The Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt was sitting in a piano bar in Manhattan, listening to the pianist’s interpretations of Stephen Sondheim songs, when he decided he ought to get into theater music because he felt he had an aptitude for it. “I decided I’d write one hundred love songs as a way of introducing myself to the world. Then I realized how long that would be. So I settled on sixty-nine. I’d have a theatrical revue with four drag queens. And whoever the audience liked best at the end of the night would get paid.”
The Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt was born on this date in 1965. Lots of his/their music is included on today’s playlist.
The year 2002 was a turbulent one for the world, marked by wars, terrorism, scandals, and natural disasters. But it was also a year of creativity, innovation, and diversity in music. From hip-hop to rock, from pop to indie, from dance to folk, the music of 2002 reflected the mood and spirit of the times, offering both escapism and commentary, both nostalgia and novelty, both challenge and comfort.
One of the most dominant genres of the year was hip-hop, which reached new heights of popularity and influence. Eminem’s Lose Yourself became an anthem of determination and resilience, while Missy Elliott’s Work It showcased her inventive and playful style. Nelly’s Hot in Herre was a summer smash, while Clipse’s Grindin’ introduced a minimalist and gritty sound. Tweet and Missy Elliott’s Oops (Oh My) was a sensual and empowering ode to self-love, while Truth Hurts and Rakim’s Addictive sampled a Bollywood song and sparked a controversy. Cam’ron’s Oh Boy featured a catchy sample of Rose Royce’s I’m Going Down, while Khia’s My Neck, My Back (Lick It) was a raunchy and explicit hit.
Rock music also had a strong presence in 2002, with a variety of styles and sounds. Elvis Presley’s A Little Less Conversation (JXL Edit) was a remix of a 1968 song that became a worldwide hit, thanks to its inclusion in a Nike commercial. Avril Lavigne’s Complicated was a pop-rock anthem for the rebellious and misunderstood youth, while Coldplay’s In My Place was a melancholic and soaring ballad. The Strokes’ Hard to Explain was a garage rock revival, while Wilco’s Jesus, Etc. was a country-rock masterpiece. Interpol’s Obstacle 1 was a post-punk gem, while Spoon’s The Way We Get By was a catchy and quirky indie rock tune. The Libertines’ What a Waster was a punk rock blast, while Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising was a tribute to the victims and heroes of 9/11.
Pop music also had its share of hits and surprises in 2002, with some old and new faces. Christina Aguilera’s Dirrty was a provocative and edgy reinvention, while Beyonce’s Work It Out was a funky and soulful solo debut. Brandy’s What About Us was a futuristic and sleek R&B track, while No Doubt’s Hella Good was a disco and rock fusion. Bjork’s Pagan Poetry was a haunting and experimental song, while Las Ketchup’s Asereje was a catchy and silly novelty. Alanis Morissette’s Hands Clean was a confessional and catchy pop-rock song, while Rufus Wainwright’s Across the Universe was a beautiful and faithful cover of the Beatles classic.
Some of the most memorable songs of 2002 were not easily categorized, but rather blended genres and styles. Sugababes’ Freak Like Me was a mash-up of Adina Howard’s Freak Like Me and Gary Numan’s Are ‘Friends’ Electric?, creating a pop and electro masterpiece. The Flaming Lips’ Do You Realize?? was a psychedelic and uplifting song, while X-Press 2’s Lazy was a house and spoken word collaboration with David Byrne. The Streets’ Weak Become Heroes was a rap and piano tribute to rave culture, while Doves’ There Goes The Fear was a rock and electronic epic.
The music of 2002 was a reflection of the year itself: diverse, unpredictable, exciting, and sometimes challenging. It was a year of contrasts and surprises, of highs and lows, of old and new. It was a year that gave us some of the most memorable songs of the 21st century, and a year that we can revisit through this playlist. Enjoy!
Beck Hansen came up with a nifty guitar lick, to which a friend of a friend added beats. The beats inspired Beck to recite an improvised poem, on which he attempted to sound like Chuck D of rap group Public Enemy. Listening to the playback, Beck thought “Man, I’m the worst rapper in the world. I’m just a loser.” He started singing “I’m a loser, baby, so why don’t you kill me?” That became the chorus of his song “Loser,” along with “Soy un perdedor” – “I’m a loser” in Spanish.
Today is Beck’s birthday. A smattering of his work is included on today’s playlist.