This past weekend my father’s favorite radio station, WXPN, did a countdown of the 885 Greatest Songs of the New Millennium. Admittedly, it took a while for me to clue in to what they were doing, and instead thought Dad had somehow hacked into my iTunes and was blaring it across the neighborhood. Each song, one right after another, was one that instantly brought back memories.
As “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley played, I remembered standing in Oxford’s Purple Turtle dancing underground with all my friends. When Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You into the Dark” came on, I was instantly on a moonlit road with no other cars as far as I could see, the windows open, the ocean pounding beside me, and the speed limit a mere suggestion. The Avett Brother’s “I and Love and You” transplanted me to hearing them for the first time as an opening band and being blown away that music I only used to hear on obscure North Carolina stations was becoming front and center to the world.
Eventually they took a break and referenced how they polled their audience and spent ages creating the “885 Countdown of the Greatest Songs of the New Millennium.” Starting from songs in 2001, for the twenty-somethings at the older end of the spectrum, that was middle of our high school years, when every song was a big deal and an even bigger memory. It was the soundtrack to our generation.
I came into the countdown toward the end of it and when I was dragged away to do errands during the final top ten, I downloaded the WXPN app and streamed the Philadelphia based station through my phone. I arrived home right in time for the last three and found myself waiting with baited breath—who would be chosen as the artist who represents our generation so far? They didn’t disappoint. Of course, it could only be one of our own, the one and only, Adele.
I was ecstatic and tickled by the whole walk down memory lane and eagerly scoped the WXPN website for the complete list of those I’d missed out on. This was no pop princess list but neither was it “obscure for the sake of obscurity.” It dabbled in and out of the top of the charts and while there are a lot of familiar names, there are just as many you may not have heard before (which if you haven’t heard Dr. John, do so immediately). Of the few I didn’t recognize I knew I wanted to seek them out, because by and largely these were the songs that a generation that was coming of age in the time of the “Garden State” would listen to—the ones that took Indie off of college radio and made it mainstream. It was the only “modern” music I came of age on (sadly the Beatles, Zeppelin, Miles Davis, and the Glen Miller Orchestra don’t count in this context) and made good and bad memories to and gave me faith that not all music was auto-tuned. Their list was a classic rock countdown for our generation.
Thankfully, after a few tweets with @wxpnfm, I tracked down the Spotify playlist that has most of the countdown. I’ve embedded it below and if you have an account you can find and play it here, (though, admittedly, it is not in its proper order [and make sure to keep scrolling down]). I wholeheartedly recommend diving in, remember old songs, discover new ones, and remember that when we’re old and gray, we’ll be reminiscing about these good ol’ days of music.
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