We’ve entered a new decade (2010-2019), so it is now time to reflect back on a completely arbitrary 10 year block of time and make a capricious declaration on who made the best music, and had the biggest influence in the aughts.
- 5. The Strokes: Ushered in current rock & roll as we know it with 2001’s Is This It. At the time, the airwaves were dominated by boy bands, pop stars and shitty “rock” bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit. The Strokes brought garage band music back and ushered in a second-coming of a genre made famous by the punk rockers of the 1970’s and 80’s. Other albums: Room on Fire, 2003 & First Impressions of Earth, 2005. Several band members had less-than-memorable side projects (Julian Casablancas and Albert Hammond, Jr.) They could have ascended higher on this list if they produced a fourth album during the decade. Additional props to Casablancas’ SNL track “Boombox” with Lonely Island (even though it premiered in January, 2010 – it was recorded in 2009, so it counts.)
- 4. Radiohead: Arguably the biggest band in the world (fuck you, U2) releasing an album for free? Unheard of! Unless, of course, you’re Radiohead. In 2007, In Rainbows gave the proverbial middle finger to record labels and established musical aristocracy alike when they released the album on their website – allowing the consumer to pick their own price (even if that price was $0.00.) Even though the band gave the album away for free, it still managed to gross them over $10 million dollars. Impressive. It’s just too bad the only other album they released during the decade was 2003’s Hail to the Thief.
- 3. Broken Social Scene: Fact – Canada (specifically, Montreal) produces A LOT of amazing music. None better than Broken Social Scene, however. These indie-rock Gods from the Great White North produced some of the best music of the decade with three albums: Feel Good Lost, You Forgot it In People & the self-titled Broken Social Scene. Side projects and solo acts aside, the band itself created single after single of incredible music, and rather than recording albums containing two hits and 10 fillers, they packed their albums full of (in my humble opinion) the best indie rock of the decade (and that’s a bold statement when you consider the competition.)
- 2. Lil Wayne: That’s right. I had to add a rapper. And Weezy deserves this ranking. Not only is he (again, in my humble opinion) the best rapper of the decade, he was nearly the best musician. His relentless recording, producing and distribution of hit after hit, coupled with his incredible lyrical talent gives him extremely high marks in my book. The fact that he seems to release 2-to-3 awesome FREE mix tapes to every 1 album he puts on shelves also gives him that Radiohead-esque Robin Hood appeal. Love him or hate him, The Carter I, II & III and his countless dozens of mix tapes, compilations and lyrical cameos propel Wayne to heights not seen since Eminem shattered the tenants of Hip Hop at the beginning of the decade.
- 1. The White Stripes: It’d be criminal to anoint anyone else to this prestigious position atop my rankings. FIVE albums, each better than the last in the 2000’s positions Jack and Meg atop the music world. Not only are the White Stripes the most talented artists of the decade, but they will inevitably someday be two of the most influential musicians of the century. The White Stripes reinvented rock and roll and gave their rabid fan base an unimaginable number of brilliant rhythms, experimental sounds and instruments along with Mr. White’s transcendental vocals. There is no sound as unique as theirs, there is no replacement for them, and no one released more music, with more quality during the 2000’s than the White Stripes. I would like to personally thank them for blessing us (the fans) with: De Stijl, 2000; White Blood Cells, 2001; Elephant, 2003; Get Behind Me Satan, 2005 and 2007’s Icky Thump. And oh yeah, The Raconteurs aren’t half-bad either.
Recently I decided to turn on the radio in my car (my iPod was acting up.) The sound of Jack White’s voice immediately filled my speakers and flooded my car with noise. This was not the White Stripes. It was a side-act. I do not like side-projects. They are almost never as good as the genuine product, which is understandable, because their purpose is (mostly) experimental. Jack White is the perfect example for my thesis: Side projects are not good (or rather, not as good as the original act that they are replacing.)
Case-in-point: The White Stripes (a band consisting of Jack and Meg White.) They have released six (6) albums, which I will rank in order of best to worst (according to my opinion- not aggregate sales):
1. (Best): Elephant (Best Track: I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself)
2. Get Behind Me, Satan (Best Track: My Doorbell)
3. De Stijl (Best Track: Truth Doesn’t Make a Noise)
4. White Blood Cells (Best Track: Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground)
5. Icky Thump (Best Track: I’m Slowly Turning Into You)
6. (Worst): The White Stripes (Best Track: Do)
At some point, Jack White decided he wanted to make music with a full band, and not just his percussionist (Meg White.) Enter: The Raconteurs. The Raconteurs are the most commercially successful Jack White side-project, as well as the most critically acclaimed. I understand why Jack decided to make music with them (the universal desire to explore his range as a songwriter with the addition of a bassist, keyboardist, back-up vocalist and guitarist, and a banjo.) The Raconteurs are (arguably) better than the White Stripes in some schools of thought, as their hit singles have become just as popular (if not more) as most of the the White Stripes’ material.
For instance, the following songs kick (fucking) ass: Old Enough, Level, Steady as She Goes, Broken Boy Soldier, and Hands, among others.
My gripe is not with the Raconteurs.
In exploring his desire to create music with other artists, Jack White became addicted to side-projects (to the point where the White Stripes have almost become neglected and forgotten.) I should note that their seventh (7th) studio album is in production, however. So, at the expense of the White Stripes, Jack White decided to create music with the following acts:
The success of these side-projects is mixed, at best. As a fan, it’s hard to quantify the way I feel about this. Yes, I love Jack White as a musician, and was (at first) interested and pleased at this newfound musical endeavors, but as the side-projects and collaborations pile up, and the 7th White Stripes album gets delayed, I find myself growing increasingly frustrated and turned-off to all these distracting duets and bands Jack has been flirting with.
I have had these same feelings with Spencer Krug of Wolf Parade, and his subsequent side-acts:
I would much rather hear a new Wolf Parade album, then another bizarre Sunset Rubdown single.
Side projects are not always bad. Sometimes they are AMAZING, and better than the original act. The best example I can come up with off the top of my head is The Postal Service. Ben Gibbard’s by-mail collaboration with Jimmy Tamborello has held up over time, and is (arguably) better than any album ever released by Death Cab for Cutie.
The case can be made for and against side projects all day long, but at the end of the day, I think artists should go the route of Ben Gibbard. Make one, solitary album that completely knocks critics out of their chair(s), while also knowing when to call it quits. Because, ultimately, if an artists strays too far from his flock, he will alienate his fan base (and probably his band mates as well.) This is why the Postal Service remains so awesome. They released one (1) album (which was incredible, and loved by fans and critics alike), and then went right back to creating music with Death Cab. Despite the (overwhelming) demand for a follow-up album, Ben Gibbard hasn’t budged. This is what makes a great artist. He knows how to toy with his audience (without upsetting them.) Ultimately, will there be a follow-up to 2003’s Give Up? Probably, yes. But in making us (the fans) wait so long, and by focusing on his primary band, Ben Gibbard has succeeded where Jack White has not: He created something amazing, took a step back, and went back to doing what his fans wanted – creating more albums with Death Cab for Cutie. I should probably also mention that Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley joined Ben Gibbard on vocals for this album – another successful side-act.)
Now let’s just hope that Mr. White “gets it” and the White Stripes‘ 7th album is better than their last effort (the progressive, experimental, and mediocre Icky Thump.) Also, let’s hope that the side projects end. Because, let’s be honest, The Dead Weather sucks, and will probably motivate tired acts like the Kings of Leon (who are already far too commercial) to set out on the side-act expedition (something that no one [see: the real fans] want.)
Final Note: Some of the best side-acts come from Canada. Leslie Feist (of Feist and Kings of Convenience, and formerly of Broken Social Scene and Wilco) is incredible.