The thing that is interesting to me about all the lists I’ve read about music in the Aughts is how little the lists reflect the impact of the internet. Reading most lists, you wouldn’t think that the industry changed as much as it did. You’d also think that, reading other lists, that the industry figured out the internet immediately and it became just another promotional tool for them to give you whatever it is they’ve decided is hot music.
Napster started in June 1999, just six months before the new millennium and the music industry has never been the same. Illegal downloading meant that people could hear an artist’s work before it was done. They could hear songs that artists never intended for them to hear. And they could hear multiple versions of a song that ultimately went to another artist (how many people downloaded Posh Spice’s version of Beyonce’s Resentment?).
What this meant is that the single had even less meaning than it did in the past, though the industry and your favorite artist will never tell you that. Indeed, the minute that iTunes and other online music services offered you the ability to pick which song you want to own, singles just became different animals. Oh sure, we still had huge singles in the decade that everyone bought and then couldn’t escape for years – Yeah!, Crazy In Love, and Hey Ya come to mind – but the point is, how the consumer interacts with an artist shifted completely. Many artists began to release as singles album tracks that were buzzworthy on the internet in hopes of increasing sales (Mariah Carey seems to live and die by her message boards, which explains the yo-yoing of her career of late).
It also meant that the industry’s devaluation of the album was complete. Oh sure, people still buy albums, but with the ability to pick and choose what you want, there was even less incentive for the biggest artists to make albums a complete experience. More then ever, what we got from corporate artists were three or four “radio singles” and a bunch of lamentable album tracks (you know, the ones that artists like Britney, Rihanna and nem point to as evidence of their “growth” because the songs might have an actual bridge or something).
For me, as a music lover, it was a wonderful time to discover music online I might not otherwise have heard. I was able to follow the rise of homo hop, get copies of shelved albums by artists like Joi Gilliam and Nicole Wray, get obscure albums by Ricky Bell, LaTocha Scott, and Mark Middleton, and find artists who had been discarded by the industry but were making music on their own terms (Shanice, Smoke E. Digglera and Digital Black from Playa). And let’s not forget how R&B artists have embraced the “mixtape” concept as a way to put out music that perhaps the label didn’t want you to hear or just to keep their names in your mind (Teedra Moses, Trey Songz, Amerie).
What this meant was that I had something else to compare to whatever it was the industry was throwing at me. It meant that I didn’t have to fall for the othering of British “phenoms” who were ripping off American Black music unconvincingly. It meant that I didn’t have to be mired in the industry’s mistaken belief that artists were only as good as the song Rich Harrison, Timbaland, Pharrell, Rodney Jerkins, or whoever gave them. It meant that what I listened to was more driven by me than the industry. Great as the 90s were, I was largely at the mercy of the industry. That is simply not the case anymore – even for consumers (and artists) who live and die by the Billboard charts.
I say all this to say that my list reflects very much my experience with black music in the Aughts. It is not a list that is designed to rank the biggest commercial albums of the decade and then find creative ways of equating art and commerce. Which is not to say that there aren’t some obvious choices on here. But this is my list, not a list that necessarily reflects the perspective of the average music consumer.
You been warned.
NOTE – The list is long, so its broken into two parts. This post has the first 13 albums.
Seriously – why do other groups even try?
The irony about En Vogue is that they didn’t change the game nearly as much as they probably should have. It’s almost like every other set of girls just said “we ain’t even gonna try to compete, that ‘actually being able to all sing and harmonize and share lead vocals’ lane belongs to En Vogue and Xscape, we’ll go over here and be broke ass Supremes.”
Don’t you think?
Anywho, the point here is:
- En Vogue is back
- Them voices ain’t changed a bit.
- Cindy Herron Braggs does not age (and is she taller?)
- Dawn can sing the same song over and over for 20 years and find new wrinkles in it and make you think you’re hearing it for the first time.
- I CANNOT WAIT FOR THEM TO BRING THE FIRE!!!!
Note: the fire is not a Timbaland, Pharrell, or Polow produced joint, ladies. Call Mike City and Ray Ray NOW.
There is quite a bit of chatter about the kind of album that Michael Jackson should be doing. The current producer/songwriter names rumored to be working on Mike’s comeback album range from Ne-Yo (naturally) to Akon to will.i.am.
So I’ve decided to put together my dream list of collaborators for Mike.
Full disclosure: my favorite Mike album is Dangerous, though I do think that creatively Off The Wall is his strongest (only because Dangerous is overlong and the Free Willy song and Heal The World are on there).
That said, I don’t want him to recreate either of those albums.
But I do want him to go into this album with the same mindset that created those albums. That is: I want him to collaborate with the best songwriters of this generation to make an album that is both current and timeless.
Key words: current, timeless, songwriters.
Anyone who knows me knows I can’t stand Justin Timberlake. He’s the 21st century Elvis. He steals outright and then gets indignant if you notice. And Black folks seem to love him unconditionally, which hurts my heart.
This video is the latest instance of Timberlake’s disgusting White entitlement. But this “joke” comes off mean-spirited and not at all funny.
Do you get to “joke” about it when you couldn’t wait to apologize and leave Janet flailing in the winds of public opinion? Or is it that you get to “joke” about it because you did what you were “supposed” to do and be a good little boy?
I mean, let’s not forget that Janet played hook chick to him (her first fuckin mistake…of all the people to be hook chick for). And that’s how he does her?
And now he has the audacity to “joke” about it?!???!!
This “joke” is in extremely poor taste. The “wardrobe malfunction” had real consequences for everyone, except Justin. Janet’s career has never really recovered. And the FCC has been more involved in television broadcasting than it has been in decades. The response was one of the most prominent examples of how race and gender work in concert to rob black women of their humanity and the benefit of the doubt.
I mean, he rips of her bodice and she’s the vixen?
I just don’t know what’s worse. The joke or the fact that he’s doing it by yet again ripping off Black music.
After deserting Janet, ripping off her brother for Justified, ripping off Prince and Robbie Williams’ swagger for FutureSex/LoveSound, and then making fun of Prince on the Golden Globes…there seems to be no end to how much Justin is feelin himself and how little regard he has for the people and the music that has made him a superstar.
I don’t need the reverence that Usher and Ne-Yo and nem give, but at least acknowledge that you walk in forms you didn’t create. Acknowledge that your popularity has as much to do with you being White as it does with your talent. Stop frontin like the shit is new just because you are singing it. Stop fronting like we don’t all know that most of what works in your music has more to do with Tim and Pharrell, than anything that you bring to the table. A little humility goes a long way.
I didn’t think I could possibly loathe the little poseur any more than I did before.