The usual m.o. in music (mainly R&B and hip-hop) has been to use the word ‘gay’ and ‘faggot’ freely as negative terms, used mainly to insult and hurt. But, in the last year I have noticed a trending change. Rapper Macklemore and producer Ryan Lewis have the #1 album (The Heist) on iTunes and the song ‘Same Love’ is the one generating interest. It’s a conscious rap song that advocates for gay rights and equality. It’s being tweeted about by Ellen Degeneres, which has helped it get more exposure.
Another artist that admits to having feelings for another man is Frank Ocean. Ocean wrote an open letter, intended for the liner notes on Channel Orange, that would preemptively address “speculation about his same-sex attraction,” he instead blogged it on Tumblr. Ocean became one of the first major hip-hop/R&B artists to announce that he had fallen in love with someone of the same sex, notable because the industry is known for expressions of homophobia. Many artists of the the hip-hop community have openly supported Frank Ocean for his openness, including Jay-Z, Beyonce, Russell Simmons, and Tyler the Creator.
This is a positive sign because music often reflects the world it is being created in. As the world trends towards a more open and equal world, so does the music. It is a comforting and pleasant sign of the changing landscape of the world and our culture.
The 1990’s, a beautiful year. I was born (1991), the dawn of the Information Age began, and a period of peace and growing prosperity started as the threat of Cold War conflict ended. It’s weird to think that people born in this decade have never experienced life without the Internet, myself included. The Internet became commercially available in 1991 and allowed information to be publicly accessed quickly and easily by anyone with a connection. The rise of the Internet and public sharing was influential to forming how the music scene is shaped today.
Popular music in the 1990’s saw teen pop and dance-pop continue to emerge out of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Hip-hop continued to grow and be highly successful as the 90’s represented the genre’s golden age.
Rock music retained its popularity, yet new versions of it emerged. Unlike the New Wave and glam metal that dominated the scene of the time, grunge, alternative rock, and British pop took over. Punk music also attained success through pop punk and ska punk. During the 1990’s, country music’s mainstream popularity became so great that Time magazine devoted a cover story detailing the genre’s history and reasons for its growing popularity. The 1990’s seemed to be a coming out party of sorts for many music genres, giving it a feel of great genre diversity.
Already popular with college kids in a cult sense, Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ catapulted them into worldwide popularity. The album Nevermindbecame a surprise success in late 1991 because of this lead single and by January 1992, had replaced Michael Jackson’s album Dangerous at number one on the Billboard charts. This single helped launch the popularity of Seattle grunge music and many alternative rock bands became commercially successful. Many major labels actively courted bands like Jane’s Addiction, Alice in Chains, Dinosaur Jr., R.E.M, Stone Temple Pilots, Sublime and Pearl Jam. The Red Hot Chili Peppers album Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991) was also instrumental in the rise of this genre of alternative rock. The popularity of grunge music that bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam brought made many bands uncomfortable. Both Nirvana and Pearl Jam would shy away from their success, however their rawness and desire to be less polished only whetted the public’s appetite for more music of the same type. Unfortunately for everyone, the death of Kurt Cobain in early 1994, as well as the touring problems for Pearl Jam, marked the decline of the grunge genre.
Overall, Green Day’s Album Dookiewas responsible for pop punk becoming commercially viable. In the mid 1990’s, pop punk underwent a resurgence as independent record labels emerged, often run by people in bands in order to release their own music and that of their friends. Bands to rise due to the success of Green Day and rise of independent labels include Blink-182, The Offspring, and Weezer. This genre of pop punk is pretty much a staple of society and many bands of this era were being offered lucrative contracts to leave their independent record labels. This genre has remained popular in America through the remainder of the 1990’s, the entire 2000’s and the 2010’s.
Dr. Dre’s 1992 album The Chronic provided a template for modern gangsta rap. Due to the success of his album and Death Row Records, West Coast hip hop dominated hip hop during the early 1990’s, along with The Notorious B.I.G. on the East coast. Hip hop became the best selling music genre by the mid 1990’s. The mid-nineties marked a high-point but also its most tragic for hip hop. The mid 1990’s represented the deaths of 2Pac and Biggie, which many believe were killed as a result of the East Coast – West Coast hip hop rivalry. By the end of the decade, attention turned back towards dirty south and crunk, with artists such as Outkast, Ludacris, and Lil’ Wayne.
I usually only do three music canon’s per decade, but there are many more that were very influential for this era of music. Here is a small sample of bands that helped influence their genre: (band – genre)
This was one of the most difficult decades for me to narrow down which canons were the most influential, but very enjoyable to write about and do research on. I listened to a lot of songs that made me think back and reminisce. If you have any other additions you think fit better, don’t hesitate to leave a comment!
Ah, the 2000’s. A mere twelve years ago a new millennium was born and an era had come to an end. The 90’s style of bright, loud colors and mom jeans on teenage girls was dying out along with boy bands and a unique style of alternative rock. Insert indie related genres, hip-hop dominance and electronic dance house music. Don’t get me wrong, the 90’s dominated genres weren’t like the dinosaurs. They were still were very popular. Alternative rock, pop and contemporary R&B were still successes in music throughout the decade.
Unfortunately for music, the 2000’s also marked the decade of least creative success. Previous eras introduced new styles and a foundation for a transition to a new sound. The biggest new introduction that swept the nation was auto-tune, and that wasn’t beneficial and (thankfully) did not last long. The 2000’s brought us Eminem, southern rap, post-grunge and a new style of pop.
Hip-hop dominated the 2000’s but slowly has infused pop into it, even having rapper Nas declare it the end of a genre. Post Tupac and Biggie, rap and hip-hop has definitely mixed into more of a pop sound. The early 2000’s still had Eminem, Wu-Tang Clan, UGK, and Outkast, however the mid-2000s might have been the death date that Nas spoke about. The emergence of Lil’ Wayne, then Wiz Khalifa, Mac Miller and Drake has pushed out conscious rap and imported party rap with light beats and poppy tunes. I’m not hating on it at all, but it is drastically different than hip-hop of earlier.
Not much has changed, but let’s move onto the landmarks of this decade and explore more how this time in music was shaped.
I have to admit this first. Full disclaimer: The Black Keys may be my favorite band and I may get too excited writing about them. Anyways, The Black Keys answered the decades lack of true rock, soul, blues-infused music. With “Tighten Up”, the general population was introduced to old-school rock and roll. A blues sound with a modern feel, The Black Keys re-opened an old door for the present generation to utilize. Now, I know this barely counts as a music canon of the 2000’s because it entered the contest in the last year, but if you look at the changing landscape of music, you can attribute the changes thanks to The Black Keys. There is a growing emphasis on rawness and true recording. Less studio fiddling and more of the true essence of what the musician actually sounds like. Musicians like Gary Clark Jr. (also one of my favorites) are beginning to emerge thanks to the popularity of the genre of music that The Black Keys have ignited. By fusing the sound Muddy Waters and R.L. Burnside with garage rock, The Black Keys have helped revolutionize modern rock music.
A mix between indie and electronic, MGMT’s ‘Electric Feel’ overlapped genres and stood as an individual amid a mess of sickeningly similar pop music of the time. With crossing expressionisms and unique instrumentals, this wide fusion of music fed off many genres and helped lead artists to think outside the box. Following indie rock artists like Modest Mouse and Franz Ferdinand and combining them with Deadmau5 and their own unique synth sound, MGMT was able to cross borders and create a new sound. The success of ‘Electric Feel’ help spawn success to artists like Empire of the Sun and more recently, Foster the People and Alex Clare. Now, MGMT did not influence the dubstep movement (that is more Skrillex and Bassnectar), but by creating an electronic fusion, it only helped its popularity.
The Shins ‘New Slang’ was released in 2001, but did not gain popularity until 2004 by being included in the soundtrack for the movie “Garden State.” ‘New Slang’ helped raise the popularity of indie rock. Combine the early to mid 2000s success of The Shins with Modest Mouse, Arcade Fire, and Vampire Weekend, and you have the makings of a blooming new mainstream genre. A few years later and Mumford and Sons ‘The Cave’ pushes the pile of the ledge and radio now overflows with indie rock pop. From Young the Giant to Florence and the Machine to Of Monsters and Men, the increasing amount of indie being popularized and created is a positive sign. With indie becoming more of a focal point of music, more creativity is immediate and fresh to the ears. But if indie is now mainstream, is it still considered indie? What will the hipsters say?
Overall, the 2000’s were great. Nothing new until the end of the decade, but the creative juices are there. With The Black Keys, Indie Rock, and some nice electronic influences leading the way, I know that more music with a fresh scent is on the way and am looking for new bands and artists to emerge soon.