Friday, July 6, 2012

...In Which I Lay Waste to VH1's Pathetic '100 Greatest Artists of All Time' List...

According to VH1, out of 200 modern musicians surveyed, this is not, I repeat, NOT, one of the 100 greatest artists of all time. Seriously.

I shouldn't have watched it. I knew it would only upset me. But I had to. In a supposed survey of 200 modern musicians, VH1 attempted to compile its list of "The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time." Now, I'll be the first to say this is something that should be separated out by genre, especially once you starting getting into the top 15. There are too many great musicians in individual fields and too many apples-to-oranges comparisons to make it legit. (how the hell are you supposed to compare Jay-Z to the Rolling Stones?)

But VH1 tried. And failed. Miserably.

Here's a link to the list. I'll hit some of the highlights/lowlights and give my thoughts on various facets of the list.

To start, let's note right off the top that THERE ISN'T A SINGLE FUCKING JAZZ MUSICIAN ON THE ENTIRE LIST. That's right. No Miles Davis. No John Coltrane. One of the few forms of music that was truly invented in America is not represented IN ANY WAY on this list. I should also mention that there is not a single blues musician. No Robert Johnson, no Muddy Waters, no Howlin' Wolf. According to VH1, it makes no difference that if it weren't for those guys, there would be no Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin, two of the top five on the list.

Christ on a cracker. On to the shame of it all...

Let's start with Category #1: Artists Who Should Absolutely Not Be On The List. That includes Depeche Mode (98), Journey (96), ABBA (81?! Are you fucking kidding me?!??), and Def Leppard (70 — we all get it, alright, it's hard to drum with one arm).

Moving on to Category #2: Artists Who Should Be Way Lower On the List. That includes U2 (19 — this is more of a personal opinion, but I think U2 might be the most overrated Bigtime Rock Band ever), AC/DC (23), Radiohead (29), The Police (40), Kiss (56 — and to be honest, Kiss is flirting with Category #1), and Pink Floyd (18 — I love me some "Dark Side of the Moon," but "The Wall" is probably the most overrated rock album of all time).

This one isn't really a category, but there's no fucking way Elvis should be higher on this list than Chuck Berry. And the only reason he is, is because record mogul Sam Phillips "wanted to bring African-American music to a wider audience," which of course means, "doing it without an actual black guy."

Category #3: Artists Who Should Be Way Higher On the List. This includes the Beastie Boys (89 — they should be at least as high as Run DMC at 76 or Jay-Z at 47), Curtis Mayfield (84), Otis Redding (68), Parliament-Funkadelic (49), Johnny Cash (35), The Band (85) and Aretha Franklin (27)

Category #4: Artists Inexplicably and Inexcusably Left Off the List. The following artists amazingly do not appear on the list at all: The Allman Brothers, the Grateful Dead, Paul Simon/Simon & Garfunkel, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, the Stanley Brothers, Fela Kuti, Booker T & the MGs, the Funk Brothers (okay, they were a backup band, but they backed up EVERY SINGLE MOTOWN ARTIST), MF Doom, Peter Tosh, Snoop Dogg, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Eric Clapton (although Cream made it at 61, so technically he's in... I've never been a huge Clapton fan, but he damn sure should be on here over AC/DC, the Velvet Underground, and Guns'n'Roses), Robert Johnson, and Dr. Dre.

Category #5: The Top Ten. Let's go through them one-by-one with commentary, shall we:

• #10 — Stevie Wonder — You get no argument from me there.
• #9 — James Brown — Ditto.
• #8 — Elvis — I reiterate, if you're going to put Elvis here, you have to put the man he stole rock'n'roll from at least one step above, cultural significance or not.
• #7 — Prince — Never been a huge Prince fan, but he did turn R&B and funk on its head in his own, very unique way.
• #6 — Jimi Hendrix — No problem with that. Hendrix did things with a guitar that no mortal man should be able to do.
• #5 — Bob Dylan — Probably should be #2 at the worst. Definitely should be above...
• #4 — Rolling Stones — Again, if you're not going to put blues masters like Johnson and Waters on this list, how are you going to include the group that owes its entire career to them? I love the Rolling Stones, but that just straight-up doesn't make sense.
• #3 — Led Zeppelin — Works for me.
• #2 — Michael Jackson — OK.
• #1 — The Beatles — Correct.

Taking into account that this is complete personal preference, my separated lists would probably go thusly, at least the first few entries:

• Rock: Beatles at the top, then Dylan, followed by, in no particular order, the Grateful Dead, the Allmans, Hendrix, Chuck Berry, a begrudging nod to Elvis, Zeppelin, Springsteen, Stones

• R&B/Soul/Funk: Michael Jackson, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Prince, the Funk Brothers, Aretha Franklin, Parliament-Funkadelic, Fela Kuti

• Hip-Hop: Run DMC, Beastie Boys, MF Doom, Snoop Dogg/Dr. Dre (they should probably be packaged up, since together they basically ushered in the gangsta-rap era), Nas, Jay-Z, Biggie, Tupac

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