I went to the grocery store the other day. In the magazine stand was a very special issue of LIFE, laying out the past decade picture by picture: Dubya. Enron. Tumbling towers. Afghanistan. Columbia. Iraq. Abu Ghraib. Tsunami. Katrina. Ice caps. Virginia Tech. Rockies lose. Snuggie. Madoff. Great Recession.
The aughties clearly blew, but this was an incredible decade for music listeners. The tunes were there, and we had the technology to harness them. And if fans liked what they heard, it was theirs to keep — cash not necessary. Things have never been better.
So what was the best this golden decade had to offer? Hard to say. Take my hand, and let’s reminisce.
In the year 2000, things were rough. N’Sync, Britney Spears and various other pop teenlings had reached their zenith, forcing me to turn to the loudest and the dumbest there was. The first album I bought, usually a proud accolade for music snobs, was Limp Bizkit’s “Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water.” I also spent actual money on records by Insane Clown Posse, Korn and P.O.D.
I dare not imagine where I’d be now had it not been for 2001. That was the year everything changed for the better.
By then, I was getting up an hour early to catch what were the last music videos played on MTV, as well staying up an hour later to watch late-night videos on PBS, of all channels.
Thirteen-year-old Erik figured Nickelback and Three Doors Down were decent enough, but there was something oddly compelling about the weirder stuff that were getting airtime, too: the fever energy of The Hives’ “Hate To Say I Told You So” and The White Stripes’ “Fell In Love With A Girl.” When I first heard The Strokes’ “Hard To Explain,” I felt nostalgic for things never experienced.
Allowance was spent on all three of their records, but there was always more to buy: Daft Punk was setting the decade’s dance floor with “Discovery” while Outkast’s “Stankonia” prompted thousands of teenage white boys to acknowledge that hip-hop did not suck.
When Dad finally set up the computer with broadband Internet, things changed. My limited funds were no longer of a concern the day he installed Napster, justifying that his thievery with the fact that he could get obscure 1950s tracks he’d been unable to find anywhere else.
I, on the other hand, didn’t give a flip about Sue Thompson and Bob Kuban. My early Napster journeys awarded me with all the classic rock I could think of, and things went up from there.
On a side note, music fans didn’t get anything worthwhile out of 9/11, but it did inspire the most telling lyric of the decade, its meaning loosely interpreted: “We’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the American way.”
By 2005, I was an “entry- level alt,” a kid who wasn’t indie but sure wanted to be. I would spend most of this time “catching up” in music, listening to old stuff to work my way to achieving true indie status. It wasn’t hard during these years because it didn’t seem like there was a ton of good new stuff.
Napster was replaced by Kazaa, which was replaced by Limewire, which was replaced by Vuze and then eventually The Hype Machine. My means were always changing, but I could count on the spyware to stick around.
The more music I listened to, the more my social status deteriorated. I spent most evenings in 2006 in my room, alone. I dreamt of druggie parties and dance floors, clubs unashamed to play Peaches “F*** The Pain Away” and Scissor Sisters’ “I Don’t Feel Like Dancing” and maybe some cool “Hollaback Girl” remixes. I felt like I would find this place in Europe. People there would understand me.
I never lived out my Euro fantasies, but by 2007 I had ascended to full indie status, so it didn’t really matter. This was right around the time Kanye West dropped “Graduation.” I don’t understand why people hate him. Self-absorbed and self-conscious as he is, there’s something inherently admirable about the individuals who go against the grain.
And maybe it was mean to interrupt Taylor Swift during her “glorious” MTV moment, but Kanye didn’t steal the mic to save the honor of any ordinary music video. He was up there for “Single Ladies.” Remember that.
At the end of the decade, I was picking the hits before they went big. I loved “Paper Planes” before it was given movie trailer treatment and knew all about Owl City before KISS-FM began blasting it ad nauseam.
As of today, I can still comfortably name-drop Animal Collective, contented in the knowledge that 90 percent of the population has never heard of them.
As long as there’s juice in the iPod, the world is my bubble. And I’ll make of it how I see fit. It’s good to be alive.
Entertainment columnist Erik Myers’ column runs biweekly in the Collegian. Letter and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.