Looking Through Time: 2002
With the anniversaries of culturally important albums sprouting up each and every year, the CommRadio Arts department will be diving into albums from select years and breaking down their impact. Here are the albums from 2002.
Eminem – The Eminem Show
It has been quite a long time since fans have heard Eminem at his top lyrical and flow performance, but it is more undeniable in 2017 that The Eminem Show is a classic than when it was released in 2002. What more could a fan of hip hop or Eminem possibly be looking for out of an album? You have the incredible story telling of “Cleanin’ Out My Closet,” a song that Marshall Mathers and Eminem still seem to be battling with to this day. This album also has emotional cuts like “Hailie’s Song” for his daughter, who he then later features on the completely ridiculous song “My Dad’s Gone Crazy.” These ridiculous songs are fun though and, at times, even funny. Eminem was fully aware that his crude sense of humor and the lyrics that made you think twice are what made him so appealing at this time. “Drips” is an excellent example of him just saying the crudest things he can think of on a song, but he was never meant to be taken seriously on that type of content matter.
The crown jewel of this album though is, and likely always will be, “White America.” Eminem is more self-aware on this song than he has ever been about how his race made him famous, while still completely dismantling that very system. Eminem raps, “Let’s do the math: if I was black, I woulda sold half.” He then goes on to talk about how he speaks to mostly suburban kids who would’ve never heard these words and stories if not for him. This is all without mentioning that Eminem recognizes that the government hates what he was doing, while attacking government officials by name. “White America” in the political climate of 2002 or 2017 is the perfect description of what white privilege looks like in America and for the biggest rapper to ever walk to the earth recognize that is why he is famous is enough to warrant The Eminem Show as a classic. – David Arroyo
Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
2002 produced an immense amount of talented and diverse music from many artists. The Chicago natives Wilco, who have been creating music for almost 25 years now, have released 10 studio albums, all of which gained critical acclaim. But their fourth studio album, titled Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, was by far their most creative, innovative and dexterous album to date. It was set to release on Sept. 11, 2001, but after some controversy with the record label, the release date was pushed back all the way to April of 2002. Once released, the album sold 55,573 copies during its first week and reached number 13 on the Billboard 200 album chart.
Yankee Foxtrot Hotel was voted as the best album of the year in The Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics poll. In 2012, it was placed on the Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
The album is packed full of diversity in both the lyrics and instrumentals, but flow so seamlessly that there is no sense of change. It’s almost like the album is telling a story; one that involves all of the emotions a human can face. There is no steady theme or “message” being conveyed in the album as a whole, but each song contains a meaningful subject and is told so beautifully through the axe of singer Jeff Tweedy and instrumentals of the band. It is no surprise as to why this is credited as Wilco’s greatest album of all time and it’s even less of a surprise that it is credited as one of the greatest albums of the 2000s. – Lilly Adams
Coldplay – A Rush of Blood to the Head
Before they turned to mainstream pop, Coldplay was just another Britpop act trying to find its footing in a fading genre. With their debut album Parachutes, Coldplay got off to a hot start, though some critics were still skeptical, viewing Coldplay as just another U2 or Radiohead impersonator. But with A Rush of Blood to the Head released two years later, many of those critics were blown away.
By focusing on the “rock” aspect of alternative rock, Coldplay created an edgier album that exuded more confidence than its predecessor. The band found its niche in alternative, a genre they would continue to explore with their next two albums.
The album produced four singles, all of which landed on the UK Singles Chart. The lead single, “In My Place,” driven by its signature guitar riff, reached No. 2. “The Scientist,” a powerful piano rock ballad, would peak at No. 10. “Clocks,” a song that many consider to be Coldplay’s best, would also hit the top 10, thanks in large part to its timeless piano riff. The highly underrated “God Put a Smile Upon Your Face” was also released as a single, but did not receive the same commercial success, topping out at No. 100.
A Rush of Blood to the Head is home to many other excellent tunes. “Daylight” is the album’s most unique song thanks to its atypical instrumental patterns and the usage of an orchestra. Perhaps the title track is the album’s best, a lyrical masterwork that begins softly and slowly progresses into a full-blown rocker. The beautiful “Amsterdam” makes for a perfect closer.
The album received acclaim and success, winning the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album and selling nearly three million copies since its 2002 release. Coldplay would eventually change their musical style, for better or for worse, but they can always look back at A Rush of Blood to the Head as their crowning achievement. – DJ Bauer
The Mountain Goats – All Hail West Texas
If the credible music critics of the world could come together to form a case as to why Ed Sheeran's success in the music industry has been received by the critical music listenership with a collective eye roll, All Hail West Texas could easily serve as exhibit A. Written and recorded in John Darnielle’s home on a Panasonic boombox, Darnielle’s portrait of West Texas provides a raw and unfiltered snapshot of “seven people, two houses, a motorcycle, and a locked treatment facility for adolescent boys,” according the album’s quaint cover art.
While that description alone could seem pretentious to the unfamiliar listener, All Hail West Texas is anything but. While Darnielle proves on this album his songwriting is lightyears ahead of the majority of his contemporaries even 15 years later, the album forgoes complexity for honesty and humanity. It doesn’t matter if the listener has never been in a death metal band as featured on the album’s classic opener "The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton" or if the listener has never had to experience staying in a transient home featured in “Color In Your Cheeks,” the core emotions of these songs are so potent that the listener will finish the song feeling as though they had.
And this is all while the whir of a cassette tape is spinning in the background to record these quiet songs. The album is unabashedly lo-fi and, while it was less an artistic choice and more a choice made from a lack of resources, it perfectly matches the atmosphere created in Darnielle’s songs. The characters of Darnielle’s songs are not crisp, clean cut or appealing to usual societal norms. But they are resilient and capture the imperfect nature of the human spirit. All Hail West Texas reveals the human soul more than any singer/songwriter album since, with nothing more than a boombox and handful of honest songs...
The Mountain Goats – Tallahassee
… But if you wanted an album that got close, you wouldn’t have had to wait longer than nine months. What could easily be exhibit B in music critics’ class action lawsuit against Ed Sheeran’s career would be The Mountain Goats’ first non-lo-fi release Tallahassee. Thanks in part from the greater financial backing of independent powerhouse 4AD, it was the first time The Mountain Goats had a full band sound for Darnielle to experiment with. While the songs retain their simple compositions the Mountain Goats were known for, the tone of the instrumentation fits perfectly with Darnielle’s signature juxtaposition of cheerful instrumentation and darker lyrical content in a way that hadn’t quite been achieved before.
Where the album truly shines as with all Mountain Goats projects is in the lyrics. While Darnielle had loosely played with concepts to tie an entire project together, Tallahassee was the first time it felt like a full-fledged narrative. It’s a stark, realistic depiction of two people falling out of love. The divorce that serves as the subject for all 14 tracks rings true to the point that it’s deafening; regardless if the listener has personally experienced divorce themselves, they will instantly feel tinges of past lost loves seep up from the repressed parts of their mind. It’s not coy or cute with its themes and offers a thesis no other artists are willing to tell you: human beings would rather suffer with someone than face life alone.
Darnielle solidified his place in the pantheon of music’s greatest singer/songwriter’s with Tallahassee. While he would later surpass his studio efforts on Tallahassee with The Sunset Tree and Black Pear Tree, Darnielle proved his music didn’t lean on a lo-fi recording style and chose to evolve his recording style with his evolving songwriting. While Darnielle would adamantly disapprove of the analogies written here at the expense of Ed Sheeran, The Mountain Goats continue to be the bar all “everyman” singer/songwriters have to live up to. And isn’t it on the music listening public to celebrate those who choose to raise the bar rather than be content with those artists who simply act like the bar doesn’t apply to them? – Chandler Copenheaver
David Arroyo is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lilly Adams is a freshman majoring in film/video. To contact her, email email@example.com.
DJ Bauer is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chandler Copenheaver is a senior majoring in public relations. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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