In late 2002 I had credit card points that were about to expire so I ordered a bunch of CDs by artists whose music I had not heard, which included Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground by Bright Eyes, which turned out to be a good choice. The album’s title is a reference to a quote by William S. Burroughs: “The story is in the soil, lift it up, anything can happen.”
Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst was born on this date in 1980. Lots of tunes from Conor are 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!
“One minute you’re just cooking up someone’s order of French fries and the next minute you’re laying on the floor and they blow your brains out.”- The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne reflecting on being held up at gunpoint when he was a fry cook at Long John Silver’s
The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne on this date in 1961. A few of his band’s cuts are included on today’s playlist.
The year after I graduated from college I moved out of my parents’ house into my own apartment in Woodbridge, New Jersey, where I lived for two years before moving into Manhattan. Woodbridge was no great shakes, though there was one cool thing about it. Around the corner from me was an independent record store whose name I will never recall. Always on the hunt for new music, I would spend hours there flipping through the racks. It was on one of those occasions, in 1986 or ’87, that I chanced upon an album named Let It Be. I already had an album at home called Let It Be by a different band, and that one was pretty good, so I figured I’d take a chance on this Let It Be. It’s by a band named The Replacements, and while I had never heard their music, I did recall reading positive things about them in the music press. I splurged the $9 + tax on the still sealed vinyl LP, took that baby home, and have never looked back. I now own every album ever released by The Replacements in triplicate plus one (is that called quadruplicate?), not because I’m an obsessive, but because I worked for their record company. And because I’m an obsessive.
The Replacements’ Paul Westerberg was born on this date in 1959. A few of the band’s earlier recordings are included on today’s playlist.
Five years after then president of The Recording Academy proclaimed that women need to step up, the ladies have responded with “How’s this, jerkface?” Women dominate this year’s Grammy nominations. More importantly, all but two of the top 20 songs on my year-end list are led by female artists (with one guy showing up to provide guest vocals). That’s a record, I think, but don’t quote me on that. I’m too lazy to check. I don’t have a deep analysis for this phenomenon, but I do have a deep appreciation for the talent and diversity of these women (not that women have ever been underrepresented in my annual tallies). The highest placing male acts on my 2023 list are none other than The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. Yes, you read that right. The legends are back, and they still can show the young-uns how it’s done. With their song “Angry,” The Rolling Stones have achieved a remarkable feat: the longest span from first appearance to most recent appearance in my year-end surveys. In 1981, my first year of making such lists, the group placed with “Start Me Up.” The 80s are also well represented by Kylie Minogue and Madonna, each of whom made a triumphant return to my list after long absences. Welcome back, ladies! And last but not least, let’s give a round of applause to Megan Thee Stallion, who has been in my top five for five years in a row. That’s a record, I think, but don’t quote me on that. I’m too lazy to check. Now, without further ado, here is my list of the best songs of 2023. Enjoy!
Ice Cream Man. – RAYE
vampire – Olivia Rodrigo
Kill Bill – SZA
Bongos – Cardi B feat. Megan Thee Stallion
Not Strong Enough – boygenius
Flowers – Miley Cyrus
Escapism. – RAYE & 070 Shake
Paint the Town Red – Doja Cat
Lipstick Lover – Janelle Monáe
Nobody Gets Me – SZA
Dance the Night – Dua Lipa
Shirt – SZA
AMERICA HAS A PROBLEM – Beyoncé feat. Kendrick Lamar
What Was I Made For? – Billie Eilish
Padam Padam – Kylie Minogue
Cobra – Megan Thee Stallion
Brenda Put Your Bra On – Ashley McBryde, Caylee Hammack & Pillbox Patti
Angry – The Rolling Stones
Now and Then – The Beatles
Cool About It – boygenius
RATATA – Skrillex, Missy Elliott & Mr. Oizo
Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd – Lana Del Rey
When first presented with his brother Noel’s composition “Wonderwall,” Oasis’ usual lead singer Liam Gallagher didn’t care for it. Of course, the song became a worldwide smash. Did Liam come around? In 2008 he told MTV News “I can’t fucking stand that fucking song! Every time I have to sing it I want to gag.” Guess not. What about Noel, the song’s writer? He must like it, right? Here is what he said: “Outside of England, it’s the one song we’re famous for all over the world, and it annoys the fuck out of me. It’s not a fucking rock’n’roll tune. There’s quite a vulnerable statement to it. When people come up to me and say it’s one of the greatest tunes ever written, I think, ‘fucking hell, have you heard “Live Forever”?’”
Oasis’ “Wonderwall” is one of the 1996 songs on today’s Throwback Thursday playlist.
The album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was rejected by Reprise Records, Wilco’s label at the time, for being too experimental and uncommercial. Wilco bought back the rights to the album for $50,000. The band subsequently signed with Nonesuch Records, which, like Reprise, is distributed by Warner Music. Nonesuch put out the album in 2002. It became Wilco’s best-selling album, despite the band making it available to stream for free on their website following their departure from Reprise.
Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy was born on this date in 1967. Lots of Wilco on today’s playlist.