Thursday, June 28, 2007

Beethoven would be proud

Because I took so long in catching up on my newspapers, I can't find the link to the actual story. Instead, you'll just have to believe me that it came from the money section of Monday, June 18th's USA Today. As part of a recurring feature, the publication is making up various top 25 lists to celebrate their 25 years in the business. Sometimes they are uninteresting (top 25 cars - the crapmobile, whose "service engine soon" light is now flickering, did not make the list) and sometimes they are Wolfen V worthy.

Solely because I'm too lazy and have other stuff to do today, I'm only going to take a peek at the top 10. There are 15 others, but I pay 75 cents a day to get these hard hitting stories. I'm not going to give them to you for free. I mean, I usually pick out the most interesting thing and then write a witty commentary on it. How much can you want?

Here's the actual lead-in so you may be able to get a slippery grasp on the vague criteria used in compiling this one person's purely subjective list:

In 1982, ABBA disbanded, Public Enemy formed and Ozzy Osbourne bit off a bat's head. In the 25 years since, music has undergone cataclysmic changes. USA TODAY's Edna Gundersen picks 25 top milestones; share your choices at usatoday.com (Drew's note: Or wolfdenv.blogspot.com)

1.) Napster (1999)

Unlike many #1's that are weak, I back this one 100%. Napster was a revolution in the way people consumed music. A concert on the other side of the country could be bootlegged and playing on a computer thousands of miles away just hours after the original show finished. Never before had songs been so easily shared and digested. Lucky enough to have lived at this time in history, I was a full participant in the Napster days, a time we will never live through again thanks to legislation that closed the narrow window of confusion on what is or isn't legal. The Napster network spawned several spin-offs and multiple lawsuits while giving bands and songs exposure unlike anything ever seen. I miss the free-for-all.

2.) Live Aid (1985)

Despite my musical background, I don't have much to say about Live Aid having no recollection of the event that occurred while I was 4. It seems like a massive undertaking and unique in its reach to help humanity. I like happy things. It can stay at 2.

3.) Michael Jackson on MTV (1983)

#3 is a supergroup that I'm not entirely sure should be tied together. The advent of MTV is not on USA Today's list at all, and Michael Jackson also makes no further appearances. In 1983, MTV was a baby taking it's first steps, and it happily embraced Michael Jackson-mania. I don't know that either would not have been able to exist without the other, but they used each other to the max and created an unstoppable force that propelled each to their individual greatness.

4.) N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton (1988)

Call me old and stereotypical, but rap music is bad, loud, and for hoodlums. (No, it's not a mislink, it made me laugh so much the first time, I forced into another hyperlink.)

5.) Smells Like Teen Spirit (1991)

Ah, now we are talking. The birth of grunge and modern rock. Kurt Cobain's troop of lethargic looking punks released this first track from their Nevermind album and the music landscape was forever changed. Other bands like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden were the roots behind Nirvana's upsurge, while other aspects of life such as the trendy and comfy flannel shirt rose to prominence. Several years later, Violent Rhythmic Cadence would win best amateur radio show in the country playing many of Nirvana's hits, including Smells Like Teen Spirit.

6.) iPods and iTunes (2001)

#6 still has time to shoot higher, unlike many others on the list. What Napster started, iTunes seemingly finished. iTunes remains the only truly successful digital outlet of music that everyone agrees is legal. It remade Apple's image, and paved the way for other new gadgets like the iPhone that just so happens to launch today. Time is still shaping the impact of the i-everything.

7.) Radiohead (1997)

I admit right off the bat that I have never gotten into Radiohead's music and therefore would not even have placed them on the top 25. The year listed, 1997, would seemingly refer to the released of their most critically acclaimed album, OK Computer. It sold just 1.9 million units in the U.S., which while nothing to laugh at, is not exactly top 25 worthy. I have to believe "The CD (1983)" (#13 on the list) deserves higher placement than Radiohead. Additionally, Madonna (#16) and American Idol (#21) do not make the top 10 while Radiohead does. Either has had a longer, larger splash than Thom Yorke. Blah.

8.) N'Sync (2000)

Truly N'Sync is a time capsule who at one time were the hottest - I mean that in multiple instances - thing on the market. Composed of what are now a Sexyback, a ballroom dancer, a gay guy, and two anonymous fellas, N'Sync turned to gold whatever they touched. A fixture on pop charts and TRL, N'Sync wiped the floor with other wannabes like 98 Degrees and the Backstreet Boys.

9.) Purple Rain (1984)

Prince is from Minnesota.

10.) SoundScan (1991)

Here's another revolution that's hard to rank in amongst bands and albums. Prior to 1991, counting album sales was largely a crap shoot. It's kind of amazing that it took so long to develop a meaningful way to count how many records a band sold. Now we can make fun of our cultural icons' inability to recognize tracks from known multi-platinum discs.

Photo from Midi-Classics

7 comments:

Eli said...

American Idol and Madonna are not more revolutionary than Radiohead. It's not even close.

(Sorry to not post for like two weeks and then just show up to tell you how wrong you are.)

Anyway. You are so wrong.

lonewolf said...

I understand that you may like Radiohead more, but I maintain that either Madonna or American Idol are more deserving of spot #7.

Madonna has been around longer and sold more records. The public's decades long fascination with her makes her worthy of a spot in the top 10. I would be willing to say she should be in the top 10 at the expense of a couple of people that currently are there.

American Idol is an interesting entity on the list simply because at it's roots, it's a TV show. How does one compare the juggernaut TV program to something like soundscan? Idol is still writing it's legacy which makes it somewhat harder to peg, but it's the modern day equivalent of Americn Bandstand for it's high ratings, musical talent, trendy appeal, spawning talents, and hot co-host.

Oh, and welcome back.

Eli said...

Madonna may have sold more records, but I thought the list was about influence and such. Radiohead is probably the most critically acclaimed band in the last 20 years. And they've inspired thousands of awful knockoffs that can't come close to their sound.

Actually. I blame them for that. Damn you, Radiohead!

JR said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JR said...

There were grammatical errors that needed addressing.

I would say Idol's legacy is still being written, and whether its influence is positive or negative remains uncertain. Yes, it's extraordinarily popular and intelligent in the way it entices Americans from all walks of life. But Ricky Martin was popular once, too. I don't know if it has influenced the industry at all -- I would say that one of its greatest disappointments, in fact, has been an unwillingness to expand beyond the traditional format of generic songwriting and produce talents who are willing to challenge the musical landscape.

I often wonder about the phrase "critically acclaimed." So six or seven publications, deemed the media elite when it comes to modern music, liked Radiohead's stuff? Fantastic. What does that mean for the rest of us? I think Radiohead pushed boundaries, but so did Outkast and the Henry Rollins Band. Neither, though, is really worth an ounce of "influence." Not to say that Radiohead hasn't had a great deal of say in modern music, but I'd wager that most people our age could only name maybe two songs.

Madonna's resume:
1. a major role in cultivating and defining the role of image in connection with song.
2. creating a template for a solo female artist to exist as a sex symbol, talented musical presence, and independent mind.
3. later in her career, embracing techno as a demonstration of her ability to evolve musically to previously unexpected heights.
4. achieving iconic status unlike anything seen since Marilyn Monroe.
5. crossing over to film in a critically acclaimed "Evita," among several other ventures.
6. shocking everyone, at least twice.

Madonna wins.

Edwin said...

What the hell is Radiohead?

Eli said...

All of you make me want to throw up.