Art Lessons from Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”


Attempt the impossible again, Rolling stone has compiled nearly a hundred years of sounds into one big, neat (and browser crushing) listing dedicated to adults.

“Respect” by Aretha Franklin was crowned best song of all time, followed by “Fight the Power” (Public Enemy), “A Change is Gonna Come” (Sam Cooke), “Like a Rolling Stone” (Bob Dylan ) and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (Nirvana) filling in the rest of the top five. The other top ten spots went to The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Marvin Gaye, Missy Elliot and OutKast.

Perhaps the only list where Robyn’s “Dancing on my Own” and John Lennon’s “Imagine” will ever be ranked side by side, especially at numbers 20 and 19, it includes a variety of genres and performances from every decade since. the 1930s. While many songs are instantly recognizable, whether pop songs or timeless ballads, these wouldn’t be the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” without the controversy and bane of rock music. .

While everyone has their own opinions about music and is entitled to their favorites, the belief that rock music is superior to other genres has held much of the mainstream conversation around music for too long. From social media to music journalism, rockism has added layers of pretension, hostility and closed-mindedness, hurting not only analysis and criticism of music, but also support for diversity in the world. ‘industry. It was even present in the first release of “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.

Rolling stone published their first iteration from the list in 2004. It instantly became one of their most read articles. A revision was released in 2011 for a special edition of the publication which included twenty-five new titles mostly from the 2000s. The top twenty-five remained unchanged, with Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” retaining its spot at number one. The majority of the performers were white, male, and English-speaking classical rock musicians. This is the magazine’s first time to remake the list, and its reflection of a new era has angered many music fans.

Over 250 personalities from the music recording and journalism industries were contacted and invited to submit their 50 favorite songs, which Rolling stone then organized into a complete list. With over 4,000 songs received, the publication noted that this survey included a more diverse set of genres than its 2004 edition heavily focused on classic American and British rock.

While this new update better reflects the wide variety of genres and is a welcome change from the old limiting definition of true “good music,” some readers have always expressed their disgust at the new direction.

Rolling Stone’s comments section was filled with opinions, some more strongly worded than others:

“This list is like a father and his teenage daughter taking turns choosing a song to listen to on a long… awkward ride to the grave. To pay a last tribute to music?

Alternate title, ‘What some random picks from the lowest common denominator of a dozen people think are the 500 greatest songs of all time.’ “

“This entire list is a crime against humanity.”

It should also be noted that these commentators advocated more classic rock and attacked modern pop music selections.

Beyond gut reactions, this outrage reflects the grossly misinformed view that the modern and the progressive are inferior to the classics. In reality, Rolling stone has already sparked controversy on his lack of diverse artists in his “greatest of all time” compilations. With the publication of this article, which presents a relatively more diverse selection of modern artists, some media accused Rolling Stone to “wake up”, prioritizing certain artists for their demographics over their artistry. However, more than two-thirds of the 2021 selection comes from the golden years of classic rock of the 60s, 70s and 80s. More than 80% of all additions were released before 2004. These decades correspond to a predominantly white music scene and dominated by men. Although the majority of the list is still devoted to such artists, the slight increase in modern music has disappointed some readers, claiming Pink Floyd’s supposed superiority over Lorde.

Regardless of the wave of rockism that accompanied the article, there were a few notable surprises. Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” was a brand new addition, landing in the top 10 at number 9. Thirty songs from the 2010s were included and one from 2020. More than half of the songs included did not even appear on the original list. from 2004. This reflects the new direction of music appreciation and the artists who make it.

For example, “Truth Hurts” by Lizzo (# 497), “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen (436), “No Scrubs” by TLC (303), “Single Ladies” by Beyoncé (228) and “Royals” by Lorde (30) were among the new pop songs added. “In Da Club” by 50 Cent, “Juicy” by Notorious BIG and “Runaway” by Kanye feat. Pusha T has been one of the representations of the rap genre. From the Latin music scene, Daddy Yankee’s “Gasolina” and Selena’s “Amor Prohibido” were included, being among the few non-English songs featured in the article.

With this greater variety in what is considered to be the company’s top hits, as well as the inclusion of other groundbreaking artists such as Lil Nas X, Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar and others, we can all hope to see a released an edition of “500 Greatest Songs” that truly reflects the diversity of great music. Until then, these small changes serve as a step in the right direction.


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