The 2000s. Nothing really changed, did it? Well, yes, it did. I guess this was the decade where, like many people, I fell out of love with the album. That strange artificial construct of musicians having to release their new songs in batches of an hour’s worth at a time has lingered on well past its sell-by date, due to artists and labels alike totally failing to understand their market.
Thanks to iTunes, iPods, Spotify and shuffle play, none of which existed ten years ago, I rarely listen to albums now. So the artist decided to write a batch of songs, then went into the studio to record them all in one go, and decided to release them all in one “buy the whole lot or nothing” batch? What’s this got to do with me? It’s all so archaic. My favourite writers don’t say: “I’m producing new material, but I’m going to wait until I’ve written ten columns/articles/books and then make you buy the whole lot in one go”, do they?
We all know why the album came about – it was a technology and distribution issue from the 50s and 60s – but it’s only the death throes of the vinyl LP’s digital replacement, the CD (and an industry which can’t imagine any other way of working) that keeps the album going. Once the CD has finally died, I’d imagine we’ll see a lot more musicians releasing songs as and when they record them. They’re probably afraid that we’d only buy the good songs, and they’d no longer be able to force us to buy filler material, but if they were clever, we’d probably spend even more on their art. I can think of dozens of acts I’d consider “subscribing” to if they said that from now on they’re going to release a new song, say, each month …and I bet the subscription would be more than 79p an “issue”.
But enough of now and the next decade. What of the last? The time when “all the money was being used on the end of the century party preparations” still seems fresh in the memory, but when you remind yourself that in 1999 we were just being introduced to the DVD, hardly anybody had heard of Google, and the first iPod was nearly two years away …it seems like another age. Music, however, changes less with each passing decade. The biggest-selling albums in 2000 were from acts such as ‘N Sync, Eminem, Britney Spears and Destiny’s Child, none of which sound at all dated today. Think about the changes between the starts and ends of the sixties or seventies, in comparison.
Anyway, like most people, whenever I see a “best of” list, I immediately start compiling my own version, and at the moment the inevitable deluge of lists of the records of the decade is just starting, so my mind’s been wandering off in that direction in spare moments. This list in The Times set me off, although I certainly didn’t agree with it. Radiohead the best and third-best albums of the decade? I don’t think so.
Nobody cares what I think were the “best” albums of the decade though. Even I don’t. But my favourite albums? Now that’s worth recording for posterity. So I’ve worked out what they are, and like a little online advent calendar, I’m going to reveal them here throughout December. Several are about as far from cool as it’s possible to be. And no, there isn’t an Oasis album in sight.