Saturday, April 18, 2009

Now that I’ve completed the first volume of my ten great songs list, I decided to change things up just a bit and do something a little different this week. So instead of listing ten songs from one year, I present to you…

Ten Great Songs From One Great Decade


Every new decade brings hope for a new and improved society. However, the 00's took a step backwards this time. Of course, the decade started with panic and uncertainty as people feared the Y2K bug, which some believed would send up electronically to the dark ages. The first year of the decade ended with the most controversial election in our generation, with George Bush finally besting Al Gore for the Presidency.

It wasn't long before the new President was challenged, either. As the Clinton “years of plenty” came to a close, reality set in and the tremendous boom of the late 90's came to a screeching halt. But what happened next completely changed the world and the way we live it. On a sunny September day, Islamic Supremacists hijacked four US passenger jets and crashed two into the Twin Towers, completely destroying them, one into the Pentagon and the other into a field in rural Pennsylvania, as a group of American heroes stormed the cockpit and perhaps saved the Capitol, or White House.

The rest of the decade belonged to President Bush and the subsequent War on Terror, which started with an invasion of Afghanistan and led to an all out war in Iraq. However, by staying the course, his leadership and that of his generals turned what at first looked like a drawn out quagmire into victory. But the war is far from over and Islamic Supremacy, including horribly barbaric acts against other human beings, are still the number one threat to the free world today.

Californication – Red Hot Chili Peppers (2000)

A song about the deterioration of society, this reflects how the world is becoming very superficial and plastic, much like California. The Red Hot Chili Peppers formed in Hollywood and are quite familiar with the quirky nature of life in Los Angeles. As written in the dictionary, "Fornication" refers disapprovingly to any sexual activity outside the confines of marriage. The lyrics, "Cobain can you hear the spheres singing songs off station to station and Alderaan's not far away, it's Californication" get in a few pop-culture references - Kurt Cobain, David Bowie's album Station To Station, and Alderaan - the planet princess Leia was from in Star Wars. Alderaan was destroyed by The Empire, implying that the world is being destroyed. Amazingly it appeared that writers for the Showtime comedy drama Californication did not negotiate with the Red Hot Chili Peppers before borrowing this song's title for their show. Consequently the rock group filed a lawsuit against Showtime on November 19, 2007 seeking damages and restitution and asking the court to issue a permanent injunction barring further use of the title. In addition, one of the characters in the program played by Rachel Miner was given the nickname Dani California, the title of a 2006 Chili Peppers song, and one episode featured a character describing California as "the edge of the world and all of western civilization," a line from "Californication." (View lyrics here)

Drops of Jupiter – Train (2001)

Lead singer Pat Monahan wrote this after the first lines of it came to him in a dream. When he woke up, he had the song in his head and recorded a demo of it. This song is about a woman who leaves her man to find out if they belong together. We are never told if she returns to him or not. Said Monahan: "This is a woman who's strong and has to find out who she is and a man willing to let her do that." Monahan has a permanent scar on his chin, which could explain the line, "One without a permanent scar." This won Grammys for Best Rock Song and Best Instrumental Arrangement with Accompanying Vocalist. (View lyrics here)

Drive – Incubus (2001)

Incubus is known for their eclectic sound, balancing experimental and progressive qualities with pop appeal, earning praise for their ability to change and evolve their music with each successive release. Their lyrics touch on a number of different subjects, from their earliest works which touch on drugs and anti-conformity to the later albums where they often sing about politics and romance, although they primarily stress an optimistic view. They also have the recurring theme of science fiction in their songs. According to lead singer Brandon Boyd, "The lyric is basically about fear, about being driven all your life by it and making decisions from fear. It's about imagining what life would be like if you didn't live it that way." Taken from the LP Make Yourself, “Drive” became their first Hot 100 hit, climbing to #9 on the Billboard chart. Although their next three albums have charted no lower than #2, they have not returned to the singles charts since and may be destined to be a “one-hit wonder”- although, they have cracked the top 10 a few more times on the Billboard Modern Tracks chart. (View lyrics here)

The Reason – Hoobastank (2004)

Hoobastank formed in the Los Angeles County suburb Agoura Hills in 1994. According to drummer Chris Hesse, vocalist Doug Robb had known guitarist Dan Estrin for some time before competing against him in a high school battle of the bands competition and subsequently, they decided to form a band. They then recruited Markku Lappalainen and Hesse to form Hoobastank, which at the time was spelled Hoobustank (pronounced the same way as "Hoobastank"). In an interview with Launch Yahoo!, Doug Robb said the name had no particular meaning: "You're going to ask me what it means. It doesn't mean anything. And it's really cool; it's one of those old high school inside-joke words that didn't really mean anything." However, on the December 16, 2003 broadcast of Loveline, the band claimed Hoobastank was the name of a gas station in Germany near where a friend lives. The band released their self-titled debut album in 2001 and it garnered immediate attention on the Billboard Modern Tracks charts with the song “Running Away.” The song also hit #44 on the Billboard Hot 100. The band also made a song titled "Losing My Grip" for the soundtrack of the movie The Scorpion King. In late 2001, Hoobastank was invited to play in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame due to the success of the album. From there, the band was primed for a breakthrough. That happened with the release of the LP The Reason, in early 2004. The title track immediately climbed up the charts and became a massive hit reaching #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, #1 on the US and World Modern Rock charts, #10 in Australia and #15 in Germany. The song was also played during the final episode of Friends. In Canada, it spent 21 weeks at the top, setting a new record for most weeks at #1. Meanwhile in the United States , the album reached #3 on the Billboard 200 album chart. However, while their next LP, Every Man for Himself, hit #12, the band's singles' successes dried up and they have not had a song crack the Hot 100 since. (View lyrics here)

Numb - Linkin Park (2004)

This is about children who are sick of living up to the high expectations their parents set for them. The band, also from Agoura Hills (see Hoobastank), originally consisted of three high school friends, Linkin Park's foundation was anchored by Mike Shinoda, Brad Delson, and Rob Bourdon. After graduating from high school, they began to take their musical interests more seriously, recruiting Joe Hahn, Dave Farrell, and Mark Wakefield to perform in their band, Xero. Though limited in resources, the band began recording and producing songs within Shinoda's make-shift bedroom studio in 1996. Tensions and frustration within the band grew after they failed to land a record deal. The lack of success and stalemate in progress prompted Wakefield, at that time the band's vocalist, to leave the band in search for other projects. Farrell also left to tour with Tasty Snax and other bands. They released Hybrid Theory on October 24, 2000. The album, which represented half a decade's worth of the band's work, was edited by music producer Don Gilmore and was well received by music fans; the band sold more than 4.8 million records during its debut year, earning it the status of best-selling album of 2001. It included the breakthrough smash “In the End,” which went to #2 on Bilboard's Hot 100. But it wasn't until the release of their follow up LP, Meteora that they really exploded in popularity. Taken from this album, “Numb” is – in my opinion, the best crafted and well-written song of the decade. (View lyrics here)

Wild West Show – Big and Rich (2004)

Although the duo has performed together since 1998, Big Kenny and John Rich had both recorded solo albums in 1999 (Kenny's Live a Little and Rich's Underneath the Same Moon), though neither album was released until 2005. Both albums featured a song the two had written together, called "I Pray for You," which Rich released as a single in 2000. Rich also charted with a single that, to this day, has not been included on any album. Meanwhile, Big Kenny's band, luvjOi, recorded two albums, one of which was released. Because they were going nowhere fast, the two came up with an idea that shook the country music business to its core. Big Kenny, John Rich, Jon Nicholson and Cory Gierman founded the MuzikMafia in 2001, which is an informal collection of singer-songwriters, musicians, and artists who would perform together weekly in Nashville. Among the many members included Gretchen Wilson, Cowboy Troy, and James Otto. In February 2004, the duo released its first single, "Wild West Show". The song, with markedly Native American imagery and tone achieved moderate chart success, peaking at #21 and put the duo in the charts for the first time. The attention garnered from this song led to the release of the album Horse of a Different Color, which subsequently reached the top of the Billboard country chart AND album chart – the first time anyone had dome that since Garth Brooks Ropin' the Wind, 12 years earlier. The duo's blend of country music, rock, and hip-hop has been very divisive among some country fans and even country musicians. Some applaud the genre-bending of the duo's music, and some bands and artists cite Big & Rich as an influence. But the duo is very proud of their crossover appeal. At the intro to Horse, they announce unashamed, “country music, without prejudice!” (View lyrics here)

Look What You've Done – Jet (2005)

Brothers Nic and Chris Cester grew up in Dingley Village, a suburb just out of Melbourne, Australia listening to classic rock from the 1960s and 1970s such as The Who, AC/DC and particularly The Rolling Stones and The Beatles; these were their father's records. In an interview for the documentary "Take It or Leave It", that was on the band's Right! Right! Right! live DVD, "It's always interpreted that our father had a great record collection, but that's not true. It was actually a really shit collection that Nic managed to find the gems in." However, according to Nic, it was Australian band You Am I who had the biggest influence on Jet's developing musical tastes: "Hi Fi Way was the most important album of my generation ... I think everyone our age, who played guitar, played You Am I songs for the first time in front of their school assembly ... That was the record that made you realize you could be in an Australian band, you didn't have to be a grunge band and you didn't have to be influenced by American bands. It changed everything." “Look What You've Done” was taken from Jet's debut LP, Get Born, and is their highest charting single. While influenced by the Beatles, this song is a dead ringer of many of Jeff Lynne's songs with the Electric Light Orchesrtra and is about Chris and Nic's father, and how he cheated on their mom when they were younger. They always looked up to him as a hero, and he let them down by cheating on their mother. (View lyrics here)

Mr. Brightside - The Killers (2005)

Killers guitarist Dave Keuning wrote this about lead signer Brandon Flowers' ex-girlfriend who cheated on him. Flowers recalled to Q magazine March 2009 how he discovered her with another man at the Crown and Anchor pub in his hometown of Las Vegas: "I was asleep and I knew something was wrong. I have these instincts. I went to the Crown and Anchor and my girlfriend was there with another guy." Flowers added that the song was "born" at the Crown and Anchor. Part of the post-punk revival movement, The Killers draw their influences from music styles of the 1980s. The group's debut album, Hot Fuss (from where this song was taken) brought the band mainstream success. The Killers' second album, Sam's Town, was released in 2006, and the compilation album Sawdust containing B-sides, rarities, and new material, was released in 2007. Their third studio album, Day & Age, was released in November 2008. (View lyrics here)

Crazy – Gnarls Barkley (2006)

Gnarls Barkley is producer Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) and vocalist Cee-Lo Green (Thomas Callaway). Danger Mouse produced The Gorillaz album Demon Days; Cee-Lo was in Goodie Mob. The name "Gnarls Barkley" is a play on "Charles Barkley," who is a Hall Of Fame basketball player and an outspoken commentator. The moniker came up in a conversation between Danger Mouse and some of his friends when they were throwing out weird ideas for band names. In a 2006 interview with The New York Times, Danger Mouse said: "I brought in a song that I felt was a complete Ennio Morricone ripoff, (Morricone is a composer of spaghetti-western scores) but Cee-Lo and I started talking, and I somehow got off on this tangent about how people won't take an artist seriously unless they're insane. And we were saying that if we really wanted this album to work, the best move would be to just kill ourselves. That's how audiences think; it's retarded. So we started jokingly discussing ways in which we could make people think we were crazy. We talked about this for hours, and then I went home. But while I was away, Cee-Lo took that conversation and made it into 'Crazy,' which we recorded in one take. That's the whole story. The lyrics are his interpretation of that conversation." (View lyrics here)

Face Down – Red Jumpsuit Apparatus (2007)

This song is the first single from the album, Don't You Fake It and is believed to be written about lead singer Ronnie's mother who was abused by his father (as stated in an Alternative Press article) and is about a guy pushing his girlfriend/wife around. She covers up the bruises with make-up. He says he loves her and she lets it go. By the end of the song the women becomes tired of him abusing her and tells him she's had enough. It reached as high as #15 on the U.S. Hot 100 and #3 on the U.S. Modern Rock Tracks. It is notable for being one of the few songs in recent times to include screaming and reach the top forty of the Billboard Hot 100 (though later versions with the screaming removed were released). A segment of the song plays on the radio in the movie Georgia Rule. It's also played very faintly in the background exactly an hour into Employee of the Month with Dane Cook. It still landed on the soundtrack. The name, "The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus", was chosen by placing random words on a wall, and then blindfolding one of the members and choosing a few words. Some other names the band thought about using were "Umbrella Ninjas" and "Evil Slamina" (Evil Slamina being 'Live Animals' spelled backwards). The band was unofficially started by Ronnie Winter and Duke Kitchens in 2001 after they had played together doing Blink-182 cover songs in AP music theory. It wasn't started officially until 2003. (View lyrics here)

Bonus Track

Without Me – Eminem (2002)

This was Eminem's first single since his Marshall Mathers LP . He explains in the song that everything was boring and empty with him away, but he was now here to give people something to talk about. He takes shots at The FCC, Limp Bizkit, Moby and Chris Kirkpatrick. The opening lines, "Two trailer park girls go round the outside" came from a traditional Appalachian square dance song called " Buffalo Gals." Malcolm McLaren, who is best known for managing The Sex Pistols and Bow Wow Wow, released a rap version of " Buffalo Gals" in 1983 that brought a lot of attention to the song. As part of Eminem's critique of Moby in this song, he exclaims, "Nobody listens to Techno." This line became a popular sample in the Techno community and was made into a song produced by Deep Dish and Danny Howells under the alias Size DDD (Deep Dish Danny). “Ms. Cheney,” referring to Lynne Cheney, wife of former Vice President Dick Cheney, is mentioned in the lyrics. She once referred to Eminem's music as "Despicable. It is horrible. This is dreadful. This is shameful. This is awful." Apparently, Eminem found her remarks offensive. Furthermore, Eminem compares himself to Elvis Presley in this song as well, noting that both excelled in music styles dominated by black musicians. Eminem points out that many of those who criticize him were fans of Elvis, who did the same thing. (View lyrics here)


Allison Guerriero said...

Ok...dumbass that I am only ever heard "Crazy". I'm not too up on any music that was recorded in the past two decades.

readingjunkie said...

Nine years into the new decade and we have faced so many challenges already. The song Numb by Linkin Park is my favorite for the week. In fact I believe I have that one on my playlist. :)