Wednesday, January 7, 2009

2008 - The Music Year in Review

As 2008 comes to a close, we wrap up a particularly whacky year in music. There was much of the familiar—Britney Spears ruled the charts (and our hearts), Coldplay solidified their spots as worldwide rock superstars, and Radiohead made headlines with their seventh full-length release—and then there was the downright weird. Top album lists saw indie folk records saddled up cozily next to F*cked Up and just below TV on the Radio, whose sound is harder to figure out than Kanye's decision to trade in samples and puns for a whole album's worth of auto-tune singing over 808 beats. And to top it off, Lil Wayne is up for Album of the Year! Whoa, whoa, whoa.... Lois, this isn't my Batman cup.

So what does it all mean? If we learned one thing in COM 101, the world of communication is changing! There is more music out there than ever before and all of it is virtually just a click away; it seems like this musical sonic boom was more apparent than ever in 2008. Generation X is in the building—we know our way around the internet and, with so many choices, we will have it our way.

With so much competition and so much that's already been done before, artists have been forced to think outside the box, underground, through the wire, back inside the box and then some. The result: genre-mixing, label-bending sounds; innovation brought to us by an increasingly diverse and offbeat cast of characters.

The biggest story of the year has to be that of Lil Wayne, one of the hardest working and most eccentric acts out there. Love him or hate him, his rise to fame and acclaim has been nothing short of amazing. With every bizarre verse, he is making mainstream hip-hop interesting again by appealing to the masses without compromising his art. In all of his sizzurp-sipping glory, an unmatched ear for rhythm and a creative eye for hits make Lil Wayne the fascinatingly unpredictable megastar he was in '08.

Other popular artists have made careers out of crossover genre appeal—Linkin Park, Rihanna and Chris Brown come to mind—but it takes something extra to excel to the point of explosion in the ranks of Lil Wayne and other big time players. Coldplay reached new heights with rock hybrid Viva La Vida, and TV on the Radio made some noise with their indie rock/soul/electronic/rap/everything-else you-can-think-of album, Dear Science. And then there was Erykah Badu, with her neo-soul snapshot of a warring New Amerykuh that demands our minds and hands. Meanwhile, Lady GaGa rocked the pop world internationally with her dance/ disco/80s-influenced The Fame, which regularly features such delightfully trashy lyrics as "C-c-c-crazy, get your ass in my bed" and "Our hair is perfect / While we're all getting sh*twrecked."

For me, 2008 was a year of outstanding individuals who defied categories, a blending of styles, and many variations of what it means to live in these high times. 2009 will only see more cross-genre excitement and originality, which I am all for. Because I don't know what to say when people ask me what kind of music I like the same way I don't know what to put down when a form asks me to choose an ethnicity. And it's looking like I'm not the only one! God bless America.

- Jessy Bartlett

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