Top 100 Artists of the Decade: #61 Yeah Yeah Yeahs
The Top 100 Artists of the Decade list will be posted over the course of 100 days. On September 23rd, we will post one artist and continue every day until December 31st, when we will unveil our #1 artist of the decade!
Please read our introduction to learn about our nominating and ordering process.
#61 Yeah Yeah Yeahs
We weren't quite sure where to place the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. On the one hand, it isn't hard to argue that they peaked in 2003 – it sort of feels like each subsequent release is an apology, like, "we'll never make something as good as Fever to Tell so we're going to do something different instead." It's an iconic album that represents an entire generation, and the YYYs should be heralded for that alone – regardless of what they tried with what I'll call, uh, respectable follow-ups. Consistency certainly would have nudged them way higher up on this list.
On the other hand, look at what they spawned. Karen O is a hipster's Madonna – a trendsetting badass with unmatched integrity and honesty in her image. You want to look at someone cultivating their own style and not taking shit from the rest of the world, she's the first person this generation's mind turns to. But it's not just flash – there's substance in the music. With the early recklessness of "Art Star," which rips apart the stuffiness of the contemporary arts with spitting sarcasm, the YYYs emerged as a band that praised the fine art of not giving into anyone's bullshit. But the real solidification of the band's mystique came when Fever to Tell dropped. It was the true definition of counterculture in that, instead of trying to throw out cultural commentary with a cutesy snarl, it snubbed the temptation to make any cultural references entirely. It was self-contained in its energy, from the destructive "Man" to the inward and singular "Maps."
As all great works are, Fever was trivialized by followers who latched on late, and as all great artists do, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs rightly moved on. Show Your Bones, while not nearly as impressive, was a valiant attempt to shift inward, to soften up, so as not to fall into a caricaturized image of toughness. All great artists reinvent themselves, and thankfully the YYYs are still going. Whatever they give us next, you can be sure they're going to own the output, delivering exactly what they want to deliver amidst all the noise.
Check back tomorrow for the next artist! To see the full list of the Top 100 Artists of the Decade, click here.