by Dylan Looney
After over a week trapped indoors by cold, unforgiving Mother Nature, my mind has begun to wander off to a simpler, more innocent time. The year is 2004. Today’s college freshmen are barely in grade school, George W. Bush is still in his first term, and the FCC has tightened up on censorship after Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction” at the Super Bowl halftime show. Lance Armstrong is still a national hero after beating cancer and winning his sixth Tour de France, and I’m probably just sitting on the couch watching Jimmy Neutron. It’s hard to believe, but all of that was eleven years ago.
Musically, 2004 had something for everyone. Possibly the biggest hit of the year was Usher, Ludacris, and Lil Jon’s “Yeah!” which was completely unavoidable and still gets regularly played by party DJs today. A then-up-and-coming group from L.A. called Maroon 5 landed a major hit with “This Love”. On the rock front, Nickelback was enjoying early success before the Internet made everyone hate them (seriously, somebody had to buy all those albums). Young emos were rocking out to Amy Lee’s Evanescence and Green Day’s huge crossover smash album American Idiot. Packed with hits such as the brash, cocky “Holiday,” “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” and “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” the album’s success is yet to be matched by the band. The album’s legacy continues on social media every year at the end of September, when someone is bound to post “Wake Me Up,” accompanied by a statement along the lines of “Somebody better wake up the guy from Green Day.”
Popular hip-hop was dominated by an influx of Southern artists, better known as “The Dirty South.” The aforementioned Lil Jon and fellow Atlanta-based rappers T.I., Ludacris, and the group OutKast were joined by other Southern rappers to give the more established East and West Coast artists a run for their money. In R&B, a young Beyoncé Knowles had recently left Destiny’s Child and was starting to assert herself as a solo artist with hits like “Me, Myself, and I” and “Naughty Girl.”
In the realm of hard rock, Velvet Revolver, the successful, yet short-lived union of Stone Temple Pilots’ Scott Weiland and 3/5 of Guns N’ Roses’ Use Your Illusion lineup, released their solid debut, Contraband. Many important metal albums were issued in 2004, such as Slipknot’s Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses) and Lamb of God’s Ashes of the Wake, both considered modern-day classics by many metalheads. In theaters, viewers saw the members of Metallica, arguably the biggest heavy metal band in the world, expose the arduous and emotional process behind the making of their poorly-received album St. Anger. The film, Some Kind of Monster, was directed by the late Bruce Sinofsky. In December, former Pantera guitarist “Dimebag Darrell” Abbott was tragically killed by a deranged gunman while performing with his new group Damageplan. This incident shocked not only the metal community, but all of the music world.
At this time, most of the music I was exposed to was country. In the early 2000s, the country charts were filled with slightly different lyrical content than the “Hey Girl, get in my truck and drink this beer” theme in much of today’s country hits. This is not to say the seeds of bro-country weren’t being sown with hits like Big & Rich’s “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” and Gretchen Wilson’s “Redneck Woman.” However, the lyrical content of 2004’s country music relished in telling stories of the everyday middle-American (Lonestar’s “Mr. Mom,” Tim McGraw’s “Back When,” etc.) or dark tales of desperation (such as Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss’s “Whiskey Lullaby” or Rachel Proctor’s “Me and Emily”). With the nation still reeling from 9/11 and headed into Iraq, several artists reflected and capitalized on the public’s patriotic sentiments with songs in support of either the troops or of the conflict, depending on how you look at it. Even songs not directly about the war, like “Awful Beautiful Life” by Daryl Worley, who had a massive post-9/11 hit with “Have You Forgotten,” contained the lines “We said a prayer for Cousin Michael in Iraq/ We’re all aware that may never make it back.” While all this patriotic sentiment may seem like pandering to a nation dealing with tragedy, it addressed people’s heartaches, worries, and disappointments like only country music could.
In 2004, people listened to music on iPods, a band’s MySpace page, or even through ancient devices called “compact discs” (ask your parents, kids). Every now and then, MTV or VH1 would still play a music video or two, though they were pretty much in the same reality-show-centric mindset that they are now and have been for a very, very long time. YouTube wasn’t around, and many still simply listened to local radio, waiting for the DJ to play that OutKast song everybody loved so they could “shake it like a Polaroid picture.”
So, there’s my look back at 2004. I sure hope you enjoyed this spin in the DeLorean with me (again, ask your parents). I tried to cover all the major areas of popular music the best I could, and I’m sorry if I might have missed anything you thought was important. Please comment below if you have any suggestions for future album reviews. Thanks for reading. You’re all awesome!