The presidential election of 2000 was as hotly contested and fraught with controversy as the ranking of Bush’s best albums will undoubtedly be. President Bush still generates controversy. His fans declare him one of the greatest presidents of all time; his detractors declare George W. Bush as one of the worst presidents of all time. Likewise, fans of the music from the new millennium’s first decade are quick to declare that bands like The Strokes deserve to be seated at the musical table with the greats from yesteryear. Others turn their nose up at the offerings from the musical acts of the 2000s. Of course, superlatives need the distance of time. Perspective is hard to have while still so close.
That being said, there were excellent albums released during Bush’s presidency. How those albums rank amongst the best albums released during other presidential administrations is yet to be seen. Before I rank the ten best albums of George W. Bush’s presidency, here are the honorable mentions:
White Blood Cells, The White Stripes; The Blueprint, Jay-Z; Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, The Flaming Lips; Elephant, The White Stripes; Absolution, Muse; Illinois, Sufjan Stevens; Sound of Silver, LCD Soundsystem; A Grand Don’t Come for Free, The Streets; Wincing the Night Away, The Shins; For Emma, Forever Ago, Bon Iver; Merriweather Post Pavilion, Animal Collective; ( ), Sigur Rós; Frances the Mute, The Mars Volta; Turn on the Bright Lights, Interpol; Back to Black, Amy Winehouse; Gold, Ryan Adams; I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning, Bright Eyes; Ys, Joanna Newsom; Kill the Moonlight, Spoon.
10. Songs for the Deaf — Queens of the Stone Age
For the recording of Songs for the Deaf, band founder Josh Homme brought in rock luminaries Dave Grohl and Mark Lanegan to help. The result is one of the greatest hard rock albums of all time.
9. Original Pirate Material — The Streets
The Streets proved with Original Pirate Material that England could produce an authentic hip-hop voice that wasn’t, in the words of Mike Skinner, “someone from Reading pretending to be Biggie or Q-Tip.”
8. Up the Bracket — The Libertines
Loud, brash, and thoroughly British, The Libertines embraced the band’s name in a full-throttle assault on life with both their music and their actions. Up the Bracket was produced by Mick Jones, and the sound wonderfully reflects that.
7. American IV: The Man Comes Around — Johnny Cash
Although it’s not possible to sum up the music of Johnny Cash with one genre label, it is appropriate that at least one country music artist made President George W. Bush’s list. The Man in Black’s 2002 offering contains what many refer to as his own musical epitaph – the cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt.”
6. Fever to Tell — Yeah Yeah Yeahs
With their debut LP, Karen O and company set the bar really high. Whether you think the follow-up albums from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs reached that bar or not, it’s hard to deny that Fever to Tell changed music for the better in the new millennium.
5. Whatever People Say That I Am, That’s What I’m Not — Arctic Monkeys
Only one of two albums on this list released during President Bush’s second term (whatever that means), Whatever People Say That I Am, That’s What I’m Not catapulted the Arctic Monkeys into super-stardom.
4. Origin of Symmetry — Muse
Their over-preening and self-consciously obnoxious name aside, very few bands have dominated the new millennium’s musical landscape like Muse has. It took three albums before the band entered the consciousness of the American public, though. Since Origin of Symmetry was the band’s second offering, most people only learned to love this excellent album after the fact.
3. In Rainbows — Radiohead
After dominating President Clinton’s list, Radiohead released another critically acclaimed album almost fifteen years after the release of their debut album. The band also caused a stir in the music industry by allowing fans to pay what they wanted for In Rainbows.
2. Funeral — Arcade Fire
As millennials began to come of age, music began to reflect the isolation many feel, even when surrounded by family and friends. Arcade Fire’s Funeral is an almost perfect musical expression of the alienation and fear of lonely death felt by those brought up during the technology age.
1. Is This It — The Strokes
The hyperbole that accompanied the release of The Strokes’ debut album made it almost impossible for the brilliant rock band to go anywhere but down. Hailed as the greatest rock band of all time and the saviors of rock and roll, The Strokes released a raw, fun, and throwback rock album that set the musical standard for the next decade. Whether or not the band lived up to the early praise is irrelevant when listening to Is This It.