Sunday, July 19, 2015

My 100 All-Time Favorite Artists of Popular Music - 2015 Edition

A meaningless exercise, perhaps even for me.

For not only could the order of my favorite rock artists--as well as a few from blues, country and R&B genres, with eligibility including rap, pop, folk and funk, though not Broadway, classical or jazz--vary on a different day, let alone month or year, but at any point in time I might rather hear, or even see in concert, an artist nearer (or even beyond) the end of the list than ones closer to the top.

But having compiled such lists around this time in 2005 and 2010, even if largely just for my own point of reference I thought I'd put together a new ranking of my favorite artists.

To be clear, this list is based on my tastes, preferences and listening habits--undoubtedly influenced in part by acts I've seen live, perhaps repeatedly--and is not intended as a critical assessment of importance, impact, influence, originality or other barometers of artistic merit.

For example, I would stipulate the Beatles are the greatest and most important, popular music artist in history, but in terms of fervent, active fandom, I like, listen to and see Bruce Springsteen more. (Of course, The Beatles broke up before I was 2, so I couldn't see them live, though I have seen Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr several times.)

Unlike the 2005 & 2010 editions, I've decided to include bands and any solo acts or other bands that derived from them as a single entry. This gets a bit awkward in the case of, say, Peter Gabriel + Genesis but not Genesis led by or looping in Phil Collins, or in not including Led Zeppelin as a subset of The Yardbirds.

Like everything, it's imperfect, but who cares?

Again, this is a list of my 100 favorites, with another 25 cited, and is in no way exhaustive of every artist I like and/or admire, nor meant to disrespect anyone I didn't include.

While hoping some may enjoy reading though my selections, I firmly believe that the only such list that should really matter to you is your own.

So if you would have undeniably esteemed acts like The Stooges (+ Iggy Pop), Leonard Cohen, Otis Redding, The White Stripes, the Supremes, James Brown, Janis Joplin, Frank Zappa, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Grateful Dead, Madonna, the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, the Eagles, the Smiths, etc., etc., etc., in your top 100--or even top 10--by all means, make your own list and share it with me. (Of minor note, in 2012 I made a 100 Best Alternative Bands of the Last 25 Years list that was intended in a more universal critical vein, though was obviously based on my opinion and tastes as well.)

But with a few substantive changes since 2005 and 2010--the top 10 is shuffled, Arcade Fire came from nowhere to #34, System of a Down is newly ranked at #61, lesser-known personal favorites like the Stereophonics and the Wildhearts sank quite a bit, Liz Phair and the Flaming Lips dropped precipitously, Blur was absent in 2005, #58 in 2010 and #36 now, the Ramones remained at #15 from 5 years ago but were #44 in 2005, Jimi Hendrix climbed into the top 20, Elvis Presley rose from the dead--here are:

My 100 All-Time Favorite Artists of Popular Music
(All photos by Seth Arkin; please do not re-post without attribution)

1. Bruce Springsteen
2. The Beatles (+ solo, Wings)
3. Led Zeppelin (+ Robert Plant)
4. Nirvana
5. The Rolling Stones
6. The Who (+ Pete Townshend)
7. U2
8. R.E.M.
9. The Kinks (+ Ray Davies)
10. The Jam (+ Paul Weller)

11. Pearl Jam
12. The Smashing Pumpkins (+ Zwan, Billy Corgan)
13. David Bowie
14. The Clash
15. The Ramones
16. The Replacements (+ Paul Westerberg)
17. AC/DC
18. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
19. Cheap Trick
20. Jimi Hendrix

21. Rush
22. Midnight Oil
23. Radiohead
24. Bob Dylan
25. Foo Fighters
26. Dinosaur Jr.
27. Van Halen
28. Queen
29. Green Day
30. Bob Seger

31. Elvis Costello
32. Pink Floyd
33. Talking Heads (+ David Byrne)
34. Arcade Fire
35. Neil Young (+ CSNY, Buffalo Springfield)
36. Blur
37. Aerosmith
38. The Police (+ Sting)
39. Johnny Cash
40. Creedence Clearwater Revival (+ John Fogerty)

41. Stereophonics
42. Guns 'n' Roses
43. Hüsker Dü/Bob Mould/Sugar
44. Soundgarden
45. Willie Nile
46. The Wildhearts
47. The Killers
48. Wilco
49. Steely Dan
50. Simon & Garfunkel/Paul Simon

51. Elton John
52. Eric Clapton/Cream/Derek & the Dominoes/Yardbirds
53. Peter Gabriel/(early) Genesis
54. Billy Joel
55. Warren Zevon
56. The Zombies
57. The Cure
58. Stevie Wonder
59. Maxïmo Park
60. Garbage

61. System of a Down
62. Metallica
63. The Waterboys
64. Fleetwood Mac
65. Alejandro Escovedo
66. Van Morrison (+ Them)
67. Sex Pistols
68. The Doors
69. The Cars
70. Velvet Underground/Lou Reed

71. John Mellencamp
72. Depeche Mode
73. Nine Inch Nails
74. Elvis Presley
75. Red Hot Chili Peppers
76. The Beach Boys
77. The Byrds (+ Roger McGuinn)
78. Smoking Popes
79. Bob Marley
80. BoDeans

81. The Pretenders
82. Stevie Ray Vaughan
83. Buddy Guy
84. Prince
85. Santana
86. Blondie
87. Black Sabbath/Ozzy Osbourne
88. Chuck Berry
89. Buddy Holly
90. Coldplay

91. Supertramp
92. Manic Street Preachers
93. Steve Winwood (all incarnations)
94. Ash
95. Jane's Addiction
96. Oasis
97. Jason and the Scorchers
98. The Flaming Lips
99. Liz Phair
100. Sly and the Family Stone

The Next 25

Rage Against the Machine (+ Tom Morello)
Dire Straits
The Stooges (+ Iggy Pop)
ZZ Top
Bad Religion
The Bangles
The Monkees
New Order/Joy Division
The Miracles/Smokey Robinson
The White Stripes
Def Leppard
The Pixies
The Eagles
Jackson Browne
Material Issue
Social Distortion
Alice Cooper
Leonard Cohen
Electric Light Orchestra
Rod Stewart/The Faces/Jeff Beck Group
The Smiths

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