We are the youth gone wild...
Do you remember...

Sometimes you can't make it on your own...

Do you remember when flying on a commercial aircraft meant that you had your choice of dozens of different, albeit outdated, magazines to choose from to read? They came in those generic magazine holders like what school libraries used... the cardboard spine with the airline's name and the name of the magazine and then the thick clear plastic covers?

Well, much like the free food, this selection of magazines has gone the way of the dodo in recent years and we have, at least on American Airlines flights, been given an in-house written magazine that, shockingly, wasn't entirely terrible when I read the May and June issues to and from Las Vegas.

While the June issue had a pretty decent interview with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, the main article in the May issue is what caught my attention. It was about musicians that defined their respective decades. Basically, the author of the article talked about the significant advances in music in each decade since the 1950s and attempted to identify who he (or was it a she?) felt was the defining artist of the decade complete with some honorable mentions and a few songs that were pretty popular.

Here's the list as I recall...

  • 1950s - Elvis Presley
  • 1960s - The Beatles
  • 1970s - Led Zeppelin
  • 1980s - U2
  • 1990s - Nirvana
  • 2000s - nobody chosen yet

While the first two are blatantly obvious choices, I can see Led Zeppelin being argued by a few critics despite the fact that I agree with it personally.

I take a little issue with the final three. Well, two actually, since no one was chosen for the decade we are currently in.

While I can see U2 being representative of the 1980s, I wonder because their breakthrough album, The Joshua Tree, wasn't released until 1987. And, after that, all they released in the 80s was Rattle and Hum (my personal favorite). Yes, they released a ton of great stuff before TJT like War, Boy, and The Unforgettable Fire. But all those albums were considered commercial failures upon release. In fact, the author of the article even says that if U2 were a new band in this era repeating the sales figures they had with their first several albums, they never would have been given a chance to release TJT. They would've been released from their contract after their second or third bomb, which, in the case of U2, would've been October or War.

I could really see someone like Michael Jackson being chosen for the 80s. He defined commercial success, uniting of musical styles and tastes, and redefined the world of music videos with "Thriller." And why, with commercial megahits like Achtung Baby, Zooropa, and Pop, wasn't U2 chosen as the band of the 90s as opposed to the 80s?

That's right, because Nirvana was chosen. Another selection I take issue with mainly because they only really released two studio albums in the 90s (Bleach was 1989) before Kurt Cobain offed himself. Don't get me wrong, I dug on Nirvana to some degree and appreciated Cobain's lyrical ability and he did usher in a new sound to the mass populace, but the band of the decade? I'd still argue that U2 could hold this position as well.

And now for the decade we currently inhabit. The author opted not to choose simply because the decade is not over and (s)he didn't feel that one had truly emerged yet. (S)He was also worried about whether, this late in the decade, one actually would. The closest to a defining band that was suggested in the article was Coldplay. Thinking back through the decade, maybe they would be the best.

But (s)he also suggested that one of the newer bands might take the throne with another one or two good albums. One the author posited was The Arctic Monkeys. Really? A band that, while big in the U.K., a good 80% or more of the rest of the world has never heard of. And of the 20% that has, how many can name a song? Not me. I listened to one of their albums and was far from wow'd by it.

Why not Radiohead? They would be my suggestion. Granted all my favorite albums by them came out in the 90s (maybe they should be the choice for the 90s?), they changed their sound with their first album of the new millennium, Kid A, and boosted themselves through the stratosphere.

So my question to you is do you agree with the author's choices? Who would you counter-suggest? It's really not as easy as it may seem.

Totally Unrelated Aside (TUA): Well, not "totally," per se, as it is music related. This little ditty from my past popped in my head yesterday on the way to breakfast with Katie's parents. I'm wondering if any of you have ever heard it or if it elicits any youthful memories...

Great, green gobs of greasy, grimy gopher guts,
Mutilated monkey meat,
French-fried birdie feet.
Eyeballs boiled in a barrel of blood,
And me without my spoon...
... but I got my straw...

Anything? No? I'm just an insane youth day camper of the 80s?


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I agree with you on the whole U2 thing. And somewhat on your suggestion of Michael Jackson as a more accurate representation of the 1980s; however, my choice would be Madonna rather than the pre-Wacko Jacko Mikey. I think I'm really too old anymore to opine on the 2000s and maybe even the 1990s, but I knew everything that came out in the 1980s, music and pop culture, and I have to say, definitely Madonna.

Natalie Hanson

Well, depends how you define 'defining' -- if you are looking at music that changed the way artists that followed them did things then I can see placing U2 there. Nirvana not so much. (Although I think there is WAY too much to-do about Nirvana in general.)

I think U2 defined the 90s, not the 80s. They opened the door for bands with more of a message. (And I would also argue that today's system of not allowing a band to grow into their audience is a lot of what's wrong with the music today.)

To get back to my system problem. I don't think Radiohead has defined the 2000s. I can't think of a single rock act that has stood out. Again, rock acts need to grow. So far, and it's almost over, I'd say the decade has been about hip hop. So in spite of my not being a big fan his message I'd go with Eminem. He's brought Hip Hop into the mainstream and opened the door to so many others.


I'm OK with the choice of U2. I tend to think of them more in terms of the 80s than the 90s. Probably because I actually bought their stuff long before The Joshua Tree came out.

And although Nirvana only had two commercially released albums, I do think that they had a great deal of influence on what was happening musically in the early 90s.

I also agree with Natalie. Our current decade is definitely about hip hop. But I'm tempted to go with Jay Z over Eminem.


I'm with Natalie on her central premise but disagree on the details. ;)
"Defining" does not necessarily mean best. I would consider it to mean the artist that changed the way we look at music in that decade and influenced others.
Still, the 80's I do think would have to be Michael Jackson or Madonna or maybe Prince. I think of Madonna as having the biggest impact on the 80's, so I'm going to stick with that.
And Nirvana, like them or not, is really looked at as the catalyst for the whole grunge movement/return to indie rock scene in the 90's. They pretty much single-handedly destroyed hair metal's popularity.
Currently? I would agree that Radiohead would be a good choice. Maybe Coldplay--I've never understood what all the fuss is about but they do seem to be quite influential. I guess we've got three more years to decide... ;)


I absolutely remember that little song from my camp days. I had not thought about it in forever though...what made that pop into your head?


I think I would have to agree that this decade is either a hip-hop or possibly an R&B decade. Jay Z or Eminem are both good choices. I can't believe that I'm going to say this...but I think the "music as a franchise" bunch such as N'Sync, Brittany Spears, X-tina, et al... are also a consideration for the 2000s. Musically, I think they all pretty much stink, but it is these music group franchises that are to blame for losing out on great groups that don't get a chance because their first one or two albums aren't a roaring success.

As for the 90's, I think you need to look at someone like Shania Twain or Garth Brooks. The country/pop cross-over megastar is a fairly influential thing in music now and I don't think it should be overlooked. Heck, even KEVIN has listened to some country music...


Oh, and I remember that song, too. Only we always changed the words in order to torment my sister. We used to fry up whatever pet she had for the moment instead of the bird...

We were very sick individuals.


I'd like to talk about Nirvana for a moment. I think I understand why Nirvana was chosen to represent the 90's even though I would rather see Pearl Jam in their place quite honestly. The 90's were defined by grunge and some attribute that to the stylings of Nivana. Sure, there was a whole movement but why not choose the band whose front runner died? Again, Pearl Jam would have been my choice but I think they rocked it too far into the new millennium so I can totally see the whole 90's pick.

As for the 80's, I can't see anyone picking Michael Jackson just on principle really. I'm not saying that it is right or wrong, just what I think is happening. I've never liked U2 so I can no further discuss this rationally ;).

I agree with the hip hop choice of JayZ for this decade, btw.


I agree with your choice of MJ for the 80's. Who hasn't heard the Thriller album? As for Radiohead for this decade, I'm gonna have to disagree although I adore the band. I don't think they've made a great enough impact on our society.


Amie, Madonna is a fantastic choice as well! Can't believe I didn't think of her.

Natalie, totally agree that U2 defined the 90s moreso than the 80s. I like the Eminem choice for this decade. Fantastic selection.

Dagny, maybe it's just because I have no concept of JayZ really, but I think given a choice between him or Eminem, I'd got with Em simply because of the vastness of his appeal. Not that Jay Z doesn't have appeal or crossover for that matter, but Eminem was beyond huge.

diane, Prince is a good one, too.

tori, I have no idea what made it pop in there.

Allison, I'd go with Garth before Shania.

Hilly, I thought Pearl Jam, but even I think Nirvana had more influence than PJ. I think I need to listen to some Jay Z.

Elaine, yeah, Radiohead isn't the best choice, I just couldn't come up with anything better until Eminem was suggested.


If you like Linkin Park, you could start with the compilation he did with them...it's damned good!


It is soooo sad in so many ways that we are even debating that Eminem is the defining artist of the 2000's. I can't believe that it has come to that. Have the 2000's really been that horrible both musically and socially that his misogynistic, hate filled crap will define this decade? God I hope not.


By the way, after buying it on the strength of one single, I didn't like the Arctic Monkey's first album either(if that's the one you heard). But I love their new album. You should give it a chance. It's quite different.


Hilly, I might have to do that. Thanks!

Brandon, I sincerely hope it's different. It just came out within the last couple months, right?


Definitely Michael Jackson for the 80s. I guess I can see Nirvana for the 90s, even though I personally can't stand them. U2 is a more apt choice, I think. This decade? God, please not hip hop. Ugh. But it is rather prevalent for sure.


I think the choice of U2 for the 90s definitely has to do with the level of their activism and how they used their music as a launchpad for other activities. Yeah, they were politically motivated in the 80s, but did you ever hear of them taking part in rallies or the like back then? Nope. I think the popularity garnered from Joshua Tree and furthered by Achtung did wonders for them in terms of visibility and made it easier to accept them in those situations.


Hey Kev,

I think they were always political. They were always promoting causes (Amnesty International for instance comes to mind, and the tour with Peter Gabriel, as well as the unforgetable performance at Live Aid.) I think we just started hearing about it post Joshua Tree.


Bill Murray sings the first line of that in Caddyshack. Pretty funny.

As for the bands of the decade. I'm cool with MJ in the 80's...Prince was pretty awesome too though. 90's I'm actually ok with Nirvana. They were the "best" (Pearl Jam was leaps and bounds better) of the genere that DOMINATED the 90's. They had three albums out in the 90's (Nevermind, Incesticide and In Utero) and all did fairly well. (PJ was so much better though)

As for the 00's? I give it to, not a singer or group, but a show about music. American Idol has defined what our music and our lifestyle has become. Creativity in music?? Gone. Reality TV that is far from a reality?? Here to stay. There are amazing bands out there that I listen to that are never on the radio (Kings of Leon, Dredge, Sparta, etc.), but atleast they do what they want. How many people even write their own songs anymore?? Very few. All these artists have a "look", then their "people" manufacture crap for them to sing. It's so sad. What if a rep came up to Eddie Vedder or Kurt Cobain and told them, "We need you to look more....well...likeable." They would have walked out of the room laughing. That's why I think it's just crazy that artists now-a-days get so much credit. For what? For playing dress-up karaoke? Give it to the people who deserve it. Give it to Eminem, the guy all parent's can't stand and all politicians think is what's wrong with this country. He changed music in the 00's. He was the first rap artist on a major Chicago Alternative Rock station because people bombarded the radio station with requests. Why?? It's unique and it's not crap. It's someone's real life and real thoughts and real feelings. Not manufactured garbage. Kanye West has done the same thing. What's amazing is that I don't like rap or hip hop that much at all, but it seems like it's the only genere that hasn't been manipulated by "suits". Rappers seem to stick to their ideals much better than most any other artist, and that's something I can respect. Pretty soon we'll see Eminem's music on American Idol and Simon, Randy and Paula will tell that contestant, "We can make you the next Eminem." Then...of course...the world will end.


Nat, that's a good point.

Scott, if that happens, I want the world to end.


I like the suggestions of Madonna and Michael Jackson, but on principle I think I'd have to choose Madonna.

As for the 1990's, my favorite band was My Bloody Valentine, but I think Radiohead is a far better choice for the 90's. Radiohead made great albums that are very reminicent of the 90's without sounding dated, like Nirvana.

As for the 2000's, I might say Eminem, but he hasn't been doing much lately. Depending on how the decade ends, Justin Timberlake might be a good choice as he was a part of NSYNC (a boyband popular in the early 2000's) and separated to become the number one male artist. Every thing that man touches turns to gold.


illinoise, yeah, JT has that touch, doesn't he?

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