It’s Time to Celebrate the Greatest Year of the Early 21st Century

Friends, dust off your Juicy Couture terry cloth sweats, Von Dutch hat, Tiffany heart necklace and Coach ‘Signature C’ armpit bag because 2014 isn’t just another year. It marks a decade since 2004—one of the greatest years in the history of early 21st century popular culture.

Here are 14 pop culture milestones from 2004 that you need to celebrate EVERY DAY during 2014 because they made you, me and pop culture into what it is today, for better and for worse.

 

14) ‘Desperate Housewives’

Life was much simpler when it was just Sunday nights with the ladies on Wisteria Lane.

Then Bravo got involved. [Enter ‘The Real Housewives.’]

13) ‘New York Minute’

Before Mary Kate and Ashley went into the business of designing apparel and accessories for rich old ladies, they made this cinematic gem with Eugene Levy. It was the Olsen Twins final film together, before they traded in their teenage fans for an older demographic that just happens to come with a thousand times more disposable income.

12) Super Bowl XXXVIII Halftime Show Controversy [a.k.a. Nipplegate]

The genesis of the now ubiquitous term, “wardrobe malfunction:” A strange combination of words that are not only indicative of America’s Puritan tradition of sexual repression, but also take “beating around the bush” to the extreme.

11) ‘White Chicks’

Who could forget the scene in the car where Terry Crews sings along to ‘A Thousand Miles?’ Back in 2004, it was just funny. After frequently recreating this scene in my own car—sometimes swapping out Vanessa Carlton for Michelle Branch or Avril Lavigne—watching Terry now is like looking in the mirror.

10) ‘Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County’

A reunion is definitely in order. If not on MTV, then definitely on KTLA.

9) ‘Leave (Get Out)’ by JoJo

JoJo and I were both 13 when this track was released in 2004; a track where she just happens to sing about how she wants her boyfriend to get out of her life because he cheated on her.

Let’s be honest, when JoJo recorded this track, she probably didn’t understand cheating any more than I did. But hey, the chorus is catchy and has a strong feminist message so maybe her momager—by the way, I’m completely making this next part up—thought, “Why not. She’s got a mature voice and she doesn’t have to say any cuss words so no harm done. Girls of all ages will like it. 10 years from now, she’ll look back and probably still like it too.”

I have no idea whether JoJo loves or hates the track that made her famous, but I will shamelessly admit that as an adult, I still listen to it on a regular basis.

8) ‘Goodies’ by Ciara feat. Petey Pablo

In this sexy, Crunk/R&B feminist anthem, Ciara partnered up with rapper Petey Pablo, who dropped the dirty-nasty-but-oh-so-good single, ‘Freak-a-Leek,’ the year before.

Producing your debut single in a genre that tends toward misogyny and collaborating with an artist who recently released a song that explicitly objectifies women? Sorry Bey, Ciara beat you to it.

7) Britney & Kevin got married

via People

Their marriage marked the beginning of the Trainwreck Era for Britney. This photo of the newlyweds is the first in a series of less-than-flattering paparazzo photos taken of Britney through expensive windshields.

During the three years between the release of In The Zone (2003) and Blackout (2007), Brit showed us how not to live. With help from the right people, she managed to pick up the pieces and get back on track. With a bunch of hit albums under her belt and a successful stint as a judge on ‘The X-Factor,’ Britney just started her residency in Vegas. Lindsay, enough is enough. It’s time for you to take a hint.

6) ‘The Notebook’

This is where it all began: the world’s love affair with Ryan Gosling and Hollywood’s unhealthy obsession with positioning Nicholas Sparks adaptations as star vehicles for attractive, up-and-coming actors.

5) ‘Lost’

This show turned J.J. Abrams into a household name and made it okay—maybe even sort of cool—to participate in a fandom.

Look at us now: we’ve gone batshit crazy for a fantasy television series complete with swords, dragons and made up languages.

If that’s not progress then I don’t know what is.

4) ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’ by Snoop Dogg feat. Pharrell

This track is the perfect combination of smooth and nasty. It still gets a crowd going.

Pharrell, I still love you but ‘Blurred Lines’ are for amateurs.

3) Facebook

The launch of Facebook is an event that most of us only care about in retrospect. When Facebook launched back in 2004, most people didn’t care. Back then, it was all about MySpace and Xanga. Even for people who didn’t directly participate—such as a dweeb like myself, whose mom refused to let her sign up for MySpace.

2) ‘Mean Girls’

I think I can speak for everyone on this one. We want a cast reunion on Ellen. Announce it already. Ellen, don’t bother worrying about whether or not Lindsay will bail last minute. Let’s face it, her work ethic isn’t great so chances are, she will bail.

But who cares! The effort is what counts. It’s still a party with Tina, Amy, Rachel, Amanda and the girl who plays Gretchen Weiners.

1) ‘Yeah!’ by Usher, feat. Lil Jon & Ludacris

Take that and rewind it back. Even Usher knows that he can’t top this track. Why do you think he says, “If you want to scream yeah / Let me know and I’ll take you there,” in his 2012 single Scream? Sure, I’m close reading and adding meaning where I see fit.

Ten years may have passed, but it doesn’t matter where I am. Whether I’m in the car with the windows down, at the kitchen table on a saturday morning or at a club–I’m still screaming Yeah!

And if you read this far, I know you are too.

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REVIEW: POTATOwillEATyou

POTATOwillEATyou logo (Screenshot from beginning of Butter's Theme http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Ar1Alw-VQw&list=PLB7erPprkMQXdrsfX3l-WJuUqdntQ8Dka&index=3)

POTATOwillEATyou logo
(Screenshot via Butter’s Theme)

Skrillex, Diplo and A-Trax went live with their YouTube channel last week. Cleverly titled POTATOwillEATyou (though I still can’t figure out what the name is supposed to mean–if you have then please do share), I’ve spent the last week tracking the channel as new videos have been added.

According to EDMSauce, the channel is modeled on the pre-Laguna Beach days of MTV. Yes friends, MTV still had music programming in the early part of the 21st century. Remember those Spring Break pool parties in the Hamptons? Middle school me does. I’m pretty sure those were hosted by VJ’s. Was more screen time given to co-eds in bikinis, rather than music videos? Probably…but it is what it is. You take what you can get.

POTATOwillEATyou serves as a hub for electronic artists to premiere new tracks, music videos, interviews and behind-the-scenes footage (among other things). The channel has already released the premiere episodes of two rockumentary-esque series: BANG! and BLOW YOUR HEAD!. Whereas BANG! provides insight into the history of the genre, BLOW YOUR HEAD! appears to look ahead into its future.

Featuring interviews with Skrillex, Boyz Noise and electronic music pioneer Kevin Saunderson, the first episode of BANG! focuses on Detroit: the birthplace of the American electronic music scene. The most poignant moment of the eight minute video comes at the beginning; with the juxtaposition of an archival and a contemporary clip, demonstrating EDM’s roots in the city’s socioeconomic strife. Immediately following Skrillex and Boyz Noise’s passionate introductory remarks, an archival clip from what appears to be an educational film dating back to the 50s and 60s, starts to play on the screen. The clip showcases Detroit on a clear, sunny day–accompanied by narration that extolls the cities virtues. “Detroit, today,” the narrator states, “stands at the threshold of a bright new future. One rich with the promise of fulfillment.” The two contemporary clips that follow, however, are bleak in comparison (see below):

Screenshot from "Bang" (Pulled from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBxW5w18OD8&list=PLB7erPprkMQXdrsfX3l-WJuUqdntQ8Dka)

Screenshot via “Bang”

Screenshot from "Bang" (Pulled from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBxW5w18OD8&list=PLB7erPprkMQXdrsfX3l-WJuUqdntQ8Dka)

Screenshot from “Bang”

The juxtaposition of archival and contemporary footage sets the stage for the rest of the episode, which focuses on how electronic music arose from the depths of Detroit’s urban decay. Unfortunately, the interviews with Mr. Saunderson and Sam Fotias (who is one of the founders of Detroit’s Movement Electronic Music Festival) raise more questions than they actually answer. When Mr. Saunderson states that electronic music was originally only popular in the African American community, he doesn’t provide us with an explanation as to why. Similarly, when Mr. Fotias describes throwing parties at the abandoned Packard Automotive Plant, he doesn’t go into much detail about the inspiration behind these parties and the type of community they fostered. Clearly this episode was produced on the assumption that the viewer will have some pre-existing knowledge about the origins of electronic music. Providing additional context in future episodes of BANG!, however, will not only help educate newer fans, but also reinforce the commitment of seasoned fans because they will feel closer to the music through its history.

3BallMTY (Screenshot from 3BallMTY: BLOW YOUR HEAD! Episode 1 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUwfRnAWAH4&list=PLB7erPprkMQXdrsfX3l-WJuUqdntQ8Dka)

3BallMTY
(Screenshot via 3BallMTY: BLOW YOUR HEAD! Episode 1)

BLOW YOUR HEAD!, the other rockumentary-esque series produced by the channel, focuses on up-and-coming electronic artists. The first episode in this series follows a Mexican DJ trio, 3BallMTY, just after they open for Justin Bieber at the Zocalo in Mexico City, in front of over 200,000 people.

Although the video is only a little more than four minutes long, it is an insightful piece of music documentary cinema. I don’t know whether Diplo and Shane McCauley intentionally created a piece that seems to draw inspiration from the tenets of imperfect cinema. But I just can’t help myself from noticing the narrative elements that point toward the comparison.

While this episode is not rooted in politics of any kind, it spends a great deal of time meditating on issues of agency and consumption–both of which are central to Juan García Espinosa’s framework for an imperfect cinema. In his essay, “For An Imperfect Cinema,” Espinosa advocates for a cinema that is not just for the masses, but also created by them. I believe it can be argued that EDM culture has adopted a largely apolitical version of Espinosa’s notion through the concept of remixing–which effectively collapses the traditional hierarchy that exists between producers and consumers. In EDM, DJs and fans are one in the same. If a DJ is remixing a track, he or she is a fan of the track–it’s just that the DJ wants to bring out something in the track that the original producer may have overlooked. Furthermore, every fan is a DJ in his or her own right because curating tracks online can be described as a form of DJ-ing.

Diplo’s introductory voiceover that accompanies the title card at the beginning of the first episode seems to demonstrate this notion of collectivity. “This is our stories,” he says, “from the roads, the streets, the sidelines and the backstages.” The episode goes on to show us that 3BallMTY’s story is as much about the DJ trio as it is about the fans and the cultural elements that influences the music they produce. At one point, one of the boys in 3Ball MTY explicitly identifies how DJ and fan are one in the same. “I’m a producer and I’m the consumer of what I produce,” he says, “I’m going to create the things I want to listen to.”

In addition to the two series, POTATOwillEATyou has also premiered two new music videos for BUTTER’S THEME (Diplo) and TINY ANTHEM (The M Machine). BUTTER’S THEME is a journey through a kaleidoscope of booty shaking women that is reminiscent of the choreography in Busby Berkley musicals from the Classical Hollywood Era. Watch BUTTER’S THEME and then watch the title musical sequence from DAMES (1934) and you’ll know what I mean.

TINY ANTHEM, on the other hand, is a chapter in what seems to be an animated space opera. While you have probably encountered the story countless times within the science fiction universe (i.e. tyrannical space alien trying to take over the universe), that doesn’t make it any less fun to watch. Furthermore, the space alien’s uncanny resemblance to the PowerPuff Girls arch-nemesis, Mojo Jojo, was a nice little throwback to the days when I used to watch Cartoon Network.

Evil Space Alien from TINY ANTHEM (Screenshot from THE M MACHINE - TINY ANTHEM [OFFICIAL] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZNvjaJZVMg&list=PLB7erPprkMQXdrsfX3l-WJuUqdntQ8Dka&index=2)

Evil Space Alien from TINY ANTHEM
(Screenshot via THE M MACHINE – TINY ANTHEM [OFFICIAL])

Mojo Jojo, arch-nemesis of the PowerPuff Girls (pulled from http://images.wikia.com/bleedmancomics/images/c/ce/Mojo_Jojo.gif)

Mojo Jojo, arch-nemesis of the PowerPuff Girls (via Snafu Comics Wiki)

All in all, Skrillex, Diplo and A-trax have done an incredible job setting up POTATOwillEATYou. I would highly encourage you to check it out: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBYd5Tf-XOq9YoqN3MqhwEA?sub_confirmation=1

*** You can access Julio García Espinosa’s essay, “For an Imperfect Cinema” by clicking on the following link: http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC20folder/ImperfectCinema.html

FYI – I will post my review of the second BANG! episode later this evening. POTATOwillEATyou posted it this afternoon while I was working on this post and since I already had something going here, I thought it would be best to write the second episode review in a separate posting.