Sunday, February 26, 2012

Ten Great Songs From One Great Year


To many, it does not seem like this was ten years ago. However to me, it certainly does. My memories from this year are, at best, fuzzy. It was a terrible year for me physically due to being misdiagnosed and slowly succumbing to heart disease. However, it worked out well in the long run, as I received a new heart and a new lease on life.

But things started poorly for the world at large in 2002, as well. While still dealing with the shock of 9/11, we learned of the kidnapping and brutal murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, at the hands of Al-Qaeda. Two weeks later, Princess Margaret  - Queen Elizabeth's sister - dies in her sleep aged 71 after suffering a major stroke. Sadly, the Queen Mother also passes away just a month later, at the age of 101.

In March, a Palestinian suicide bomber kills 30 Israeli civilians and injures 140 others at the Park Hotel in Netanya, triggering Operation Defensive Shield, a large-scale counter-terrorist Israeli military incursion into the West Bank, two days later. This leads to a 38-day stand-off in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which ends when the Palestinians inside agree to have 13 suspected militants among them deported to several different countries.

As the tech bubble continues to burst, MCI WorldComm files Chapter 11. It is the largest such bankruptcy in history. Earlier in the year, Enron Energy Group also went bankrupt and exposed the massive amount of fraud and corruption many of these companies dealt in. The shockwaves cost stockholders billions of dollars. October brought in another series of tragedies as the Beltway Sniper began their (two men who worked together) reign of terror. Ten people were killed and three others critically injured in various locations throughout the Washington Metropolitan Area and along Interstate 95 in Virginia. Two weeks later, the US Congress authorizes the Iraq War Resolution. Following this, President Bush announces the Department of Homeland Security, in an effort to thwart another attack on American soil.

A Moment Like This -- Kelly Clarkson (lyrics)

American Idol, an American version of the British show Pop Idol, debuted on the FOX Network on June 11, 2002, and became an instant success. As of 2011, it was the most watched TV series in the Nielsen ratings and the only program to have been number one for eight consecutive seasons. Clarkson was Idol's first winner, and this was released as her first single after she performed the song on the show. In a sign to come that American Idol would influence the entire music industry, the song broke the record for the biggest jump to #1 in the history of the US Hot 100 chart when it soared 52-1 on the week of October 5th. The record had been held for 37 years by the Beatles. In April 1964, "Can't Buy Me Love" rose from 27-1 (Clarkson's record has since been beaten in 2007 by Maroon 5's "It Makes Me Wonder," which went 64-1). Clarkson explained why she never wants to perform this song again in a 2011 interview with Entertainment Weekly: "Here's the thing: I get it. It was a moment thing for whoever won [American Idol], but that song wasn't written for me. I loved singing it for the finale. That's what it was for, but you ain't going to catch me anytime soon or ever singing that song again. Someone would have to be dying in front of me, saying, 'My last wish is for you to sing that song!' for me to sing that song."

Complicated -- Avril Lavigne (lyrics)

In 1999, Lavigne won a radio contest to perform with fellow Canadian singer Shania Twain at the Corel Centre (now Scotiabank Place) in Ottawa, before an audience of 20,000 people. Twain and Lavigne sang "What Made You Say That" and Lavigne told Twain she was going to be "a famous singer." According to the singer, most of her songs are about real people and real situations, but this one was not written about anyone in particular. She says, "It's basically about life, people being fake, and relationships." Lavigne is listed as one of the songwriters on this, but there is some question as to how much she contributed. According to The Matrix, they wrote most of the song and Avril just changed a few words. Lavigne insists she contributed a lot more to the song, including most of the lyrics and the melody. A huge part of Lavigne's appeal is that she writes her own songs. This set her apart from singers like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, and let Arista Records position her as a singer-songwriter like Michelle Branch and Vanessa Carlton. "Complicated" reached #1 in numerous countries, but fell one spot short in the US. However, it was nominated for a Grammy for "Song of the Year." However, she lost out to Norah Jones' "Don't Know Way."

The Middle -- Jimmy Eat World (lyrics)

This is about fitting in, and how you don't have to be the same as other people to be popular. This was the breakout hit for Jimmy Eat World, who released their first album in 1994. The song climbed to #1 on the Modern Rock chart in 2001 and made the Top 10 on the Pop charts in the summer of 2002. The band formed in Mesa, Arizona in 1993. Singer/guitarist Jim Adkins and drummer Zach Lind, who had been friends since preschool, joined with guitarist Tom Linton and bass player Mitch Porter to try their hand at music. In its early years, Jimmy Eat World was a punk rock band, with Linton serving as their primary singer. Within the span of a couple of years, the band recorded and released three singles and a full-length on local label Wooden Blue Records. Contrary to popular belief, the band name acronym (JEW) is not a reference to the band's religious beliefs, nor to member Jim Adkins. The band's name came from a crayon drawing made after an incident between Linton's younger brothers, Jim and Ed, who fought frequently. Jim usually won, but Ed sought revenge by drawing a picture of Jim shoving the Earth into his mouth; the picture bore the caption "Jimmy eat world".

Lose Yourself -- Eminem (lyrics)

This was featured in Eminem's first movie, 8 Mile. The movie is based on Eminem's life, he grew up in a poor Detroit neighborhood and followed his dream of rap stardom. The movie got very good reviews as Eminem turned out to be a surprisingly good actor. On the movie set, Eminem had a trailer where he could record songs for the movie during breaks in filming. He wrote this in character as B. Rabbit, who he played in 8 Mile. Writing in character was nothing new for Eminem, as he had previously written songs as his alter ego, Slim Shady. When the movie studio released the first trailers, this song did not exist, so they used "Cleanin' Out My Closet," which the studio wanted to feature in the movie. Eminem thought that song was too personal for the movie, which was one reason he was so determined to write something that fit the character. This won an Oscar for Best Song From A Movie, beating out songs by Paul Simon and U2. It was a bold choice for the academy, who usually pick fairly tame songs by Randy Newman, Sting, or Elton John. Barbra Streisand announced the award, and seemed surprised and happy that Eminem won. With a 12-week run at #1 on the Hot 100, this song is the most commercially successful Oscar winning tune.

In The End -- Linkin Park (lyrics)

The lyrics are based on the struggles lead singer Chester Bennington went through growing up. He was often picked on. In March 2001 The LP was released in 2000, but this song was only released as a single in 2002), 15-year-old Charles Andrew Williams shot and killed 2 of his classmates at his high school in Santee, California. He left a note for his father with the lyrics to this as an attempt to explain his feelings. The key lines were "I tried so hard and got so far, but in the end, it doesn't really matter." In November 8, 2011, the band was awarded with a Global Leadership Award at the Global Leadership Awards Dinner of the United Nations Foundation and the United Nations Association of the United States of America, for their efforts to highlight the importance of the UN and for utilizing their fan base to help those in need through Music For Relief. The band also announced their "Power the World" campaign. "Power the World" encourages their fans to donate in order to give one million families in Haiti solar-powered lights, since the country still faces severe energy poverty. The project supports the Sustainable Energy For All initiative of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The band released several YouTube videos to promote the campaign

Get the Party Started -- Pink (lyrics)

Alecia Beth Moore is the artist known as Pink. She was born to a Catholic father and a Jewish mother in September 1979. Although a healthy baby at birth, she quickly developed asthma that plagued her through her early years. When she was a teenager, she wrote lyrics as an outlet for her feelings, and her mother commented, "Her initial writings were always very introspective. Some of it was very black, and very deep, almost worrisome." She began performing in Philadelphia clubs when she was 14 years old to support her meth addiction, went through phases of using other narcotics and abusing alcohol. Pink quoted, "I was extreme. I went through phases from skateboarder, to hip-hopper, to rave child, to lead singer in a rock band. I did it all, and all at the same time." After opening for 'N Sync in in 2000, she was a part of Lady Marmalade alongside singers Christina Aguilera and Mýa, and rapper Lil' Kim for the soundtrack of the film Moulin Rouge! "Get the Party Started" was written by Linda Perry of 4 Non Blondes. Pink was a big fan of Perry's group and contacted her to work on the album. The success of this song caused Perry to put her solo career on hold and instead work with other female singers. In fact, Pink was once arrested for disturbing her neighbors by singing out of her window at 3.30am. The song she was singing was by 4 Non Blondes, and was written by Perry.

Hands Clean -- Alanis Morissette (lyrics)

This is rumored to be autobiographical, about a relationship Morissette had with a much older man when she was a teen pop star in Canada. She was 14 and the guy was about 30, but she won't reveal his name. Part of the song is what the guy thinks, and her response. Of course, rumors abound that this was Dave Coultier, of Full House fame. Many also believe her entire album, 1995's Jagged Little Pill, was about the same person. For her her fifth studio album, Under Rug Swept, in February 2002. For the first time in her career, she took on the role of sole writer and producer of an album. While the LP debuted at #1 on Billboard, and sold over a million copies, it paled in comparison to her previous two albums. This single was the first from the LP and peaked at a modest #23. The followup single, "Precious Illusions" only managed to chart on the Hot AC charts, spelling the end (for now) of her top 40 success.

Superman (It's Not Easy) -- Five For Fighting (lyrics)

Five for Fighting is the stage name of John Ondrasik. He took the name from hockey, where the penalty for fighting is 5 minutes (he is a big LA Kings fan). This song is about trying to fit in and is written from Superman's point of view. The superhero is portrayed as misunderstood and not as powerful as people see him. This became very popular after the September 11 attacks. The reflective tone fit very well with the mood of the United States, and many radio stations played it more. The band has heard from emergency workers and others who found it a source of comfort after the attacks. Ondrasik writes and co-writes music for other artists, including The Backstreet Boys and Josh Groban. He has also contributed to movie soundtracks, such as August Rush, We Were Soldiers, Chicken Little, and Everyone's Hero, and in 2008 wrote and recorded the song "Brothers in Arms" for the award winning documentary film Brothers at War.

Wherever You Will Go - The Calling (lyrics)

The guitarist of The Calling, Aaron Kamin, wrote this song which caught on with the touching message of following someone to the ends of the earth. Aaron explained in a radio interview: "At the time my grandmother's best friend had passed away and she left behind a husband of 50 or more years and I was at the funeral and afterwards I just started thinking of what it would be like to be him and have your whole life change so dramatically and not for the best in a matter of moments. Somebody that you live and grow with and are one with, just to be gone, is crazy and I figured all he ever thinks about probably is finding a way to get back to her or be with her or make sure she's alright or something like that. That was the sentiment behind that." Camino Palmero was first album for the band, who released just one more before splitting up in 2005. The band got a big break when they performed "Wherever You Will Go" in the 2000 movie Coyote Ugly. This song was also featured in commercials promoting the TV series Star Trek: Enterprise. The album was a surprise hit, selling over 800,000 copies, but it caused a lot of tension in the band when drummer Nate Wood and bass player Billy Mohler left the band in 2003 and sued Kamin and lead singer Alex Band, claiming they were not properly paid for their contributions.

Someday -- The Strokes (lyrics)

This song is about the childhood realization that as you get older, you and your friends are likely to drift apart. Upon the release of their debut album Is This It in 2001, the group met much critical acclaim. Since then, the band has maintained a large fan base all over the world, most notably in the United States, the UK, France, Argentina, Brazil, Canada and Australia. A number of members have embarked on a variety of side projects, although a fourth album, entitled Angles, was released on March of 2011. They are one of the most prominent indie-rock bands to hail from the U.S. at the dawn of the 21st century and helped start the garage rock revival movement. "Someday" was their third single from their debut LP.


Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning) -- Alan Jackson (lyrics)

Written in the wake of the September 11 attacks, it was introduced at the Country Music Association's annual awards show on November 7, 2001. It was then released in late November 2001 as the lead single from the album, Drive, and reached the top of the U.S. Billboard country charts. Jackson wanted to write a song expressing his thoughts and emotions, but he found it hard to do so for many weeks. "I didn't want to write a patriotic song", Jackson said. "And I didn't want it to be vengeful, either. But I didn't want to forget about how I felt and how I knew other people felt that day." The verses focused on others' reactions in the form of questions. One verse asks, "Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow?/Go out and buy you a gun?/Did you turn off that violent old movie you're watchin'/And turn on I Love Lucy reruns?" In between, he asks about the locations of people when the tragedy played out, "Out in the yard with your wife and children?/Or workin' on some stage in LA?" In the chorus, Jackson tries to sum up his own feelings, first by calling himself merely "a singer of simple songs", and "not a real political man." Initially, he felt squeamish about recording it, much less releasing it, because he disliked the idea of capitalizing on a tragedy. On producer Keith Stegall's advice, Jackson played the finished track for a group of executives at his record label. "We just kind of looked at one another." RCA Label Group chairman Joe Galante said later. "Nobody spoke for a full minute."


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