The decade in music

Pub date December 16, 2009
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features


>>The breakdown: A hyped-up digital decade stung by its own long tail
By Mosi Reeves
>>You ought-sa know: A tawdry, tuneful timeline of the last decade
By Cheryl Eddy
>>Aughties Bay Area: Meet me at MySpace with your iPod and we’ll indie dance
By Kimberly Chun
>>Flashing lights: 10 years on the Bay Area dance floor — and still looking fantastic!
By Marke B.
>>2009 = 1989: The end of this decade sings a love song to the end of a decade past
By Johnny Ray Huston
>>False Idols: Pop went meta, exposing its gaga machinery
By Louis Peitzman
>>Some kind of mastodon: Out of the rap-rock toilet and into the fire — the decade in metal
By Ben Richardson
>>Nothing like it: From mob to hyphy to crack — the decade in Bay Area rap
By Garrett Caples

DECADE IN MUSIC "If you don’t like it, don’t listen to it" This became the comment-capping mantra of a musical decade that started with excess — record stores and Napster, industry fat cats and self-released upstarts, CDs and MP3s all coexisting in ignorant bliss — and ended with the sound of one thumb Twittering. The promise in that catchphrase, that music selection has become so democratic that we can ignore what we’re not into, also proved a trap. With all the fractionalized niche overload and microbranding, who hasn’t felt the sting of that uniquely contemporary psychological malady, feeling-out-of-the-loop-itis? How do you know you don’t like it if you don’t hear it?

Still, the giddiness of sonic freedom has touched us all, and diversified playlists have provided plenty of kicks. No longer is the world of sound divided into mainstream and alternative — Kylie was shoehorned into the Fox Theatre while the Pixies headlined Coachella. And no longer does the same tune deliberately get stuck in everyone’s head. We readily admit we’ve yet to hear "Party in the USA" or have the slightest clue what a Daughtry is. We’ve been far too busy digging nueva cumbia and Scandinavian death metal to click out of curiosity, though we’re sure we’ll get around to it. With everything instantly available and a warped sense of retro shrouding all ears in historical doubt — believe it or not, "Don’t Stop Believing" sounded horrible in 1981 — the past decade already seems a bit of a blur. (And all this audio information hasn’t necessarily made us smarter or more noble. What did we do after we invaded the wrong country? Gleefully watch a young pop starlet implode.) The current musical moment seems to be reveling in a sigh of relief. "Chill" is the watchword, stillness is the move: a welcome respite from the beaver-flashing spills of yesteryear.

Looking back, though, a lot has happened since Y2K, when the late Biggie and yet-to-be-Vegas Celine Dion were belly-jousting for the top spot on Billboard Hot 100, and Santana’s Supernatural was imminent. (For starters, everyone knew what the Billboard Hot 100 was.) We’ve seen Britney outdo Sinead, Eminem get Nelly, Destiny’s Child survive until it didn’t, Creeds and Outkasts, Norah Jones and Usher, MJB’s breakthrough and Whitney’s breakdowns, and the glittering cuckoo moments and emancipation of Mariah Carey. We’ve seen Ashlee Simpson wiggle her acid reflux-addled uvula. We’ve heard Kanye. And heard him. The spawn of Billy Ray Cyrus has raided our thin wallets, Katie Couric has quizzed Lil Wayne about weed. We’ve encountered more neo-microgenres than you can shake a Nano at, seen vinyl rise like a zombie from the dead, and YouTubed another hole in the ozone.

Locally, the Bay Area kept a low profile — were Keyshia Cole and Train really our only contributions to thenational pop landscape? Yet we still made an enormous amount of exhilarating music. Mashups, space disco, metal onslaughts, freak folks, hyphy, arty indie, psychedelic drones: all found a teeming nest of originators here. The Guardian asked our music critics to plug in and go nuts on the past decade of local and universal pet sounds. Behold our multi-tentacular monster mash. (Johnny Ray Huston and Marke B.)