Rewind to 2004
Allie Tollaksen | Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Think of a whole decade back to 2004, the year of the infamous Janet Jackson Super Bowl halftime, the year you couldn’t even look up that infamous moment on YouTube — because YouTube didn’t exist yet. One decade ago not only brought us that halftime show, but also the Cheetah Girls, “Mean Girls,” “Lost” and — I’m almost positive — the best year of music in the 2000s. It’s hard to say why 2004 proved to be such a magnificent year, but new artists releasing incredible debut albums, music videos not yet ruined by Vevo and interesting projects like CeeLo and Danger Mouse’s “The Grey Album” taking off through web virility might have had something to do with it. Here are a just few examples of why 2004 was such a fantastic year for audiophiles.
First off, two bands released debut albums that took their genres by storm. In pop rock, 2004 saw the debut of The Killers with “Hot Fuss,” named by Rolling Stone as one of the best debut albums of all time. The LP saw both critical and popular success, all while kick-starting a career for the Las Vegas-based group that would lead them to selling out stadiums and collaborating with Tim Burton in just a few years.
Indie-rock (that was still an okay thing to say in 2004) got another one of the greatest debut albums of all with Arcade Fire’s “Funeral” in 2004. The album took the indie world by storm, and though Arcade Fire is now headlining music festivals and taking over SNL, they have never made (and likely will never make, with their steady decline apparent with each successive release) an album as good as “Funeral.”
In the hip-hop world, two incredible debut albums also blessed us with their release in 2004. “Madvilliany,” the first album by Madvillian (MF Doom and Madlib) was released in March, and while it received disappointingly little attention on the charts, was praised by critics and remains an incredible collaborative album in hip-hop. Fortunately, both artists are still making music, including Madlib’s unbelievably good collaboration with Freddie Gibbs, “Piñata.”
Also making waves in hip-hop in 2004 was a young Kanye West with his debut album “College Dropout.” The album went triple platinum, got a remarkable 10 Grammy nominations and skyrocketed Kanye into fame and now, apparently, infamy. After six albums, Kanye has a wife, a baby and now 21 Grammys under his belt. It’s clear that Kanye won the last 10 years.
Joanna Newsom, indie queen, talented harpist and now-wife of Andy Samberg (who would have thought 10 years ago?) also released her debut studio album in 2004. “The Milk-Eyed Mender” stunned, appalled then won over audiences with Newsom’s shrill vocals, harp arrangements and folky sound. She has released two more impressive and totally unique albums since, with a fantastic evolution of sound, voice and arrangement.
These are just a handful of the artists who put out albums in 2004, and only the debuts at that. Without even mentioning impressive sophomore attempts that took the year by storm, like TV on the Radio, Iron & Wine or Feist, it’s evident that something was in the water 10 years ago that made 2004 so musically privileged. Whatever it was one decade ago, I’m thankful.