The most outlandish of the bunch, Outkast was the band that brought the middle-school-cafeteria cliques together. Rockers loved them, rap-fans loved them, even your nerdy kids loved them because their music videos were so damn funny. Outkast’s lyrics were undeniably hilarious and their musical style so unique that you couldn’t help but fall in love with them. They were larger than life. Each musician was a caricature of a person who happened to also be an artist. They existed in a realm that was far beyond our own, but one we always wanted to reach. They made fun of the people we wanted to make fun of (ehem: Caroline by any other name would still smell a sweet), and allowed us all to coo “I am for reeeeeeeeeal” in ridiculous voices and never feel ashamed. Outkast’s music was not only strong and gifted, but also entertaining in a way that many bands weren’t. They were true performing artists, not just musicians. Outkast not only created music, but a generational vocabulary that brings everyone together, no matter what side of the fence they’re from. And whoever Miss Jackson is – we are all, truly sorry.
4 Red Hot Chili Peppers
The oldest of the best bands of the 2000s, the Hot Chili Peppers have morphed over the years in stranger ways than even Kafka could have imagined – most famously, upon winning an award, Anthony Kiedis technically wasn’t even in the band. Like most bands in their age bracket, members were dropping like flies due to heroin overdoses. But nothing could stop the avalanche that was the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Flea, Chad, Anthony, and Hillel/John/Dave/John/Josh, etc. etc., made up the group of misfits – though Flea and Anthony really appear to be the bands backbone. With each different guitarist, the band had a different sound, and over time they morphed and changed with no real direction – yet each incarnation of their sound was equally as awe inspiring as the last. Whether funk, rock, jazz, or pop, the Red Hot Chili Peppers unquestionably make catchy and poignant music. And it’s hard to imagine them giving it up any time soon.
3 The Black Keys
Do you sense a pattern? You should. Apparently the two-thousands were the time of “the colored noun”. Barring the obvious name similarities (scroll through your iPod and you’ll begin to see unique names are few and far between), The Black Keys sound is indisputably thus – unique. Sounding like two bourbon soaked blues musicians, The Black Keys are in fact two white guys from Ohio. But the sound they craft has a depth that few modern acts can match. Starting out with cult-fame status, The Black Keys first album did not sell well. Their second, Thickfreakness (my introduction to the band), did far better – and their cover of “Have Love Will Travel” solidified them as the real deal. Unlike most bands of the 2000’s, there was no swift soaring fame – instead The Black Keys worked their way up into the ranks of the best bands of 2000s through slow, steady hard work, and unwaveringly good music.
2 The White Stripes
With their pseudo-mime look, now divorced Jack and Meg White were the indie rock version of John and Yoko. They made music that made your blood pound in your veins. The solid drumming made Meg White one of the most revered females in music – there are few drummers who can pound like that, and being a woman gave Meg all the more credit. Much like characters in a Tim Burton film, The White Stripes were slightly creepy in a very endearing way. It helped that their music was completely different from anything else being produced in the 2000’s. When “Seven Nation Army” hit the airwaves, MTV played the video over and over, until you felt like you were living in a black and white and red kaleidoscope. They had a completely synchronized look, sound, and attitude – and we loved every bit of it, because even though it was all planned, the music spoke to the garage rock soul that everyone wanted to hear, yet no one but The White Stripes seemed to be making. And they kept making it. So even if you’re not sure if it’s all a front, or if Jack White really only wears red, it doesn’t actually matter – what matters is the soul of the music is intact, and that The White Stripes were innovators of their time.
Despite their 19-year reign as kings of weirdness, Radiohead is certainly one of the best bands to keep making music through the present day. Thom Yorke is also, certainly, weird. But it is that very weirdness that defines the people who seek out music worth its salt in a time of electronic instant i-everything. In 2000, Kid A’s mid-album track “Optimistic” was one of those songs that felt like new life was being breathed into the new decade. It detailed the strained optimism that everyone seemed to feel after Y2K didn’t send our entire electronic world to its knees. No one would know that a year later, the twin towers would fall, and really the best we tried wasn’t good enough at all. Of course, there is no real connection – but the point to be made is that Radiohead’s music is always esoterically connected to the state of the world, even if you have no idea what the song is actually about. They manage to take something universal from within everyone and make it into a collectively understandable sound (in lyric and music), and that is what makes Radiohead so brilliant.