I’m not sure if this has been scientifically proven, or if it’s just here-say and speculation, but I’ve noticed that each musical era has its own distinctive sound. From the power-pop ballads and love songs of the 1980s and 1990s, to the powerhouse bands that existed in the 1970s (Queen, The Rolling Stones, ABBA, Kiss, AC/DC, Fleetwood Mac and The Beach Boys, to name a few), even the late 1990s when boybands (and girl-groups) started to come into prominence, or even the 1990s as well, where prominent and distinctive country music sounds came into fruition (through the way of artists like LeAnn Rimes, The Chicks, Shania Twain, Garth Brooks, The Judds, Trisha Yearwood, Deana Carter, Jo Dee Messina, Martina McBride and Faith Hill)…in all these circumstances, eras, time periods and stylistic changes and shifts in musical culture, you can gauge and understand that each period of time was different for music. Each period was distinct. Each period was unique. Each period had something to say. And each period was special to someone, somewhere. And what I’ve learnt throughout the last few years of exploring music in various different genres and time periods, is this- that each person will gravitate towards their own favourite music…which will be different compared to other people’s favourite music, and that’s ok. Each person is impacted and influenced by different artists (or even different time periods), and from what I’ve learnt, is that people’s strong beliefs about music (and influential music artists as a whole) ought not to be held as tightly as I’m sure a lot of people are holding music, full stop. Because (and I know I’m guilty of that too) that’s what people do.
Throughout the past few weeks, we’ve embarked on probably one of the most ambitious blog series yet. The past 3 years, we’ve delved into and explored the music of influential artists and artists who are on the cusp of being influential. But these 50 artists Jon and I are going to write about… are in a whole new different category. Much more clear-cut with little to no room for disagreement about the artists; the category of Identity-Building and Iconic artists; reminds us that some artists are timeless, and some artists will just be legendary even 50 years from now. We’ve written about Celine Dion, Lionel Richie, ABBA, Bon Jovi, and Keith Green; and these 5 artists thus far, are some of the most powerful, confronting, and thought-provoking artists ever to have lived. And we will continue to write about iconic heavyweights of the music industry for the many months to come. Iconic artists, to me, differ to influential artists in the sense that these artists are iconic just because. You don’t need to justify the reasons why you believe they are iconic, and you don’t have to write an essay length piece… because all of the readers virtually will agree with you anyway. And as such, the past few installments have been different from how Jon and I have been blogging in the past. Simply because we do not write about every single hit song from every single album. It’s pointless, when these musicians and singers have etched their way into legendary status and folklore long before I even thought about writing about them; and so, perhaps the way forward for my structure of these blogs could be similar to how we’ve blogged in the past about Michael W. Smith, U2 and Bryan Adams? Anyway, I’ve decided to tackle someone completely unexpected this week (and probably not ordinarily in my preferences of musical genre); and after listening and ruminating on a number of songs in their discography over the past couple of weeks- can I say that pop band The Beach Boys is one of the most successful U.S. bands of the 1960’s and 1970’s, and deserves their place in this blog series, even though they’re still not my musical preference?
I’ve been listening to Christian music for as long as I can remember. Ever since I was in nappies (or diapers, whichever way you call it), my parents instilled in me and my brother a way of looking at the world, that was grounded in the Word of God, and ever since I could understand (in a way that any child would understand complicated terms such as death, hell, sinning, heaven, God, Jesus, the Bible and the rest of it); I understood why my parents nudged me towards Christian music above all else. I mean, I don’t think my parents flat-out denied mainstream music in our family, or even rejected the idea of even exploring mainstream music; but it was assumed and understood (ever since myself and my brother could assume and understand), that music that was edifying and encouraging (and in the same way and token, music that also was grounded biblically in the Word, and demonstrated the gospel through song) was encouraged more so than…well, everything else. My brother and I initially listened to Carman and Delirious?, but then ventured out to explore other artists like Steve Grace, Steven Curtis Chapman, Tim Hughes, Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin and Rebecca St. James, throughout my teenage years. Now as I am an adult, and looking back upon my childhood and teenage years and my music and listening habits as well; I have to say, that even though my parents didn’t outright say ‘mainstream music is bad’ (even when it really isn’t); I learnt that behaviour from somewhere, and if not my parents, then it must’ve been from…I dunno, my parents’ friends? People in authority? Christian artists themselves? The media? The general consensus going around? However, the case that I believed into this false understanding, that listening to mainstream music was the evillest thing a young kid could do; I believed it. Somehow. Someway.
When both Jon and I were younger, the only music artists listened to Carman and Delirious?. I think I’ve mentioned this before in previous blogs and posts, and it may sound like a broken record. But Jon and I were sheltered growing up because we were born premature. Mum and Dad fussed over us like nobody’s business, and while I’m not complaining; I am indeed cognisant and fully conscious and aware of the fact that both Jon and I didn’t really have typical childhoods. We didn’t go to pre-school, we didn’t hang out with the other children around the neighbourhood, we were pretty homely people, and we were very selective in the music we listened to. Well, we weren’t selective, but our parents were. Carman and Delirious? was our musical diet and we were none the wiser. Not that that was bad by any means. However we soon branched into more and more Christian music in 2006, and later on we listened to mainstream music on the radio and then on a more regular basis in 2019 when Jon and I started blogging about influential artists. So thus, as a consequence, we weren’t one of those children who had a rebellious teenage phase of listening to ‘unwholesome mainstream music’ in order to rebel against our parents. In terms of coming into the whole experience of listening to mainstream music quite late in our years; both Jon and I gravitated to country music and pop music predominately. And thus, this meant that rock music wasn’t the genre we gravitated to. It still isn’t. I’ve heard stories from people on the internet as well as friends, how they disobeyed their parents when they were teenagers and listened to hard core rock artists like Kiss, Nirvana, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, The Who, The Smiths, Midnight Oil, Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam, and Guns N’ Roses to name a few (none are present within our many blog series!); while they might have seen a concert or two that their parents disapproved of. Compared to these ‘out-there’ tales, Jon’s and my childhood was pretty tame; and we had no inkling of listening to any of these rock artists. Partly because we weren’t in the know. Yet fast forward until now; and a deep analysis of what we’ve written about so far of rock artists in our blog series (artists not necessarily within our preferred genre) reveals some of the most popular and influential rock artists of all time. We’ve tackled some incredible heavyweights; and writing about influential artists will always be an honour- even now as we write about iconic and identity-building artists.
Type the words ‘best bands of all time’ into Google and you get a plethora of results. Literally. Hundreds upon hundreds of publications, lists where these authors of said publications, try to determine who they reckon are the greatest bands of history…and as a result, you get a myriad of bands that account for each publication’s personal ‘top 10’…or top _____. There are the non-negotiables in any of these lists, like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Queen, bands which are unanimously known across the board, and are known by everybody to be objectively good, even if people’s personal tastes change across the years and people fall in and out of love with a certain band over time (for example, one diehard group of people may love Queen forever, while another group won’t and another group would be indifferent about them altogether). Then there’s the bands that show up in most publications and are agreed on for the most part by these publications- bands from the likes of The Beach Boys, The Bee Gees, The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, to The Police, Chicago, Simon & Garfunkel, and Bon Jovi. There’s also the bands that are sparingly discussed amongst the various publications, present in just a few, but not in others, bands that aren’t necessarily as unanimously agreed upon as Queen or The Beatles, but still agreed on amongst publications here and there- bands that are somewhat on the ‘fringes’, considering their musical niche; bands from the likes of Oasis, Guns‘N’Roses, Foo Fighters, Nirvana and Blondie, to Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, The Who, R.E.M. and Metallica; to name a few. U2 is even placed on various publications online, presented by a lot of these internet articles as being one of the best rock bands of all time. U2 was an artist that I wrote early on in 2019 as part of my Top 100 Artists initial blog…and maybe if I had my time again, I would’ve placed them, no question, here in this blog series of 50 Iconic and Identity-Building artists, for sure. Regardless, U2 are considered one of the best of the best…and with songs like ‘With or Without You’, ‘All I Want is You’, ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’ and ‘Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’, need I say more?
Throughout the past few years, my brother and I embarked on a musical and lyrical journey like no other. We boldly, fearlessly, and maybe naively, decided to write about 100 artists (and a further 50) whom we deemed to be the most ‘influential’ of all time, and also who we believed to be burgeoning and up-and-coming artists who would be influential within 5-10 years. These artists can be viewed here, and you can read them all to your heart’s content, and at your own pace. These artists can be conversation starters at the dinner table, they all can be hotly debated, agreed upon and disagreed upon. We wrote about artists who probably would have been on anyone and everyone’s list (Avril Lavigne, U2, Phil Collins, John Mayer, Michael Bublé, OneRepublic, Ed Sheeran, Christina Aguilera, Taylor Swift, Kylie Minogue, Robbie Williams, Alicia Keys, Sheryl Crow, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Tina Arena, Backstreet Boys, One Direction, Coldplay, Jennifer Lopez, John Legend, Tim McGraw, Justin Bieber, Beyonce and Mariah Carey to name a few), while we wrote about 20 or so Christian/worship artists, who probably would not have been present on any other list- sad to say. Some artists were influential within their genres and could have been argued either way (Jason Mraz, Seal, Jackie Evancho, Alanis Morrisette, Gwen Stefani, Hoobastank, Natalie Imbruglia, Hanson, Colbie Caillat, Goo Goo Dolls, Pentatonix, Train, Mandy Moore, Owl City, The McClymonts); while we did not include many rap or gospel artists, nor pop artists of today. Some artists we claimed to be up-and-coming, but they weren’t (Matthew West, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Little Mix), while others like The New Respects, Jess Glynne, and Conrad Sewell… well frankly they kind of faded, and are they really up and coming when they may not be popular or influential? Others like Maddie & Tae, Thomas Rhett, NF, Dua Lipa, Sabrina Carpenter, Sofia Carson, Mickey Guyton, Zach Williams, Tori Kelly, Lauren Daigle, Maren Morris, Kelsea Ballerini, Chris Stapleton and Ava Max (to name a few) are indeed ‘up-and-coming’ and actually fit the scope of the 50 artists; while Cory Asbury is indeed certain to be influential… but we just spoke about the controversy of “Reckless Love” the song for virtually the whole blog. There were pluses and minuses of both lists. And quite frankly, if any of you have a different 100 or a different 50- I would not blame you at all. After all, that’s what the honourable mentions are for- you can read them here, here, and here.
Sometimes I lay awake at night and wonder to myself, how did I get myself into this predicament. Embarking on a 3+ year project (or shall I more accurately say ‘musical social experiment’) at the time of its inception felt like something so lofty and unattainable, meant that me starting such a feat at the time, seemed a little too ‘expected’ of me to do, because, ‘sure you can start it, but you’re never going to actually finish this blog series, so it’s never really going to be material, or even matter, whether or not you become heavily invested into listening to different types of music or not’. I started off this blog series (which has since turned into 3 blog series, but I digress) with a simple task in mind- for 1 whole year (see where it has taken me now!), I were to discuss impactful and influential artists that have contributed to music, society, culture, and to me personally, and discuss what I think makes them great. I hesitantly started off with the post about Michael W. Smith, then Switchfoot and Avril Lavigne, and then the rest was history, and now in 2022, what I initially thought the blog was going to be, actually turned out to be so much more- what I thought was just a mere 55 posts, has turned into a blog series that has forever changed my outlook to music, and reminded me that God Himself can use whatever and whomever (in terms of music) to bring people closer to Himself (myself included), even if it means through the way of pop, country, rock or even rap music.