I had no preconceptions when I suggested this topic (beyond a slight feeling that a focus on the current millennium might be a healthy thing for a pursuit generally dominated by 20th century artists.)
As things unfolded, the prospect of doing a representative, chronological overview evaporated.
The nominations simply didn't support that kind of approach; too few top-selling artists were mentioned, and there were too many genre holes. And as reader Uncleben noted, you'd be hard pressed these days to find two people who could agree on the decade's top two artists, let alone twelve.
Instead, there was a huge diversity of tastes and ideas put forward, representing everyone's personal tastes and concerns. As it should be. So here is, of necessity, a very personal and subjective take on the millennium to date, as you presented it. I hope you can each find something in there which reflects your own views, and maybe discover something else you didn't know about post-millennial music.
Rock music's potential for reinvention is alive and well. Perhaps the foremost rock anthem of our times is the White Stripes' Seven Nation Army, with an irresistible garage-blues riff underpinning a powerful lyric just vague enough to be adopted as an anthem by all manner of groups.
Punk is nowhere near its expiry date. (But please don't try to verify this by smelling it). Pussy Riot's masked collective filmed themselves rioting in churches (released as Punk Prayer), and enraged the Russian establishment to the extent that several members served prison sentences for hooliganism. It's the whole package, as Severin notes, not just the music, but there's always something satisfyingly defiant about a provocative song.
Music is once more an effective release for anger … Jason Williamson's harrowing tirades are a howl of rage from life at the lower ends of society's feeding chain, a prison from which few find release. Sleaford Mod's Jobseeker is a lifetime inmate.
.... but also for finding new ways to express love. In 2012, the then unknown 20-year-old Sam Smith delivered a vocal for the ages on Disclosure's soul-inflected, garage-house hit Latch, and helped the electronic duo rescue EDM from twiddly synth banality.
The more technology we have, the better lo-fi music sounds. Unknown Mortal Orchestra's American Guilt is a gloriously fuzzy slab of psych-rock with the immersive "too close to the microphone“ urgency of east African, seventies, voodoo funk recordings.
Social media and the internet have given the most powerful artists total control. The internet may have had a democratising influence on music – the "YouTube bedroom“ artist phenomenon –but it has also enabled those at the top of the tree to cut themselves loose from record labels. Beyoncé's control-freak approach to her career has made her one of the most powerful artists in the world, omnipresent on Instagram, totally independent from record A&R departments. Self-indulgence is always a risk, but Formation's powerful black lives matter message was an emphatic and clear sighted statement from an artist at her peak.
New music forms can still originate from "the streets". Dizzee Rascal's 2003 debut album Boy In Da Corner was one of the decade's most original releases. Groomed by Grime Godfather Wiley, Dizzee's caustic council-estate consonants on Fix Up, Look Sharp helped establish the genre as Britain's most important underground scene.
The rennaissance of dance in music. OK, Gangnam Style excepted. But dance has once again become integral to music, from Stromae's long-limbed, finely judged burlesque routines to the effortless elegance of FKA Twigs.
Indiana producer Jlin's footwork-inspired percussion soundscapes are tied intimately to the history of dance; her Carbon 7(161), choreographed and danced by Corey Scott-Gilbert, is an extraordinarily expressive and complex work.
Regardless of nationality, today's artists meet on an equal footing. World music used to mean US or European guitarists going off to India, Africa and Cuba to find "authentic“ sounds, or producers going on crate-digging trips to uncover lost '78s. These days, virtuoso musicians from all around the world meet up to make their own fusions. Catrin Finch and Sekou Keita perform an exquisite blend of traditional Senegalese, Welsh, and classical music on their respective instruments, the harp and kora, on Future Strings.
Contemporary interpretations of past eras can reveal unexpected riches. This decade, many artists have interpreted older jazz or Great American Songbook material, among them Bob Dylan, Lady Gaga, and Annie Lennox. But the best such effort by far was the collaboration between Jason Moran and Meshell Ndegeocello for a set of joyful and subversive Fats Waller originals; Ain't Misbehavin' the perfect showcase for their talents.
Collectives do things better. Snarky Puppy is a hard working, ever-changing group of musicians built around bass player Michael League; their funky, brass-driven fusion music has won them two Grammys. Binky may well have made it into Leaveitallbehind's library via the 2013 Festive Spill, courtesy of yours truly. But that's just another example of the value of collectives.
What used to be the fringe is now the centre. Janelle Monae's Pynk is a witty hymn for hers in a world where everyone gets to wear rose-coloured spectacles, regardless of ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation.
Maybe, deep inside, we're all just pink.
New Era: The Post-Millennium A-List Playlist:
(NB. Jason Moran and Meshell Ndegeocello's version of Ain't Misbehavin is only on Vimeo, not YouTube, so only viewable on a separate link.)
White Stripes – Seven Nation Army
Pussy Riot – Punk Prayer
Sleaford Mods – Jobseeker
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – American Guilt
Dizzee Rascal – Fix Up, Look Sharp
Disclosure feat. Sam Smith – Latch
Jlin – Carbon 7(161)
Catrin Finch and Sekou Keita – Future Strings
Snarky Puppy – Binky
Beyoncé – Formation
Jason Moran with Meshell Ndegeocello – Ain't Misbehavin'
Janelle Monae – Pynk
Post-Millennium B-List Playlist:
(NB, for Kendrick Lamar, see below).
Self-reflection has never been so harsh.
Sage Francis – Best Of Times
Jazz is on the march. (but check out Bobby Hutcherson's 1970 release Now! for a foretaste … )
Kamasi Washington – Change Of The Guard
The favoured era for cover versions is now the 1980s.
The XX – Teardrops
The drugs don't work...
St Vincent – Pills
But quirky indie with ringing guitars does.
Fazerdaze – Lucky Girl
A Missy Elliot one-time exclusive.
Missy Elliot - Work It
Kurt would have loved this.
Robert Glasper Experiment – Smells Like Teen Spirit
Bow down to your Afrofuturist masters.
Sons of Kemet – My Queen is Ada Eastman
The piano player is making me dizzy.
GoGo Penguin – Hopopono
Sweet sweet juice.
Kendrick Lamar- Blacker The Berry (see video here)
Nostalgia always rules the start of any millennium.
Lana del Ray – Video Games
You don't need a nationality to make music.
TootArd - Laissez Passer
Guru's Wildcard Pick:
Rokia Traoré – Aimer. I heard this by chance on a broadcast and was instantly captivated.
Alternative shuffle? Nilpferd's daughter Mara's post-millennial list:
The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army
St. Vincent – Pills
Green Day – American Idiot
Kamasi Washington – Change of the Guard
The Strokes – Last Nite
Agnes Obel – Familiar
Cigarettes After Sex – Nothing's Gonna Hurt You Baby
The Killers – Somebody Told Me
Gorillaz – Dare
Paramore – Ignorance
Fall Out Boy – Sugar, We’re Goin' Down
We The Kings - Check Yes Juliet
Arctic Monkeys - 505
(all the songs that were mentioned throughout the entire blog, what do you take me for, some kind of tasteless idiot?)
Mara's Wildcard Picks:
Die Antwoord – We Have Candy
Troye Sivan – Bite
My Chemical Romance – The Black Parade
Twenty One Pilots – Semi-Automatic
Bastille – Currents
Panic! At The Disco – I Write Sins Not Tragedies
These playlists were inspired by readers' song nominations from last week's topic: Made post-millennium: music that marks artistic trends of the 21st century. The next topic will launch on Thursday at 1pm UK time.
New to comment? It is quick and easy. You just need to login to Disqus once. All is explained inAbout/FAQs ...
Fancy a turn behind the pumps at The Song Bar? Care to choose a playlist from songs nominated and write something about it? Then feel free to contact The Song Bar here, or try the usual email address.