Thursday, September 23, 2010

What Exactly Does It Mean To Be 'The Greatest Of All Time'?

If I had to choose... well you know...

The title “Greatest of All Time” are four words that are tossed around in more ways than any of us can count. It is only natural for artists to believe that they are the best at what they do and that other artists fail in comparison and sometimes in competition.

But really… what exactly does it mean to be the G.O.A.T.?

I normally don’t pay much mind to lists that rank artists as the greatest because I know that I will never be satisfied. I either disagree wholeheartedly with their selections of the best or feel that they left out individuals that belonged on their ranked lists and added people that had no business being on there in the first place.

Even with that said I found myself a bit annoyed with VH1’s ranking of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

Here is a list of the 100 artists VH1 concluded were the greatest of all time:

100 Alicia Keys
99 Hall & Oates
98 Depeche Mode
97 Pretenders
96 Journey
95 OutKast
94 Mariah Carey
93 Pearl Jam
92 LL Cool J
91 Green Day
90 Elvis Costello
89 Beastie Boys
88 Bee Gees
87 George Michael
86 N.W.A.
85 The Band
84 Curtis Mayfield
83 Earth, Wind and Fire
82 Steely Dan
80 Mary J. Blige
79 Eminem
78 Judas Priest
77 Lynyrd Skynyrd
76 Run-D.M.C.
75 Rush
74 The Cure
73 Van Morrison
72 Janis Joplin
71 R.E.M.
70 Def Leppard
69 Tupac Shakur
68 Otis Redding
67 Coldplay
66 Justin Timberlake
65 The Doors
64 Talking Heads
63 Notorious B.I.G.
62 Genesis
61 Cream
60 Whitney Houston
59 Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
58 Cheap Trick
57 Iggy & The Stooges
55 Peter Gabriel
54 Public Enemy
53 Little Richard
52 Beyoncé
51 Billy Joel
50 Sade
49 Parliament-Funkadelic
48 Rage Against The Machine
47 Jay-Z
46 Ramones
45 Al Green
44 Joni Mitchell
43 Ray Charles
42 Metallica
41 Van Halen
40 The Police
39 The Kinks
38 Sly & The Family Stone
37 Fleetwood Mac
36 Paul McCartney
35 Johnny Cash
34 Tina Turner
33 Guns N’ Roses
32 Black Sabbath
31 John Lennon
30 Aerosmith
29 Radiohead
28 Elton John
27 Aretha Franklin
26 Neil Young
25 Chuck Berry
24 The Velvet Underground
23 AC/DC
22 The Clash
21 Bruce Springsteen
20 Marvin Gaye
19 U2
18 Pink Floyd
17 Queen
16 Madonna
15 The Beach Boys
14 Nirvana
13 The Who
12 David Bowie
11 Bob Marley
10 Stevie Wonder
9 James Brown
8 Elvis Presley
7 Prince
6 Jimi Hendrix
5 Bob Dylan
4 Rolling Stones
3 Led Zeppelin
2 Michael Jackson
1 The Beatles

Now, I was perturbed to learn that Stevie Wonder wasn’t in the top 5 because to me I believe he belonged there and I’m sure others would agree, but I digress because I’m a Stevie stan and sometimes the powers of stanning can be blinding.

Though this particular VH1 special aired earlier this month (I just got a chance to get through the entire series), a debate between myself and a fellow music lover ensued – which found us heatedly disagreeing about whom belonged in the top 3.

Surely on music forums, blogs and websites there were those same debates that went on for days and there probably will always be a debate when it comes to the ranking of the greatest, because realistically how the greatest is determined is based simply on taste even though no one will admit that important fact… but is that right?

Because there are so many lists ranking who others feel are the greatest of all time, I thought it was only right to compile a short list of what it means and what it takes to be the greatest of all time, a check-off sheet if you may.

They are as followed:

Must Be Universally Known

Almost everyone can concur that they know who Michael Jackson or Bob Marley is. If you go to a far away country like Tibet or Kazakhstan for instance, there is no doubt that they are familiar with the man known as Michael Jackson. Although (very rarely I’m sure) they may not know how he looked, they know him by his name. That right there is being universally known. Not just known in your city and not just known in the states, but known globally. How can we all conclude that an artist is the greatest if we don’t know who they are? There really should be no explanation of who the greatest is, and if their names are mentioned and the person on the receiving end of the conversation replies “who?”-- chances are, the artist you are speaking of isn’t really the greatest, they just might be ONE of the greatest. They may have good music, a great style that YOU might like; but if we all don’t know who you are talking about, again how can we say that he/she is the greatest?

Must Have A Recognizable Music Brand

Not to be confused with a gimmick. The artist that is considered the greatest of all time has a signature something. Whether it is their choice of lyrics, their clothing selections, a dance, or even an instrument; having something separate from their actual talent is needed to help complete their appeal. Not to be repetitive, but let’s take Michael Jackson (who came in at number 3 on the list by the way) for example. For the rest of our lives, every time we see a shimmery white glove or a moonwalk we will associate those two things with Michael Jackson. Madonna has the cone bra and Stevie Wonder has the piano and sunglasses (although the latter is a necessity). Something that is closely associated and almost synonymous with the artist (it doesn’t have to be something you can touch, it can be as simple as a vocal high note sort of like what Mariah Carey offers) is needed to create a recognizable music brand. Silly chains like iced out Crayola boxes, loud top hats or even fantasy hairstyles do not qualify as music brands, those are considered gimmicks, because they are loudly screaming “look at me, look at me I’m trying to be different.”

Must Provide Timeless Music

Now this is important. The dubbed greatest of all time has to provide music that survives beyond their years. Music that can be played and enjoyed as if it were heard the very first time when in fact this is the one millionth + time the listener is listening to it. There are Hip-Hop fans that can listen to Biggie’s “Juicy” over and, over and over, etc. and never get tired of it; that is because it stands the test of time. Bob Marley’s “One Love”, a song that was released in 1977, is today used in commercials and enjoyed by fans that weren’t even born during his rise and even his demise. Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” continues to be the secret ingredient in American procreation. Queen’s “We Are The Champions” and “We Will Rock You” is still inspiring people globally to this day. Why are these songs considered great and the artists that sing them greater? Because their music is timeless, has no expiration date and holds all of the elements it takes to make more than just a hit, but a classic song.

There Can Be No Question Of Said Greatness

That says it all. I saved the best for last because really there can be no question that the debated artist is the greatest of all time, none. Even if everyone holds a certain artist near and dear to their hearts they cannot deny that the presented artist that is said to be the greatest is really the greatest. This is practically impossible; this is because not everyone shares the same taste in style of music. There are Rock fans that feel The Beatles are in fact number one, while there are Hip-Hop fans that feel Tupac is numero uno. Though there are a slew of people that will reiterate until they turn blue that Michael Jackson is the greatest, there are some people who feel he shouldn’t even be considered for the top spot (for those that feel that way, I won’t judge you… to your face). So essentially, though every fan and artist wants to be that number one fish in the pond, in my opinion that spot doesn’t exist. Collectively, they can all be the greatest, but to single out just one can be trouble. However, it is always beneficial for us the fans to watch artist vie for that top spot, because the result is their want to outdo the best and contribute amazing music… so carry on!

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