The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Dec7Filed under: Music; Tagged as: 12 Extremely Disappointing Facts About Popular Music, Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time
Lists like Best Movie, best guitarist and best interpretive dance performance of Our Town are usually presented for the sake of argument. Here’s are a few I’m going to argue with.
The first list in question is 12 Extremely Disappointing Facts About Popular Music posted about a month ago at BuzzFeed and making the rounds on Facebook. The list by Dave Stopera tells us things like …
No. 1: Creed has sold more records in the US than Jimi Hendrix.
OK, that seems kinda out of kilter.
No. 2.: Led Zeppelin, R.E.M., and Depeche Mode have never had a number one single, Rihanna has 10.
I think intellectually I knew that, but had never computed it in that stark a term. None of those bands were particularly big Top 40 radio artists, and Rihanna is.
The list continued on saying, for the most part, this 21st Century pop artist has in some way or another bested these 20th Century classic rock artists – “Ke$ha’s Tik-Tok sold more copies than ANY Beatles single.” “The Black Eyed Peas’ I Gotta Feeling is more popular than any Elvis or Simon & Garfunkel song.”
I frankly don’t know that everything the list says is true though, as several commenters and posters on Facebook have pointed out, this really isn’t surprising considering the modern methods of music distribution. When the Beatles were at the top of the pops, you had to go to a store, probably with cash, to buy one of their records. Now, you can buy Katy Perry’s latest with a click and charge to your credit card. There’s also a little matter of population and media growth over the decades.
So fun list, though it’s also easy to account for the “facts.”
The thing that bugged me was the fairly overt sexism of the list. Whether it was intentional or not, the fact is that eight of the unworthies on the list either were women (six) or prominently included women (two). On the flipside, none of the supposedly better acts featured women.
It was No. 9 that really flipped this switch for me: “Barbra Streisand has sold more records (140 million) than Pearl Jam, Johnny Cash, and Tom Petty combined.” OK, Streisand may not be everybody’s box of rocks, particularly in rocker-guy world. Personally, I prefer Petty, Cash and Pearl Jam to her. But setting personal taste aside, I cannot make a rational argument that any of them except maybe Cash have had more substantial careers than Streisand, who is an icon of several genres and disciplines and has contributed numerous tunes to the American songbook.
That citation was a big reveal.
I saw this after reading Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time which gave us a grand total of two women – Joni Mitchell being the first, at No. 75, followed by Bonnie Raitt at No. 89. Wow. No Nancy Wilson, even though some of the Heart riffs like Barracuda and Crazy on You were more memorable than stuff cranked out by some of the guys in the Top 25. No Kelley Deal (Breeders), Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney) or Jennifer Batten – the woman often seen tearing up things like Eddie Van Halen’s Beat It solo when she toured with Michael Jackson. No Susan Tedeschi, though Stone seemed to be aware of her husband Derek Trucks, No. 16, or Ani DiFranco. I could go on – Melissa Etheridge, Joan Jett (who was on this list in 2003, but not this time) …
For the BuzzFeed folks, they could have just as easily complained about some female artists such as Heart or Mitchell or Janis Joplin or The Pretenders or Madonna being outsold as Petty and Depeche.
The list also doesn’t take into account that it is comparing time-honored work with recent hits. Who’s to say some of Katy Perry or Rihanna’s chart-toppers won’t be viewed as classics in 30 or 40 years. After all, if that list had been written in 1964, No. 12, This guy exists: “Justin Bieber” may have been filled in with “The Beatles.”
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich