[Hype Hype Hooray] How 9/11 Changed Rock ‘n’ Roll, Part 1

Jamie normally snarks on the music industry and the indie blog scene, but for the next three installments he will explore how the attacks on September 11 changed the course of rock music (note: he’s not talking about pop music, just rock). I know it’s about 9/11, but don’t get all weird about it, ok?

When People Actually Partied Like It Was 1999

Prince had it right when he wrote 1999. “Say say oops zero zero party over, oops, out of time / So tonight I’m gonna party like it’s 1999.” Do you actually remember the wild, drunken party that was 1999? It was the year of both paranoia and indulgence. There was a small part in everybody that kiiinda thought the world might really be coming to an end, so we all partied hard just in case.

Think about it. This was the year of classic “fuck it” movie Office Space. This is when Sisqó actually recorded “Thong Song.” I mean, jesus, this was the year of Smash Mouth’s “All Star.” But nothing sums up the year better than the video for Len’s “Steal My Sunshine.” It stars a white dude with a sideways hat and sunglasses riding a bright orange scooter down the streets of Daytona Beach. I mean, come on.

It was like everybody wanted to get their kicks out before the terrifying new millennium came and ruined it all. Remember No Doubt’s rendition of “It’s The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” at the stroke of midnight on MTV? It was a joke, but it came with a hint of bitterness as well.

To the tune of No Doubt, 2000 came. Y2K didn’t happen. The world was the same as it ever was, only now you had to write a bunch of zeros in the date. People didn’t really know what to do. In rock music, it was kind of the same. While 1999 boasted a host of new up-and-coming bands like Smash Mouth, Blink 182 and Limp Bizkit, 2000 saw sort of a hodge podge of new, weak styles, alongside some old standards.

On the Modern Rock charts that year Blink 182 gave way to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who later gave way to Papa Roach, Green Day and Fuel. Rock didn’t know what to be. Nobody wanted that slick, frosted-tip rock of 1999, so a lot of people temporarily reverted to what they knew: the comfortable stuff from the early ’90s.

But without the fun, sunny attitude of 1999, there was also an opening available. While most of 2000 was spent listening to bands like Metallica and AC/DC, by the fall, we had 3 Doors Down’s “Loser,” what would become the one of the most successful rock songs of all time. In 1999 we had party rock anthems, and they weren’t written by LMFAO. In 2000, we ended up with the depressing hangover.

By the next year, this sound started to take off. Industry execs saw the success of “Loser” and wanted hits of their own. Cue: “Hemorrhage (In My Hands).” Cue: “Hanging By a Moment.” Cue: “It’s Been Awhile.” Even the pop charts were a little sadder than usual. “Ms. Jackson” lamented a terrible family life. “Lady Marmalade” seemed to recommend a dirty night of drunken sex. And, of course, Alicia Keys’ “Fallin” reminded us how shitty and complicated relationships can be.

As the summer of 2001 faded, and America started to weirdly adjust to this new millennium, rock music started to weirdly adjust as well. We were starting to recover from the awful hangover of 2000 and just feeling well enough to approach the light of day. Post-grunge bands (or so they’re called) had been kicked around in the ’90s, and now the evolved genre, “shit rock” as I called it in my angst-ridden teens, became the new thing.

But there was a problem. There was no Poison. There was no Nirvana. These bands were just bland evolutions of bands like Matchbox 20 and Collective Soul. Sure, there was 3 Doors Down and Staind and Nickleback, but those were just bands that saw wild commercial success. I mean, that’s great and all, but, if we’re being honest here, none of them were really that good.

Unlike many genre-defining bands of the past, they weren’t accepted at all by most critics. But also unlike many genre-defining bands of the past, they made an obscene amount of money. In some alternate universe, where 9/11 never happened, the genre might have burned out after a few years. But in our universe, where 9/11 changed everything, the flame never went out.

It was a dangerous cocktail of mopey emotional rock and tremendous success. Nobody knew it at the time, but that cocktail was about to get a boost of steroids straight to the jugular. September 11 was the most horrible day in American history, but it was the greatest thing to happen to the music industry since Elvis Presley.

Next week: Who the Hell Remembers The Concert For New York City?

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

1 comment to [Hype Hype Hooray] How 9/11 Changed Rock ‘n’ Roll, Part 1

  • Dan Hood

    This is so well written I am suprised it’s just sitting on your blog. You go into the depths of culture in relation to music and then explain in simple terms what the fuck was actually happening in music during the early 00’s. Thanks so much for this piece. You should really consider publishing some articles! Best of luck.