Thursday, October 23, 2008

Band of the Decade

I've been partaking in a running discussion about a potential Band of the Decade for the decade currently winding down. The discussion began when Ek made the claim that there isn't a potential Band of the Decade, due to the fractured nature of the current musical landscape. While he has some valid points, for better or for worse, I think Fall Out Boy have established themselves as the Band of the Decade (BotD). Let's talk about why.

Sales aren't everything, but sales are a lot. Jimmy Eat World was discussed as a possible dark horse BotD, but let's take three bands and break it down, cajun-style.

Jimmy Eat World
While Clarity was their artistic apex, it's also the album that got them dropped from Capitol Records (and probably led to their focus on strictly pop-rock songs). Their following albums sold better:
Bleed American: 1.3 million (platinum)
Futures: 615,000 (gold)
Chase This Light: 164,000+ (according to the most recent numbers I could find, 01/08)

Fall Out Boy
Though many see Take This To Your Grave as FOB's most impressive/powerful/noteworthy album, they too found more success in its aftermath.
Take This To Your Grave: certified gold
From Under the Cork Tree: certified triple platinum
Infinity on High: platinum

"Nickelback?" you ask? Well, I'm trying not to be biased, and also show that numbers alone don't make a BotD. Just witness:
Silver Side Up: 5.3 million in the US, 10 million worldwide
The Long Road: 3.3. million in the US, 5 million worldwide
All The Right Reasons: 6.7 million in the US, 9.5 million worldwide
I mean, that's just crazy. (Also, their current wikipedia page proclaims that Silver Side Up "consisted of 12 versions of the exact same song." Good times!)

Now, while Nickelback has obviously sold more albums than FOB and JEW combined, are they in the running for Band of the Decade? I would say no, simply due to the fact that, other than album sales, they have had no noticeable cultural or musical impact. Chad Kroeger isn't sparking new fashions or being paid any attention to (other than when he gets a DUI, of course); and Nickelback isn't causing a legion of imitators to rise up, at least not any more so than any standard rock band. And this is the real reason why Nickelback could never be the BotD: they aren't creating a space for themselves and altering the musical landscape; they are merely filling the ever-present need for a standard rock band that plays catchy tunes but is ultimately harmless and dangerless. (Speaking of harm and danger, Nickelback are on the same record label as DragonForce, Dream Theater, Killswitch Engage, and Megadeth.)

So while Nickelback is a worldwide top-selling band, few could dispute the cultural impact FOB has had in this decade (especially the last 5 years). Taking emo/pop/rock to new heights, creating fashion trends that bands and kids copy relentlessly, collaborating with artists of all types (Babyface and Elvis Costello?), and maintaining a significant amount even buzz even 5 years into their popularity. Trust me, in 20-30 years when people are telling their kids about music in the new millenium, Fall Out Boy will routinely be the first band to come to mind. I'm not saying this is a good thing or a bad thing, it's just the way it is (and a much better option than Nickelback, you must admit).

Discuss and disagree below.


Lewis said...

I can't remember if we included Coldplay in our previous discussion? Not saying that I would prefer them to FOB or some of the other options, but I feel like non-music people would be ready to proclaim them as the Band of the Decade already? Was this a strictly Rock discussion? I am too lazy to find our old posts about it on the Kay House Wall. Sorry.

eric said...

Obviously this is VERY subjective and entirely depends on what type of music you listen to. Coldplay is a band that has entered the global consciousness, no doubt, but any additional impact is debatable. Plus they don't do anything nearly as audacious as FOB's plan to play in all seven continent in less than nine months. And marrying Gwyneth Paltrow is way less rock star than Ashlee Simpson (by which I mean, it's way more rational/sane).

Lewis said...

Fair enough. I couldn't remember the exact parameters of our initial discussion. Thanks for the clarification.

travis said...

i'm a little surprised that Radiohead is out of the running here. Kid A kicked off the new millennium quite well, I'd say.

However, I doubt that anyone will disagree that Nickelback should definitely not be in the running.

travis said...

oh, and fall out boy is gonna play/played in all 7 continents? did they have a big show in Antarctica that i missed?

Cam said...

I'm with Travis here. Kid A, Hail to the Thief, and In Rainbows? Plus, the way things are going , we could have another album before 2010. I vote Radiohead.

eric said...

In my defense, this is completely incomplete. Radiohead obviously kicked off the decade in triumphant style, but at this point they seem almost in danger of falling into Coldplay/DMB territory - i.e., they started out great/unique but have now become a cultural staple to the point that you would not be surprised to see any person/stereotype at a Radiohead show. For that matter, I personally find the new Coldplay almost as experimental as in Rainbows, albeit in VERY different ways (I'm not necessarily talking about quality here, but rather, how they vary from the formula(s) they created).

And to cap it all off, I just didn't think of Radiohead. I'm glad this sparked some discussion!

Ek said...

If FOB does play in Antarctica, at least make sure that they get dropped out of a helicopter in a giant metal cube that misses its target and smashes a bunch of their fans. THAT would make them the BotD.

Radiohead was a great call...I can't believe that nobody thought of them when we originally discussed this. Also, don't know if their becoming more popular puts them in the DMB/Coldplay territory - the latter bands have become parodies of themselves like John Madden (caveat: I did really like Busted Stuff), and I get the impression from their fans that Radiohead to date has remained at least somewhat inventive/original/experimental (although the position that they "will always be an indie band," or have been at any point since Kid A, is total crap, as it is for Death Cab now).

Part of my position probably came from the fact that, other than Jimmy Eat World, the bands legitimately in the discussion are honestly bands that I just don't like that much. I think the best band of the decade has actually been Saves the Day, but their lack of massive popularity at any point rules them out.

Can we consider the Foo Fighters even though they are more of a 90s band?

And yes, Nickelback should be out of the running...they can be the Canadian BotD, which gives Canada:

60s/70s: Neil Young
70s/80s: Rush
90s: Alanis Morisette
00s: Nickelback

Now that is a downward spiral!!!

eric said...

Ek, you make an excellent point about Saves the Day. If I were making a personal band of the decade list, they'd be in the running for sure. I was attempting to at least act like I'm objective, though...

Ek said...

If Day & Age does well (haven't gotten it yet, but most of what I've heard about it is positive) The Killers might have to be added to the discussion - Hot Fuss and Sam's Town went multi-times platinum, and songs from the former were absolutely inescapable for over a year when it came out. For that matter, Shadowplay went gold in spite of the fact that it was almost exclusively covers, B-sides, and remixes.

Plus, they have a fairly unique sound as pop rock goes, and their influence is starting to show a little in some other bands as well - granted, I don't think they'll ever be like Zeppelin or even Pearl Jam in that respect, but I'm not sure that any band from this decade is.

Lars said...

Wow... I go down the list of comments and find that other people have said pretty much everything that I was thinking in response to the blog. I guess that's what I get for waiting a month to finally comment.

My first thought was Coldplay... If nothing else they would have made more sense than Nickelback as the "non-biased" example... not sure if their record sales are quite as high, but they command way more respect, international fandom, and much higher ticket prices for concerts. And they certainly have the aura of a BotD.

Radiohead also came to mind, but they suffer the same unfortunate circumstance as the Foo Fighters... namely that the decade fell at the wrong time for them. What if 1997 had actually been the start of a new decade? Think about it... Ok Computer -> In Rainbows? The Colour and the Shape -> Echoes, Silence, Patience, and Grace? Those are Band of the Decade spans, right there.

And the Killers were the final band that came to mind, if only for the huge potential they showed with Hot Fuss and their immediately iconic band-image. Unfortunately, Sam's Town was terrible, and Day & Age is just... boring. I actually went back and re-listened to Hot Fuss after listening to the new album, and it astonished me how good and fresh it sounded in comparison. They totally botched their career.

So, Fall Out Boy is the right choice. I think we all knew that. Infinity on High sealed it for them, in my opinion - and not because of its platinum sales. It was a damn good album, through and through. The "Revolver" of the emo era, I've called it. (And yes, I welcome and probably expect anyone who reads that to lambaste me.) That being said, I do still think that a strong argument could be made for Coldplay as the more deserving heir to the crown. Just not by me.

Ek said...

Ok, so since I said I've heard mostly positive things about the new Killers album, I've heard it get ripped by multiple people with decent (or better) taste in music. They're probably out as band of the decade, although, in some ways, they typify what superstardom has become in the 00s. The 80s was all about excess and flash, the 90s was more about playing down your own accomplishments and avoiding the spotlight, but in both cases, actual achievements were what created stars.

Now, superstars are created by (real or perceived) potential. Once an athlete/writer/producer/band has actually accomplished something, people's attention spans for them has run out and its on to the next unproven commodity. When someone comes along that actually realizes their potential, we commend them, then increase our expectations to unrealistic levels and turn on them when they don't live up. Think about who's been really big this decade - The Killers, Dave Matthews, Mike Vick, LeBron James (just wait), George W., Barack Obama (just wait)...its kind of sad, really.

The thing is, the sentiment about the Killers is that they got lazy, screwed up their career, or did something similar...I just think they aren't who we thought they were. THEY AREN'T WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE!!! Even listening to Hot Fuss again, yeah, the songs are good, but is there really a ton of evidence that this was ever a uniquely talented band? Not really; they just had a new sound, or at least, a sound that hadn't been heard on the radio for awhile. And come their second album, it wasn't new anymore, and they aren't the kind of band that can play multiple styles well (note: the absence of current bands that can is probably my #1 concern/annoyance as a music fan right now), so they had nothing to go on.

(end of rant)

Lars said...

Yeah, BUT... the songs on Hot Fuss were good. On Sam's Town they weren't. It's not that people got bored with the band.

And I don't think their rise to fame was any different from some of the huge bands of the 80s - say, Guns N' Roses, for example - namely, they released a debut album that everyone became obsessed with, and they blew up accordingly. Rockstardom has always consisted of a mixture of groups that "earned their stripes" and groups that "shot to stardom". That's the nature of the game.

I don't really buy the whole "potential" thing as defining this decade and the Killers' failure. It seems like a too-trite and cutesy way to try to make a point. And your list of examples was highly selective. I could make my own list of counterexamples quite easily... Randy Moss, Coldplay, The Batman Franchise, Harry Potter, Justin Timberlake.... the superstardom of all these rests on a heft of accomplishment, not potential.

What it comes down to is... some people have staying power, and some don't. The Killers had about 3/4 of an album's worth of good songs in them, and that's it. They wrote some good songs... people expected more good songs... they were unable to write any more good songs... people got bored with them. End of story.

Ek said...

I actually like Gn'R better as a comparison to Coldplay then the killers - all three bands were shot to stardom by debut albums that everyone loved, but Gn'R and Coldplay managed to stay huge longer because their next several albums, while not great albums, had multiple good-to-great songs each. Guns N' Roses is another "decade fell at the wrong time" band - Appetite For Destruction-Use Your Illusion II could arguably be a BotD stretch, especially in a weaker decade like the 80s. (As it is, the BotD for the 80s is Van Halen). (This is way off topic, but the best non-BotD due to bad timing is Rush - Fly By Night-Power Windows is just an overwhelming ten-year stretch, but the 70s/80s split cuts it right in half).

Randy Moss actually fits perfectly...he has yet to win a title, despite the fact that he plays on a team that is stacked on both sides of the ball, has an excellent coach, and is cheating. I can't even think of one Randy Moss playoff team that wouldn't have made the playoffs without him, and he's been prominently involved in the two of the three biggest NFL playoff collapses of my lifetime (the '98 Vikings and the Patriots last year). Don't get me wrong, he's good, but this is supposed to be our generation's Jerry Rice? And JT, while he does have a fair bit of real musical talent, is way more famous as a professional celebrity than musician, although there are stars like that from every decade. The new Batmans (Batmen?) will most likely fit perfectly after they make the next one with Jimmy Fallon as Robin and Beyonce as Catwoman (jk, although I did hear serious rumors about Cher. By the way, please kill me before that happens). The Harry Potter books are a good counterexample, although the HP movies are actually an example I wish I'd thought of for my original post.

Obviously I'm attacking the hypothetical a little bit here, if you'd said Tiger Woods, Michael Phelps, Death Cab for Cutie, and Muse, I'd have nothing to go on. I'll even give you John Mayer, although it seems like he was more popular back when he hadn't really done much yet. So hopefully I am either just completely wrong or there are still lots of people out there that appreciate real achievements and the mass media will eventually be forced to come around. It also could have to do with more information being available faster, which prevents anything even remotely interesting from staying in its local/niche market for most of its development period, which used to usually be the case.

Lars said...

That's funny, because Death Cab and John Mayer were both examples I'd thought of but decided to leave out. Nonetheless, I still think my list holds up. As far as Randy Moss... there is a lot more to "accomplishment" in football than just Superbowl rings. Tiger Woods would have been the better example though, you're right. And I still stand by Justin Timberlake as well. He is one of the best selling, biggest hit-making solo pop-stars of the decade, as well as a producer, actor, entertainer, dancer, frequent guest-vocalist, etc.... Yes, he has a lot of celebrity cache, but I would argue that it's because his wide array of accomplishments are so appealing. I mean... look at what happened to every other former boy-bander. They had no accomplishments, so they faded. And I assume you were joking completely about Batman... because those films are nothing if not accomplishments. Contrast them with the slew of other superhero movies with "potential" that ended up sucking (most notably Superman Returns).

Here's what it comes down to. I will grant you that "potential" is a definite source of stardom in this cultural environment, but I make two counter-points to that. First is that it does not define this decade exclusively. Groups that became famous on potential have existed throughout the history of pop music. Just because a band stays famous doesn't mean their original superstardom wasn't based on potential. That's what I meant by using Gn'R as a comparison to the Killers. Yes, they maintained their quality output beyond just the first album, but their initial fame was nearly identical to the Killers. And one-hit wonders have existed throughout the history of pop music as well. The Killers career path is nothing new... in fact if anything, their level of stardom has lasted longer than it should, based on their pathetic post-Hot Fuss output.

The second counter-point is that "potential" does not define this decade comprehensively either. I think my list of examples alone (with your additions) shows us this. And even our very own BoTD is an example... they released two albums before shooting to platinum stardom with From Under the Cork Tree. The fact is that culture has expanded so much that it's very difficult to have a comprehensive view, or to lay out a singular construct that defines how something like "superstardom" is created. I guess that's my larger point. Yes, there are ways in which The Killers' "potential" contributed to their fame and their subsequent failure, but there are also a lot of other factors, and their career is not a generalizable example of fame in this decade, nor a contrast to fame in other decades.

Ek said...

Those are actually good points. And I was joking about Batman. Why so serious?

As for JT's non-music accomplishments, I guess that's what I meant by his being a "professional celebrity..." his acting, especially comic acting, is decent, but there's no way he would have made it as an actor/comedian without his pre-existing celebrity cred. Some of his SNL stuff, granted, is hilarious, but its usually when he's making fun of boy band-ish pop music and/or his own celebrity (his willingness to do this is actually my main source of respect for JT). Only his music/dancing career holds up on its own, and even then, he's not really coming up with original ideas so much as he's become Michael Jackson without the pedophilia. However, it is a good point that there isn't one other member of a 90s boy band that went on to become a major star...I guess my point is that those other guys must REALLY have no talent!

Eric, I apologize for the fact that Justin Timberlake has been prominently discussed in the last four posts on your rock music blog. Lars brought him up first.

Lars said...

I feel no shame in that. I love Justin!

eric said...

And really, who doesn't?

Lars said...

I know this is an old post and a long-since closed discussion, but I couldn't help it...

Lebron James was on 60 minutes yesterday, and the tagline for the episode was literally "He's a prodigy who's lived up to his potential."



Ek said...

As long as this means LBJ does NOT have the potential to be another MJ, I completely agree!

Lars said...

He may be on his way...

Ek said...

Nice read. I really like that Hollinger is trying to objectively compare players from different eras, but I think adjusting for minutes played takes it a little far for me. Averaging an amount per minute over 45 minutes per game is just more impressive than over 40 - not only is it a slightly more robust sample size, but there's also fatigue that plays into it, both over the course of an individual game and over a season and playoffs.

PER is in a strange place as a stat right now, because I think it is underrated generally but very overrated by its supporters. It is the "The Royal Tennenbaums" of basketball stats.

Lars said...

Agreed, the "adjusting for minutes played" was a red flag for me too. Just playing the devil's advocate a little...

eric said...

Cut the sports talk or move it to The Village Tavern. Sheesh...

Lars said...

just for old time's sake :)