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Archive for November, 2009

10 Years, 100 Songs: #16. “If I Could Fall Into the Sky…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on November 30, 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.

I know you remember the scene. Even if you missed actually seeing the Naughty Oughties cinematic standard-bearer that was White Chicks–and if so you’re misisng out, on something, probably–you no doubt were inundated with the endless previews for it on network TV, so you probably saw the scene at least a dozen times. A car full of the titular group (two of which are actually Wayans Brothers in whiteface/drag, undercover as a couple of WASP heiresses for reasons long since lost to time) are listening to the radio when Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” comes on. The girls (who are actually Kim Kelly from Freaks and Geeks, Deb from Dexter and one of the first chicks to get killed in Valentine) declare it Their Jam, and start to sing along to it in perfect unison–minus, of course, the two Wayanses, who stammer awkwardly through the chorus. Then Valentine girl changes the channel to a BIG and 50 Cent duet (which I swear was actually “Get Low” in the previews, a much more logical choice) and the undercover black dudes start rapping along, much to the (initial) consternation of said White Chicks.

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #17. “Gonna Have You Naked By the End of This Song…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on November 24, 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.

The funny thing about Justin Timberlake–well, not funny, but mildly notable–is that I don’t even remember him being a real standout member of N Sync back in the day. You’d see the monstrous success that followed in his solo career and think that he probably always seemed like he was biding his time in his boy band life, just humoring the other members and management until all the pieces were in place for him to make a clean break for a solo career, like Beyonce with Destiny’s Child. And maybe that was true if you were paying close attention, but to me, he was just one of the guys (well, one of the guys who happened to be dating Britney Spears, but still). To find out that he was going solo seemed like a matter of little consequence–boy bandery in general seemed on its way out, and Nick Carter’s solo album (released just a couple weeks before JT’s solo debut Justified) came out to predictably little fanfare. I don’t see how anyone could have known that Justin Timberlake was about to become Justin Timberlake.

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #18. “And Now There is This Distance…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on November 20, 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.

Ever since I started getting back into basketball, there’s only one phrase that comes to mind whenever I think of Interpol: Draft bust. Interpol arrived on the scene in the summer of 2002 with a self-titled EP of three songs, which was greeted with a whole lot of Joy Division comparisons and a great deal more rapturous acclaim. The hype was tremendous, and it seemed mostly deserved, but even debut album Turn on the Bright Lights–which relied heavily on two of the songs from the EP–was maddeningly inconsistent, scattered with moments both beautiful and stupefying. Then like The Strokes, Interpol never really evolved particularly–but unlike the Strokes, they were never reliably good enough at any one thing to coast for the rest of the decade. Interpol ended the Naughty Oughties like Kwame Brown, Darius Miles, or any other of a number of preps-to-pros disappointments: Endless potential, flashes of brilliance, little to no development.

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #19. “Power, Music, Electric Revival”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on November 18, 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.

I don’t want to sound too negative in a series that should be mostly if not entirely about love, but I have to get it out of the way first and foremost: OutKast were probably the biggest disappointment of the Naughty Oughties. There was greatness there, no doubt–maybe too much of it, too soon. The frenzy surrounding the release of Speakerboxxx / The Love Below, hot off the juggernaut success of lead single “Hey Ya!,” was like nothing I can remember before. OutKast seemed prepared–destined, even–to become the first musical act since Nirvana (possibly Eminem) to assume the status of being both the most popular and critically beloved artist in the world, a feat only a handful of outfits have done in all of pop history. They seemed a perfect fit for the position–a roots-grounded, forward-thinking rap duo with grand aspirations who could appeal to just about all markets. The world was theirs for the taking. And they just couldn’t seal the deal.

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #20. “Speak to Me…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on November 17, 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.

Some songs just manage to defy the odds. The All-American Rejects never seemed like a particularly notable band–“Swing, Swing” was pretty underrated, sure, and “Dirty Little Secret” had a fun video, even if the song itself was kind of shockingly mean-spirited, but little about them seemed destined for any specific greatness. And honestly, that didn’t even change all that much the first couple times I heard “Move Along.” But the success of that song was that same kind of slow-burn effect that I talked about with “Lazy Eye,” where the song just kind of seeps into the pop culture of the time (the song only peaked at #15 on the pop charts, but spent an astounding 38 weeks in the top 50) until it eventually feels like an inextricable part of its DNA . Soon enough, it was a lot easier to recognize “Move Along” for what it was–one of the ultimate anthems of the emo era.

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #21. “Is This More Than You Bargained For Yet?”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on November 16, 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.

I remember hearing about Fall Out Boy a bunch throughout the first half of the 00s, although I couldn’t have told you a thing about them. They were one of those bands that clearly had a cult following, but whose cult involved no one that I actually interacted with in my day-to-day life. Still, I could tell that the buzz around them was definitely building, and when I saw MTV2 was advertising for the video premiere of “Sugar, We’re Going Down,” I knew that if the song was any good, it’d probably be the thing that broke them into the mainstream and actually forced me to listen to them for the first time. Needless to say, it was. It was really, really good.

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Clap Clap ClapClapClap: What Would LeBron James’s Expiring Contract Be Worth?

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on November 12, 2009

lebron1

Although I am by no means a LeBron James fan–he seems somehow lacking in character to me, something I unreasonably demand from my NBA stars–I am still, like many people, absolutely fascinated with the drama surrounding the expiration of his current contract in the summer of 2010. It seems unlikely that there has ever been a free agency so anticipated in professional sports, to the point where entire franchises have started planning their sales pitches years in advance, and speculation about the end game has reached such a fever pitch that JFK-level conspiracy theories have abounded about potential outcomes. Will he stick with the Cavs? Will he get seduced by playing at MSG with the Knicks? Will he hook up with Jay-Z and the crazy Russian billionaire in New Jersey? Will he invade Kobe’s back yard with the clippers? Will he join the Kings because fuck it, nobody expects him to join the Kings? Nobody knows, and try as we might to decode his cryptic statements on the matter, LeBron isn’t telling us. We’ll just have to see in the summer of 2010.

But then again–what if we didn’t have to wait so long to see LeBron on the move? What if the Cavaliers decided that the likelihood of LeBron hanging around past the summer of ’10 was so low, that they decided to cut their losses, and see what they could get for him before he signed with another team for nothing? What would other teams–second and third-tier NBA powers, maybe, teams that aren’t championship contenders as currently constituted, but very well might become one if they added the best player on the planet to their roster–give up for only a guaranteed half-season with him? How much of their future would they mortgage to get a chance to play with the King?

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There’s Gonna Be a Showdown: Mad Men vs. Sopranos Divorce Episodes

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on November 11, 2009

Sopranos WhitecapsDraper

After a season mostly consisting of tense meandering punctuated by brief moments of inexplicable action, we finally got a Mad Men season finale (“Shut the Door. Have a Seat.”) that justified just about everything that came before it this season. If you haven’t watched it yet, probably based to stop reading now, since there’ll probably be spoilers, although the actual result of the action really isn’t as important as the scene episode itself, which is quite possibly the best of the series to date. But throughout the episode, which largely focused on the demise of Don and Betty’s marriage (as well as a concurrent plot about Don and the other bigwigs at Sterling Cooper plotting their escape from the company before it gets sold again), I was reminded of another classic TV episode from this decade–“Whitecaps,” the season four finale of The Sopranos, which saw Carmela and Tony Soprano part ways for the first time.

The similarities between the two shows have always been striking to me–not entirely coincidental, since Matt Weiner was so heavily involved in both shows–especially in the protagonist and his wife. Tony and Don were hardly carbon copies of each other, but certainly cut from the same cloth–family men in an often shady industry who regularly indulged in narcissism and infidelity. Meanwhile, Carmela and Betty were both housewives who learned to live with a certain number of their husband’s known dalliances, but eventually reached a tipping point where they decided it was time for a clean break. “Whitecaps” and “Shut the Door” were both season finales that saw the tension bubbling under (and occasionally over) the surface in each relationships come entirely to the forefront, with transfixing and often devastating results. (In the most direct parallel, the final break in both relationships came with Betty/Carmela insisting “I don’t love you anymore,” although in Med Men that line actually came in the penultimate episode).

Of course, only one episode can go down as the greatest breakup episode in 00s television. Which one shall it be? Break it down, one time.

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #22. “This is Really Happening…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on November 9, 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.

Perhaps the greatest testament to Radiohead’s excellence and stature in the rock cannon has been how little fun they’ve become to talk about. Like no other band since maybe The Beatles, serious music listeners (and by serious I guess I mean “willing to discuss it ad nauseum over the internet”) have debated the finer points of the Radiohead discography, mythos and just about everything else to do with them to the point where someone bringing them up in conversation now elicits something of a shudder. (Of course, that didn’t stop me from devoting an entire week to talking about them before the release of In Rainbows two years ago–that’s just the kind of selflessness you get here at Intensities in Ten Suburbs). Radiohead’s greatness has become ridiculously close to just being assumed at this point, and much of that has to do with Kid A–their 2000 artistic left-turn that solidified their status as the most critically beloved band of the last 20 years.

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #23. “Here’s the Thing…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on November 6, 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.

And the award for “Most Unexpectedly Beloved Song of the Naughty Oughties” goes to… Nobody could’ve expected this happening at the time. After winning the inaugural season of American Idol, it seemed like singing treacly ballads like the medicore “A Moment Like This” and lukewarm teen-pop blasts like the abhorrent “Miss Independent” would be the definition of Clarkson’s post-Idol career–a career of pre-teen heroism and Adult Contemporary ownage, without ever really crossing over to any other audience of significance.  Even her first single off 2004’s Breakaway was the plodding, feel-good title track, which I actually kind of liked, but hardly probed any sort of new ground for Ms. Clarkson.  We never saw “Since U Been Gone” coming–a song which even in its use of the slangy “U” instead of “You” showed more rebellion and attitude than Clarkson had in her entire career up to that point. (Unless you considered From Justin to Kelly an act of revolution, which I guess would be fairly arguable).

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