A Personal History of Music, Day 2: “Maps” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
“Maps” may or may not be the best rock song of the 21st Century (it was released as a single in September of 2003), but I can say that when I heard it for the first time, my reaction to was “Holy shit, that one’s a keeper.” The song had the quality in which it felt simultaneously fresh and like it had been around forever, a gut-punch heartbreaker (to mix metaphors) with a punk-rock wall of sound, and singer Karen O above all of it, opening a vein into her microphone.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have gone on to do more artful things since “Maps” (and after a long absence, they look to be returning with a new album later in the year, which is great), but they’ve never done anything as immediate, as arresting, and as visceral. And when Karen O drops that tear in the video (the song was written for her then-boyfriend, who was supposed to be at the shoot and was very late to it, and the singer was in a state), you know that she means every single word in that song. I was 34 and happily married for nearly a decade when I heard the song, and I still felt shattered by it. That’s power. That’s a hell of a song.