up the possibility of erasing the subject matter, or of walking away from it, or god forbid looking (at what at first blush might seem to be) indirectly (for god’s sake we use a shoebox for eclipses and you want me to stare directly at THAT?), we’ve given up the whole point, right?
My autobiographical post, “In the Year 2000,” is under the cut. I’ll keep the prologue snappy.
Ah 2000, the final year of the 90s, give or take. There are holdovers here — another Everclear and Blink-182, a belated Smash Mouth (“Then the Morning Comes”), a pretty good Janet Jackson single — and glimmers of things to come: Radio Disney is represented here with “Aaron’s Party,” TRL genre whiplash with Mystikal and Nine Days within spitting distance of one another.
How does one choose between “(You Drive Me) Crazy” and “Lucky”? It was Sophie’s Choice in the CM household — mom chose “Crazy” but dad chose “Lucky,” which doesn’t sound as much like a single dragged in from the 90s, but also isn’t the kind of forward-thinking single Britney’d start lobbing into the world across subsequent comps. It’s the Year 2000 boiled down to its essence, and it still didn’t start the playlist — that honor went to “Blue (Da Ba Dee),” which just didn’t sound right anywhere else.
FUCK That Song: Not a ton of ire-inspiring tracks to choose from here, as I found a place for Smash Mouth and Train. It was a generous year. That said, “Kryptonite” by 3 Doors Down — by no means a bad song — is probably the winner here, as its progeny make about 1/3 of every compilation from here on out unlistenable.
Why’d They Pick That One?: I was all set to name Sisqo’s “Thong Song” follow-up, “Incomplete,” sure it was a late-bandwagon decision, and was shocked to see that it actually did better on the charts, going to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts. So Ben Harper’s dumb but congenial enough “Steal My Kisses,” I guess.
Tough Calls: Hanson’s “This Time Around” was the only one I lost much sleep over. There were fewer tracks than normal to choose from in 2000.
Under the cut, a post from 2009, “In The Year 2000”:
I won’t write much about my incredibly sketchy knowledge of the NOW series (let alone its longer international history). For a while now it’s been a collab between Universal, Sony, and EMI, with Jeff Moskow, then from Universal, masterminding the playlist for most of its run. So the discs are rife with bizarre omissions (probably a result of impossible or exorbitant licensing — this was a particular problem in the early days of NOW), inexplicable repeat offenders (soft payola in the form of intra-label collusion or just shitty taste?), and just-plain-crap (plenty of bad calls by the public or the folks putting these together, plus, later, a bunch of awful “prediction” tracks that serve as label showcases of sorts).
Luckily, since there are multiple compilations per year, you can boil most of them down a bit and find a solid album underneath, which is what I’ve done with every NOW year since 1998. (There was a single disc in ‘98 and two in ‘99, after which the series picked up to between three and four compilations per year, so I’ve combined 98/99 into one playlist.) Each of these would fit on a single burned CD, as was the style at the time.
Despite some lip service to sequencing in this interview, Moskow and crew tend to offer haphazardly arranged hits, semi-hits, and wishful-thinking-hits, so I’ve paid some attention to sequencing, roughly in two halves of 10 each year. I generally try to start with “the most 200X” track (not necessarily the best — I was shocked to discover it’s tough to start a mix with “Toxic”!) and go from there.
In some ways the 90s compilation was the toughest to cut down and sequence, even though there are only about fifty tracks (every year of the 00’s has closer to 75). Despite “not dating well” ostensibly being the point, there are some sounds — mid-period Janet Jackson, the swing revival, post_Zoo_(etc.) U2 —that I couldn’t make fit. But generally most of this stuff holds up pretty well, having entered a safe nostalgia zone where I can comfortably laugh at teenage Dave for, e.g., not liking New Radicals. (What is wrong with you, teenage Dave.)
What Didn’t Make the Cut: I swear I remember liking K-Ci and Jojo but they bored me this time around. Tonic’s “If You Could Only See” is ensconced in the velvet of nostalgia, sure, but I can still tell a bum tune when I hear one; 98 Degrees always sucked; I blame post-DeRogate R. Kelly revisionism on my itchy guillotine finger with his stuff here and elsewhere; Smash Mouth appears once, but not here; and congratulations to one making of the cut (Lenny Kravitz) who will never make the cut again despite something like TEN inclusions going all the way through the 00’s.
FUCK that song: Flip a coin for Cherry Poppin’ Daddies or “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen).” (Flip.) Sunscreen.
Why Did They Pick That One?: Blackstreet, “Take Me There” — a bonus track from their post-“No Diggity” album featured on the Rugrats Movie OST. This is one of the few playlists I’ll put together where most decisions were based on genuine hit status, including three or so that went to #1 after it came out (two of which aren’t on here, so feel free shoot the messenger and/or to opt for the raw playlist and make yr own). “Take Me There” was a rare late-bandwagon pick.
Tough Calls: A bunch — K-Ci and JoJo, “All My Life,” Sheryl Crow, “My Favorite Mistake,” Limp Bizkit, “Nookie” (would be harder to resist “Break Stuff”)
Personal stuff: TBA. I wrote a big “History of Jop” series of posts with the Poptimists LiveJournal community went year by year through the Pazz and Jop singles results, hopping on around 1988 or so when I have my first memories of music. But for the most part autobiography starts next year with the first of five or six posts I wrote c. 2009 on my old Blogspot-hosted Bedbugs blog.