Catching a repeat of “The 100 Greatest Songs of the 2000s” on VH1 got me thinking about whether any particular genre or style of music could really be considered emblematic of the 2000s. After initially struggling to formulate a general theory of 2000s music, I began to consider the arbitrary nature of decades as a reason for my struggles. (It’s a more appealing explanation than my own lack of creativity.) Our calendars are, after all, social constructions. There’s nothing inherent in the laws of nature that says that the culture should undergo a paradigm shift on January 1st, 2010. Rather than try to shoehorn our understandings of cultural trends into pre-formed ten year chunks, maybe we should be more open to a classification of eras that isn’t boxed in by decades or inappropriately stretched to fill ten year spans. Ten years, after all, is a fairly long time (though that sort of judgment is relative), and the themes and attitudes that define one portion of that span may not maintain their relevance throughout the entire ten years. Consider, for instance, “the ’60s” as they are understood in the popular imagination – a decade of war, protests, and the Beatles, even though none of these achieved particular prominence (at least in the United States) until 1964 at the earliest. It is for these reasons that I present a concept I call “High Noon of the 2000s.”
The boundaries of High Noon of the 2000s are difficult to pin down, but I would define them as running from around early 2004 to late 2007. They begin roughly at the point at which the initial shock of the 9/11 attacks had begun to wane (though of course there would be many exceptions to this generalization of our collective response to 9/11) and American society begins to adjust to the more-or-less permanent war footing of the post-9/11 era as the “new normal.” They end with a one-two punch around late 2007 and early 2008 – the financial crisis and the rise of Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy.
Having described what does not define High Noon of the 2000s, I should turn my attention to what does exemplify the period. There is no better way to do this than to introduce the man who personifies High Noon of the 2000s better than anyone else – Kevin Federline. Now I know what you’re thinking – “Kevin Federline? But Matthew, he’s such a has-been artificial celebrity. And even during his fifteen minutes of fame, he was insipid and crass and selfishly exploited the efforts and accomplishments of others.” I say – exactly. And that’s why he’s such a perfect representation of High Noon of the 2000s. Kevin Federline’s success, such as it was, exemplifies success as it existed in the culture at large at High Noon of the 2000s – materialistic, narcissistic, independent of any commitment to something larger than one’s self, oblivious to the inequities of our society, and, ultimately, fleeting. Listen to “A League of My Own” from his 2006 debut album Playing With Fire. (The world is still waiting for its follow-up.) Can you not picture it being blasted from the stereo of a Hummer as a newly-minted real estate millionaire rolls through the sprawling suburbs of Phoenix?
Nathan Rabin of the Onion AV Club produced a survey of the songs of Volume 21 of the “Now That’s What I Call Music” compilation series that doubles as the greatest documentation of the zeitgeist of High Noon of the 2000s that has ever been produced. Though he makes no specific reference to Kevin Federline in particular, Rabin’s analyses of songs like “Grillz” and “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” (not to mention the picture of a lasciviously leering Trace Adkins that adorns the top of the article) bring High Noon of the 2000s into the sharp relief that this blog post can only dream of.
Oh, and in case you’re still a little unclear on exactly how our culture has changed since High Noon of the 2000s, this pretty much tells you everything you need to know.