Tuesday, November 18, 2008

one bizillion reasons for anna to never blog again

You know what I love? Lists. This has to have become obvious by now. I love wasting hours/days/weeks of my life watching them tick away on Vh1, my favorite book when I was younger was my hardbound copy of Entertainment Weekly's 100 Best Movies Of All Time.

I literally googled "fun list," and this (<----) is what resulted. Awesome.

I love them. But what I might love even more than lists is hating lists. Or at least, having a really great one to argue over for a long while with those as culturally nerdy as me, be it ranking the best Season 4 "West Wing" episodes (um, start with "Game On" and go from there...), or, as is currently the case, the latest fancy-dancy Rolling Stone issue—the 100 Best Singers of All Time.

Obviously, first off, that's a completely misleading title. If it were really "of all time," there'd be opera and all sorts of non-western singers that RS readers clearly have no time for. But, more pertinently, the foreword thing specifies (though it might have been a little more prominently placed, to ward off the million commenters in advance) that this is really "...of the rock & soul era." AKA—don't look for Ol' Blue Eyes, Bobby Darin, any other crooners and others from before around the 50s here. Which is cool, I can dig it as a stipulation. I have plenty of other complaints, as you might have guessed. :)

Also, I might argue that at times, they even messed up the keyword—you know, the "Singer" part of things—as well, confusing it with maybe "performer" or just plain old "musician we need to put on here, or people will be pissed". Here, let me give you some of the actual list, so you can get a sense of what I mean.

The Top 25:
25. Michael Jackson
24. Van Morrison
23. David Bowie
22. Etta James

21. Johnny Cash
20. Smokey Robinson
19. Bob Marley
18. Freddie Mercury
17. Tina Turner
16. Mick Jagger
15. Robert Plant
14. Al Green
13. Roy Orbison
12. Little Richard
11. Paul McCartney
10. James Brown
09. Stevie Wonder
08. Otis Redding
07. Bob Dylan
06. Marvin Gaye
05. John Lennon
04. Sam Cooke

03. Elvis Presley
('Sup. Sweet teddy bears, bro.)
02. Ray Charles
01. Aretha Franklin

So yeah. The rest, with a whole bunch of douchey commentary. (On the Internet?! No, I know. I was shocked too.) Generally, I think it's solid, with my main problems being more philosophical than rage-filled (...see the hip-hop songs post for an example of that.).

It's difficult for me to see how RS (even though it wasn't just them choosing) was determining the characteristics that make up a "great singer." For me, it's different as regards the genre — obviously a musician like Sam Cooke or Otis Redding can't be judged against the same criteria as Mick Jagger or Axl Rose (further down the list, but he's there).

But I guess some things remain consistent no matter what: ability to literally deliver the notes of a song, the way you translate the emotion and make a performance your own, distinctiveness (you're not going to mistake Bjork, who's also there, for anyone else, whatever else you might say). And, despite all the little indie scenesters at Stereogum pitching fits because Jenny Lewis or whoever didn't make the cut, I think time and influence does need to be considered—they didn't just stick "of all time" on there for a lark.

Now. All that being said. Bob Dylan, get the hell out of my top 10. Yeah, I'll say it. Great songwriter, awesome performer, visionary, et cetera. Singer? NO. Same goes for John Lennon—if you need a Beatle that high, switch Lennon and McCartney, considering Paul's literal range was better (just take a look at the songs they respectively sang!), and drop Lennon to somewhere in the mid-20s or 30s.

Both Bob Marley and Little Richard fit into the mistake of awesome performer/human vs. singer that I mentioned a little higher up. But basically I want to rearrange this entire list to fix what I feel are the two most glaring errors— Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson need to be in the Top 10.

Things to keep in mind while you consider my case:

For Freddie:

Think about the range (vocally, emotionally and generically) contained within this one song, overplayed as it is. Then compare and think about Queen's entire catalogue—stuff like "We Are The Champions," "You're My Best Friend," or one of my personal favorites, "Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy." Seriously? Not above Roy Orbison?

And, I can't even believe I'm having to do this, the case for Michael Jackson:

Michael is 14 in this performance. Could you (or almost anyone on this list, for that matter, not to be a bitch about it) sing like that in the peak of awkward adolescence? Ten years later, he put out an album many consider to be one of, if not the greatest pop album in music history. And, while this may be predictable as one of my MJ choices to those who know me, the live/combo performance is a stellar one:

Keep in mind that those seemingly ridiculous, oft-parodied high notes that he's so fond of hitting during dance sequences are, you know, in a register most human voices can only dream of. And I mean, this is just two videos with a lot of time in between—I haven't talked about "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough," "Beat It," or you know, any of other actual songs on Thriller. The point I'm trying to make is that this is a voice that has been able to grow up and still continue to make amazing pop along the way.

Okay. Seriously, that is ENOUGH from me. What do you guys think—are voices like Dylan's (or Stevie Nicks', or Tom Waits' or anyone else in the same sort of vein) to be valued alongside Aretha? How do you qualify something like a great singer? Who's missing, who's ranked too high, who's always been way too overhyped? Talk to me!

—Anna is starting with the girl in the mirror. And the gigantic gospel choir, too.

1 comment:

La Louis Bonita said...

Anna, can you please just be assigned the "list" beat for the rest of time? I would certainly appreciate it, even if I can't text you immediately with my outrage over inclusions like Stevie Nicks.

Bob Dylan actually needs to be out of the Top 50, first of all. Secondly, of ALL the female vocalists that could've made the Top 25, why Tina Turner? That's where Annie Lennox needs to be.

I could comment more, but God, all these Wheat Thins make a boy tired.