The following, in no particular order, are a few of my thoughts on the most important works of the 2000′s:
Next to Normal (Theater): The rock-based musical isn’t new (see Rent and Spring Awakening for recent examples), but N to N took a topic – mental illness – that most considered impossible to explore in this particular format (as Dr. John said, “where the fuck will they even find a word to rhyme with ‘schizophrenia?’”). It turns out that Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey showed how psychological/psychiatric problems effect not only patients, but also families, and did it in a way that the music and characters stick in your head for weeks after you’ve seen it. Definitely not for the faint of heart or for those seeking traditional, feel good theater in the Music Man vein. N to N easily deserved the Pulitzer Prize for Drama it won last year and set a new standard for Broadway. Any composer or lyricist should now know that literally anything can work in the legitimate theater if done properly.
A Million Little Pieces (“Memoir”): A very unusual (and fantastic) read, James Frey’s autobiographical account of his experience with alcoholism was the most definitive and comprehensive I’ve seen or heard of. Add in Oprah’s love for the book and his later disgrace at having lied about certain aspects of the story just added to the mystique and its subsequent sales. This book changed how we view memoirs and drove home a point that many should have known already: just because someone writes something down and says it’s true, doesn’t make it so.
In Rainbows (Music): I think few would question Radiohead’s dominance of the alternative music scene in both the 90′s and 00′s, but the sheer fact that they allowed this album to be purchased online, directly from them, at any price you wished was the greatest “fuck you” to the mainstream music publishing industry in recent memory. Enough said. And for the record, I chose to pay 10 pounds for it when it came out. That seemed fair.
Arrested Development (Television): American TV was languishing after Seinfeld signed off. AD changed that. Using unusual camera angles, a narrator, an absurd amount of self-referencing and a plot line so complex and ridiculous at times it commanded your undivided attention, this show paved the way for later good comedy such as The Office (American version) and 30 Rock. The fact that few people actually watched Arrested Development could detract from an argument about its importance, but for the few million people who gave it a real chance, they witnessed real comedic genius that had been missing from American television for a number of years.