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Time to wave goodbye to:
93. Metallica (24)
92. Eminem (20)
91. The Band (18)
90. The Jam (16)
Dry for another week: Kraftwerk (15), Madonna (15), Patti Smith (12), Fleetwood Mac (11), The Cure (11), Paul Simon (11) and Elliott Smith (11).
We reached a milestone this week: for the first time, more than half of the artists still on the island have been “voted off” by somebody or other some time in the last month. Only 34 of the remaining 89 artists have yet to be mentioned on anybody’s ballot.
89 artists remain:
The Beach Boys, Beastie Boys, The Beatles, Beck, Chuck Berry, Björk, Blondie, Blur, David Bowie, James Brown, The Byrds, Johnny Cash, Nick Cave, Ray Charles, The Clash, Leonard Cohen, John Coltrane, Elvis Costello, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Cure, Miles Davis, The Doors, Nick Drake, Bob Dylan, Brian Eno, The Flaming Lips, Fleetwood Mac, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, PJ Harvey, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Holly & the Crickets, Michael Jackson, Elton John, Joy Division, The Kinks, Kraftwerk, Led Zeppelin, John Lennon, Little Richard, Madonna, Bob Marley and the Wailers, Massive Attack, Curtis Mayfield, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, New Order, Nirvana, OutKast, Parliament/Funkadelic, Pavement, Pink Floyd, Pixies, The Police, Elvis Presley, Prince, Public Enemy, Pulp, Radiohead, Ramones, Otis Redding, Lou Reed, R.E.M., The Rolling Stones, Roxy Music, Sex Pistols, Paul Simon, Simon and Garfunkel, Frank Sinatra, Sly and the Family Stone, Elliott Smith, Patti Smith, The Smiths, Sonic Youth, Bruce Springsteen, Steely Dan, The Stooges, Talking Heads, T. Rex, U2, The Velvet Underground, Tom Waits, The White Stripes, The Who, Wilco, Hank Williams, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young.
And Week 4 starts now.
I really don't want to see them leaving the island, but I wonder if you have not forgotten points for the Beastie Boys...
Whoops. You're right, LonesomePanda; the Beasties had 14 points, just behind Kraftwerk and Madonna. And so it said on my spreadsheet; I just forgot to include them in my post. Thanks.
I try to do my due diligence and doublecheck everything--especially for the artists who get voted off--but if I goof, y'all please call me on it, ok? Apart from my own obsessive-compulsive disorder, you guys are the only quality control I've got.
I have always checked if there's something wrong with the AM artist ranking since Kraftwerk are only at 50-something and now it looks like they're only going to be 80-something in Survivor!!!
I urge you all to think twice and to broaden your view on music. A guitar is not necessary to make excellent music.
I'm a little worried that we are voting out all the artists that are "different" and keep those who are "in the middle" without offending anyone. But well, that's probably survivor in a nutshell.
1. Buddy Holly & the Crickets
2. Patti Smith
3. Roxy Music
5. Brian Eno - If we were talking about the guy's work producing some of the greatest albums of all time it would be a different story. When it comes to his solo stuff there's nothing remarkable.
1. The White Stripes
2. The Beastie Boys
3. Patti Smith
4. John Coltrane
5. T. Rex
Quick bit of trivia—the lowest-ranked artists who have not appeared on anyone’s ballot yet are:
156. Hank Williams
136. Curtis Mayfield
91. Nick Drake
87. Leonard Cohen
66. The Stooges
61. PJ Harvey
58. New Order
51. Simon and Garfunkel
48. Sonic Youth
Hope I’m not jinxing these folks by pointing this out; just thought it was interesting.
5. Fleetwood Mac - it still is interesting to have a blockbuster selling featuring the internal dynamics of recently divorced bandmates. The music is sounding a little bland and not very revolutionary, compared to the smaller company of artists now.
1) Paul Simon
2) Fleetwood Mac
3) Steely Dan
4) Al Green
5) Creedence Clearwater Revival. I actually caught a bit of John Fogerty at Glastonbury this year, and enjoyed it, but still when I sifted through that list at the top of this page, almost every other name made me think 'I really like at least something by them'. I didn't think that for CCR.
1. Madonna (5 pts) - She has some good songs, but its her version of American Pie I'm thinking of now.
2. Patti Smith (4 pts) - Because the Night is pretty good, but I think's she's overrated.
3. Elliot Smith (3 pts) - Too hushed and breathy.
4. U2 (2 pts) - wasted vote.
5. Police (1 pt) - another wasted vote.
I concur with Henrik about Kraftwerk. I'd also be really bummed to see Madonna and The Cure (both of whom are top 5 artists for me) take an exit.
1. Tom Waits
3. Steely Dan
4. Nick Cave
5. Curtis Mayfield- Hey, somebody had to take him down a notch. He's like Nick Cave to me. I respect his work but I just am not into it. Everybody else on the list has at least 2-3 songs I like except these 5 artists so respect goes out the door and I have to just vote for what I like. Now that the Band is gone there are only two bands that I don't have any respect for at all.
1. Madonna : until she's gone, she'll have my 5 points
2. New Order : I know, I know, New Order is untouchable because of the Joy Division devotion which is raging now
But I've tried to hear "Blue Monday" and I just can't listen to this cold music. That's all.
3. Talking Heads : I've got serious problems with 80's cold wave with guys singings like they have swallowed a robot. They probably are great artists (especially Talking Heads, they are excellent musicians) but this music makes me want to hit the "stop" button. I'm really sorry, but that's my blind spot.
4. Patti Smith : I realized the 2 songs by her that I like are covers (Van Morrison and Springsteen). I'm not particulary moved by her so-called beat poetry which is hardly better than Morrison's (Jim) but without a Manzarek or a Krieger behind. Nevertheless, her sound is not too bad (like Talking Heads) but that's not enough to maintain her.
5. Joni Mitchell : I love folk, but her brand of folk leaves me indifferent. Can't say I like, can't say I dislike. Indifference is a terrible thing.
This gale is terrible. You spend your time playing the part of a prosecutor or the DA in a trial.
These are the charges we are pressing against you..
Last week, I took the doubtful honour to be the first to vote Sinatra off, and after Anthony did as well, the moose was loose and quite some reactions came. Although I think he will still last for at least 2 or 3 weeks, I have to put him into top position (my first 3 from last week all left the island):
5 points - Frank Sinatra
4 points - Fleetwood Mac
My newly selected artists that get the sack:
3 points - Nick Cave - His albums don't touch me enough. It takes a long time to get into the music and I just prefer the raw, dramatic singing of PJ Harvey.
2 points - Buddy Holly & the Crickets - Really sad, he died so young. The Crickets' album is one of my favorites, but that's it. His complete work is too small compared to other artists to reach the top 50 acclaim.
1 point - T. Rex - Another artist that was on my initial list of 15 to vote off immediately. Slipped through the maze for the first few weeks, but now the party is over and our glamour boy can go shine somewhere else.
Let's see what I dislike this week.
#1 (5p) Madonna - It's music for little girls.
#2 (4p) Marvin Gaye - I guess I'm just not a Gaye man.
#3 (3p) James Brown - After last week, I tried listening to him again. Still can't understand the words. I wonder what he would have sounded like sober.
#4 (2p) Creedence Clearwater Revival - Still the most boring band that ever existed.
#5 (1p) Chuck Berry - I wouldn't eat that Berry.
Rune, what a fine humorist you are..
that joke about Marvin...
Sure you can't appreciate him
1) Beastie Boys - The made two decent songs that have been overplayed and are associated to frat parties so much it makes me sick just listening to them. They didn't even play any instruments on their first (and arguably least bad) albums.. this is no band, this is crap. I don't know why I didn't put these guys first from the start..
2) Public Enemy
1. FLEETWOOD MAC
2. PAUL SIMON
3. THE DOORS
4. KRAFTWERK. Time for my regular bi-weekly apology to Henrik and Moonbeam (2 weeks ago it was for Depeche Mode). Believe me, I’m familiar with Kraftwerk, I understand them, and when I’m in the right mood, I even kind of like them. But SH2B86.
5. ELLIOTT SMITH. Having been familiar only with “Miss Misery” from its appearance in an overrated Matt Damon/Ben Affleck movie (but I repeat myself), I downloaded all of his other songs ranked on this site. Conclusion: not bad, and I can see how he’d become somebody’s favorite, but a little out of his depth in present company. This might be a provisional pick, though, and as I keep listening to artists I don’t know well, I could see putting someone else ahead of him.
I think most of us have gotten to the point where we’re starting to include artists we actually like and respect.
For me there's a few left, but we're pretty close. Not to mention the great artists you dummies already voted off.
Well, Schleuse, that depends on how open-minded we are
But the good point is maybe some of us are going to be less negative.
The game is cool, but if it is only an opportunity for some to shoot acts down in flames, it will soon lose its interest.
One thing’s been bothering me about the points the Beastie Boys have been getting—a frequent complaint about them is that they appeal to loutish frat boys. There are some problems here:
1. This complaint applies primarily to Licensed to Ill, which is a little like judging the Beatles on the basis of Please Please Me. They’ve come a long way since then.
2. I went to college in the late 80s and early 90s, and it looked to me like frat guys were just as likely to be listening to the Replacements or Violent Femmes as to the Beastie Boys. I know the ridiculous sexism of many of the songs on Licensed to Ill (though tame compared to a lot of later rap) earned them the rep of being the official band of drunk horny white guys, but that’s like assuming that Caddyshack is a realistic representation of golf.
3. (And this is really the big one) I feel…uncomfortable with the idea of judging artists based on who listens to them. Probably most artists on this list have been enjoyed by bigots, nincompoops, reactionaries, and predators (Charlie Manson on the White Album, anyone?)—but that’s just not relevant to evaluating their music. Country music (which I love) has always had its share of virulently racist fans. Skinheads in the UK rallied around ska in the late 70s and Morrissey in the early 90s.
If you don’t like the Beasties’ music, I understand (Neoptolemos, I gather your main objection is the music, not the frat-boy association). But I hope we can find better reasons to vote artists off the island than the reputation of their audience.
(And on a related note, I don't think Madonna's music is for little girls. I think it's music for Gaye men.)
It is mainly about their music, I try not to get influenced by what artists do or represent but sometimes it's almost inevitable.
Somehow still in the tribal counsel:
1. The Cure
3. The Doors
4. Roxy Music
New vote getters:
5. Joni Mitchell - I'm now getting into the votes for artists whose work I am admittedly less familiar with, as opposed to those where I felt like I knew enough of their work to pass judgment. In many cases, my unfamiliarity is based upon not caring for my limited taste, and therefore not motivated to seek more. And so is the case for Ms. Mitchell. I was not taken by Blue, or the other songs of hers I've heard. Hard to place what I don't care for. The airiness in her voice is one. I respect her experimentation, but what I have heard has never connected with me.
You're right schleuse, in France Madonna is a gay icon
One of my friends who was a gay writer, publisher and activist (he tragically died 2 years ago) used to say that Madonna was the most important political figure of these last 20 years. Exaggerated ? Of course
But the problem for me is not the woman, that I appreciate but the music that I find uninteresting and accessory
I mean she doesn't write her own stuff and keeps changing with the moods : once dance, then electro, the pop, etc..
2. Buddy Holly & The Crickets
3. Patti Smith
4. John Coltrane - Having released dozens of albums per year doesn't impress me. Also, I've never really gotten into 'A Love Supreme'. My favourite Coltrane record is 'Giant Steps', but even that I don't go back to very often.
5. Wilco - Although Wilco gave me one of the best concerts in my life a few years ago, they're on my list already. I'm just never in the mood for Wilco on record.
She's not just a gay icon in France, my friend.
I don't mind her new look and (allegedly) new sound every album--after all, Bowie did that. But I won't be upset to see her go, whether it's this week or not. Her presence in Survivor has more to do with the sheer volume of her 24-years-and-counting career than anything else (though there are 2 or 3 good songs in there).
By my count, there are three artists left in Survivor who are performers but, for the most part, not songwriters: Madonna, Sinatra, and Elvis. In that group, Ms. Ciccone is dead last as a performer (but first in public relations--she could have taught Tom Parker a thing or two).
What do you mean Madonna is not a songwriter? Hasn't she written almost all her material from 1986?
I love Madonna!
My ballot will be coming (eventually), but I needed to chime in here.
First of all, welcome aboard the E. Smith train, schleuse; you’re in good company. Hopefully it changes from “provisional” to “cemented”.
Re: the Non-Songwriting Three (Madge, Blue Eyes, Pelvis) – I look at that group and Sinatra sticks out like a sore thumb. It seems to me that Madonna and Elvis were, for the most part, more controversial (which doesn’t necessarily make them better artists, but I respect those who challenge cultural norms.) And at least those two contributed in the songwriting department (Madonna moreso than Elvis; she wrote at least half of “True Blue”.) Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m not sure if Sinatra wrote even one of his songs.
(1) The group of fans to which an artist appeals is often attributable to the sound of the music. Saying that you dislike the Beastie Boys "because they appeal to frat boys" may be a shorthand way of saying that you don't like "the kind of music that appeals to frat boys."
(That's not the case for me. I know one particular trust-fund/frat boy that made me dislike the Beastie Boys. Total A-hole. Took me years to grudgingly admit that the Beastie Boys had some musical value.)
(2) A lot of decisions about what kind of music to like are based on the social group that we identify with. In many cases, meaning the group identity comes before and guides the decision whether to "like" a particular kind of music (i.e., skaters like skater music; hippies like hippie music). There is, at the very least, a strong association between our social group the music we like. Music = Identity, Identity = Music. (Do you think some gays may be faking" their devotion to Madonna just to fit in better?) I think it can also work in reverse too.
So I don't really see anything wrong with using the fan base as grounds for voting an act off the island.
And the fact that we identify so strongly with our favorite music might be part of the reason why we get so bent out of shape when people criticize our favorite bands. I could care less if you criticize my favorite food, but if you trash Hank Williams you are getting personal!!
What you said Loophole is very true about music and social identification.
Being French and miles away from America sets me free of these social influences. I can like country, rock, rap, even some metal and -exception all the same without picturing myself the different social groups backing these styles.
On the other hand, there are some styles in French music that I just can't stand, not because the music is bad, but because I can't stand the people who like it (I'm thinking of the Nouvelle chanson française scene, and worse, of all these bands trying to play that gypsy Django Reinhardt style - I love Django but not his imitators.
Being listed as a songwriter is not the same as writing a song. Madonna and Elvis are frequently credited simply for financial reasons, though neither had much to do with the songwriting. Even now that she is an established singer Madonna never writes beyond, at the most, simple chords and lyrics. All arrangements and production are entrusted to more capable talents.
You can say that about a good percentage of all pop or rock songwriters jonmarck. I guarantee a very good majority of them only came up with simple chords and lyrics and the rest was filled in along the way. I don't think too many songwriters actually know how to arrange a score. Some do. Most don't.
well yeah, that's why pop and most rock sucks ass. Any good musician makes their own music. It's the difference between an entertainer (Elvis, Madonna, JT) and an artist.
So now you're making the claim that music sucks if the artist didn't write the entire score? Wow. Have fun with that.
Anyway, back to the actual game.
Well, the Jam are gone now, so one more gets my vote.
1) T. Rex - Too mediocre to be in the top 100. Go Bang a Gong somewhere else. Still on the island? How?
2) Kraftwerk - Beep Beep Boop Whirrr Buzzz Bleep Bloop Beep Bop Whirr Buzz Buzz Beep Boop. I have a heart and a soul not a hard drive and processors, so this doesn't appeal to me. I'm sure 3CPO and R2D2 love the shit out of these guys, though.
3) The Cure - A few good songs, but would you like some cheese with that whine? And dude, you're like 40-something now, enough with the ridiculous makeup and hair.
4) Nick Cave - Because of a recommendation from someone I checked him out more. Was going to give him a pass this week and vote off Depeche Mode. Well, they're gone now, so he's back on the list.
5) Little Richard - A couple of pretty good '50s piano rockers and a Geico commercial, but what else?
Mashed potatoes! Cranberry sauce! Wooooooo!
I just realized that anybody who hasn't seen Little Richard's Geico commercial must think I just had a psychotic episode...
I have and I still didn't get the reference. I think my mind mentally blocks out stuff associated with Little Richard.
John the musicians that I respect make music. They don't hire other people to do it for them.
2. Little Richard
3. Sex Pistols - Influential? Sure. But not an enjoyable listen in my opinion.
4. Ray Charles
5. Outkast - Just not my style
I recently stumbled across a great Seinfeld fansite, and its forum is using a similar Survivor-type game to determine the series' greatest episode. Very cool. But anyway, let's get down to brass tacks here...
1. Beastie Boys: this is just a consistently discouraging vote, because it sure as hell ain't doing a lot of good. But I stand by it.
2. Elliott Smith: for reasons previously mentioned.
3. Ramones: bad.
4. Frank Sinatra: back to Sinatra. Contrary to my "note to self" remark last week (which, more or less was a joke), I appreciated everyone's comments. I went back and listened to "Wee Small Hours" - the only album I own - and it basically re-confirmed everything I wrote previously. Maybe "Vegas-lounge drivel" was extreme, but I'm still not captivated by Frankie, on any level. I can appreciate his talent, of course, but I still don't feel anything when I listen to him. When he sings a lyric like "I could lay me down and die ("Mood Indigo"), I simply don't buy it. Unlike something like, say, "...you and I are gonna live forever...". which, everytime I hear that line, makes me think I'm immortal. Or "...today is the greatest day I've ever known..." - another poignant gem. I know it seems like I'm comparing apples and oranges here, but I'm really not. At the end of the day, music draws us in emotionally through a combination of lyrics and music, and the combinations that captivate some may not make such an indelible impression on others.
5. Madonna: *new entry* - Longevity in the industry is admirable, but not when it's the result of reaping the benefits of hired-gun songwriters and producers (Leonard, Orbit, etc.) and using controversy as a gimmick. Burning crosses and sex books aren't artistic statements - they're dollar signs.
Just thought I'd chime in to defend Madonna. While she may not be as musically gifted as most of the artists remaining, her cultural impact is certainly larger than nearly everyone on the list (and certainly any female artist)- in fact, I think hundreds of years down the line, she'll be among the top 5 most remembered artists from the era covered by all of these artists. As their placement in the AM lists will attest, I believe that several Madonna songs will go down in history and be revered as genuine pop classics. Yes, she had her influences (she seems to have taken quite a few cues from Debbie Harry, for one), but the history of female pop music can pretty much be divided into two segments: before Madonna and after Madonna. Moreover, her music has an appeal well beyond gays and little girls, as some posters have mentioned. You would be surprised to see the makeup of a Madonna concert- I myself was expecting to be one of the only straight guys there, but I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong.
On a more embarrassing note, you can catch me on one of her DVDs. I attended the concert in Detroit which was filmed and broadcast on HBO and later released as the Drowned World DVD. I'm seen with my blonde hair jumping around in the front row during "Holiday", "Ray of Light", "Candy Perfume Girl" and "Beautiful Stranger". My brother and I were even recognized on the street in Toronto once from this!
Crazy! I'm going to go rent that right now!
I'm sure you're an above-average looking guy, Moonbeam (and I say that with an unblemished record of staunch heterosexuality,) but it's not enough for me to want to spend the better part of two hours watching a Madonna concert.
Not even for the jelly bracelets?
Cough, cough, cough, hey, did anyone see that Bears game on Sunday? (that's a Planes, Trains and Automobiles reference.)
I'll watch it and gosh darnit, I'm pretty sure I'll still be a straight man afterwards. I saw her at Coachella a few years ago, which was abysmal due to the crowd so I've wanted to see that tour.
I'm not sure how Madge is going to move on after all these early votes, but it would be sad if she didn't. Really, Little Richard > Madge? GOOD GOLLY!
Hey, Rocky... wasn't it you that got a boner during our group hug a while back?
You're not fooling anyone.
Thanks for noticing, weren't you on the other side of the huddle?
Anthony - your comments always make me laugh. Just putting 'bad' for The Ramones made me laugh even harder.
Alright I think I've voted for these all before
4)Creedence Clearwater Revival
Looks like I've seen the name "Creedence" a little too much on some lists
time to retaliate...
Re: John the musicians that I respect make music. They don't hire other people to do it for them.
So you can't tell if something's good or not until you know how and by whom it was written?
I can usually tell by listening to something how it was written/produced. I don't have to search through the liner notes to know that Avril Lavigne's Let Go was not written by Avril.
I research all of the albums I buy, and if I buy something just because it catches my eye the first thing I'll do when I get home is look it up on the the internet. Usually the best part about an album for me is the story behind it.
I’m with jonmarck on this.
As I’ve written before, my favorite artists tend to be the ones that write and perform their own material. (I think this relates to why I’m not a fan of Sinatra, Elvis or Madonna.)
Also, like jonmarck, I’m fascinated with the stories behind certain albums/artists. One common story that I’m attracted to is artists or bands that release a single or definitive piece of work and then disappear shortly thereafter (eg. The Zombies, Neutral Milk Hotel, Jeff Buckley, New Radicals, My Bloody Valentine, etc.)
Robert Johnson too
Yes, Robert Johnson! Definitely. Any others?
i'm not making an argument for a strict formalism. who doesn't love a good story? and sure, anything we know about an artist affects how we listen to it - sometimes it enhances, sometimes it doesn't. but do you really need to do research to know what kind of background nina simone had? can't you just hear it in her voice? that's the test for me - does some sense of the artist's personality really come through in the song (even if what we imagine that to be is completely wrong)? does the artist really make the song his/her own? put their individual stamp on it? interpret it in an utterly unique way? if yes - sinatra, george jones, aretha, etc. - i don't give a damn who wrote the stupid song. what's your take on covers? what's the best version of all along the watchtower? september song? i fought the law?
Moon, I'll have to check for ya on that. :) And how nice not to be the first to chime in with a defense.
Among some, Madonna surely is underestimated as a collaborator in the songwriting/production proces. No matter who she works with, it always ends up sounding like her. And, come on now- if she weren't viewed as a template for what she does and revered, would she be as acclaimed as she is? (her and the music) Plus, she has avery stong shot at being inducted into the R&R Hall of Fame come the announcement tomorrow- so, I think it's time for the old debate to end- yes, she is worthy.
My 5 to vote off:
1. Steely Dan
2. Nick Cave
4. Elliott Smith
5. Nick Drake
Good questions, Greg. I'm with you on this. And while I concede and am largely satisfied that the "auteur" theory holds true far more for music than it does for film, I also don't want to discount that music is very often a collaborative exercise. And I reject the idea that collaboration -- including a non-performer writing the subject song -- devalues the music. Taken to the extreme, this sentiment means that David Gilmour's participation on Roger Waters' penned songs (or John Lennon's on Paul McCartney's) devalues the work, and vice versa. In popular music, the auteur theory (so self-evident that we don't even need an "auteur theory" like they do in film) is maintained when collaborators assume a single name like "the Beatles" or "Pink Floyd." (And with Pink Floyd, it gets even stickier.. cause are you voting for Syd Barrett era or otherwise. OutKast presents a similar issue.) But that's just part of the picture. When I did not vote to kick off Missy Elliott, it's because I like her music. But I was fully aware that I was voting for Timbaland's work on songs released under her moniker also. Is Timbaland a hired hand or a collaborator? That's a false dichotomy.
That's why I don't take it to extremes. Here is the best way of explaining it: If music is self-expression and the music is largely written by someone other than the artist then the artist is not expressing themselves. Of course there are instances where this has worked really well (I'm a big fan of the first two Bat out of Hell's) but what must be acknowledged is that the music is less authentic, less personal. If the music is not meant to be authentic or personal (Motown, for example) then this might be an efficient way of organizing the workload. However the artist still has the same task; make something interesting to listen to, and by contracting out the work the artist has just lost one of the easiest (easiest for people with talent that is) ways to make a song worthwhile; giving the audience a person to relate to directly, rather than having to peek behind the curtains to see the real wizard, as in the Bat out of Hell case. Contracting out the work is almost a sure sign that the artist is extremely limited in the breadth of their talent, which is never respectable. Some acknowledge this, even if not directly. Meat Loaf knows he's an actor and a singer, not a songwriter. Frank Sinatra knew he was more entertainer than artist. It's when they start with the pretensions; trying to be taken seriously as an artist (Avril, Madonna), that my bullshit detector starts ringing and my lunch starts rising.
I just had a problem with jonmarck saying that if the songwriter didn't compose the entire song it can't be respected. I would bet that would take away at least 95 percent of every song written in the past 50 years. How about Bob Dylan? He didn't completely write all of those songs. His backing band came up with a lot of the instrumentation. Or Lennon/McCartney? George Martin, their hired producer had a good deal to do with the way those songs were written.
I think there are a small handful of songwriters in the past 50 years that have had total control over the finished song. If that's what you want to limit your catalog to go ahead. But, I have a feeling you don't limit your catalog to just that yet you are trashing artists that don't stick to those stringent rules.
I don't agree with the songwriter-only attitude, although you'll notice in my top 100 my love for songwriters.
I think that as long as what you're hearing is good and authentic, who wrote or who didn't doesn't matter.
Anyway this theory only works for pop/rock.
In classical music, that would mean every conductor, avery great performer isn't an artist : Karajan isn't an artist, Solti isn't an artist, la Callas isn't an artist.
In blues, folk and and world music, to a lesser extent country, it has absolutely no sense, because songs are carried from musician to musician : did Robert Johnson write "Cross road" or "Sweet Home Chicago" ? No, he just heard bits of songs once and made another one out of these. I could name you a half-dozen recordings that are pre-"Sweet home chicago".
Even Elvis' "That's all right mama" is very different from Arthur Big Boy Crudup's original version.
In rap and electro the songwriting doesn't exist. You generally build your own piece of music with other pre-recorded material.
Numerous jazz pieces consisted of recycling of pop songs
So I think what really matters is what you hear. I know fantastic covers (you named "All along the watchtower", there's also "Hallelujah", "House Of The Risong Sun") that completely transfigure the original versions.
I'm saying that although my favorite artists are The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young or Neil Hannon who are pure songwriters.
But my love goes also to Johnny Cash, who wrote a small part of his works, or Leadbelly (off-topic because he was a songster and not a songwriter)
Look John you're the one taking it to extremes. All I said was I respect musicians who make their own music, they don't hire other people to do it for them. Of course if it's a simple string arrangement here and there, well, big deal, that's more a chore than anything else. Who cares if that gets contracted out. When it comes to Dylan's music, it would be way worse if he DID try to score the things. Those depend on improvisation, but that's why no one listens to Dylan for the arrangements! Everything important about his music, the lyrics, the structure, the feel, he took care of himself. That's a far cry from Elvis, whose career was removed from his control practically from day one.
Eh, we're not going to agree here, but what you said about Dylan translates perfectly to Elvis, Madonna and any other person who didn't have complete control over the finished project. That is not what is important about their music just like the arrangements aren't important to what makes Dylan's music great. Music doesn't need a formula...every great artist, every great song or album have different qualities to explain why they are great.
That is hardly accurate. When it comes to popstars like Elvis and Sinatra the amount of creative control they wield is analogous to a mouse trying to pull an elephant. Once that elephant picks where it wants to go that mouse is just going to get dragged along. The labels/managers have so much reign over these people it's closer to slavery than artistry. The types of contracts that governed their careers gave them so little creative control that it would be more accurate to say that Colonel Tom was the artist.
Ok. First, the art/entertainment binary is, aside from being the earmark of snobbery, a fanciful and untenable position. I don't care how you define the two - if I breathe on it, it's gonna collapse.
Second, you make the session musicians, to whom the "work" is contracted out, sound like retarded robots. Sometimes true, but often not. The session players on Highway 61, for instance, had quite a bit to do with the album's unique sound - Bloomfield was one of the best guitarists of the '60s and Al Kooper is a perennial session great. If Dylan had played lead guitar on the album it would've sounded like total shit. Fortunately, he was smart enough to hire someone else. So substantial but not exclusive credit can go to Dylan. Elvis Costello, Lou Reed and Stephin Merritt are other examples of brilliant songwriters who are not technically proficient on any instrument - no reason to hold them in any lower esteem than true musical prodigies like Prince and Stevie Wonder, in my opinion.
Third, the difference between a "hired" musician and a band member is merely nominal. For example, we're both big fans of The Band, who, of course, were at one point a backing group, and some of whose best songs are Dylan covers. According to you, only one person at a time gets credit for self-expression while everyone else I guess just kind of plays along. I'm not sure how this would apply to The Band. For me, it's hard to think of a better example of a genuinely collaborative group - what is The Last Waltz if not a tribute to influence and collaboration?
Perhaps the problem is that the the phrase "artists who make their own music" is terribly vague. It basically tosses the entire genre of rap/hip-hop out the window.
Well, I'll give you the last sentence.
The tough thing about this argument is that it's terribly difficult to explain my position while taking into account the vast differences in music, especially if I want to keep it short. Yes, the session musicians on Dylan's albums were valuable contributors. Not as valuable as you make them out to be, in fact I think it was the type of thing where any slob with a guitar could've fit in well (which was kind of the point), but, yes, Dylan could not have done it alone. But you're not understanding the meaning of arrangement. Improvisations are not arrangements, especially when even the number of musicians playing isn't set in stone until the tape starts rolling (and even then...).
What shows to me that I'm either not explaining properly or you're not understanding completely is that you consider Elvis Costello to be one of the artists I'm criticizing. In fact he was the one that I was trying to describe! He has such an extraordinary command of the craft that hacks like Madonna could only dream of replicating. In my opinion he represents one of the best examples of what a proper musician should be capable of.
I'm not saying a good musician shouldn't collaborate. I'm saying they shouldn't be forced into it from severe short-comings on their part, usually resulting from ignorance, laziness and only a passing interest in the craft (usually just to get rich and famous or, like Beyonce, launch themselves into more lucrative industries like film). I respect someone who makes music to a respectable level. No, they don't have to have made EVERY piece of music ever invented. They just have to impress me. As much as I enjoy Ray of Light, Madonna is a hack. She doesn't impress me. So I have no respect for her (which is an oversimplification. I actually have a great deal of respect for the way she is able to adapt to different trends and portray herself in different ways. She has an amazing understanding of image. Alas, this is not music, or, at least, is a very small part of it.)
And there is no problem with differentiating between artist and entertainer. I think the line is actually quite clear.
In case the line is actually not quite clear here's an analogy: McDonald's is entertainment, fine dining is art. One is temporary, disposable, quick, commercial and fun (while it lasts). The other has substance. I wonder how our musical tastes would differ were we forced to digest it as frequently as food.
Yeah, Elvis and Madonna are so temporary. Flash in the pan I tell ya.
How many times have YOU spun Like a Virgin in the last 6 months?
They are solid entertainers. They are not artists, at least not at the level that their celebrity suggests.
Does it matter if the song is written by the singer? Or will the bass player suffice?
If the bass player is OK, what about the manager?
Wow. I don't really want to jump into this, except to say that trying to draw hard-and-fast boundaries (say, between "artists" and mere "entertainers") in any art form is like trying to nail jelly to the ceiling.
Sorry, jonmarck. Line not clear. More importantly, line not necessary.
Meanwhile, back at Survivor...JR, I need explanations for your picks, please. After this week, you don't have to comment on these artists again, but everyone must explain their reasons for voting an artist out the first time they do it.
Especially because you're the first person to vote out Nick Drake!
They're entirely different skills. I don't think that anyone would disagree with the statement that Nick Drake was NOT an entertainer!
Actually I just listened to Bedtime Stories a couple days ago.
if you were to say Britney Spears is a hack, then, yes, I probably could see that point. But Madonna? You gotta be kiddin' me. I mean, everyone has their viewpoints and such, but lawdy.
It's OK if you're not a fan, but as long as you understand that many out there DO see her as a viable artist/collaborator and such, it's fine. Both her albums and singles are decently acclaimed, as she is an an artist- no one's saying she's a Joni Mitchell musically, but she certainly has merged art and commerce probably better than anyone over the last 25 years, and for the pop world, she often is looked at as the template. That's why she's often given props by non-mainstream acts/outlets. And, of course, her cultural impact via what she's done with her work (music, videos, stage) is unparalleled.
Well I wouldn't consider her my primary target, and, hey, there is a lot I respect about what she accomplished, especially culturally, but she's no musician, at least nowhere near what her celebrity suggests. Just the fact that she lip synchs her performances tells us where her and her audience's priorities lie. What she does is closer to what magicians and actors do than what musicians do.
Funny we're talking about Drake now--I just listened to him (consciously) for the first time last week, as part of my crash-course review for Survivor. Five Leaves Left. Just gorgeous--introspective, layered, melodic.
Is he an artist? Yep. Is he an entertainer? Yep.
If you are a musician, you are both. You are trying to express something, to practice your skill, to play-act, to move your audience, and to make a living. All of those things motivate(d) Nick Drake and Britney Spears and Joni Mitchell and the Monkees and Bob Dylan and Justin Timberlake and Robert Johnson and Madonna.
Of course each artist may emphasize some motivations and downplay others, but I'm not smart enough to read their minds to figure out which is which. I can make educated guesses, sure, but really...what's the point? All we can really do is look at the results.
Guess I am getting involved in this conversation. Oh well.
"Of course each artist may emphasize some motivations and downplay others"
Right, which is what I'm getting at. Madonna, Elvis, etc. downplay the whole music part of being a musician. Their talent is in being celebrities; in shaping their image (or hiring others to shape it for them).
Wow now even the biggest selling female artist AND biggest selling male artist ever are being bagged - over a billion music fans can't be wrong...
Well if you want me to take a shot at Michael Jackson and Celine Dion just ask.... (though you gotta admit, they're a little too easy)
seen Madonna live? What are ya, Elton John, saying she lip synchs? LOL (Actually, he clarified that comment later on, acknowledging that she sings most of her shows live and that she's a fantastic performer/artist). People have different takes n what a musician is supposed to be- some of the greatest artists were not big instrument players- but, heck, Madge has picked up the guitar and strums her way through some songs, so.... hahahaha
I see you also aren't big on Elvis- the biggest and most impactful male and female artists/entertaines of the rock era- so, at least she's in good company there.
Michael Jackson's personal life is a hotmess, but there's also no denying his impact and musical greatness at his peak.
Celine Dion? One of the many examples out there that a great voice does not make a great artist. Aretha Franklin really is a rare breed, in that her voice was beyond powerful and she was very acclaimed. Many of the big-voiced females have not been all that critcally successful (comes down to the material and artistry, I guess).
Trying to prove your point by comparing McDonald's to "fine dining" is kind of cheap, and reeks of the kind of elitism that so bothers me. It's kind of like saying, what's a better book, Moby-Dick or some Harlequin romance? I wouldn't be so passionate about this if I didn't think that this line of thinking is what gives us music nerds a bad reputation. The line seems clear at the extremes, but in the middle is where it gets blurry. The Godfather: art or entertainment? No middling, it has to be one or the other, right? What about Star Wars? Smells Like Teen Spirit? Thriller?
I don't know about Celine Dion,but do you really think Wacko Jacko has sold more records than Elvis?
Just think - Jackson,with a 6 album catalogue
And then,Elvis,who has released dozens of albums,not to mention millions of complilations...
But you can't bag these artists - they can't have sold THAT many records without getting the formula right
We interrupt your reguarly scheduled debate with some more votes!
1. Elton John- My father-in-law calls him "vomit with a head". I can't put it much better than that!
2. Bob Marley- No Marley, no cry.
3. The Who- Who's next?
4. Paul Simon- I appreciate that he has an impact- he just bores me to tears, for the msot part.
5. Frank Sinatra- Like Paul Simon, I appreciate his impact, but can't bring myself to listen to his music.
there have been plenty of commercially successful acts who are not taken all that seriously as artists- Celine Dion is one of them (and other big-voices gals), Backstreet Boys, N Sync in the early part of the decade, Britney Spears, etc. etc.
There is an audience for everything at some point- there are people who love Celine Dion because of her voice, and they like the cheesy material she sings, so those hardcore fans will continue buying her material (of course not to the degree they once did- that happens to everybody).
We're getting off the point here. It's not about how many albums they sold. That means nothing. Millions of fans can be wrong and have been quite often. Jonmarck is trying to make the point that if it isn't art it shouldn't be acclaimed (or at least that's the point I think he's trying to make).
Actually Elvis hasn't sold that much considering his status as the King of Rock. Everyone flipped when he sold 1 000 000 Heartbreak Hotel singles. That would've been a slow day for a Beatles, or, heck, even Beach Boys single. Don't get me wrong, he's one of the best-selling of all time, but as far as I know MJ is definitely in the lead by a long shot and I think the Beatles, The Eagles and Led Zeppelin are the closest behind.
Madonna and Celine Dion are a little washier. They're both pretty much in the same range.
Greg, who said there was no middling? I don't mean that there is zero artistic input when Elvis performs a song. I just think it was a negligible because he was never really about the artistry anyways. Madonna hits a little harder in the creative department but she has so little to do with that (other than vague global directional instructions) that I don't consider her to be much of a musician. More a cultural anarchist, which is still interesting and valuable but not in a musical way.
My favourite artists are the ones that are both artistic and entertaining. U2 are great at this, well, were, at least. Elvis Costello is pretty solid. A smaller act that I really like is Metric. They're both cool and fun, not always easy to do!
Moby Dick is better than any harlequin romance by all standards. It frightens me to think that anyone would suggest that they're equal. How far does wishful thinking go?!
By the way, the problem with music fans isn't that they speak out against bad music. It's that they tolerate it. Can you imagine what this industry would be like without the Black Eyed Peas? If people had high enough standards to reject Fergie and her lesser clones? It's disgusting to think that American Idol is treated as a hit rather than an atrocity. It's a cultural embarrassment, and don't get me started on the nauseating wasteland of mediocrity and copycatting called Christian rock.
JR, here's an article about Madonna's lip-synching, calling it the worst-kept industry secret: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/10/12/1097406567855.html
To clarify: what I'm saying is I don't respect musicians who have had as little effect on the music that carries their name as Madonna and Elvis have had. They might still be worthwhile for other reasons (entertainers, celebrities, dance instructors), but not as musicians. It's like calling me a dentist because I brush my teeth and pay someone else to do all the rest.
jonmarck, I'm not gonna come back on the Elvis subject, I tried once, but it would be more useful to piss in a cello than to try to change your mind.
But there is one thing you say that is historically wrong
When you say Elvis never had any control on his songs, you forget "That's all right Mama" in 1954, one of his best.
The choice was his. Now say what you will.
Nicolas the point of discussion is not to change each other's minds. It's to learn what we can from the various thoughts we contribute.
Elvis might've started playing That's Alright Mama but if it weren't for Sam Philips insisting that they start over so he could set the tapes rolling nothing would've come of it. So right from the start of his career Elvis' output was heavily guided by the boys in the background. Good for them, too. If it were left to Ol' Slick the whole thing would've never happened.
I don't mean to change your mind, it was a shortcut I made
But it sounds like you really want to build a case around elvis, refuting every fact or idea that doesn't suit your view on Elvis. This is how ideologies are built.
This is suspicious (mind ?)
Why don't you just say you don't like him ?
You don't need a reason nor a theory for that.
"Moby Dick is better than any harlequin romance by all standards"
Moby-Dick is a masterpiece--one of the richest, most rewarding texts ever written (Melville didn't think it was his best, but that's another reason not to take artist's opinions of their own work as the final word).
But Moby-Dick is woefully behind the average Harlequin by the standards of brevity, economy, and utility for middle-class women trying to negotiate contradictory desires. Moby-Dick and a Harlequin are probably about on even footing as instances of the Gothic in literature.
I don't really mean to bang on about Moby-Dick; my point is that a lot of this argument boils down to the assertion that certain genres of music are superior to others. That is patent nonsense; it's precisely the same kind of thinking that in the past has asserted that comedy is inferior to tragedy, the novel inferior to the epic, Impressionism inferior to the Paris Salon, jazz inferior to symphonic music, rap inferior to rock, and so on. Arguments like this don't get us anywhere, ever.
As for music fans "tolerating" bad music, I'm not sure what that means. Sure, 98% of everything is crap, as the saying goes, but there's a difference between having discerning musical taste and being offended that crappy music exists at all--especially in a medium with a global audience, many of whom are kids and are therefore attracted to the sensational and flashy.
Anyway, what are we supposed to do about it? Up against the wall Maroon 5?
You be dissin' Maroon 5?! Now it's getting personal!
Hey Jonmarck - what you were saying before:
Top selling artists in US:
BEATLES, THE 170
BROOKS, GARTH 123
PRESLEY, ELVIS 118.5
LED ZEPPELIN 109.5
JOEL, BILLY 79.5
PINK FLOYD 74.5
STREISAND, BARBRA 71
JOHN, ELTON 69.5
ROLLING STONES, THE 66
STRAIT, GEORGE 65.5
SPRINGSTEEN, BRUCE 63.5
CAREY, MARIAH 61.5
JACKSON, MICHAEL 60.5
As You can see,Elvis has sold approximately twice as many albums as Michael Jackson has in US. And in singles Elvis is far ahead of anyone else with approximately 50 million singles sales in US alone,about twice the nearest challenger...
It has been widely reported that the sales of the Beatles and Elvis both exceed one billion. Elvis is THE rock icon of all time
what I'm saying is I don't respect musicians who have had as little effect on the music that carries their name as Madonna and Elvis have had.
As far as I know, the only things jonmarck and I have in common are nationality and singing/songwriting. While I don’t think being Canadian has anything to do with this entire debate, I really think coming at it from the perspective of a musician has A LOT to do with it.
As a singer/songwriter (albeit an amateur one), I can attest to the fact that songwriting is not the easiest artistic endeavor. Certainly, it comes easier to some than others, but to compose a song from start to finish is an involved process, and therefore I respect anyone that can do it (and do it well.) But the majority of my respect goes to the person who can perform the work that they’ve just created. Art is expression, and songwriting is a type of expression.
I go to a lot of open stages and amateur nights. In my experiences, I’ve found that I’m way more moved/interested/impressed/fascinated by the young guys (and girls) that get up on stage with their acoustic guitar and sing a song that they’ve written themselves. As soon as any of them attempt a cover song, I might listen for the first few seconds, but typically I’m bored to tears. Even if they do a pretty good job of covering a song, I might be impressed but I’m not moved at all. After all, they didn’t write it, and so I know it’s not their own emotions/experiences/feelings that they’re conveying. Full marks for attempting to bring something personal to it, but the fact remains that it’s not theirs.
What I’m trying to get to is this: the shared opinion of this forum seems to be that it’s only the end product that matters, not what leads up to it. In other words, if a song is good and you like it, it doesn’t matter who wrote it, who performed it, who produced it…. all that matters is that it exists and that it combines the right elements in the right order to facilitate your enjoyment of it. I can understand this mindset, but well, I disagree with it.
Certainly, the end product matters, but I think what jonmarck (and now myself) is trying to say is that our appreciation of a certain song (ie. the end product) is, contrary to some of you, very dependant on the way in which it was created. And I think that this is really the byproduct of being musicians. I’m not saying that him or I have some sort of enlightened taste or that we are able to objectively discern what’s good or what’s not good, but that when we listen to a certain “artist” like Madonna or Elvis, we find it difficult to be moved by someone who is merely the conduit for someone else’s creativity. We can certainly respect the songwriting and creation that was involved in the process, but it’s frustrating when these acts (or “conduits” are labeled as “artists”. If they are indeed “artists”, what does that make someone like Dylan?
I understand your point of view but disagree with it.
I have 2 points that refute what you said
- I'm also a musician, I wrote songs and a book in the past (I don't do that anymore) and that doesn't stop me from liking somebody performing a song that is not theirs.
- "We can certainly respect the songwriting and creation that was involved in the process, but it’s frustrating when these acts (or “conduits”) are labeled as “artists”".
Once again, what would you think of a conductor or a classical instrumentist ? Are they not artists ?
What about oral traditions ?
- So when you're listening to a song, you have to know who wrote it ? What if you're in a concert, hear a song you don't know ? You're gonna stop the singer and ask him about the credits before allowing yourself to like the song ? It's like walking on your head. You have to know before you feel? It is strange.
I love songwriters too, and I'm happy Dylan sing his own songs, but I also think that there are fantastic performers, who can really transfigure a song : Johnny Cash, Elvis are among them.
And like Schleuse, I'm very suspicious about separating art from entertainment. Especially in pop/rock which is popular art par excellence.
It is a slippery slope : who's gonna do that ? Revolutionary guards of rock'n roll ?
I mean no offense, but i don't think pop/rock is an intellectual thing. You can't apply aesthetics to that.
I'm also a musician, I wrote songs and a book in the past (I don't do that anymore) and that doesn't stop me from liking somebody performing a song that is not theirs.
Good on ya, nicolas. We’re different in that regard.
What would you think of a conductor or a classical instrumentist? Are they not artists?
No, I don’t consider conductors “artists” per se. They are instrumental (ouch) in organizing a group of musicians to achieve a specific goal, but are not artists. And the violinist sitting in row #5 isn’t an artist either – she’s a performer who’s playing certain notes that have been laid out already.
So when you're listening to a song, you have to know who wrote it?
The short answer is, yes. My appreciation of music is largely dependant on knowing its origins – as much as I can find out about how it came into existence. That’s how I choose to listen to music. Everyone is different.
What if you're in a concert, hear a song you don't know? You're gonna stop the singer and ask him about the credits before allowing yourself to like the song?
I may enjoy it, but my appreciation for it is enhanced upon learning where it came from, and who is responsible for its existence (ie. the writer.)
I’m not suspicious about separating art from entertainment. If I don’t, then I’m listening to music more or less on a superficial level, and that’s not acceptable to me.
Anthony, I know several orchestral musicians who would look at you like you had a roach on your face if you told them they weren't artists.
Look, you and nicolas are talking about two different ways of appreciating music:
1. As a listener.
2. As a critic.
The first is mandatory; the second is not (although everybody here obviously has some critical awareness).
Of course, critical awareness should, ideally, deepen and enhance your appreciation of what goes into music. Greil Marcus' book on "Like a Rolling Stone" made me listen to the song much more carefully, and I enjoy it much, much, much more as a result.
But pretending that critical faculty is ALL there is to listening to music--claiming you need to know who wrote a song and why before you decide you like it or not...well, I don't buy it. That's like saying you're not gonna decide whether a cupcake tastes good unless you know exactly how it was made.
(If that analogy seems insufficiently artistic, feel free to substitute "poem" or "sculpture" or "film" for cupcake.)
Hey! Anyone wanna vote?
Not so fast, captain.
Just because I can play a guitar (and rather well, I might add) and do a decent, stripped-down acoustic cover of Radiohead’s “Optimistic”, doesn’t make me an artist. I may change it to suit my voice and my instrument, but I’d have nothing if it wasn’t for Yorke et al. (if that analogy seems insufficient, substitute “bassoon” for guitar, “gorgeous and ethereal” for stripped-down acoustic, and “Debussy’s Nocturnes” for Optimistic.
I’m not claiming that critical faculty is tantamount to musical appreciation; I’m just saying that as a musician, I tend to come at things from a different perspective. Not better, just different.