Rolling Stone Magazine is dumber than ever

I’m more than a little late on this.  However, I plead intellectual superiority as my excuse for not reading the November Rolling Stone Magazine when it came out.  For anyone under the age of 35, you probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you Rolling Stone used to be “the” music magazine.  It had brilliant writers (Hunter S. Thompson, David Fricke, etc.) and had tremendous weight.  A five-star review guaranteed you a top 10 album.  A bullet meant that you were destined for the cut-out bin (look it up, youngster!).  Unfortunately, a series of horrible editorial decisions led the magazine to become musically bankrupt somewhere in the 80’s.  They continue(d) to write great political articles and had the occasional good interview, but that was about it.

When I heard that they put out a “100 Greatest Singers of All-Time” issue, my first reaction was, “Rolling Stone Magazine is still in business?”.  Clearly the criteria for defining the “Greatest” is key to making such a list.  If we’re looking for great technical singers, we probably won’t be looking at rock artists for long.  If we’re defining it as “great image and impact” we’ve broadened the definition such that it would be difficult to limit it to only 100 people.

Which definition did Rolling Stone choose?  They decided their own writers and editors weren’t qualified to make the decision.  That alone should give them enough evidence that they should shut themselves down.  Can you imagine telling Lester Bangs that RS was going to “out-source” the list?  He’d have literally shot someone (no pun intended).  They queried current music journalists, industry execs,  musicians and Alicia Keys.  If you were wondering why the major labels have seen record sales plummet or why there are no influential music writers of this generation, you now have an answer.  They’re clueless.

They’ve included an eclectic list of genres.  Rock, Soul, Motown and Blues are represented.  This means no jazz, no rap, no heavy metal and virtually no country (Dolly Parton and Hank Williams made the list).

The omissions are as obvious as they are stunning.  After reading the top 10, I was shocked that Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday hadn’t made the top 10.  That they weren’t in the top 100 makes the list irrelevent.  The list of other atrocities is amazing:

Iggy Pop is included, but not Johnny Rotten.

Annie Lennox is included, but not Kate Bush.

No Liz Fraser (the greatest female alternative singer of all-time)

Some really great songwriters who were terrible singers were included:

Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Jim Morrison, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger

Janis Joplin but no Ozzy

Brian Wilson but not Mike Love

Art Garfunkel but not Paul Simon

Kurt Cobain but No Chris Cornell or Eddie Vedder or Layne Staley

No Michael Stipe or Elvis Costello

Joe Cocker (?!) but no Warren Zevon

And if Axl freaking Rose is going to be on the list, haven’t we opened it up to all heavy metal singers?  Where’s Bruce Dickinson or Dio?

And shouldn’t rap be included?  If hip-hop is music and there’s a vocalist, can’t we argue that they are singers.  Dylan and Reed were closer to rapping than singing most of the time.

Anytime you do a list like this, you’re trying to generate discussion and you’re bound to miss someone that should have made the bottom of the list.  If you have a single editor, writer or publisher associated with your magazine, you don’t make a fool of yourselves.  Rolling Stone’s brain is shrinking faster than its’ subscription base or it’s size.

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~ by toddc2001 on January 25, 2009.

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