2002: An important year in music for the 2000s


According to the database I maintain in Collectorz Music, a great majority of my collection consists of titles from the late ’80s, coinciding unsurprisingly with my high school years. But one year has managed to intrude on that decade’s monopoly: 2002.

What’s so special about 2002?

Personally, it was the year I developed a true sense of my taste in music. I was working at Waterloo Records in Austin, Texas, and I was bombarded day in and day out by music I didn’t particularly like.

For the year I worked there full-time, I ended up actually disliking music on the whole. I retreated further into the genre that captivated me at the time: Japanese indie rock.

NUMBER GIRL, Quruli, SUPERCAR, LOVE PSYCHEDELICO, Shiina Ringo — all these artists were putting out some of their best work around that time.

But I couldn’t completely escape the influence of the workplace. An in-store performance by Hem made me a fan. UK music magazines exposed me to The Streets and Dizzee Rascal.

If 2000 was the last hurrah for the CD format, 2002 represented the tipping point. At that point, CD sales still accounted for a majority of sales, but the trajectory was apparent. File sharing was rampant, and Apple was a year away from unveiling the iPod and iTunes.

Music discovery started to move online, with blogs posting weekly MP3s creating a taste-making gold rush that would shorten the shelf life of one-hit wonders. Is Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah still a thing?

Pop culture was splintering. After the bubblegum pop boom of the late ’90s gave way, nothing followed to capture the zeitgeist. Even if file sharing could expose you to an array of genres, communities built around super-specific tastes allowed niches to grow.

I may have been listening to Utada Hikaru, but I had no bone in the Utada vs. Hamasaki Ayumi rivalry. Not that the backpacker listening to Aesop Rock or the aficionado on Italian spaghetti western scores would fathom it.

A decade’s identity doesn’t really assert itself till at least a year into it, and 2002 served that role for the 2000s.

Indie rock had The White Stripes, Wilco, Sleater-Kinney, … And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. Mos Def, Talib Kweli, RJD2 took hip-hop underground, while Missy Elliott continued with her freakings on. Norah Jones unfathomably became a thing.

There was a lot to discover, and there was a lot to share.

That also meant there was a lot to filter.

2002 was the year I set my filters in place. Unsurprisingly, music released after 2002 started to account for less of my collection. It doesn’t really start to taper off till about 2007, when I hit the magical age of 35.