2003 Year End Thoughts
Diversity and iTunes
f course at my age a year is only a 24th of my life. No wonder they seem to be flying by at an alarming rate of knots. How fast will they move when I’m 50?
2003 seemed to be a year that made people feel jaded by music for a variety of reasons. A quick surf around I Love Music will reveal plenty of disenfranchised people for whom music has become a chore. I can sympathise; as trends and technology move faster than ever, as the internet breaks subcultures into microcultures and accelerates them from germination through flowering to death ever quicker, it seems to be increasingly hard to keep abreast of what’s happening. I must have heard more albums this year than any other, and at times I’ve felt numb, felt as though I no longer knew what was good or bad because I almost enjoyed everything at least some of the time. I found myself, on several occasions, pausing, stopping even, and doing nothing, listening to nothing, just so I could relax for a moment.
So what’s 2003 been about for me? On paper I’ve had a rough year but really, for the most part, I’ve enjoyed myself. It’s telling that 2003’s arguably most important album didn’t actually come out in 2003 at all. Justified bled through the year like a… something-or-other. That bleeds. Slowly. But even that was never fully comprehended, at least by me, as a whole album, but rather a succession of great songs that just happened to be by the same guy who just happened to be great. It’s great seeing Justin (he’s become so familiar and layered with affection that he no longer needs a surname) interviewed on TV because the triptych of cool that normally surrounds him (he can dance, he can sing, he’s cute as hell) vanish and leave a refreshing, gawky enthusiasm and fanboyishness that endears where others seem cold of arrogant. That was his appeal – he seemed like one of us. He dressed like us. Just more expensively.
a succession of great songs…
iTunes changed a lot of things when I finally downloaded it a few months ago. iTunes and a broadband connection. As much as anything else I fear they’ve given me a mild case of ADHD, sucked my attention span down from 45 minutes to four minutes. My internal sequencing is all fucked-up. I swing from Curtis Mayfield to Fushitsusha to Guns N Roses to “Mmmbop”, and I like it. I’ve never liked definitions and the random button doesn’t either, doubly so when it’s got 4,000 tunes to surf through without me ever needing to change the CD. The listening self has been eroded, it no longer needs make a choice, and unlike Luke Rhinehart’s Dice Man it doesn’t need a numbered cube to which to absolve responsibility. As long as you have no hang-ups about what to download then you need never be “the type of person who listens to [insert genre here]” again; just upload all the songs you have into iTunes and let it choose who you are and how you feel. We’re not even dilettantes now.
2003 was a great year for music. Every year is a great year for music if you keep a look out; not only have you got all this new shit to keep up with, you’ve everything that came before to keep you entertained too. I’ve probably spent most of the year listening to Mouse On Mars and Plaid, both new discoveries for me. I tore down a lot of old hang-ups and tried stretching my mind even further than I had before, embracing music as far apart as Aaliyah and Dave Douglas and The Clientele. Open-mindedness is a virtue after all.
And what does iTunes drag up now? “Love Shack”. Bless it. It knows me and it likes me.