Year in Review: 2004

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!

Billboard Top 10 Review

by Dylan Looney

Hey there! You’re reading the first post of my new music blog. I’ve been writing, playing, listening to, and analyzing music most of my life, and I appreciate everyone at the East Tennessean for giving me this outlet. I look forward to writing this weekly blog, and I’ll try my best to keep it informative and entertaining. For my first entry, I’ll be reviewing the current top ten songs on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s funny to imagine my fourteen-year-old “metal-or-nothing” self analyzing the current hits, but as I’ve grown older and matured, my musical horizons have broadened. Don’t get me wrong, there’s always a time and place for some Megadeth, but I’ve learned to recognize a good pop song when I hear one. So, here’s the Top Ten for the week of February 21, 2015.

  1. “Uptown Funk!”- Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars

I’m not going to beat around the bush here, this song JAMS! From the a capella bass opening to the song’s climax, “Uptown Funk!” is destined to be a party-starter and a dance-floor filler for many years to come. While many pop collaborations turn into either a big mess or one artist carrying the other(s), Ronson’s instrumentation and production are flawless, while Bruno Mars delivers vocals with all the energy and swagger of a young James Brown. Mars sings, “Don’t believe me? Just watch!” followed by an instrumental hook that may have been designed in a NASA laboratory to get a body moving. Last year, Daft Punk channeled a similar 70s disco sound for their excellent mega-hit, “Get Lucky.” Ronson and Mars build on that formula and create something much more energetic and fun.
My Score: 5/5

  1. “Thinking Out Loud”- Ed Sheeran

British pop star Ed Sheeran has gone through quite the metamorphosis, hasn’t he? From the softer-than-Charmin “Lego House” to last year’s “Don’t” is quite a change. His current hit “Thinking Out Loud” seems to split the difference between the two. The blues-light instrumentation is a welcome change of pace from the cold, synth-heavy sounds of much of pop radio. In fact, it reminds me of something 90s blues phenom Jonny Lang would do. While I mentioned “Uptown Funk!” filling dance floors, “Thinking Out Loud” has that capability, too. However, this time, I see it as the soundtrack to many a middle school and high school slow dance. While they certainly couldn’t be kissed “under the light of a thousand stars,” they can still awkwardly sway at arm’s length.
My Score: 3.5/5

  1. “Take Me to Church”- Hozier

Irish songwriter Hozier’s debut smash “Take Me to Church” adds a slight Gothic flavor to the typical 2010s indie-pop hit formula. The loud and prominent beat competes with a choir to create some shaky production. All the while, Hozier delivers lyrics full of religious imagery that sound more like he wants you to believe it’s about something deep instead of actually being meaningful. It’s not a bad song, but it’s not really a great one either. I found it rather boring.
My Score: 2.5/5

4. “Sugar”- Maroon 5

In the past few years, it seems that Maroon 5 has gone from a band to an Adam Levine solo project. Both musically and visually, the rest of the band has taken a very distant backseat to their reality-star frontman. Although I would like for the band to have a bigger presence, “Sugar” proves that Levine is a talented singer and pop songwriter. The laid-back, mid-tempo groove mixes well with The Voice judge’s vocals, which can get pretty high into the falsetto range. “Sugar” is a solid pop song and is better than most of the group’s recent output.
My Score: 3.5/5

  1. “Blank Space”- Taylor Swift

I don’t think I’m the right person to review this. Many of my female friends see Taylor’s 1989 like it’s Sgt. Pepper’s rolled in Back in Black and deep-fried in The Wall. I just don’t get it. Then again, I’m pretty sure I’m not in her primary target audience. On her single, “Blank Space,” Ms. Swift discusses how she could “show you incredible things” to a well-crafted melody on the verses over one of those cold, basic, 2010s pop instrumentals I discussed earlier. The sound is much different than her early days as a teen country artist, but the lyrical content is still the same ol’ Taylor. It seems like it’s her eternally-in-high-school lyrics that keep her fans coming back for more.
My Score: 2.5/5

  1. “FourFiveSeconds”- Rihanna, Paul McCartney, Kanye West

While I’m sure Kanye jumped at the chance to further inflate his ego with this collaboration, Mr. Kardashian really seems to be out this element on this track. Sir Paul’s stamp is all over the melody and the tasteful acoustic guitar, and Rihanna’s voice sounds better than I’ve ever heard it. In fact, it absolutely shines. However, Kanye should’ve just handled production or even rapped a verse. It’s strange how while West wants to be seen along with the greats, he doesn’t even put his best foot forward. His awkward, auto-tuned vocals come across like a guy singing Usher at a failed American Idol audition and weighs down an otherwise good song.
My Score: 3.5/5

  1. “Lips are Movin’”- Meghan Trainor

Trainor’s attempt at a follow-up to her debut hit seems to be doing well on the charts, but it isn’t matching the huge success of “All About that Bass,” which is unfortunate but not surprising. While “Lips Are Movin’” is similar in style to “Bass,” (even down to referencing it in the chorus) it lacks the novelty value that skyrocketed the song into success. Meghan has a very soulful voice, giving great tone with the track’s catchy “deny-ny-ny”s, but it’s a shame to waste her energy on the downright cringe-worthy introductory “rap” portion. I hate to say it, but it seems she’s setting herself up to be a one-hit wonder.
My Score: 2/5

  1. “I’m Not the Only One”- Sam Smith

Propelled by critical acclaim and hits like “I’m Not the Only One” and “Stay with Me,” Sam Smith was a big winner at the Grammys earlier this month. “I’m Not the Only One” has some wonderful, relaxing instrumentation that reminds me of the classic Motown sound, while the melody and chord progressions bring to mind Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud.” Smith’s voice tends to be a little too soft and blubbery at times on this song, but he is greatly helped when the backing vocals kick in about two-thirds into the track. Overall, it’s a nice follow-up to “Stay with Me.”
My Score: 3/5

9.  “Love Me Like You Do”- Ellie Goulding

Ellie Goulding’s contribution to the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack is what Phil Collins’s “In the Air Tonight” would sound like if it were completely boring. Goulding herself sounds bored as she sings accompanied by what sounds like elevator music. “Love Me Like You Do” is uninspired, repetitive, and most likely wouldn’t be nearly as prominent on the charts if it weren’t attached to a movie packed with hype and controversy. Definitely my personal least favorite on the Top Ten.
My Score: 1.5/5

  1. “Shake it Off”- Taylor Swift

Wow. This song has been on the charts for a whopping 25 weeks. Even as Taylor’s third single from her new album makes its way onto the charts, the first single remains in the Top Ten. If you’ve interacted with society at all in the past six months, you’ve undoubtedly heard Swift’s ultra-catchy smash. As a matter of fact, when conducting research for this review, this is the only song I didn’t listen to because I didn’t want it stuck in my head again. Love it or hate it, you can’t forget it. And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate… Oh boy, here we go again…
My Score: 3.5/5

Phoning it in

I don’t know about you guys, but things are pretty busy for us this time of year studying for finals and whatnot. Aaron ended up getting called into work (he’s helping revive Poor Richards!), so I’m filling in the best I can. And in this case, the best I can just means randomly throwing up some of my favorite internet-isms late.

BY THE WAY, April was our best month ever for views on this blog, so thank you guys so much for all your support! We’d all be writing anyway, so it’s nice to have someone who reads it.

He sure did

He sure did

I'm pretty sure these are the kind of parties my parents go to.

I’m pretty sure these are the kind of parties my parents go to.

Two of my favorite things in one meme.

Two of my favorite things in one meme.

The only one of these I've ever approved of

The only one of these I’ve ever approved of

Ron Swanson is my hero

Ron Swanson is my hero

This hamster makes me laugh more than anything else. Just look at it... look at it.

This hamster makes me laugh more than anything else. Just look at it… look at it.

Now laughing my way to class,

-Todd
Executive Editor

Dead week survival skills

Dead week is death week and one of the only reasons we trudge through it is so we can have our summer and then do everything all over again until we get our degrees and work until we die. At least, that’s the way it feels right now.

So to all you fellow procrastinators who did not want to start that final project at the beginning of the semester when it was assigned, here are some recommendations that might be useful for surviving dead week.

  1. Go to the Humane Society — Unless you are soulless or are allergic to animals (in which case, God have mercy on your soul because that sucks, and the only thing worse than that would be to be allergic to both chocolate and animals), playing with animals can be pretty therapeutic. Plus you would be benefitting animals that really need attention and care. Overall, it’s a win-win situation.
  2. Exercise — Exercising is also a good stress reliever. It’s good for your brain, as well as for your body. I’ve found that running can help me to clear my mind when I’m stuck on homework. It’s also good just to get out and do something different. Studying is good, but you have to mix it up a little. Unless you’re one of those people who can sit down and finish a project in a single sitting (in which case I hate you), it helps to take a break every now and then and do something that’s not Facebook or TV.
  3. Go Outside — The weather has been wonderful lately. Well, minus the days when it was raining…. Okay, so it hasn’t been completely wonderful, but hey, on the days when it is nice and you don’t run the risk of drowning by being outside for more than five minutes, then you should go outside. You don’t necessarily have to do anything, just soak up some vitamin D. I think it’s healthy, or something.
  4. Sleep — Yes. It does still exist during this time; you’re just not entitled to it. Even if you don’t get an optimal amount of sleep at night, try napping during the day to make up for a little of what you lost at night. I usually crash when I get back from classes because my baby flying squirrel escapes from her cage at night and I have to spend parts of my nights catching her. That and I have other more important things to do than sleep (not really, but they seem important until I have to wake up in the morning). But really, naps are wonderful. Naptime should have been postponed until college. No one needed it in kindergarten. It’s just a sadistic way of reminding us that we did, at one point, have the opportunity to get more than six hours of sleep.
  5. Cook — It’s better than eating fast food (well, depending on how good of a cook you are) and it’s usually cheaper. I’m not much of a cook, but I love baking (mainly because I like bread dough and cookie dough and brownie batter. I give the cooked stuff away, because it’s not nearly as good as the raw stuff), which is an acceptable substitute (I think). It’s also a good way to keep your mind occupied and hopefully off of schoolwork. Plus you can eat the results. You probably can’t (or hopefully won’t) say the same of your homework.
  6. Fly a Kite — LET’S GO FLY A KITE! UP TO THE HIGHEST HEIGHT! LET’S GO FLY A KITE AND SENNNDDD IT SOAAAARINGGGGGG!!! There is no explanation for this one… just… kites. I like them.
  7. Hang Out With Friends — Or really anyone, for that matter (friends, enemies, second cousins three times removed, random people on the street….). You need to have some social interaction to keep you sane and to remind you that there are things outside of school. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.
  8. Get Rid of Unnecessary Assignments — If you don’t need them anymore, get rid of them. Creatively, of course. Or aggressively. That chemistry homework that you spent hours on? Tear it up into little pieces and vacuum it up (I’ve actually done this before). Bury it. Burn it (***in a safe place using proper safety precautions so I don’t get in trouble for saying this***). Eat it. I don’t particularly care. If you can think of a really good way, let me know. There are a few assignments that I no longer want to exist (and never wanted to exist, for that matter). This tip is particularly therapeutic for some reason. Really, it’s nice.
  9. Bathe — Yes, it is still necessary. For the sake of the rest of us who are already suffering, please bathe.
  10. Actually Finish Your Assignments — Hoping that your finals will finish themselves doesn’t actually work. At some point, you will actually have to sit down and do them (please let me know if you find another way to do this. I’ve tried several different things… the results are pending). Not finishing finals doesn’t count as surviving dead week (it’s like being zombiefied. You didn’t actually survive the zombie apocalypse, you… this analogy is going nowhere. Hopefully you get the point).

Good luck! You will need it.

-Kasey
Scene Editor

Flex your whimsy muscle

I am not a spontaneous person. (That sound you heard is my wife laughing at the gross understatement you just read).

If I could, I’d probably have my next two weeks meals planned out to the letter. I’d know where every dollar was going, and exactly how things were going to play out. But things never happen like that.

Thank God.

The left brain, which I am partial to, is always well-meaning, but it sometimes forgets to account for the flashier side of life. It gets consumed in tasks. It gets consumed in completion and plans and to-do lists. It analyzes with incredible precision. It is always in control.

Not to mention BORING AS ALL GET OUT.

Sometimes you have to let lefty take a break. He’s annoying, really, if you think about it. He’s your mean third-grade teacher that never let you stay out for extra recess time. And we let him dominate our lives all in the name of “productivity”.

All the while, the sweet, right brain sits in the corner looking like this.

And yes, the left brain looks like Squidward.

And yes, the left brain looks like Squidward.

If the Squidward image doesn’t work for you, we can just call left brain “Lenny” from now on. He’s pale and mean and has a curly mustache. Anyway Lenny is useful a lot of the time. A world without Lenny is chaotic and absurd. However, let’s put him in the corner for the time being.

I would post some sort of funny video or picture or something here, but there’s not really a “whimsy cover-all”. But studies have shown if we let our left brain dominate too long and try and use self-control to “make” us do things, our self-control begins to wane, and we are actually less productive than we would be otherwise. In my experience, it also makes it more difficult to actually have fun having fun.

This is incredibly important to those of us cramming for finals. Not only are we exhausted from trying to absorb information from different subjects all at once, but if we do have fun, we only feel guilty about it. (“I really should be _____”)

Reading this post comes with one guilt-free trip to your happy place. So get up for a minute and sing, dance, draw, laugh, listen to dubstep, create a tower of power from the items on your desk. (Actually, if you are in class tomorrow, I would not recommend this last one.) Whatever you do. Break the monotony. Do something unnecessary.

I’ve found that if I make myself do something out of the ordinary, sometimes I accidentally end up enjoying myself.

Currently craving cupcakes,

-Todd
Executive Editor.

P.S.– If you’re interested in the sort of things left brain is useful for, I would refer you here.

To boldly go where no one has been in a while

(Today we will feature a guest post from East Tennessean staff writer Nate Bradley. Nate is a writer for the viewpoint section. He covers a myriad of topics, but I chose to pick his most recent article, which I believe also happens to be the most appropriate for the Interwebs:

Star Trek

Hope you enjoy

-Todd)

If I die tomorrow, let it never be said that I did not appreciate “StarTrek.” I grew up watching episodes of “The Next Generation” and Netflix allowed me to watch the every episode in order.

I did not stop with “TNG.” I moved on to watch the other “Star Trek” series, as well. I’ve even watched a few of the movie adaptations of the TV series, which — as some will tell you — fail to live up to the standards of the TV series.

However, I am very excited about J. J. Abrams’ movie adaptations. The first movie reboot was an exciting action movie with just enough nostalgia to overlook the fact that was, well, an action movie. The second movie is shaping up to be the same sort of thing, which is fine, but it isn’t quite “Star Trek.”

 

You may be wondering why I am excited about these movies that I consider to be “not quite” befitting of something bearing the “Star Trek” name. The answer is quite simple: These movies have made “Star Trek” relevant again. And if “Star Trek” continues to be cool and relevant we may just get another TV series, which is where it belongs.
Simply put, “Star Trek” tells compelling stories about very complex issues. The TV show was able to accomplish this because, like any long running TV show, it doesn’t need to introduce the characters every episode.

 

One of my favorite episodes is called “The Measure of Man.” Widely considered to be “The Next Generation’s” first great episode, it explores the question of what is required for personhood.

In this episode, the future of a cybernetic life form by the name of Data hangs in the balance. Some believed that Data, despite seeming to have consciousness, was not truly “alive” and thus did not have any rights. Others argued that just because Data was a “synthetic” life form, this difference was not enough to declare him property.

This debate goes on today, and I’m not talking about rabid fans debating about characters on a screen. This issue is alive and well in the form of cloning and artificial intelligence. The many episodes of “Star Trek” constantly dealt with complex ethical, cultural and philosophical issues.

The show wasn’t about giant space ships; it was about how cultures interact and how we come to deal with complex issues and the art form of diplomacy. The fact that it is a science-fiction show is merely a driving force for some of the most in-depth story arcs that modern entertainment has ever seen.

Trekkie

“Captain, there’s a giant being… it’s staring right at us!”

 

-Nate
Staff Writer