Are all albums celebrating a major anniversary this year absolute gems?
In this five-part series, RockedBuzz via Euronews Culture takes a trip down memory lane and explores historic albums celebrating their big anniversaries in 2023, choosing one extraordinary album that you should either rediscover or embrace as the best that year has to offer.
After our albums are 10 years old roundup, let’s continue with those 2003 releases that turn 20 this year.
Twenty years since 2003? My goodness, how time flies.
Those were the days… Apple had launched its revolutionary iTunes Music Store along with its third generation iPod, this time without the mechanical scroll wheel; America’s Next Top Model sashayed across the screens; “The Da Vinci Code” had just been published; Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dawson’s Creek have concluded their runs; Britney Spears became the youngest singer to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at age 21; Finding Nemo and the last chapter of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The return of the king, were released in theaters and became global hits; lace-up stockings, crop tops, and Ugg boots were all the rage; and an entire generation was heartbroken to hear that Friends would soon be ending its 10-season run.
Are you still feeling old? Well, 2003 is also the same year Greta Thunberg was born. Let it sink.
Musically, R&B and pop dominated the charts.
Before he turned lemons into lemonade and broke Grammy records, Beyonce Knowles released his solo debut “Dangerously in Love” and made us all fall in love with it. The album and singles from her would win Beyoncé five Grammys the following year, including best contemporary R&B album.
Her future husband Jay Z released ‘The Black Album’ with hits like ’99 Problems’ and ‘Dirt of Your Shoulder’, and everyone’s favorite Atlanta duo Outcast they released ‘Speakerboxxx/The Love Below’, their last album together before they announced their split. From ‘Roses’ to ‘The Way You Move’ and of course ‘Hey Ya’, their brilliant dance floor fillers were inevitable.
Somewhere else, 50 cents‘In Da Club’ was Billboard Song of the Year, The street was taking all the boys to the yard with ‘Milkshake’, Eryka BaduThe neo-soul R&B of ‘Worldwide Underground’ was such a treat to listen to, Jamaican star Sean Paul was propelled to worldwide fame with the song ‘Get Busy’, and the black Eyed Peas they weren’t the absolute joke they’ve become and were making quite an impression with the inclusion of Fergie in the troupe with the “Elephunk” tune “Where is the Love?”
Nu-metal wasn’t quite dead, but it turned into goth rock, which gained mainstream attention thanks to Evanescence‘Fallen’ debut album, which has sold over 17 million copies worldwide. Even if you weren’t a rock fan in the early 2000s, there wasn’t a zillion chance in hell that you didn’t sing along to Amy Lee’s vocals.
After three years of waiting, Linkin Park have released their follow up to “Hybrid Theory” with the fantastic (and possibly superior) “Meteora”. Without Eclipsing Them, progressive rock band The Mars Volta gave everyone a sonic slap in the face with their debut album ‘De-Loused in the Comatorium’, a sprawling, dense and brilliant avant-garde offering that left behind every formula relating to the prog-rock genre. If you don’t know, it’s time to catch up.
While nu-metal was coming out, the seedy indie-rock scene was in full swing.
The American scene was where everything was fine, especially in New York. The kidnapping released their dancepunk debut ‘Echoes’, led by the excellent single ‘House of Jealous Lovers’, while Yes Yes Yes burst onto the scene with their provocative debut album ‘Fever To Tell’ which in many ways exemplified the New York art-punk sound. To join them were The shots and their second album ‘Room on Fire’, the follow up to the smash hit ‘Is This It’. Lizzy Goodman has written a fantastic book about the resurgence of the New Rock rock scene these bands were a part of – ‘Meet Me in the Bathroom’ (which was then made into a documentary released last year) – and it’s well worth your time and money.
Then came ‘Elephant’ The white stripes. Noted for featuring the hit ‘Seven Nation Army’, the album is often cited as the Stripes’ best yet. Their fourth album garnered commercial success and critical acclaim, and cemented Jack White and Meg White as essential garage rock revivals.
Across the pond, 2003 was a good year for British and Irish bands.
radio head released “Hail to the Thief”, an underrated album inspired by the ongoing war on terror and political instability of the time. Cementing that Brit Pop was truly dead and buried was Blur‘Think Tank’, a fantastic (and also underrated) record which saw Norman Cook and William Orbit tasked with producing and giving the album an experimental dance music edge. Muse were still listenable with their third album ‘Absolution’, The darkness gave us “Permission To Land” and reminded listeners that the Thin Lizzy sound was alive and well, and The Chills“So Much For The City” was a lo-fi indie pop delight.
And who could forget the late debut album Amy Winehouse, ‘Frank’. It may not be as strong as “Back To Black,” but it offered a glimpse into his soulful talent that has gone on to inspire countless artists. As for those complaining about the lack of pop here, we mention sugababes and their (creatively titled) third album ‘Three’ which gave us the hit single ‘Too Lost In You’, and their counterparts Loud girlswho released the frankly excellent “Sound of the Underground”.
However, if there’s one record that turns 20 that deserves more support, it’s…well, it’s two by the same artist…
Daniel Dumile aka: MF DOOM aka: King Geedorah aka: Viktor Vaughnwith the dual help of “Take Me To Your Leader” and “Vaudeville Villain”.
A year before dropping his masterpiece ‘Madvillainy’ unchallenged under the pseudonym Madvillain, the late British-American rapper with a penchant for pseudonyms dropped two records in 2003, under two different names.
The first was “Take Me To Your Leader”, under the alter ego of King Geedorah.
Geedorah is a science fiction monster loosely based on King Ghidorah, the three-headed monster who has beef with Godzilla in the Godzilla movies.
This dramatic sci-fi vibe runs throughout the album and marked it as one of the first hip hop records to dive so deeply into science fiction themes. DOOM is more present on the production side of this (compared to “Vaudeville Villain”); appears in a handful of songs, but shines thanks to its infectious rhythms, TV loops and cartoon snippets that it weaves into the rap.
From the incredible opening “Fazers” (“Had to Stop Before I Take the Knee Drop / Even Give You More Zip-Zips Than ZZ Top”) to the frenetic ‘Fastlane’ (“Life itself is like an offering / And if you’re afraid to die then you’re afraid to live”) and ‘Antimatter’ (“Not a twist like a tornado / If I needed to burn my flesh, I’d go to Sizzler”), the album sounds like the deliriously creative soundtrack to the best kaiju movie you’ve ever seen. It is highly recommended.
The second album, released just a couple of months later, was “Vaudeville Villain”, the first album released by DOOM under his Viktor Vaughn persona.
Based on the Fantastic Four villain Dr. Victor Von Doom, the character of Viktor is an irresponsible, nerdy time traveler who also includes science fiction references in his lyrics, most notably Star Trek: “Captain’s Log Supplement / The Klingons are now aboard the charter vessel of the Enterprise“.
DOOM’s lyricism is very impressive on this one, and the sounds peppered throughout the runtime even include 90s superhero cartoons.
The overarching narrative of “Vaudeville Villain” follows as Viktor Vaughn grows up to be the true villain, eventually meeting his evil idol, MF DOOM, towards the end of the album.
If you’re getting a headache from the sheer number of intertwining characters, fear not. It all makes sense when you listen to it, and both albums “Take Me To Your Leader” and “Vaudeville Villain” work beautifully well as back-to-back listening. They are both a testament to the boundlessly creative MF DOOM, a rapper/producer who sadly passed away in 2020 and who has left behind a catalog of fantastic R&B records.
These two are some of the best, and there’s no doubt that 2003 was his year, the year of the villain.
Join us next week for Part 3 in this series: The best albums turning 30 in 2023.