January 2001 through December 2010 covers quite a bit of ground. The 2000s. An interesting decade indeed. One of the most important developments of the 2000s was the resurgence of music as a whole. Many thought rock died along with Kurt Cobain, and many thought Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G.’s deaths signified the end of hip-hop as well. Wrong on both counts. Looking back on it now, it was almost obvious that there would be a downward spiral for the entire industry.
Between the aforementioned deaths, along with a few other notable ones, the rise of the internet/file-sharing, as well as the relative peacefulness that was the late 90s, it shouldn’t have come as a shock that quality music would disappear for a while. Well those days are over, as the new decade brought with it new drama, new passion, new conflicts and plenty of new faces to reinvigorate the entire medium.
Two major events shaped the music scene into what it is today. First was the resurgence and ultimate dominance of hip-hop. All those who thought it had died a painful death were dead wrong. It just went into hibernation and licked its wounds only to come back as the medium’s main force. Artists such as 50 Cent, Eminem, OutKast, Lil Wayne, Drake, The Game, Kanye West, Jay-Z and Ludacris, to name a few, completed hip-hop’s transformation and take-over of mainstream music.
This directly impacted the second event which was the other beast known as rock music. Rock returned mostly in the form of indie-music, playing second-fiddle to hip-hop, but ultimately regaining its form and becoming something else entirely, something which no longer can be classified simply as rock. It never really could but now there is just too much, too many different styles. New artists emerge almost every day, while old rockers continuously show their staying power. However, rock is not mainstream the way it once was, and hip-hop hasn’t looked back in passing it. Meanwhile electronic music continues to rise in popularity.
Ok enough gibberish, here is the list. Make of it what you will, but try to remember I haven’t even heard half of the albums of the decade. This is my list based solely on what I have heard, what I remember and most importantly, what I like. So you may not find such bands as The White Stripes, The Strokes, The Libertines or The Shins here. All culturally significant groups from the 2000s, but just not my favorites. Same goes for some hip-hop artists like Nelly, 50 Cent and so on.
Finally, this is a top-ten album list of the decade for the entire music industry as I know it. Thus, an album not making the list might simply mean I had it ranked at #21 or something. Perhaps a top-ten on a hip-hop albums of the decade list but not quite strong enough to justify a top-ten overall vote. Don’t take it so personally. But if you do, feel free to leave us your opinions, thoughts, or evil spells that you plan to place on me for my omitting of Taylor Swift or whatnot.
Just know that this was not easy for me. Painstakingly slaving away, listening to countless records, reliving the classics while forcing myself to give terrible music a try. And no matter what, I will be crucified. That’s what I love I suppose. Here it goes.
10.) Jay-Z - The Black Album (2003)
Yup it was billed as a retirement album at the time – by the artist that just wouldn’t retire. A bit like Michael Jordan with a splash of Brett Favre, except Jay-Z had no need to retire then, and he still has no need to now, almost ten years later. The album is littered with so many classics, but the finale to the album – ‘My 1st Song’ is probably the greatest Jay-Z song ever, if such a song exists.
9.) Modest Mouse – Good News for People Who Love Bad News (2004)
Probably their most complete album as a whole, as well as their most commercially successful, so not a difficult choice for me. Make no mistake, every Modest Mouse album is pretty damn awesome, and I could easily have placed any of their albums from the 2000s on this list. Having said that, this album is slept on for some odd reason. I have seen a few lists which place The Moon & Antarctica as Modest Mouse’s definitive album. And that’s reasonable, but nobody has this one listed for some odd reason. They must have missed The Good Times are Killing Me, Bukowski, Satin in a Coffin, The World at Large, and of course Float On, all off of the brilliant ‘Good News for People Who Love Bad News’.
8.) Nas – Stillmatic (2001)
Just when we thought Nas had fallen off completely after the disaster that was ‘Nastradamus’, he came back with such force that the entire world took notice, including Jay-Z. The epic battle between Jay-Z and Nas went a few rounds but Nas came on so strong with Ether, perhaps one of the greatest battle-rap/diss song in hip-hop’s history (with Hit em Up by Tupac a very close second), that even a strong finish by Hova couldn’t defeat Nas. ‘Stillmatic’ put Nas and Queens back on the map, and won him the crown, temporarily at least.
7.) She Wants Revenge – She Wants Revenge (2006)
Well, this is the absolute one album on my list that you probably won’t find on any other list. Not their top ten, and probably not even on their top hundred, but I can’t figure out for the life of me why not? This L.A.-based band came out of nowhere to perhaps make the song of the decade in Tear You Apart, but this entire album is just filled with amazing, dancey, dark-wave, indie rock tunes. Red Flags and Long Nights, Sister, and I Don’t Wanna Fall in Love are amongst some of my favorite songs of the decade, and it is still a shock to me that this band hasn’t blown up in a major way. That may not be the case going into the next decade, as their new album will be one of my most anticipated for 2011.
6.) Interpol – Turn on the Bright Lights (2002)
What can I say about this band? One of the bands in the 2000s that truly made me start taking new music seriously again. I love the entire album from start to finish. Stella Was a Diver And She Was Always Down is easily the best song of the album, and one that I can listen to at any time of the day. Having said that, Leaf Erikson, NYC, Obstacle 1, Obstacle 2 and Untitled are all amazing songs that I listen to all the time. Surprisingly, a lot of people sleep on this band as well, so I highly recommend picking this album up if you haven’t heard it.
5.) Radiohead – In Rainbows (2007)
I don’t really ever picture myself not listening to this album or any of the records from this band. I could have easily made this Kid A or Hail to the Thief. They are all that good. And that’s all I have to say about that.
4.) Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004)
According to Wikipedia, Arcade Fire use the following instruments: guitar, bass guitar, drums, piano, violin, viola, cello, double bass, xylophone, glockenspiel, keyboard, French horn, accordian, harp, mandolin and hurdy-gurdy. That must be why they are making the best music of the decade. Their debut album, ‘Funeral’, is a modern classic. The album starts of superbly with the Neighborhood songs and finishes triumphantly with Wake Up, Haiti, Rebellion (Lies), and In the Backseat. It is all just so charming and appealing to the soul. Music to start your day off with.
3.) Bob Dylan – Love and Theft (2001)
I am a huge Dylan fan, and ‘Love and Theft’ is one of his finest albums ever (released on September 11, 2001). That’s saying something considering his career has spanned since the early 60s, going on fifty years now of steady, solid, groundbreaking music. And it seems like Jay-Z has been around for a long time. Ha!
Album #31 (not counting compilations and live studio albums) will perhaps go down as Dylan’s last great album, though he has released two since which have also been critically acclaimed and probably has a few more up his sleeve. Songs like Mississippi, Po’ Boy and my favorite – High Water (For Charlie Patton), reminded us why we love (or hate) Dylan – that is because he writes the best stuff and sings it in that raspy voice of his which gives the song so much more meaning.
2.) Arcade Fire – Neon Bible (2006)
Album number two on the list from these Montreal rockers. Introduced to the Arcade Fire late in the game and actually heard their second album ‘Neon Bible‘ before their first one (‘Funeral’), which may be why I rank it a touch higher. This band truly makes beautiful music, utilizing instruments some people have never heard of (Glockenspiel??). There is nothing I can say here except – if you don’t or even if you do, go out and buy this album right now. Or download it. Or dub it on a tape if you must.
1.) Eminem: The Marshall Mathers LP (2000): I cheated a bit with this one as it was released in May of 2000, a few months shy of the turn of the century, but come on? Can you think of an album that was ultimately more influential than the Marshall Mathers LP in the past decade? Not just on music itself, but on our culture as well. Truly a masterpiece.
I bought this album the day it came out and haven’t stopped listening to it since. ‘Kim’ is still probably the most moving and frightening of Eminem’s vast collection of songs. It can make any girl feel squirmish and nervous whenever a guy goes to the trunk of his car for any reason. The entire album, from the intro, to the last song Criminal was and still is just exhilarating, earth-shattering stuff.
It makes an album like ‘Recovery’ just seem laughable, and though Mr. Mather’s newest album had a few bright spots, it doesn’t even seem like the same quality or even the same rapper. He has come close but never matched this hip-hop gem. Few have.
Band of the Decade - The Arcade Fire: I thought of a few bands which qualified for band of the decade such as Radiohead or Modest Mouse, but the fact is, the Arcade Fire are the only band to crack my top ten twice. And considering they also had the number two album (The Suburbs) on my top albums of 2010 list, well it’s safe to say, the Arcade Fire are nothing short of fantastic.
Artist of the Decade: [TIE] - Eminem/Jay-Z: No explanation needed – countless records, countless number-ones, countless acclaim. Jay-Z and Eminem weren’t just the artists of the decade. They defined the tumultuous genre that is hip-hop, which chews rappers up and spits them out, and they will continue to define it into the 2010s (or whatever the next decade shall be referred to as).
And so there you have it. Let us know what you think. I can’t wait to hear about some good albums I totally blanked on. Happy New Years to all!