The 00s – What does this decade sound like?

24 Feb

Riddle me this, Scenesters – what do you think this decade, the 2000s, sounds like?

If someone says, “an old 50s rock tune,” “an 80s dance number” or a “throwback to 90s rock,” chances are you know exactly what they mean. Each decade, especially since the 50s, has had its own style of music that defined the era. Doo-wop ruled the 50s, synths took over the 80s, jangly-guitar grunge dominated the 90s…and so on. Even though there were more than just one genre of music going on, one certain style generally defined the years.

I started thinking about this idea this past weekend, as I listened to the newest Kings of Leon CD and its last single, “Use Somebody” (click here to see the video).

I like the song, but I thought, gosh, it sounds awfully big. I’d probably like it more if it were a third of its size…or wait, would I? Would the song work if it sounded any smaller? When you break it down, there’s really not much to it…so maybe that’s why the band made it sound so big?

And although massive, arena-sized music has been around for a while (hi, Queen), it seems like plenty of bands lately have been making these absolutely huge songs. Think: Coldplay, U2, The Killers, Nickelback, Kings of Leon, and that’s just the beginning.

And, really, I don’t know that I’m talking about a true throwback to “arena rock” from the 70s. When I think about the kind of music I’m hearing now, I think about that part in the book Stephen Chbosky’s “Perks of Being a Wallflower” where Charlie talks about riding in a truck with his friends, listening to a great song and feeling “infinite.” These songs are so massive, are often graceful and I think can make you feel “infinite.”

Characteristics include: chiming guitars, muffled “oh”‘s in the background, lyrics about a) how great life is b) staying strong c) that age-old question of being human or dancer c) who cares, really?, and an overall bombast, too-big-for-its-britches sound.

It seems like bands have been trying to make sounds bigger-sounding for a while now. Maybe it’s some bands ways of chasing after that elusive Bruce Springsteen sound (sorry, Killers, but I guess you’ll always be accused of that). Maybe they just want to sound huge and important.

And while I fell for such songs early on, now I feel as though most of these songs are empty. It’s as though there are all these huge elements to the song to hide the fact that there’s nothing going on emotionally behind those big guitar riffs and never-ending “oh”s.

Is this what the 00s will be known for?

But then I think about how genres such as country and rap have changed over the last 10 years. Country was completely pop there for a while, but thanks to talent like Ashton Shepherd and the emerging indie country scene (Hayes Carll, Justin Townes Earle, etc.), a more traditional sound is coming back to country.

Techno beats and robotic sounds are heavy in rap; just listen Kanye West’s latest work as well as, well, everything by T-Pain. Maybe the 00s will be known for Auto-Tune abuse.

Or will these years be known as the Decade Music Became Too Loud (not necessarily just big-sounding)?

What do you think will be the hallmark sound for the 00s?

5 Responses to “The 00s – What does this decade sound like?”

  1. Alex H February 25, 2009 at 12:14 am #

    For singers, screaming vocals in American rock and Jeff Buckley clones in British rock.

    Here’s Wikipedia’s take:

  2. beagle February 25, 2009 at 4:36 pm #

    I am not sure how I would define 2000’s.

    With the other decade’s there was a clear cut sound in them….2000’s is such a mix up now. With the introduction of online radio’s like Pandora, Indie Bands hitting it big with Myspace/Facebook……you just get SO MUCH now. In older decades you relied on radio or local pr or word of mouth…now you just send a tweet out on twitter and BANG thousands of people from all over know about you in a day.

    Maybe it will be known as the age of electronic – in the music and in the way it spreads. Honestly I do like some of the new stuff but sometimes it does seem that things are over sampled and synthesized.

  3. sheenabarnett February 25, 2009 at 4:47 pm #

    hmmm, interesting point there Alex. And kudos finding the wikipedia page for that – I googled this topic about a dozen times without finding anything very useful!

    You know, beagle, I came really close to making the same point in my blog. Everyone I know listens to such varied music because of the many different ways there are to discover music. I don’t know many folks who rely only on the radio or MTV/CMT for their music. Everyone can so customize what they listen to – like their own personal playlists – that it’s rare to find any two people who listen to basically the same genres.

    Also rare: songs that are huge, everywhere. We’ve certainly had a few in recent years (Gnarls Barkely’s “Crazy” or Rihanna’s “Umbrella”) but it’s rare that one song is so everywhere that literally almost everyone has heard it.

  4. ezradaisy February 28, 2009 at 4:31 pm #

    because i just got finished being sucked in by one: if there is no general sound to the 2000’s in 40 years when they’re making compilation cds to sell through time life, what will be on it? and will the even be able to create something that someone would purchase like they would the 80’s power ballads or the soft rock of the 70’s?

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