Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Like iTunes never happened

More Noughties music stuff. Uncut magazine offers its 150 albums of the decade, without really reflecting on the fact that the Noughties saw ‘The Album’ as a product becoming increasingly less important. As I discuss in Chapter Eight, the most significant music story of the period has not been any one particular release, but the changing means of distribution, most of which parcel up music as discrete tracks. Even if you buy an album these days, how often to you listen to it from beginning to end, in the order the artist intended? The question is not whether the Uncut people have made the right choice, but whether the whole idea of a list of best albums is relevant any more.

Anyway, here’s Uncut’s Top 10:
  1. The White Stripes, White Blood Cells
  2. Bob Dylan, Love And Theft
  3. Wilco, A Ghost Is Born
  4. Brian Wilson, Smile
  5. The Strokes, Is This It
  6. Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Raising Sand
  7. The Arcade Fire, Funeral
  8. Bob Dylan, Modern Times
  9. Ryan Adams, Heartbreaker
  10. Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes

Monday, 28 September 2009

History today

The Noughties is already history, or at least archive material. BBC Radio 4’s The Archive Hour features Will Self on JG Ballard, whose dystopian imaginings influenced our perceptions of the 21st century, and whose novel The Drowned World (1962) was very prescient in its depiction of melting ice caps (see Chapter Three); and then, on Saturday, Stephen Fry will be re-examining the Millennium Bug (see the Introduction).

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Leaders of the pack

As The Noughties comes to a close, there are lists all over the place. The New Statesman has identified its 50 people who matter today. Here’s the Top 10, and a big pat on the back if you can honestly say you’ve heard of all of them:
  1. The Obamas
  2. The Murdochs
  3. Marwan Barghouti
  4. Eric Schmidt, Larry Page and Sergey Brin
  5. General Stanley McChrystal
  6. Malalai Joya
  7. Vladimir Putin
  8. Osama Bin Laden
  9. Nouriel Roubini
  10. Xi Jinping
Who's on your list?

Friday, 25 September 2009


Experts predict that the penultimate catastrophe will occur at approximately 7:15 p.m. Thursday night, when the social networking tool Twitter will be used to communicate a series of ideas so banal they will instantaneously negate the three centuries of the Renaissance.
The Onion, as ever, grasps the Noughties more surely than 97% of the ‘real’ news media. But has Twitter (and texting, instant messaging, reality TV and all the cultural villains of our age) really made us more stupid? Or just differently clever?

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Every one's a winner, we're making the fame

As the Noughties comes to an end, the lists, charts and retrospective best-ofs begin to appear. Neil McCormick (with whom I discussed the decade on Radio 5Live a few weeks ago), offers his list of the 100 songs that defined the Noughties. Interestingly, everything in my Top 5 of the decade (p. 123) appears in Neil’s list but (as Eric Morecambe might have put it) not necessarily in the same order.

Neil’s Top 10:

10. Outkast, ‘Hey Ya’ (2003)

9. Kylie Minogue, ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ (2001)

8. The White Stripes, ‘Seven Nation Army' (2003)

7. Johnny Cash, ‘Hurt’ (2002)

6. Leona Lewis, ‘Bleeding Love’ (2008)

5. M.I.A., ‘Paper Planes’ (2008)

4. Coldplay, ‘Yellow’ (2000)

3. Beyonce, ‘Crazy In Love’ (2003)

2. Arctic Monkeys, ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ (2005)

1. Amy Winehouse, ‘Rehab’ (2006)

What would yours be?

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Dan Brown: beyond good and evil?

In Chapter Four of The Noughties, I discussed the biggest (if not necessarily the best) books of the decade, and the surrounding phenomena: Oprah; the Kindle; chick lit; misery memoirs; JK Rowling; and of course Dan Brown.

Sadly, although we knew Brown’s sequel to The Da Vinci Code was in the pipeline, it was embargoed until the middle of this month. The subject matter of The Lost Symbol is a little less provocative than that of his previous volume – Freemasonry rather than Catholicism – which has enabled critics to focus their energies on another controversial facet of Brown’s success: his writing skills. How can such as bad writer sell so many copies? Is he really a bad writer, or is just not a ‘literary’ writer? Do such distinctions matter? In a decade of e-mail, Twitter and texting, how many people know or care? Here are a few contributions to the debate, from the Daily Telegraph (London) and the Globe and Mail (Toronto). Philip Pullman hates it; John Grisham is more sympathetic. At the Daily Beast, Michael Baigent (who unsucessfully sued Brown for plagiarism) is dismissive; Brennig Jones, meanwhile, castigates those who castigate Brown, but doesn’t actually say he’s any good.

In fact, nobody does; the best his fans can come up with is “I like it”, which isn’t quite the same. Is one of the best-selling authors of the Noughties literally indefensible? And what does that say about our age?

Thursday, 17 September 2009


A few recent deaths that occurred too late for us to include in the ‘Endings’ chapter of The Noughties (see page 175):

Cory Aquino, politician
Norman Borlaug, agronomist
Jim Carroll, writer, musician
Chanel, world's oldest dog
Keith Floyd, TV chef
Henry Gibson, actor
Teddy Goldsmith, environmentalist
Ellie Greenwich, songwriter
John Hughes, film director
Edward Kennedy, politician
Troy Kennedy Martin, screenwriter
Jack Kramer, tennis player, entrepreneur
Les Paul, musician, inventor
Willy Ronis, photographer
Sam, koala
Naomi Sims, model
Darren Sutherland, boxer
Patrick Swayze, actor
Mary Travers, singer


This is a blog for the new book, The Noughties 2000-2009, a decade that changed the world, written by Tim Footman and published by Crimson Books in September, 2009. We’ll be posting late-breaking news stories relating to the events covered in the book, and hope that readers will be pitching in with their thoughts as well.

The Noughties can be found at all good bookshops, and online at