Back when I was younger, I was brought up on whatever was playing in my family’s car radio. Normally, it was the “oldies.” These oldies, including The Beatles’ “Elanor Rigby,” Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Boston’s “More Than A Feeling,” contributed to not only my personal tastes in music, but some of my first memories of music period. This thought got me thinking; what does it actually take for a band or artist to be considered classic now? Music is an ever evolving form of art, and the standards to be classic back then don’t exactly bring a comparison to what it takes now. And even if we stayed at those standards, can anyone nowadays match them?
Off the cuff? Take The Beatles, which I already know is an awful start to compare everyone else to, but hear me out. If you take a look at their discography, you notice that they put out multiple albums in a course of a year, which no one does today. If you look at today’s current artists, it takes about a year (maybe more) to get any new material from anyone. The only real argument here is that they put out remixes and collaborations, but that isn’t true “new material,” just a rehash of what we all know.
Something else that could affect the artists who put out music today is the evolution of music as a whole. The three bands I mentioned before are just that – bands. When they played, they actually played. Don’t get me wrong, we still have bands who actually play their instruments, but none have reached the levels of any of the aforementioned bands have.
The thing with rock bands is that most of them have completely devoted fanbases, who make noises of the music they love by actually purchasing their records. Some never get a #1 song, but a lot get their actual albums sold. Maybe, far away from now, we could be talking about a band like The Mars Volta, who have a completely devoted, rabid, and almost cult-like fanbase, will be as highly regarded as a band like Led Zeppelin 20 years from now. Or someone like Gerard Way will be considered one of the best frontmen of all time, instead of one of the better frontmen right now.
What about number one singles? A lot of the time, whatever gets played on the “classic” radio stations were at one time number one hits at one point. Again, The Beatles – they have multitudes of #1 songs in their musical stay, eventually making an album that holds them all. But when it comes to the Top 100, they are not number one. Instead, it’s Glee, with almost 200 singles making the list. Is it unfair to compare the two? Absolutly, but the fact of the matter is, they don’t make it to the radio, but instead to the top of iTunes. And what about current #1 artists? As of April 9th, fun.’s breakout single “We Are Young” is #1. Will that single withstand the test of time? Who knows, maybe 2012’s unofficial anthem will become one of the most popular songs of all time? We won’t know until years go by, and we think to ourselves “What was that one song?”
And then there’s Adele, who conquered the entire last year (and this one) with her massively successful album 21. That album has spent an astonishing 58 weeks on the Top 200 albums chart, and currently sits at #3. Her singles “Rolling In The Deep” and “Someone Like You” are already being considered modern day classics, because those songs came into a heavily saturated electronic music culture like a breath of fresh air. Those songs have the potential to be great years from now, but until we get to that point, we can only sit back and watch what happens.
Lastly, we have the biggest factor that can make something a classic: death. Artists like Jimi Hendricks, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain have had their music be called classics on multiple accounts, mainly due after their respective passings. Even some recent deaths like Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston – who were ridiculed and frowned upon due to their very public affair with substance abuse – have had their songs become relevant again, joining conversations of what could be considered classics. “I Will Always Love You” will undoubtedly become a classic song that will play in radio stations forever. Will a song like “Rehab” make it? Give it some years of sitting and we’ll see what happens.
Of course, we can always speculate about what’s going to happen, and who knows, maybe I’m completely wrong. But it’s never hurts to look in the future and think of what might be. Who knows, maybe the genre of dubstep will take over the world and blast through everyone’s cars? Maybe everything I said here was all wrong, and everyone who is a classic will forever be known as such, while everyone else filters out and floats about in a musical existence? Time will only tell.
What do you think? Who would you consider “classic” today? Leave a comment below. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @AlanHST.