10 Years, 100 Songs: #80. “I Watched the World Float to the Dark Side of the Moon”
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on July 10, 2009
Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.
This is certainly going to be one of my shorter entries on the list, because truth told, I don’t have a lot to say about this song or band. Really, how much is there to be said about Three Doors Down? If this decade had a band to represent the “And the Cradle Will Rock” corrollary–a conceit presented by Chuck Klosterman* stating that if you lined up every song in the history of popular music from best to worst, the titular Van Halen song would be squarely in the middle, making every song better than it “good” and worse “bad”–it’d have to be 3 Doors Down. They mucked about the 00s making music that defined mediocrity, with megahits like “Here Without You” and “When I’m Gone” that were never exactly off-putting, but which became totally interchangable in your head, and which you wouldnt recognize on the radio until they got to the chorus, no matter how many times you’d heard them. They had boring titles, they made boring videos, and if you could name a single member of their band (or recognize any one of them on the street), that’s one more than I.
Yet, this list would feel woefully incomplete without the inclusion of “Kryptonite.” Maybe it’s because it sort of set the standard for MOR rock in the 00s–if for no other reason than because it came first, positively owning the year 2000 across countless radio formats. Maybe it’s because it’s one of the last songs that I remember really getting into before I underwent my pop blackout period to learn the joys of Rolling Stone canonism, Pitchfork snobbery (back when they actually were snobby, often unapologetically so) and spending $15 on a 12″ New Order single because the cover art was pretty. Maybe it’s because I know all the words to the song, but never spent a single split second thinking about what any of them actually mean. Maybe it’s because it feels slightly more credible than including follow-up hit “Loser,” which I also really like but have even less of an idea as to why (aside from the fact that the guitar part is vaguely reminiscent of the unplugged version of Alice in Chains’ “Got Me Wrong”–that’s right, two straight AIC references on this list, and who knows how long that streak will go).
Maybe it’s just a pretty good song? It must be, right? It’s got the things that good songs should have–a decent intro, a good build up, an ace chorus, memorable lyrics, that whole bit. It just feels kind of weird to talk so unreservedly positively about 3 Doors Down, since in fact, they represented the end of the line for grunge music, the genre whose leading lights and legions of followers were responsible for the music that first made me love music. In the best hands, grunge was heavy, powerful stuff–occasionally slow and occasionally somewhat unmelodic, but nonetheless emotional, personal and often deeply urgent stuff. By the time the genre got filtered through Stone Temple Pilots, Candlebox, Live and Creed on down to 3 Doors Down (either post-post-grunge or post-post-post-grunge, depending on your definitive timeline), it was no longer heavy, powerful, emotional, personal or deeply urgent–all we had left was “slow and occasionally somewhat unmelodic.”
But for one thing, you’d have to acknowledge that “Kryptonite” was by far the band’s finest moment. Not nearly as draggy or morose as most of their later songs, the song even has a certain energy to it, propelled by the martial-sounding drumming and the the reverb-heavy guitar work, and the closest that vocalist ______ ______ would ever come to writing actually memorable lyrics. And as previously stated, you also have to sort of marvel at the thing structurally–the way the song gradually builds up throughout the first verse, gradually adding in instruments and creating tension by mixing in those stray, crescendoing notes of guitar feedback. It sounds like it’s about ready to bust open, but like pros, the band makes you wait until the end of the second verse for that, as ….. starts to yell the last lines, and the song explodes into the chorus.
And yeah, the chorus. “If I go crazy then will you still call me Superman? / If I’m alive and well will you be there holding my hand? / I’ll keep you by my side with my superhuman might / Kryptonite.” Fear of death? Relationship insecurity? Comic book fantasies? All of the above? I dunno, and I don’t really want to think about it too much. But it sounds great, blasted at the top of my lungs, at least–especially if you’ve got someone else there to do the harmonies on the ends of the lines with you. It’s one of the biggest choruses to be found in the 00s, and if it doesn’t quite match the previous decade’s anthems either for thematic urgency or lighter-waving power-balladry, then well, that just meant that its charms were more uniquely of this decade. Personally, I can’t imagine 00s rock without this song.
Brad Arnold. I actually think I knew that one once upon a time.
*Though Chuck’s VH point is decent, he couldn’t really be much wronger about “Godzilla” being a song more deserving of the spot “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” holds in the BOC discography, so don’t get the idea that I endorse the entire article.
The List So Far:
100. Green Day – “Jesus of Suburbia”
99. The Ying Yang Twins – “Wait (The Whisper Song)”
98. Crazytown – “Butterfly”
97. Taylor Swift – “Teardrops on My Guitar”
96. The Fray – “Over My Head (Cable Car)”
95. Fergie – “Fergalicious”
94. Lidstrom – “I Feel Space”
93. Chevelle – “Send the Pain Below”
92. T-Pain f/ Yung Joc – “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’)”
91. The Arctic Monkeys – “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor”
90. Cassie – “Me & U”
89. Nelly Furtado – “Maneater”
88. Mike Jones f/ Slim Thug & Paul Wall – “Still Tippin’”
87. Bat for Lashes – “Daniel”
86. The Darkness – “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”
85. Dynamite Hack – “Boyz n the Hood”
84. DJ Khaled f/ T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Birdman, Lil’ Wayne & Akon – “We Takin’ Over”
83. Matchbox20 – “Bent”
82. The Game f/ 50 Cent – “Hate It or Love It”
81. 311 – “Amber”
80. 3 Doors Down – “Krptonite”