The breakdown - Page 2

DECADE IN MUSIC: A hyped-up digital decade stung by its own long tail

Indie rock, the soundtrack to our suburban Garden State youth and The Real World: Brooklyn faux-bohemian adventures, went to hell and a Hot Topic outlet. Fuck, man, even George Harrison, J-Dilla, James Brown, Johnny Cash, and Michael Jackson died.

Popism, with its allusions to a global village united under Western capitalism and American exceptionalism, was the philosophy of the day. And pop wasn't serious music; that term was reserved for late 19th century classical composers and Brian Eno. The rest was noise, MP3s to load onto our iPods, digital squeaks interspersed between gun claps on Grand Theft Auto, and a soundtrack for The Hills and Grey's Anatomy.

So what did a decade of Auto-Tunin', guitar-strummin', and Reason-scrollin' zombies sound like?

It sounded like glitch, click-hop, IDM, Italo-disco, smooth house, fidget house, blog-house, hard house, Parisian electro-house, South American tech-house, "Body and Soul" house, progressive house, Balearic trance, happy hardcore, dubstep, "beats," wobbly, wonky, funky, nu-rave, darkwave, chillwave, glo-fi, retro soul, neo-soul, swag, crunk, blog rap, favela, booty bass, and B-more. A twitch of niches, each discarded as it surfaced.

On LCD Soundsystem's brilliant 2003 single "I'm Losing My Edge," James Murphy rattled off a Goldmine catalog full of cult garage bands, No Wave performers, disco DJs and Krautrock novelties, and then sardonically crooned, "You don't know what you really want."

So what did we really want?

Whatever we desired was at our fingertips. Every song, every trend imaginable was either available on file-sharing programs like Limewire and Soulseek, or could be requested on "private" torrent sites such as Oink and A MySpace account yielded streaming music from dozens of your favorite bands, and thousands of friend requests from bands you've never heard of.

In this steaming melting pot of microgenres and mixtapes and downloads, the finishing line was the current pop zeitgeist, a blessed moment when every and blog post, and VH-1 Best Week Ever and Current TV Infomania episode was referencing the same thing. Kelly Clarkson sounded just like Avril Lavigne on "Since You've Been Gone," but it was so catchy that even Ted Leo covered it. Danger Mouse fused Beatles' The White Album and Jay-Z's The Black Album into The Grey Album. Girl Talk made a mixtape of popular crunk tunes and called it Night Ripper; A-Trak did the same thing and called it Dirty South Dance. Vampire Weekend made an album that sounded like Talking Heads, but then so did Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Dirty Projectors tried to sound like Aaliyah. Fleet Foxes sounded better than My Morning Jacket. When everything is mashed up and boiled, everything sounds the same no matter what you call it.

We cherished catchphrases like "Shake it like a Polaroid picture," a line from OutKast's sock-hop anthem "Hey Ya!" So it became a Polaroid commercial. Feist's silly folk-pop charmer "1, 2, 3, 4" became an iPod commercial. Daft Punk's robo-funk smash "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" became a Gap commercial. The greatest reward, it seemed, was to become a 30-second advert, a YouTube staple and an American Idol.

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