It wasn’t until around 1997 that I began to take music seriously. Up until that point it had always been background filler. However, my first year of high school was a testing time and music served as a way to decode all the useless noise that surrounded me. The way society views music these days seems to be a battle between the hipsters and the poptimists, with me oscillating between the two camps at the various points throughout the decade.
Mention the term pop music to the hipsters and its almost you like called them a c**t. See the problem here, at least as far as I am concerned, is that an opinion on musical taste is much like having an opinion on religion. Some opinions are well informed, some are downright farcical, and there is a lot of bullshit in between. Personally, I have the same opinion on music as I do religion. My opinion is right, but if your opinion gets you through the day, then that’s good too, as long as you don’t shove it down my throat. If you do, I’ll tell you to fuck off.
My musical journey has come full circle in the 00s. As with many young people my first introduction to music during that fateful 1997 was largely based on those of mainstream radio. Artists like Savage Garden, Natalie Imbruglia and Matchbox 20 were on my playlists of choice in the late 1990s and the early 21st century. Then soon after gaining access to 24/7 internet in 2001, I stumbled across what I refer to as my ‘gateway band’. That was Death Cab for Cutie, who as the term suggests opened the way for me to explore independent artists that were not played on the radio. Slowly over the following year, I turned into one of those genre defining hipster wankers I mentioned earlier.
I can’t pinpoint the moment when things changed exactly. I guess you could say that my discovery of the ‘indie genre’ was at the same time as the height of a personal crisis. As I emerged from my personal hibernation, I became more confident in myself, and consequently I gained my own sense of independence, musical and otherwise. Three albums managed to achieve this for me over an eighteen month period. Coverage by Mandy Moore, Be Not Nobody by Vanessa Carlton and Fallen by Evanescence. These are not the albums you would easily associate with members of the indie music community, but each spoke to me on an emotional level. After all isn’t that what pop music is supposed to do? Sweep you away on an emotional journey for just over three and a half minutes per song?
However, the full transformation was not complete until early 2007. I used to chalk down the above albums as guilty pleasures for fear of criticism from people whom I musically respected. Then I began to realise that the people who deserved to be respected musically are those who embraced all genres and recognised good music for what it was. It is then I embraced the poptimist inside me. Why should there be anything wrong with liking Mandy Moore, Michelle Branch, Vanessa Carlton or Skye Sweetnam?
Then there is my favourite type of pop, the undiscovered kind. In particular an artist from Norway, named Marit Larsen. One could label her as a more mature pop star, but she is younger than her aforementioned American counterparts. It boils down to more sophisticated song writing with European sensibilities. The understated nuanced kind, with lush instrumentation and multiple meanings. In essence, she is the ultimate intellectual pop musician.
Almost a decade after discovering that listening to good music can be a life-changing experience, I came back to where I started by re-discovering the joys of pop music. I have done this whilst still appreciating the music that I have found on my circular journey. To use the religious metaphor again, my spiritual journey is complete. I have achieved this knowing that my absolute favourite band on this journey, Tegan and Sara, perfectly encapsulates the middle ground of these two dichotomies: pop sensibilities and single minded independent grunt both of which I adore equally.
I have learnt that you can merge the two musical paradigms. I am certainly more of a poptimist than a hipster these days but I can appreciate both, unlike so many who are musically shortsighted. If any further proof is needed one only has to download and listen to the ‘Best of the 00s’ Mix that I have created. This 34 song mix charts my journey throughout the decade that has been, and will forever will be shaped by a soundtrack. No lists will chart how important each song has been because that underestimates the journey’s overall importance.
This mix is my decade summarised in two and a half hours. To me it kind of feels like the end of an old era, and the beginning of a new one, it represents more than a marking of a calendar, but rather a shift in my attitude to music that reflects a broader outlook on life. Where once I was following the masses, then rebelling against them to try and find my own identity, I am now comfortable within myself confident I have made the right choices. So as the Tens begin it is more a question of what delights I can actually discover rather than what parameters I must obey.