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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Veteran music journalist with 20+ years of experience. Supporter of indie artists. Lover of day baseball, & B-movies. Part time ninja. Kicked cancer’s ass. My memoir, ChemBro, is out now!
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Our “GOAT” Conversations Have Become a Giant Negative for Music
Friday, November 26, 2021

As a music listening community we have, as a whole, become far too obsessed with conversations about who the GOAT (Greatest of All-Time) is of any particular genre. It seems like every other week there’s some new argument, or article, and it almost always revolves around the same five to ten artists.

Now, you may ask – why is this a bad thing?

It’s a bad thing because there are way more than five to ten artists worth talking about, and the prevalence of GOAT debates has relegated far too many fantastic, and sometimes even important artists to relative anonymity. These artists, who have vast catalogues, hit records, and have made musical contributions to their genre, are being ignored, or forgotten because they aren’t in the discussion as one of the “greatest.”

It seems like unless an artist fits into the GOAT mold, or the one-hit wonder mold – which is another thing we may have become a little too obsessed with – they fall off the radar.

In hip-hop discussions, we always see the Jay-Z vs. Nas debate, and the question of where does Kendrick Lamar rank. Older fans will bring up Rakim. These conversations, however, leave out a plethora of artists we should recognize for their talent.

Artists like Noreaga, who, despite what some hip-hop history revisionists may want you to believe, was actually more popular than Jay-Z for a number of years.

Artists like Jadakiss, who can hold his own with anyone.

Artists like Sticky Fingaz, whose verse was always the one you waited for on any Onyx song.

Artists like Treach, who I still consider to be one of the most underrated emcees of all-time (“underrated” conversations are the antithesis of GOAT conversations, as they always bring up artists we should talk about more).

In rock, classic rock artists always get all the shine, but even within that group of acts there’s a hierarchy that’s impossible to crack. It’s why certain bands dominate classic rock radio playlists, while others you have to learn about from previous generations of music fans, and digging through old vinyl.

When it comes to rock artists from the past 40 years … forget about it. They’re either current (as in still making music), or never mentioned. Try to start a conversation about rock music leading off with The Offspring, No Doubt, or R.E.M. You’ll probably receive some raised eyebrows, and the assumption that you’ve never heard anything from the ‘60s, or ‘70s, despite these being three amazing, and important bands.

Heck, start a conversation about rock music by talking about Aerosmith, or Jefferson Airplane, and you still might get some funny looks. They aren’t in the classic rock hierarchy despite their excellence.

Then there’s the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which is a fun place to visit, but talk about creating a hierarchy that relegates a plethora of bands to being deemed not worthy of being in the discussion.

So how do we solve this problem?

We can start by expanding the conversation. The next time we see a “Greatest of All-Time” list, let’s eliminate those artists and bands from the discussion, and talk about all the other great artists and bands throughout history.

It’s way more interesting, and way more fun, to bring up Vanilla Fudge, and go down that rabbit hole, than to have yet another debate about The Beatles vs. The Stones.

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posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:00 AM  
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