Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Favorite Album of the 2000s

I was thinking the other day about what is my favorite album of the 2000s decade. Some quick thought led me to five reasonable options: The Marshall Mathers LP by Eminem, Come and Get It by Rachel Stevens, Still Me, Still Now by Amy Diamond, Mass Romantic by The New Pornographers, and Breakaway by Kelly Clarkson. Let's go through the tale of the tape then:

Those five albums listed above were the five main contenders that came into my head immediately. Some distinguishing factors came out about all 5. The Marshall Mathers LP has really good lyrics, probably the best of the decade, and really catchy songs. But it's way too freakin' long! Plus the skits are annoying. Come and Get It is really fun pop, but there's no depths to enjoy or anything. The lyrics are never anything special, compared to say Ashlee Simpson, but I love all the songs. Still Me, Still Now is more of the same, glossy fun pop with not too much else to offer. Mass Romantic is the best indie album of the decade, which is why it leaped to mind, but I simply fear that it is just plain not as good as indie classics from the 90s like Alien Lanes or Holiday. Breakaway has really good lyrics and good songs, but I just fear that on a raw level I just do not love the songs on that album as much as I love the songs on the others.

There aren't any country albums this decade I've really loved. Neko Case's Furnace Room Lullaby is probably top 10 or top 20 of the decade for me but just not number one, and I've never gotten into any of her other albums. The other so-called alt country albums of the decade are almost entirely just mediocre indie rock albums with a very slight country twinge, at least in my opinion. Sara Evans' Born to Fly has really, really good singles but also a lot of filler. Montgomery Gentry's albums are all really good but none are too exciting. Big & Rich's debut clearly a classic but again just not a serious contender for #1.

I think of the five serious options, Mass Romantic drops out pretty early. It came to mind immediately because I love "Letter from an Occupant" and "Execution Day" and "The Body Says No", which is probably the best stretch of three consecutive songs on any album this decade. The problem is none of the other songs really jump up to the same level (some moments do like the outro to "Jackie") and there's other songs on the album like "To Wild Homes" and "Breakin' the Law" that I just really am not a huge fan of at all. Normally not a problem but when you get up to this level it should be all high. So Mass Romantic would come in at #5.

I think Still Me, Still Now and The Marshall Mathers LP drop out next. I actually genuinely love every single song on Still Me Still Now, but when it comes to mindless pop I just prefer Come and Get It for a couple reasons. Most importantly, the two best songs on Come and Get It are "I Said Never Again (But Here We Are)" and "Nothing Good about This Goodbye" compared to Still Me Still Now's offering of "Don't Cry Your Heart Out" and "All The Money in the World". Now I love "Don't Cry Your Heart Out" - I had it as the number two single of 2006 and if anything I like it even more today - and "All The Money in the World" is almost as good, but this is still a clear win for Come and Get It. Plus, and it's subtle, the worst tracks on Come and Get It are slightly better than the worst tracks on Still Me Still Now ("Diamonds" and "Big Guns"). All in all it's enough to knock Still Me Still Now to #4.

Marshall Mathers LP I actually have very little to expand on what I wrote above. It's got great lyrics that rotate between insightful and hilarious, and sometimes both at the same time. I just can't listen to the whole thing at once because it's so long and because the skits get old really fast. I like all of the songs on the album and can't really think of any blatant filler that just plainly needs to be cut, but they still should have cut about 3 or 4 songs off the album. Still, I like the collection of songs enough to get it all the way up to #3, which is impressive for an album that I almost never listen to all the way across.

Which brings us to the top two, and at this point it's just going to come down to some hand waving. Come and Get It is clearly a better collection of songs whereas Breakway has much better vocals, better lyrics, and is much more cohesive as an album. And that's the thing about Come and Get It - it has like 5 incredibly amazing songs, and all of the other songs are pretty good. I'm pretty much up to listening to it at any time, and even if I don't have time for a full album songs like "So Good" and "Negotiate With Love" and the two I listed above just haven't gotten old after many, many listens. Whereas Breakaway's songs have faded a bit more with repeat plays for me. But all in all there's no mood to it, no drama, no depth. It's just hitting the pleasure center directly to bring me the most enjoyment possible. I'm trying to think of something bad about the album to say, some reason why it's not #1, but it doesn't really exist. Maybe objectively I like it more than Breakaway, but it's just that I've put so much thought and so much emotion into Breakaway that I just can't put anything else at #1. That's why Rachel has to settle for #2, but it's a (very) strong #2!

So Breakaway. The thing about Breakaway is that it's the album that got me back into pop music in the first place. Prior to 2005 I was basically still an indie snob, and Kelly Clarkson showed me the joys of teen pop and, indeed, pop in general. So I have a deep personal connection to the album. And the devastating darkness, and the incredibly intricate drama, and the interesting stories and all of that just flows all throughout the album. It's an album that demands to be listened to with full attention. I have an old post where I explore Breakaway as a hidden concept album, which was written mostly in jest but the general point that the song lyrics are all great and related stands. So it's a pop album that inspires genuine thought from me. Which isn't to say I don't love the songs! None of the individual songs are up to the level of the other albums, but the worst songs are things like "You Found Me" and "Breakaway" and those are still pretty damn good songs. And, oh yeah, KC is a pretty good singer too. Anyways, even though it's probably the lesser collection of songs among all the top 5, its general importance in my history of music listening, cohesive mood, and good lyrics drive it all the way up to #1. No album has ever inspired as much emotion in me and most likely none ever will.

And yes I've heard indie like Wilco and crap like that which causes some hipsters to have emotional moments despite their cold, black hearts. Suffice to say I just don't care for it.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

whoo hoo! I definately have to agree that Breakaway is one of the best albums of the 2000's. The album just feels so complete. Im a little biased since I'm a fan, but I thought that My December was ten times better than Breakaway. IMO.

10:58 PM  
Blogger The Omnimodern Epoch said...

Glad that my S Club girl made the top 2! I'm surprised that Avril didn't even get a mention! Two solid albums with at least 4 top 10s! You know I'm not an album person but I'd probably pick Under My Skin. Also, what what are your thoughts about Future Sex/Love Sounds or Confessions both with 3 number 1s?

8:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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9:35 AM  

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