Sunday, November 22, 2020

My 100 All-Time Favorite Artists of Popular Music - 2020 Edition

Theoretically I should've published this back in July; it's not like I didn't have the time.

It's the latest iteration of a list I first created in 2005 and updated in 2010 and 2015--in July or early August.

I can't really cite good justification for having skipped it until now, but in being not only a fan of recorded music but also--typically rather prolifically--live concerts, there is a certain wistfulness, perhaps even ruefulness, in citing so many great artists whose tour plans have been shelved until who knows when (if they're even still with us.)

I expect absolutely no one to agree with this list, and not just because I've never fully agreed with ANY list (that's really not the point of list making).

But this is MY list. Of MY favorites.

I'm not saying these are the best, or should be your favorites. And quite knowingly, with a foremost affinity for guitar-driven rock, this doesn't cover a vast idiomatic range even within the constructs of "popular music."

I certainly like, would've considered eligible and may have included some acts representing blues, country, folk, soul, R&B, pure pop, Motown, disco, rap, hip hop, funk and other popular musical styles. (And jazz, classical, opera and very much so Broadway, though it's beyond the purview here.)

So my choices--and rankings--come with no insistence or preaching, but also no apologies. Keep in mind, too, that while I did take the sequencing seriously, in some ways it's kind of arbitrary and could easily change day to day, if not year to year.

Some who look at the past lists will see that R.E.M.--while still in the Top 10--has slid somewhat, but I really can't say I like them any less than before. But perhaps their retirement has prompted me just feel like I like other legends a bit more. 

Perhaps, sadly, death helps as well, as David Bowie made my Top 10 for the first time and Prince jumped from #84 in 2015 to #36 now. 

But great concerts also factor in, and helps explain why Depeche Mode has jumped nearly 50 spots.

As in 2015, I've generally opted to include solo acts who derived from major bands as part of the band's entry, whether in auxiliary (e.g. The Beatles + the members' solo careers) or joint (Black Sabbath/Ozzy Osbourne) fashion. But where this really didn't make sense (Nirvana and Foo Fighters), I listed them separately. 

It certainly isn't perfect, but especially in this crazy year, just go with it.

My 100 All-Time Favorite Artists of Popular Music - 2020

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

11. Pearl Jam 
12. The Jam (+ Paul Weller) 
13. The Smashing Pumpkins (+ Zwan, Billy Corgan) 
14. Midnight Oil 
15. AC/DC 
16. The Clash 
17. The Replacements (+ Paul Westerberg) 
18. The Ramones 
19. Jimi Hendrix 
20. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers 
21. Cheap Trick 
22. Neil Young (+ CSNY, Buffalo Springfield) 
23. Rush 
24. Queen 
25. Van Halen 
26. Depeche Mode 
27. Bob Seger 
28. Elvis Costello 
29. Bob Dylan 
30. Arcade Fire

31. Hüsker Dü/Bob Mould/Sugar 
32. Soundgarden 
33. Blur 
34. Radiohead 
35. Dinosaur Jr. 
36. Prince 
37. Talking Heads (+ David Byrne) 
38. Pink Floyd 
39. Guns 'N Roses 
40. Green Day 
41. Foo Fighters 
42. Elton John 
43. Steely Dan 
44. Warren Zevon 
45. The Killers
46. Stevie Wonder 
47. The Wildhearts 
48. Stereophonics 
49. The Police 
50. Aerosmith 
51. Black Sabbath/Ozzy Osbourne 
52. Creedence Clearwater Revival (+ John Fogerty) 
53. Johnny Cash 
54. Simon & Garfunkel (+ Paul Simon) 
55. Eric Clapton/Cream/Derek & the Dominoes/Yardbirds 
56. Fleetwood Mac 
57. Willie Nile 
58. The Waterboys 
59. Peter Gabriel/(early) Genesis 
60. Billy Joel 
61. John Mellencamp 
62. The Zombies 
63. The Cure 
64. Maxïmo Park 
65. Garbage 
66. Buddy Guy 
67. Electric Light Orchestra 
68. Jackson Browne 
69. Metallica 
70. Wilco 
71. Van Morrison (+ Them) 
72. Bob Marley 
73. System of a Down 
74. Smoking Popes 
75. Blondie 
76. Liz Phair 
77. Elvis Presley 
78. The Cars 
79. The Doors 
80. Beach Boys 
81. Santana 
82. Stevie Ray Vaughan 
83. The Byrds 
84. Stone Temple Pilots 
85. Bee Gees 
86. Leonard Cohen 
87. White Stripes/Jack White 
88. The Pretenders 
89. Coldplay 
90. Buddy Holly 
91. Manic Street Preachers 
92. The Supremes/Diana Ross 
93. Nine Inch Nails 
94. Velvet Underground/Lou Reed 
95. Sex Pistols 
96. Aretha Franklin 
97. Smokey Robinson/The Miracles 
98. Ash 
99. Alejandro Escovedo 
100. Dire Straits

The Next 30

Material Issue 
Chuck Berry 
Red Hot Chili Peppers 
Taylor Swift 
The Flaming Lips 
Rod Stewart/The Faces/Jeff Beck Group 
Social Distortion 
Def Leppard 
Sly & the Family Stone 
ZZ Top 
The Monkees 
Alice Cooper 
The Struts 
The Pixies 
The Tragically Hip 
Roxy Music/Bryan Ferry 
Rage Against the Machine (+ Tom Morello) 
Graham Parker 
The Bangles


Steve S. said...

My top 10 artists:

Bob Dylan
The Beatles
The Rolling Stones
Bruce Springsteen
Neil Young
Van Morrison
Steely Dan
Tom Petty (with and without the Heartbreakers)
Joni Mitchell
Kate Bush

An unrepentant baby boomer

Steve S. said...

Let's make it the top 15:
The Who
Jimi Hendrix
The Doors

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