Friday, September 2, 2011

Princeton; 10 years later (the music)

[Part 2 of a series of blog entries looking at the first year of my life spent in Princeton, West Virginia, in 2001. I'll look at my home life, school, pop culture, relationships, basically everything going on in my life one decade ago. Click here to read part 1.]

As you saw from the last blog, the year of 2001 was an interesting time in my life. I'll get back to more of the narrative form of the last blog later. For now, I want to focus on the music scene in 2001. Or, my take on the music scene ten years ago and what I was into.

As a young child, I listened to what my mom listened to on the radio. She liked rock and classic rock. As we read in the last blog, she started getting into Country music in 2001. Around 11 years old, I discovered "pop" music and got into that scene. "Electric" 102.7 was my favorite radio station around that time, for anybody who might know what I'm talking about. I liked what was "cool." I'm not embarrassed to admit that I liked the Spice Girls. Well, maybe a little bit. But, not as embarrassed as I should be. Later in high school was when I started to experiment with what I liked and explored different musical genres.

I moved to Princeton and didn't really have a lot to do. I didn't have any friends. I didn't meet a single person my age until the school year started. I moved to Princeton in June. I didn't get any friends until September. Summer was mostly spent sitting on the couch. MTV and VH1 were my friends that summer. Like a lot of people, music was an escape for me. In 2001, MTV and VH1 both played a lot more music than they presently do. MTV played it during late night and into the morning, then had Total Request Live at 3 p.m. and sometimes did music-related things at night. VH1, circa 2001, played music videos pretty much all day.

I'll start with some new bands that hit the scene in 2001.

One of my first memories of being in Princeton was discovering Incubus. Summer 2001 was when their biggest commercial hit "Drive" came out. The band looked like nothing I had really seen before. Their sound was very mellow and easy-going. The video was like nothing I had ever seen before. I later realized that they had copied the format of "Take on Me" by A-Ha. But, still, it was cool.

A little band out of Canada stormed onto the scene in 2001 and - though nobody expected it - became one of the biggest bands of the last decade. Nickelback's "How You Remind Me" was released that summer and became a huge hit. I don't think the song really stands up 10 years later, but at the time, I loved that song and thought it was awesome.

One band whose music I feel has stood up over the last decade has been Staind. "It's Been A While" came out that summer. It told a really deep story and I liked the emotion that lead singer Aaron Lewis exhibited. That CD was the first one I bought after moving to Princeton. They're a great band. Click here to read about how I wanted one of their songs as the theme at my high school graduation.

I hate to admit that I liked Uncle Kracker in 2001. But, I did. I was young and foolish. "Follow Me" was a big radio hit. I had that CD too. There was one cool song on there that he did with Kid Rock, but other than that, I don't remember much from the disk.

One of the best rock groups of the last decade hit the mainstream in 2001 and that was the White Stripes. I feel like this group can do no wrong. They started off strong with "Fell in Love with a Girl" and followed it up in 2001 with "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" and never stopped making great music.

In 2001, VH1 started this deal where they would spotlight upcoming new musicians. It had very mixed results over the years. Some went on to greatness, while most were never heard from again. I think the problem with the feature was that the first two artists showcased - John Mayer & Alicia Keys - went on to have great careers and it was tough to follow that.

Honestly, I didn't like John Mayer at first. I thought that "I wanna run through the halls of my high school" song was stupid. He's redeemed himself nicely over the years, to the point where he's one of my favorite singer/songwriters now. I'm not even afraid to admit it - I cried one time last year while listening to "Heartbreak Warfare." It was because of a girl. I met her in 2001. We'll talk about her in another blog.

I still don't like Alicia Keys. There are only two songs that she is featured in that I enjoy - the one where Jay-Z loves New York and the one Jack White (of White Stripes fame) wrote for a James Bond film. One of my strangest memories involving Alicia Keys from 2001 is when she performed on the Late Show and David Letterman mispronounced her album title Songs in A-Minor as "Songs in uh minor," thinking it was the word "A" as opposed to the musical term "A-Minor." His sidekick Paul Schaefer corrected him. Hilarity ensued.

Linkin Park broke out in 2001 in a huge way. Their Hybrid Theory album wound up being the biggest-selling album of the year. "Crawling" and "In the End" were huge hits for them.

Some established acts also released news albums in 2001.

One of my favorite bands in 2001 was Sugar Ray. Something that has earned me ridicule from my friends for openly admitting is that one of my favorite bands in 2011 is Sugar Ray. Everybody has that one thing that people look at them and go "Really? You're into that?" For me, it's Sugar Ray. I love that band. "When It's Over" came out in 2001. I'll stop now before I dig myself a hole. I love Sugar Ray.

No Doubt's "Hey Baby" was big in the summer of 2001. I didn't care much for it. I still liked it. It's still a good song. It was the start of a new image for Gwen Stefani, one which I didn’t care much for. I've always had a thing for pink-haired Gwen Stefani from the late '90s. It's not quite the same, but I have blue-haired Katy Perry to fill that void for me in 2011.

Sheryl Crow released "Soak up the Sun" that year. This was the first time I really got into her music. It was also the first time I realized how attractive Sheryl Crow was. I had heard her earlier stuff, but didn't really enjoy it at the time. Over the years, my stance has changed. It's the opposite now - I don't like "Soak up the Sun," the most pop-sounding song she's recorded, and actually enjoy her other stuff more.

Destiny's Child came out with "Bootylicious" in 2001. Obviously, that song doesn't stand up 10 years later. If you play the video on mute, that stands up 10 years later. Usually, telling people that I love Sugar Ray makes them question this next point, but I love beautiful women and that video featured quite a few of them.

Smash Mouth came out with their last hurrah in 2001. They had one last gasp of relevance on the Shrek soundtrack with covering "I'm a Believer," but their last album hit came in 2001 with "Pacific Coast Party." This brings to mind a story.

It was the late '90s and I was in the eighth grade. I don't remember the music teacher's name, but she's stuck with me over the years. She openly admitted several times to being a feminist. When we had group activities, she would split the class into boys & girls and would then help the girls. She's honestly the main reason I roll my eyes whenever women tell me that they're a feminist. I picture her and it sours the idea of feminism in my head.

One day in class she decided to enlighten us to the demonic and drug side of music. She told us that innocent-sounding things really had hidden meanings. That band KISS? It stood for Knights in Satan's Service. Even worse, the band AC/DC. Anti-Christ/Demon-Child. The Beatles? Drugs. I remember the collective gasp/eyebrow-raising of the entire class as she made her next point - "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds? L... S... D..."

When I first heard Smash Mouth's "Pacific Coast Party," my first thought was "P... C... P..."

People like that shouldn't be allowed to teach children. Most of that shit wasn't true anyway.

Several notable musical happenings happened in 2001. That was the year Mariah Carey had a mental breakdown, televised live on TRL. She just randomly showed up, acted weird and irrational, then checked into a hospital a couple days later. Also on TRL that year, it was announced that AJ from the Backstreet Boys had checked into rehab. 2001 was the year that singer Aaliyah died in a plane crash. I liked the singles she had released up to that point and I feel like she could have been a consistent player in the music scene into the next decade. 2001 was also the year that MTV turned 20-years-old. They made a big deal out of that. I haven't heard them mention anything about recently turning 30. I guess being 30 isn't cool.

I feel like that's a good stopping point for now. I'll be back later with more adventures from 2001.

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