Surviving the New Music Wasteland 2: Attack of the Clones

As you may have already read, there was a period in the late ’90s and early 2000s that I dubbed “The New Music Wasteland”. This was a period in which the music I listened to was no longer considered mainstream music. Radio stations changed formats, popular music took on a totally different shape, and I was left to wander aimlessly through the aftermath.

Now, I wasn’t living under a rock in those days. Even though I quit listening to the radio (All but sports talk. Who knew you could listen to people talk about the same three sports news items all day and not get bored?) I did see and hear what was happening in the world of pop music. It was The Clone Wars. Just like the Evil Empire, record companies took whatever crap was selling and copied it over and over. But unlike The Emperor who pumped out Stormtrooper after perfect Stormtrooper, (except maybe this one) the copies got shittier and shittier as they cranked them out. If we learned anything from the Michael Keaton movie Multiplicity, it was that a copy of a copy is always of lesser quality. Eventually, instead of a handsome movie star you end up with Sloth from Goonies. It happened in all genres of music but it was most notable in three basic forms.

Bellybutton Pop:

It all started with Britney Spears. Who didn’t feel for that young girl? Her loneliness was killing her! She pleaded for us to hit her “… Baby One More Time”. Next came Christina Aguilera with “Genie in a Bottle,” inappropriately asking us all for some release by “rubbing her the right way.” Soon any underage blonde that could hold a tune (Not even that important) had her tits propped up and her bellybutton out for perverts and little girls across the country. Check out these album covers from roughly the same 1-2 year period.

Blonde girl? Check.

Breasts in view? Check.

Bellybutton out? Check.

Lips slightly parted? Check.

Can she sing? Uhhh sort of.

Who cares! Let’s make a record!

Super Dreamy Boy Bands:

Now this trend has been around for a long time. The ’80s had their share of boy bands as New Edition, Menudo, and New Kids on the Block all had various levels of popularity. But in the late 90’s boy bands hit their peak. Groups like ‘N SYNC, 98 Degrees, and Backstreet Boys were all the rage, also to the delight of pervs and little girls everywhere. Don’t be fooled, there was a formula for it all. First, the poppy dance number to get our attention. Then, the slow emotional song to make us all fall in love. I know I couldn’t look into the eyes of any of these guys without them “Tearing Up My Heart”. Come on! Look at these press shots.

The fashion sense. The creepy facial hair. Are they good boys? Are they bad boys? Are they straight? Are they gay?

Who cares! Let’s make a record!

Shit Rock. Or The Horrible Never Ending Cavalcade of Shitty Post-Grunge Rock Bands:

They were usually either some awful Pearl Jam knock off, or some half rock, half rap 311 sounding crap. Judging by these band photos they all must have had the same publicist too.

For some reason it was very important for everyone to know the bands pecking order. Band members got lined up presumably by importance. Lead singer, Lead guitar, everyone else…

“Hey! You in back. Yeah, drummer guy. We’re still seeing too much of you.”

“Ok, no one smile and ….. perfect.”

But, are they any good?

Who cares! Let’s make a record!

Salvation finally came in the form of satellite and internet radio. But in the meantime I had to find alternate methods to satisfy my musical appetite. Naturally, I did what everyone does in times of trouble… look back on better days. Here are a few examples of some artists I rediscovered during this time. Maybe this could serve as a guide if you ever find yourself stuck in your own “New Music Wasteland”.

Pixies

Before there was grunge rock and Nirvana there was The Pixies. Kurt Cobain actually admitted that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was a conscious attempt to copy the Pixies. He also said The Pixies’ Surfer Rosa was one of his main musical influences. I listened to all things Pixies for pretty much an entire year. This forced my wife to have to listen to all things Pixies. She didn’t mind too much until the Frank Black solo stuff came out. I think she began to feel like Manuel Noriega when the U.S. bombarded him with heavy metal music to get him to surrender. The Pixies were definitely ahead of their time and are worth a listen, but learn from my mistakes. There will be no “hunkering down” whilst the music of Doolittle is playing.

Springsteen

Every few years I see some retrospective or documentary about Bruce Springsteen and end up feeling like I should try to get into his music. I dive into his early work and then remember that I was not born in New Jersey nor am I the son of a coal miner. The music of “The Boss” just doesn’t speak to me like it does other people. Glowing review right? My ambivalence doesn’t mean it’s not work checking out though. There’s some good stuff there you just have to sift through the crap.

The most hilariously awkward moment in music video history

Coming Soon SNMW 3: A New Hope

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