In honor of the 20th anniversary of this blip of a genre, I will be posting a long, personal, rambling series of essays. Some will have stats, most will be very scatterbrained, all will be disputable about one of my favorite genres that may not have been a genre at all….
In an attempt to make sense of the senseless and apply numbers and stats to artistic endeavors, I did what any reasonable person would: I tried to catalog the major events of the 2KGRR genre into an Excel-based timeline.
Nobody asked for this. Most of the events are not in dispute, unless you want to debate whether they’re worthy of being called “events” in the first place. But regardless, I came up with something and I’m sharing it.
I tried to capture moments before the period proper (“The Lead Up) and moments within the hey days (“2KGRR Prime”). Following that, I made “The Big Swings” period, a time where the impacts of the Prime period manifested into sophomore albums, bigger promotions and the general attempts by the industry to make this genre last. This inevitably leads to the bubble’s burst (“It’s Over”).
I also attempted to make this dynamic, amazing timeline thing, but my skills and patience wouldn’t allow it. I’ll link this half of the timeline to the post, but here are the highlights:
The Lead-Up Period (1993 – Mid 2001)
4/1/1993: The Hives play their first gig. They’ve been around a long time, folks.
9/21/1996: Meg White marries Jack, and he adopts her surname. While not directly a musical moment, this event’s inclusion should be self-explanatory.
8/14/1997: The White Stripes play their first gig. Again.
9/14/1999: The Strokes play their first gig. This threw me a little, since my memory has the Strokes magically appearing in 2001 with their album.
4/10/2000: The Hives release Veni Vidi Vicious. Perhaps this is retrofitting their importance in the genre, but the fact that this seminal* work of the genre was released PRIOR TO the genre’s truest formation feels substantial. It helped the 2KGRR get grounding; when the thing explodes, fans wanted something else like it. It helps to have a back catalog, and that’s what this album (and others like it) supplied.
That’s the lead-up period. Now we get to the big things…
The Prime Period (Late 2001-Mid 2004)
July 2001: The White Stripes release White Blood Cells and the Strokes release Is This It. Separated by 27 days, this is the genre’s “MTV plays the ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ video” moment. While it took a while to catch on, we can point to this point — this month — as the reason we’re all here. It helps that both albums are great.
10/22/2001: The Hives release the Your New Favourite Band EP. Symbolic of the genre at large, this was a collection of older songs and new-ish songs from VVV, and was the band’s big breakthrough moment. The genre now had definitive bands!
6/12/2002: Andre 3000 attends a Hives concert and gets inspired to write “Hey Ya.” This sounds like not only the stuff of legend, but also a wild inclusion, but I think it speaks to everything I’ve been moaning about. First of all, it really happened, as confirmed by interviews with Andre 3000. Second, I managed to pinpoint the concert thanks to my trusty pal setlist.fm. Third, and most importantly, I think it’s very telling of the scope of the 2KGRR genre that setlist.fm lists only this event — that Andre attended and was inspired to write one of the biggest songs of the decade — and not any of the songs played that night.
This tells us everything, I think: the genre’s biggest contribution might have been to inspire bigger, better things.
7/22/2002: The Vines release Highly Evolved. Now we have four bands! This one’s here more to set-up a later payoff. It’s writing, people.
8/29/2002: MTV VMA’s pit the Hives vs. the Vines. When you want at a moment where things come together to look like they Matter, and you’re talking about music, it was a big deal for MTV to give things a label. It happened with Michael Jackson becoming the King of Pop, it happened when MTV played the hell out of Nirvana, and it happened (smaller scale) here. You can’t say they weren’t trying.
9/1/2002: The Vines appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Accompanied by the headline “ROCK IS BACK,” a genre gets further declared.
10/14/2002: The Libertines release Up the Bracket. FIVE bands!
2/17/2003: The White Stripes release “Seven Nation Army.” Two months ahead of the Elephant, the Stripes release what is arguably the biggest track of the genre.
4/22 – 4/25/2003: The White Stripes do a 4-day residency on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” Trust me — this felt like a BIG DEAL. And it was. We had one of the seminal bands of the era doing a set of mini-shows around one of their most important albums. It was huge.
6/13/2003: Arctic Monkeys play their first gig. I considered making a sub-sub category for these types of things, the moments generated as a result of earlier genre work. That’s because two months later…
8/25/2003: OutKast releases “Hey Ya!.” This is going to be hyperbolic, but what else are we here for: the truest legacy of the 2KGRR is not in what those bands themselves generated, but in what they inspired. Arctic Monkeys became one of the longest lasting (and LAST lasting) rock bands by breaking away from the garage-band sound, while “Hey Ya” was — in one song — capable of an explosion that a thousand Hives songs could not amass.
3/23/2004: The Vines release Winning Days. Unfairly maligned, but if you want a “sign of the genre’s nadir,” you couldn’t get much better than this. After this you have the Libertines both breaking up AND releasing an album (in that order), confirming that things were not going to get much better. The first real damage to the armor has been found.
Next time… Part 2, including the Big Swings and the END POINT!