What’s the record of the current decade? Not necessarily the best, or your favourite, but the one that sums up the past 10 years?
I know, it’s a tired, geeky, self-indulgent question, and the decade’s not over yet, and even when it is, we still won’t have decided what to call it (The noughties? The two-thousands? The zeroes?) but December will be on us before we know it and the question’s going to be posed in a thousand retrospective articles in what’s left of the music press, so we may as well get our soundbites ready.
Of course, one could sensibly argue that there’s no such thing. As I argued in
*end of plug*
a combination of technology and cultural fragmentation has ensured that the time when a single record could encapsulate the (ugh) zeitgeist has probably passed for good. It’s been cogently argued that Green Day’s American Idiot is the signature album of the Bush presidency, but that’s not quite the same thing. Is there a song or a collection of songs that encapsulates 9/11 and the Asian tsunami, the credit crunch and Darfur, The Wire and Simon Cowell?
I’ve got a couple of thoughts, but I’ll open it up to the virtual floor first. However, as a guide, I tried jotting down a possible list of those records that might reasonably be said to have fulfilled a similar function in previous decades, and an intriguing pattern emerged:
- Elvis Presley, ‘Jailhouse Rock’ (1957);
- The Beatles, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967);
- Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks (1977);
- Prince, Sign o’ the Times (1987);
- Radiohead, OK Computer (1997).
Which shouldn’t prejudice anyone’s decisions, but may improve the chances of Mika’s ‘Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)’.