The Decade in Music Genre Hype

A solemn tribute to once-hot-shit trends that (mostly) won't be joining us in the '10s

If Spin was right to name "Your Hard Drive" the best album of 2000, we'd like to formally nominate "The Internet" as Most Unforgiving Asshole of the 2000s. As of '09, bands have an official life span of about nine months dating from the launch of their MySpace pages, thanks to the comically accelerated, DSL-enhanced hype cycle. Faster than you can tweet "Serena Maneesh," entire genres of music are "discovered" by attention-starved writers; bloggers engage in hilarious slap-fights about who was there first; magazines feel pressured into writing clueless, hackazoid, late-pass trend pieces; bands get elevated to a critical mass of attention they can't possibly handle; and the phenomenon is promptly abandoned once we find a newer, shinier toy to play with.

Thanks to high-speed connections and low expectations, this scenario has played itself out over and over again lo these past 10 years. Here are but a few examples of the decade's Next Temporarily Big Things, each one pushed out of its tiny, insular spotlight by something a little lower on the list.

UNDERGROUND HIP-HOP

Hype Cycle: 1998–2003

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Key Artists: The Definitive Jux roster, Atmosphere, Blackalicious

What It Was: Underground rappers used frenetic noise, polysyllabic wordplay, and punk-inspired touring cycles to make a living independent of the perpetually fucked major-label machinery. Every rap fan was expected to only listen to either this or mainstream Hot 97 stuff—and be a total dick about it either way.

Creative Peak: Cannibal Ox, The Cold Vein [2001]

Typically Effusive Praise at the Time: "You know the album will affect what you hear for years to come, and you can only guess at the ways its influence will be incorporated . . . [a] couple of 'street peasants' who managed not only to advance themselves, but advance music in the process. . . ." —Stylus magazine on Cannibal Ox, 2001

What Happened?: Rappers realized that "underground" was mostly synonymous with "broke." After blogs became more popular, the same rock writers that helped indie rap's ascent ignored it entirely from 2004 to 2008 in favor of in-depth, up-to-the-minute coverage of every one of Cam'ron's and Lil Wayne's studio farts.


GLITCH

Hype Cycle: 2000–2002

Key Artists: Kid606, Prefuse 73, Kit Clayton

What It Was: A diverse electronic-music mutation made up of prickly snippets and sputters, embracing the sound of malfunctioning gear, skipping CDs, and farting software. Also, Tortoise and Björk said it makes you smart and cool and handsome.

Creative Peak: The Clicks & Cuts 2 compilation [2001]

Typically Effusive Praise at the Time: "Surely, we must afford Curry the same laurels we've bestowed upon Matthew Herbert and Björk." —Pitchfork on Safety Scissors, 2001

What Happened?: It furcated into inscrutable sub-sub-subgenres like "clickhop" and "blip hop" so rapidly that semantics (and Kid606's song titles) overshadowed the music. Also, after the Postal Service broke, everyone just admitted they want their electronic music filtered through watered-down indie rock if at all possible.


THE RETURN OF THE ROCK

Hype Cycle: 2001–2002

Key Artists: The Strokes, the Hives, the Vines

What It Was: Classic-sounding (read: boring) bands of nice people playing guitars (White Stripes) or cool people playing guitars (the Strokes) or fat foreign people playing guitars (the Hives) or pretty much anything that wasn't Britney Spears or Alien Ant Farm.

Creative Peak: The White Stripes, White Blood Cells [2001]

Typically Effusive Praise at the Time: "The Strokes' music may be aggressive and grainy, but it's not nihilistic like rap metal; as such, it seemed like constructive accompaniment to the ongoing television footage of fires, body bags, twisted metal, and mangled landscapes." —Entertainment Weekly, September 24, 2001

What Happened?: The dying gasp of major-label clout, this was the very last modern-rock movement primarily propelled by the Big Bad Music Industry—and it barely took two years for them to fuck it up and start bombarding us with the Darkness and Jet.


ELECTROCLASH

Hype Cycle: 2001–2003

Key Artists: Peaches, Miss Kittin & the Hacker, Felix Da Housecat

What It Was: Somehow finding the common ground between Fashion Week and college radio, electroclash artists used tinny keyboard blips and hackneyed new wave clichés to help publicize their oversize personalities (and occasionally their music).

Creative Peak: None.

Typically Effusive Praise at the Time: "#1 still sounds fresh, with that same lightning-in-a-bottle feeling that Prodigy's The Fat of the Land had nearly six years ago . . . unlike all the empty pop music you hear on mainstream radio today, this is one pop album that gets it right for once." —PopMatters on Fischerspooner, 2003

What Happened?: Electroclash never really died—it just keeps renaming itself every three years. See the "electropunk" of MU, the "electropop" of the Knife, or the "wonky pop" of La Roux.


MASH-UPS

Hype Cycle: 2001–2004

Key Artists: 2 Many DJs, Freelance Hellraiser

What It Was: Putting two songs together cleverly—something that legitimate DJs have been doing since the dawn of time—suddenly became an OMG-worthy critical sensation once Freelance Hellraiser's Xtina/Strokes mash-up "A Stroke Of Genie-us" became the Napster-era version of Keyboard Cat.

Creative Peak: Danger Mouse, The Grey Album [2004]

Typically Effusive Praise at the Time: "More than a century ago, the French writer Comte de Lautréamont praised the surpassing beauty of 'the chance encounter, on a dissecting table, of a sewing machine and an umbrella.' This year, similar encounters took place on laptops across the country."—The New York Times, 2002

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