“Without music, life would be a mistake.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols
Ok, first, let me admit a few things:
- I’m an old man. Nobody cares what I think.
- I listen to mostly classical music (if I were to make a list of “Greatest Songs” it would have such things as Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Nessun Dorma!, and 9th Symphony 4th Movement Ode to Joy.
- I don’t consider Hip Hop to be music. I think it is primarily an invention of the Big Corporation Music Industry to construct a genre of popular music that is designed to maximize record company profits with minimal risk and effort. I know this is not a popular opinion, but it is one that I am sure is at least partially true.
- I am so, so sick of Autotune. My ears can pick up any excessive use of that evil technology and will switch away from it. I feel it removes all emotion and feeling from music – leaving behind boring noise. There are very few popular songs released in the last decade that aren’t ruined by Autotune.
With those points out of the way, I will rant about the release of the 2021 Rolling Stone top 500 songs.
Rolling Stone magazine released a new version of their 500 Greatest Songs list, the first in 17 years. The magazine, in an introduction to the list, notes, ‘a lot has changed since 2004; back then the iPod was relatively new, and Billie Eilish was three years old. So we’ve decided to give the list a total reboot . . . The result is a more expansive, inclusive vision of pop, music that keeps rewriting its history with every beat.’
I enjoyed the old versions of the lists. I would look through the list and see if I could find something that I had forgotten about or maybe underrated… it was a good source of musical education and ideas. There were, of course, disagreements between me and the lists… but all in all there was mutual respect.
But the new list… There are 254 songs that weren’t in the 2004 list… that means that more than half of the greatest songs of 2004 are no longer great. Let’s see…
Starting at the top… a new #1 – Respect by Aretha Franklin. I have absolutely no problem with that. It’s up there with maybe five others that could be rotated in and out. Personally, I would put Layla in at #1 – which in 2004 was 27, between A Day in the LIfe and (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay. OK, good stuff all. This year, Layla drops all the way to 224… WTF?
But in the 2021 list, problems start with #2 – instead of Satisfaction (by the Stones) we have Fight the Power by Public Enemy. Ok, not that bad of a song… but #2… over Satisfaction, which drops all the way to #31, right below Royals by Lorde. Really?
You might like Lorde… but is she better than The Rolling Stones? I don’t think so. Royals is catchy… but it doesn’t belong on any all-time list. If anybody, and I mean anybody is still listening to that in twenty years (or even five years) I will be shocked. Satisfaction was released fifty-six years ago, more than half a century, and has held up – it’s as spine-tingling today as the day it was released.
So, let’s talk about age. I know I’m old… but…. I downloaded the 2021 list into a spreadsheet and sorted them by year released. There are nineteen songs released the year I was born, 1957 (I told you I was old) or older. Here they are:
|242||Great Balls of Fire||Jerry Lee Lewis||1957|
|124||That’ll Be the Day||Buddy Holly||1957|
|80||What’d I Say||Ray Charles||1957|
|299||I Put a Spell on You||Jay Hawkins||1956|
|170||In the Still of the Nite||Five Satins||1956|
|147||Blueberry Hill||Fats Domino||1956|
|76||I Walk the Line||Johnny Cash||1956|
|425||Mannish Boy||Muddy Waters||1955|
|277||Bo Diddley||Bo Diddley||1955|
|35||Tutti Frutti||Little Richard||1955|
|318||Hound Dog||Big Mama Thornton||1953|
|237||Your Cheatin’ Heart||Hank Williams||1953|
|229||This Land is Your Land||Woody Guthrie||1951|
|165||I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry||Hank Williams||1949|
|21||Strange Fruit||Billie Holiday||1939|
|481||Cross Road Blues||Robert Johnson||1937|
That is a hell of a selection. They are older than I am and I have heard them all a thousand times and they are all great. The highest rated is Strange Fruit and the lowest is Mannish Boy.
So here are the nineteen newest songs on the list:
|438||Savage (Remix)||Megan Thee Stallion featuring Beyonce||2020|
|490||Old Town Road||Lil Nas X||2019|
|178||Bad Guy||Billie Eilish||2019|
|137||Thank U, Next||Arianna Grande||2019|
|384||I Like It||Cardi B||2018|
|428||Sign of the Times||Harry Styles||2017|
|487||Cranes in the Sky||Solange||2016|
|451||Bad and Boujee||Migos||2016|
|417||Uptown Funk||Mark Ronson||2015|
|357||Blank Space||Taylor Swift||2014|
|465||Get Lucky||Daft Punk||2013|
|362||Merry Go Round||Kacey Musgraves||2013|
Do you want to know how many of these I am familiar with – how many I recognize… none. Absolutely none. I’m sure if you played these for me a few would catch my ear… a hook that I remember as I reached for the radio dial, maybe. But do I think I regret not knowing any of these…? I don’t think so.
Looking down the list in order of dates, the newest one I recognize is Summertime Sadness by Lana del Rey. I’m actually a fan of her. But do I think Summertime Sadness is one of the 500 greatest songs of all time? Hell no.
Next to Summertime Sadness is Call me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen. That is certainly a catchy little tune… but is it Great? Is in one of the Best? No, no, no.
At one time Rolling Stone represented Rock and Roll, which represented rebellion and innovation. It does not represent that anymore. It represents Wokeness and Diversity… which is Rebellion and Innovation run through the filter of Corporate Profits and Elitism until it is an evil mutation.
And that is all I’m going to say today. I have to go outside and yell at some kids to get off my lawn.
Great post. I’ve been listening to some of the “top 500” on the radio and find it disappointing.
Yeah, some are real head-scratchers. Of course there are great songs in there – but more than a few that don’t belong. After thinking about it for a while I think the problem is they selected a large group of people in the “industry” to vote on the songs and there seems to be a lot of self-serving voting going on.