The Noughties was a decade of change. Reality TV became big business, the short-lived Millennium Dome was unveiled, and the dreaded Millennium Bug saw technophobes across the country preparing for society to fall apart.
Musically, the landscape underwent a 21st Century overhaul. After the swagger and grit of the Britpop boom, Indie bands took a back seat, while genres such as rap, RnB and pop stepped into the limelight. However, as the decade wore on, rock found its feet again, and there were even some unexpected comebacks from artists that the Nineties had all but ignored.
Let’s take a stroll down Millennium Memory Lane and look at the top ten music moments that helped to define a decade.
01. Eminem, Elton, and Stan
Only a year into the Noughties and Eminem was already hogging the airwaves. The Marshall Mathers LP, released in 2000, had propelled him to global stardom – but he wasn’t without his detractors. The rapper’s lyrics, many of which had been perceived as homophobic, violent, and misogynistic, seemed to cause as much offence as they did acclaim. However, Eminem sought to make his position on homosexuality absolutely clear, with a performance at the 2001 Grammy’s ceremony. He was joined on stage by none other than the mighty Elton John, an openly gay man and huge advocate for gay rights. Together, they performed Eminem’s biggest hit, Stan, and finished the performance, holding hands. In an interview with MTV, three years later, Eminem said that “I didn’t know he was gay. I didn’t know anything about his personal life. I didn’t really care. But being that he was gay, and he had my back, I think it made a statement in itself saying that he understood where I was coming from.”
02. Beckham versus Bextor
Not since the much-hyped battle between Blur and Oasis had the press paid so much attention to a pop rivalry than when Victoria Beckham went toe-to-toe with Sophie Ellis-Bextor.
Both outings were collaborations. Beckham had teamed-up with Dane Bowers and Truesteppers for ‘Out of Our Minds’, while Bextor had lent her pipes to a track by Italian music producer, Spiller, on ‘Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love). Both singles were set to be released on August 14th, 2000, and the build-up saw both the pop princesses getting their hardest handbags out.
Among the more memorable mud-slinging moments was the interview Bextor gave to the BBC, accusing the former Spice Girl using underhand promotional tactics: “They may not be buying up thousands of copies of the CD from record shops, but they have been making fans buy the single before signing it.”
Although she was going up against pop royalty, Bextor won, with her song hitting the Number One spot.
03. Democracy’s Downfall
By 2008, the heavy-rock band, Guns N Roses, was a shadow of its former self. 1996 saw Slash’s relationship with Axl Rose break down completely, causing him to walk out. Matt Sorum was fired a year later and Duff McKagan left what remained of the band, shortly after.
Having trademarked the band-name, Rose set about creating a new incarnation of Guns N Roses. However, that line-up was to change more than a dozen times, with new and old members seeming to pop up and disappear with alarming regularity.
Despite the chaos, Rose announced that a new album, Chinese Democracy, was in the works. Those works were to take around 15 years.
Although it was hotly anticipated by diehard Roses fans, Chinese Democracy wasn’t the comeback that anyone had hoped for. In the UK, it only sold around 600,000 copies and quickly became little more than a bad memory.
04. Where Did It All Go Wrong?
By the late Noughties, Oasis had pretty much conquered the world. Although critics maintain this was their least-inspiring decade, the Manchester mop-tops could still command huge crowds at a concert and their albums were still greedily snapped-up, with around 75million having been sold across the planet.
However, all that was to come to a halt on the evening of 28th August 2009.
As much as for its era-defining music, Oasis was equally as famous for the tensions between lead singer, Liam Gallagher, and his song-writing, lead-guitarist brother, Noel. Throughout the band’s career, there are countless stories of fights, rows, brawls, and splits.
Things came to a terminal head at the Rock en Seine Festival, in Paris. While the details remain blurry, there are rock ‘n’ roll tales of guitars being wielded as weapons and not-so-rock ‘n roll legends of plums being hurled. Whatever the truth, Noel quit the band, just before what was supposed to be one of the last gigs of their world tour. Within hours, he released a statement through the band’s website, which read: “It is with some sadness and great relief…I quit Oasis tonight. People will write and say what they like, but I simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer.”
You can check out some superb images of the band in their prime, in the Burst Gallery collection.
05. Back to Black
2006 was the year that saw Amy Winehouse’s star shining brighter than ever before. Although she had already achieved some acclaim with the release of the jazz-infused Frank, it was Back to Black that was to be her defining moment.
Joining forces with producer Mark Ronson, Winehouse recorded the album in Brooklyn’s Daptone Studios, backed by their resident band, the Dap-Kings. The result was a collection of songs that owed as much to the retro soul scene, as they did to tunes sung by the likes of the Ronettes and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. With Winehouse’s smoky, old-before-her-time vocals taking centre-stage, it came as no real surprise that Back to Black racked up a string of awards and won Winehouse an award as the best British Female Solo Artist, a year later.
06. Mr. Brightside
Remember where you were when you first heard Mr. Brightside, by The Killers? It might be harder to pin down than you think as, although it was released in 2004, the song hung around the Top 100 for 1,456 days, setting the record for the longest-charting song in UK music history.
However, although it was a fresh and exciting sound for the Vegas vamps, Mr. Brightside was written about three years earlier. According to Brandon Flowers, “Lyrically, it’s about an odd girlfriend of mine. All the emotions in the song are real. When I was writing the lyrics, my wounds from it were still fresh. I am Mr. Brightside! But I think that’s the reason the song has persisted – because it’s real. People pick up on those things. And that goes all the way down to the production; we recorded it in a couple of hours, but it just sounds right, you know?”
Burst Gallery’s collection holds a superb range of prints of The Killers at their best.
07. Blink-102 Go On Indefinite Hiatus
From the moment Blink-182 released Enema of the State, in 1999, they appeared to have the world at their collective feet. At the turn of the century, pop-punk had all but lost its sheen, but Enema of the State changed all that, seeing a resurgence of interest in the genre and catapulting the band to international fame.
Just six years later, Blink-182 found itself on “indefinite hiatus” with all the signs pointing towards the idea that the trio could permanently disband.
Although there are still theories surrounding the band putting the brakes on, in a later interview, Tom DeLonge said that “The reason the band broke up was really stupid in the first place, it’s not like anybody had sex with each other’s wives, though for how bad we hated each other that should have been what happened. The band got so big that the machine running the band took over. We were burnt out, we needed a break, but the machine won’t let you do that. The band had stopped communicating because the machine was so big.”
The members of Blink-182 weren’t to speak for three years, with each chasing their own side-projects. However, they reformed in 2009, after playing at the Grammy Awards ceremony, announcing “Blink-182 is back.”
08. MCR is Born
One of the biggest alt-rock/emo bands of the decade, My Chemical Romance was formed in 2001, by Gerard Way and Matt Pelissier. Famously, Way was on a ferry crossing the Hudson River at 8.40 am, on September 11, that year. Eight minutes later while he was sketching, the first of two planes struck the World Trade Center. The second hit at 9.03 am.
Unlikely as it sounds, it was this tragedy that set the wheels in motion for the formation of MCR. Way said that
“I didn’t see the planes hit. I did see the buildings go down from, I’d say, fairly close. It was like being in a science fiction film or some kind of disaster film—it was exactly that kind of feeling. You didn’t believe it. You felt like you were in Independence Day. It made no sense. Your brain couldn’t process it. And for me it was a little different. I’m very empathetic and I’m kind of a conduit emotionally, so I pick up a lot of stuff in that way. There was about three- or four-hundred people around me—and I was right at the edge. All these people behind me, they all had friends and family in those buildings. I didn’t. So, when that first building went, it was like an A-bomb went off. It was like just this emotion and it made you nauseous.”
His reaction was to form a band, creating music that “became my therapy from the PTSD that everyone had experienced from 9/11, and processing that.”
The first song the band recorded, Skylines and Turnstiles, was included on their 2002 debut album, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love.
09. Bring Me to Life
While the Spice Girls had opened the doors for female-fronted pop groups, there wasn’t much for rock-fans to choose from. Combining Goth-rock and metal with operatic sensibilities, Evanescence, fronted by Amy Lee, offered a viable , non-mainstream alternative to the swathes of Wannabe wannabes.
Their breakthrough single, Bring Me To Life, was a worldwide hit, charting at Number One in the UK, and Number Five on the American Billboard. Combining Lee’s ethereal vocals with crunching guitars and guesting 12 Stones’ Paul McCoy, it was a welcome breather from the endless stream of bubble-gum pop that had flooded the music scene. Bring Me To Life was included on the album, Fallen, which sold around 17million copies.
However, the success of that first single was a double-edged sword for Lee, who admitted that
“I’ve struggled with it. I’m cool with it now, but it was one of our big early struggles – that big rap thing. Having that male vocalist on our first song – to me – was a lost battle in a lot of ways, because I badly didn’t want to show our first song to people and have it not be a full picture of who we are and have it be slightly left of that with two singers. That’s confusing, like, ‘What is this band?’ That really worried me being our first song, I didn’t want it to be – I wanted it to be Going Under. But when it happened it did great, it was a wonderful thing and there was a lot to be excited about, but in the back of my mind I was a little bit scared.”
10. A Long and Winding Road
The Noughties closed its curtains with one of the most important bands in music history fully entering the 21st Century. On November 16th, 2010, The Beatles’ entire back catalogue was officially ready for download, from iTunes. Either through accident or design, 2010 was also the year in which John Lennon would have been 70.
The Beatles’ history is littered with examples of poor business management, particularly under Brian Epstein. Their first contract with him saw Epstein receiving up to 25% of their earnings. Years later, George Harrison would go on record as saying that “Brian didn’t get very good deals on anything. For years EMI were giving us one old penny between us for every single and two shillings for every album. If we had known in 1962/3 what we know now, or even what we knew in 1967, it would have made a real difference.”
As a result, The Beatles became known for their fiercely-protective attitude towards their work.
However, stepping into the digital age proved to be a prudent move for the Fab Four but, of all their songs, the biggest-sellers might not be the ones you expect. Topping the list is Here Comes the Sun, with 50.3million streams and 164,000 downloads. Next up is Let It Be, with 159,000 downloads, swiftly followed by Hey Jude.
What do you think?
Without doubt, the Noughties was an extraordinary decade for music. Which music moments are on your list as ones that helped define those years? Drop Music Poster a line and let us know or browse our extensive collection of prints and rediscover some old favourites.