The year 2000 always felt auspicious, as if it meant something a little different from most.
Looking back, it probably did. One of the final periods before the internet demolished physical sales, it's one of the final eras where the music industry swept across the globe with undimmed confidence.
A year dominated by a state of flux, the biggest albums released in 2000 were a mixture of major label chicanery and devout creative independence, artists using established channels to stamp out their own voice.
Alongside this, though, is a dedication to the future, adapting to shifts in technology while realising that these emerging trends would have darker aspects to their beatific aura.
With the Class Of 2000 now reaching their 18th birthday, Clash decided to take a look back.
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Radiohead – Kid A
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Radiohead’s 1997 album ‘OK Computer’ established them as a global voice, tipped to echo R.E.M.’s position as a conduit between the guitar underground and mainstream acclaim.
So when fans bought ‘Kid A’ and were confronted with an uncompromising leftfield statement eyebrows, it could be said, were raised. Enormously divisive on its release, the aesthetic about-turn Radiohead achieved on the album has rarely, if ever, been matched, enormously expanding their palette while retaining the emotional core that makes their work so enriching.
With the benefit of hindsight, ‘Kid A’ is a bristling, highly listenable experience – at times, almost searingly beautiful. As the years pass it is now becoming increasingly easy to locate ‘Kid A’ amongst the band’s finest work, a by-word in risk-taking adventure that still yields surprises.
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Craig David – Born To Do It
It’s easy to forget how young Craig David was when he first broke out. Still in his teens, the Southampton prodigy had already been sneaking into raves for some time, matching his early love of soul and R&B with the emerging sounds of UKG and house. A colossal crossover single with the Artful Dodger turned him into a household name, before ‘Born To Do It’ shattered sales records in stellar fashion.
Very much of its era – check out those headphones on the cover, for a start – it’s a crisp encapsulation of the commercial power UK garage held during that Millennial period. Dominated by a series of smash hit singles, the sheer force of his debut album’s chart success made Craig David an unstoppable, unavoidable part of the year 2k – quickly earning a somewhat unfair parody.
At heart, though, ‘Born To Do It’ is a crisp pop classic delivered by a prodigal talent with extended roots in rave culture.
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Britney Spears – Oops! …I Did It Again
The sheer scale of Britney Spears’ pop triumph is almost unimaginable. In the opening five years of her career she found time for a quartet of albums that moved from bubblegum pop to sheer raunch, finding time in-between colossal international tours to make her acting debut – proper – in Crossroads.
Millennial LP ‘Oops!… I Did It Again’ is the centre of the hurricane, selling more than one million copies Stateside in its first week of release. Boasting a phenomenal cross-section of producers it’s a patchwork affair, even finding time for a cheeky re-work of The Rolling Stones’ evergreen tale ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’.
Fun, raunchy, and explicitly pop, it’s an album of extraordinary balance, one she would struggle to retain hold of as the Noughties progressed.
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Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP
Or the point where the Detroit rapper began to stop play-acting and tell it like it is. Slim Shady was an international phenomenon, with Eminem daring to hold a mirror up to America’s ugly hypocrisies while skirting behind a veil of irony.
‘The Marshall Mathers LP’, though, is all internal, with Eminem focussing on the self-disgust that drives him. It’s an exhilarating ride, with the all-star production combining with lyrics that walk up toward the edge and step ever outward. The homophobia and misogyny remain just as disgusting as they were on the day of release, the work of a compelling yet highly flawed artist.
Enormous hit single ‘Stan’ remains Eminem’s masterpiece, the point where even his most ardent of critics began to look once more at his work. An era-defining icon, ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’ remains the closest we have ever gotten to the ugly truth of Eminem.
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Outkast – Stankonia
Standard wisdom holds that hip-hop ruled during the 90s, before tailing towards the decade’s end. As ever, though, ‘standard wisdom’ arrives with some remarkable holes – including the stellar rise of Southern rap, and the creative endeavours of Outkast.
The Atlanta duo’s fourth album ‘Stankonia’ dropped in 2000, boasting their first Billboard No. 1 – ‘Ms. Jackson’ – and the hugely controversial ‘B.O.B.’ Incorporating new elements into their Dirty South approach, the album is marked by the dual approaches of Big Boi and Andre 3000, with the latter introducing more melodic elements into his raps.
The two would rarely again appear so united – 2003’s ‘Speakerboxx / The Love Below’ was a split affair, a two-headed beast that lacked the focus which turned ‘Stankonia’ into an unarguable hip-hop classic.
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At The Drive-In – Relationship Of Command
We should have seen it coming. After all, At The Drive-In’s incredible live shows and 1999’s ‘Vaya’ EP had established them as one of the pre-eminent voices in what could loosely be termed post-hardcore.
Yet ‘Relationship Of Command’ still felt like an enormous shock to the system on its release in 2000. Producer Ross Robinson finally nails their visceral live sound on tape, a rush of energy and ideas that erupts from the first note and simply accelerates to the end.
Pushed to ever greater heights, At The Drive-In’s creative chemistry – highly combustible from the start, it has to be said – began to break down. Within 12 months of ‘Relationship Of Command’ the band have announced their ‘indefinite hiatus’, leaving behind them a smouldering masterpiece that redefined what rock could achieve.
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Queens Of The Stone Age – Rated R
Nicotine, valium, vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol…
Queens Of The Stone Age seemed to distil rock ‘n’ roll debauchery down to a fine essence before chopping it up into lines and snorting it in one go. ‘Rated R’ remains one of their most outrageous, controversial, and completely addictive statements, emerging from a place where danger and deadly thrills combine.
Beneath the chemical bravado lies something more playful, however, a commitment to sonic whims and experimentation that constantly surprises. A hugely creative and deeply intense experience, the continual push-pull between co-lynchpins Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri wasn’t to last. While it did, though, it turned Queens Of The Stone Age into the most dangerous and seductive group on the planet.
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Grandaddy – The Sophtware Slump
The year 2000 always felt ominous. A staple of dystopian science-fiction, the dawning of the Millennium had some people literally running for the hills, leaving their iMacs behind them as they dashed to clear the shelves of their local supermarket amid the perceived collapse of Western civilisation.
Concerns about technology infuse some of the year’s biggest releases, but few do it so artfully, and with so much humanity, as Grandaddy’s wonderful ‘The Sophtware Slump’. One of the finest releases of that or any other year, it could well be the band’s high water mark, containing such marvellous, perpetually engrossing songwriting as ‘The Crystal Lake’ or ‘He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s The Pilot’.
The title itself is both funny and clever, representing that wry, endearingly self-deprecating facet that elevates Jason Lytle’s work to such sublime levels. Great then, and great now, ‘The Sophtware Slump’ is every inch a classic.
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Badly Drawn Boy – The Hour Of The Bewilderbeast
In the year 2000 the nation fell for a self-effacing Mancunian balladeer who played three hour sets, used home recording equipment, and wore a tea cosy on his head. His debut album, ‘The Hour Of The Bewilderbeast’ became one of Badly Drawn Boy’s defining records, with his gentle, heartfelt songwriting and easy on the ear arrangements leaping into the charts and waltzing away with the Mercury.
Returning to ‘The Hour Of The Bewilderbeast’, though, reveals a record dominated by extremes of light and shade, Badly Drawn Boy’s lyrical subject matter finding poetry in the everyday. Sidestepping media hype and constructing his own world, this is a rare example of an artist finding success simply through being exceptionally good at writing ear-worm melodies and touching lyrics.
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D’Angelo – Voodoo
The 90s were a period when genre lines mattered. With physical sales ruling the roost - £17 for a CD album, anyone? – where your album was stocked, and in which section, was literally the bread and butter of major labels. Yet for the artists nothing could be more frustrating. D’Angelo’s spectacular debut ‘Brown Sugar’ was immediately placed in the emerging neo-soul movement, but it’s enormous success and constant labelling left the Richmond, Virginia artist feeling creatively and personally stifled.
Taking time away from music, D’Angelo returned in 2000 with ‘Voodoo’, breaking through a period of writer’s block in spectacular fashion. Steered almost entirely by the American artist, the production, songwriting, and instrumentation is nigh-on impeccable, a sensual, raunchy creative feast that raised the bar beyond the reach of all but the greats.
The success seemed to be too much, though: subsequent tours dwindled into personal frustrations, while D’Angelo descended into a battle with alcoholism. It took the songwriter more than a decade to regain impetus, and when 2014’s ‘Black Messiah’ emerged a new generation of artists were in place to testify to his almighty impact.
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