They say that your teenage years are your most formative. I don’t know if that’s a fact or not, but I remember it being said somewhere. I’ve since found an article that I’ve linked above, but throughout my whole life, I was told that the years from 12-19 are the years where the human mind is most impressionable; and that from your 20’s and 30’s and into adulthood, while you’re exploring the world around you, your ideas are more or less and mostly fully formed and set. That’s not to say that you can’t ever change or do a 180 later on in life if you so choose to do so. But by and large, the majority of people develop most of their values, thoughts, morals, ethics and who they want to be, well before they turn 20. Is this a good thing? Is this a bad thing? Dunno, it’s just something that I’ve been thinking and surmising about. And in relation to this blog about influential artists and what Jon and I listen to these days; if we follow that logic, then Jon and myself, who were ‘sheltered’ and listening to only Christian music before in the 2000’s, shouldn’t even be writing this blog. We should be so dogmatic and set in our views about music… but we aren’t. We’ve allowed God to shape us and mould us, while we listen to uplifting, inspiring, and thought-provoking music, not necessarily by Christian artists; all the while holding onto our faith and keeping close our non-negotiables in the faith and what we believe to be primary issues in the doctrines of Christianity. We’ve grown in our love and appreciation for artists like Keith Urban, Little Mix, Selena Gomez, Maren Morris, Goo Goo Dolls, John Mayer, Jackie Evancho, John Legend, Carrie Underwood, Owl City, Delta Goodrem, Avril Lavigne, Thomas Rhett, Lindsay Ell, The Shires, Taylor Swift, Beyonce, and most recently Mickey Guyton and Kylie Minogue, to name a few. We’ve discovered and realised that the divide between Christian music and mainstream music is becoming blurrier and blurrier (and that can be seen as a good or bad thing, depending on your point of view!), and we’ve understood much more throughout these three years about music, God, life, death, the hard questions and everything else… than I guess any other time in my life. I’m sure Jon can testify to that. Yet if we are to believe that article above that our teenage years are the years in which we learn the most, then why am I at 32, announcing that the last 3 years have been the time in my life when I have learnt the most, predominately through this blog series about influential artists?
At this stage in our blog series, with 2 artists to go before we tackle the iconic and legendary artists who are on a whole other stratosphere (like Queen, The Beatles, Elton John, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion and others); I guess you could say that these next two artists, possibly would be arbitrary. Like I could pick any two artists, and they’d be valid. You may not agree with them, but they’d still be valid. And this is for many reasons. Obviously, there are thousands upon thousands of artists who have not made Jon’s and my list (for various reasons), inclusive of artists like Foo Fighters, Kesha, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, KJ-52, Pussycat Dolls, Snoop Dogg, Mumford & Sons, Guns’N’Roses, Daryl Braithwaite, and Kacey Chambers. Other artists whom I have not included in this blog series (and possibly also won’t feature in the list of 50 iconic legendary artists) are Mister Mister, INXS, Flyleaf, The Script, Marina Prior, James Arthur, Midnight Oil and Eskimo Joe. Maybe it’s because the scope of this blog series is maybe too broad (we’re including artists who are influential across time periods, genres as well as who we deem to be influential on a personal level!); and it is possibly because of the presence of CCM artists in this blog series, that many readers may indeed scratch their heads. Chris Tomlin, Hillsong (all facets), Delirious?, Newsboys, Rebecca St. James, dc Talk, Casting Crowns, Steven Curtis Chapman, for KING & COUNTRY, Andrew Peterson, Jason Gray, Lecrae, Tenth Avenue North, Michael W. Smith, Carman and Amy Grant… possibly wouldn’t make a ‘normal’ influential artist list if another person were compiling this list; while it would also be debatable if Switchfoot, Skillet or Needtobreathe would make this list too. While Jon and I both have our reasons for including Christian artists on our list (because we are believers, and these aforementioned artists have impacted our faith and our journey in life quite heavily!); this means that other noteworthy artists miss out. And that’s just the fact of life.
Don’t you just love feel-good stories? Stories where there is 100% chance of a happy ending? Stories where the protagonist or main person grows and learns from their mistakes and becomes just… you know, better in the end? I know I do. Over the years, I’ve watched almost every show of the Arrowverse (aside from Black Lightning), as well as every movie and TV show of the MCU. I’ve seen Once Upon A Time in the past almost religiously week to week; as well as binging on Nancy Drew, One Tree Hill and Hart Of Dixie in recent times (shows grounded in reality somewhat but set in fictitious towns). And in each and every show where there is a distinct good v evil concept, or at least a concept of one person versus another; I’ve always rooted for the hero, which is most of the time presented to us to be the underdog. You see, we all have our favourite books or movies or TV shows or comics or fables or other works of fictions; and we all have the people that we root for. The people that could do no wrong in our eyes, the people that we always know are going to make it, the people whom we aspire to be like, or even to be. Sometimes though, we as people can be lost in the idea of a feel-good story, and the idea of good overcoming evil with a click of a finger; that we sometimes forget that real life can be a real hard slog. We dream about the what-ifs and think about the worlds that we have immersed ourselves in. We think about Storybrooke or National City or Central City or The Enchanted Forest, or The TVA or Madripoor or Wakanda or Blue Valley or Horseshoe Bay or Tree Hill or Bluebell; and we wish. “What if I was there? What if I was living ___, being a superhero or a hero or a detective and doing something worthwhile with my life? It would certainly be more interesting than real life, than what I’m doing right now!”. And then we spiral. Now, before each one of you object and try to explain to me that there’s no way that you’d ever, ever have these thoughts about escaping reality and hoping to be existing somewhere else in the world, or in a fictitious world that is very much alive through a certain movie or TV show; well, let’s not kid ourselves, shall we? Because I reckon all of us, at one point or another in our lives, have hoped to be part of something bigger than the world we live in right now, and have latched onto the hope and the dream and the fantasy that these fictitious worlds bring. Am I right? Am I wrong? Too close to the truth?
Apart from death and taxes, I reckon there’s at least one other thing that is true in the world, no matter what. And it is that Taylor Swift is one of the most prolific, though-provoking, skilful, confronting, and inspiring songwriters of the modern music era. Her vocals as an artist are great too, compelling, stirring and quite heavenly really; but I believe that it is Taylor’s nuanced, level-headed, honest, personal, emotional, and empathetic narrative storytelling… that really cements her place in this list of influential artists of all time. It is the song-writing in my opinion that also lands her as one of the most relatable people in the world at the moment. There seriously isn’t anything to dislike about Taylor Swift (name me one thing- with evidence! I’ll keep waiting!), and her songs throughout her discography has received widespread listener, critical and commercial acclaim. Taylor has broken a lot of Guinness World Records for her music, and she is one of the best-selling artists of today. With Taylor being prominent throughout her career in the genres of country, pop and folk; it is her down-to-earth nature, her humbleness and her kindness that seems to win fans over. And as for me and my listening experience to Taylor’s discography over the past couple of weeks; can I say that I am now a bona-fide fan of hers? Of her song writing and of her singing? Taylor has accomplished a lot in her 15 years in the spotlight, and she has grown up immensely. Granted, she’s grown up primarily in the spotlight and in the public eye, however I reckon that the way that she has handled criticism and haters has been full of professionalism, poise, and grace. The way she tackled the masters’ controversy in 2019 was quite mature, firm, and assertive, and made me respect her all the more. But for me my love for Taylor’s music and her storytelling, is embedded in her songs and how deep she dives. Every Taylor Swift song means something to someone- and that is what I reckon is so profound, special and beautiful about everything that Taylor releases.
Success. Influence. Popularity. And to some extent happiness. Is it possible that these 4 aspects of life are more intertwined more than we think? Throughout the past 95 blogs, both Jon and myself have written about popular artists, about not-so-popular artists, about rather obscure artists (by society’s standards), as well as about artists who are no-brainers. All of these artists are who we firmly believe to be influential. But more than that- the most influential artists of all time. It’s a bold statement to declare, and I reckon that artists like Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera, Keith Urban, Backstreet Boys, Ed Sheeran, U2, Adele, John Farnham, Josh Groban and Carly Rae Jepsen to name a few- would be instantly included for any subjective list, on what I believe is a dynamic and ever-evolving list anyway, and is right now only a snapshot in time. While I reckon that maybe on any other day and on any other list written by any other person, artists like Richard Marx, Hanson, Leona Lewis, Jackie Evancho, Cimorelli, Five For Fighting, Colbie Caillat, The McClymonts, Hoobastank and SEAL would not make the list at all. And for me to include the shoe-ins and the obscure artists on one list… it might be head-scratching for some. And that’s ok. Because we all have different preferences, likes and dislikes- everyone’s list of influential artists is going to be different. This list is not gospel. I’ve said it once and I will say it again until I think we understand that it’s ok to have different opinions on music. It’s perfectly fine. Differences make life interesting and underpin our humanity, don’t you reckon? But coming into the final 5 blogs about influential artists- I don’t think that any of us would argue anything with these representatives. Think about it. Rihanna. Taylor Swift. Kylie Minogue. Robbie Williams. And this week’s artist- Mariah Carey. There really shouldn’t be any doubt about the calibre, impact and prowess of any of these artists- and if you all have apprehensions to any of these artists- maybe a deep immersion into these artists’ discographies will tug at your soul and at your emotions; and quite possibly change your mind.
Not too long ago, the Dove Award nominations released. For those of you familiar with Christian music, and for those who have read our site since the inception back in 2014; I’m sure you’ll all believe me when I say that throughout the past few years, both myself and my brother Jon have always eagerly anticipated the Dove Award nominations every year. We’ve even written predictions for these awards on this site here, here and here (2017, 2018 and 2019); as well as our analysis of winners and nominations here and here (both 2014). But for those of you who are unfamiliar with the Dove Awards though, let’s just say that it’s like the Christian version of the Grammy Awards. It’s probably the most prestigious award show in the history of CCM music. And being that Jon and myself basically grew up solely on Christian music, the time of the year when nominations of the Dove Awards roll around is always nostalgic and sentimental to us. Even though of late, we have mostly read the nominations and shrugged our shoulders and rolled our eyes and written our own fantasy ‘fake’ lists. And it’s just because over the past few years The Dove Awards’ nominations have been somewhat spot on but somewhat off the mark at the same time. Yet… guess what? We always come back to these lists, and we always are eager to see the same things over and over and over again. And I reckon it’s what most of us (lovers of mainstream music as well!) do anyways, in a broader sense. We see these award shows nominate the same people year after year after year; and we’re still a sucker to watch them. And the Dove Awards nominations this year actually was a catalyst for me to ask the question… of why is that so? Why do we watch awards shows even when we know what’s going to happen? I’ve been thinking about how ingrained we all are in our likes and dislikes, even though we sometimes are indifferent to them as well. And it seems to me that with award shows with the biggest celebrities, we latch onto these events and spectacles like church services, and we hang onto the words of our biggest idols like they’re God. We elevate our role models like they’re perfect, and even if we know that award shows are like a popularity contest and that the nominations may not reflect in totality if these actors or musicians or artists actually have any talent or even have anything worthwhile to say; we’ve fallen into the trap that they’re still the best thing the world has to offer. And it’s because… I don’t know, actually. We love living vicariously and vivaciously through people, and it’s easier to be persuaded and encouraged to love someone who is popular and has nothing much to say than to be really invested in someone influential with something to say. If you think about most of these 100 artists we’ve written about in this blog series, from artists like Keith Urban, Pentatonix, Skillet, Jason Gray and Carly Rae Jepsen, to John Mayer, Carrie Underwood, Owl City, Train and Hanson… is it likely or probable that the majority of them would be present as a nominee, presenter or performer at a major awards show like the Grammys or The American Music Awards or The Billboard Music Awards or The MTV Video Music Awards? Yes? No? Yeah, I reckon it’s probably not. And that’s not a reflection on the talent and prowess of the artists in question I’ve blogged about… it’s just the way the music industry is these days. Popular artists sell and influential artists do not.
I think I’ve mentioned this time and time again (or maybe my brother Jon has); but let me repeat myself once again for us all. When we look down our list of 100 artists who we deem to be influential across all time (not including artists like The Beatles, Queen, Elton John, Elvis Presley, ABBA, Celine Dion, Stevie Wonder, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan to name a new- and all of these plus more will be in a separate list of 50 artists who are iconic and timeless no matter what!); while the pattern seems to be that these artists are mostly active at the moment (aside from Carman who sadly passed away earlier this year!), the underlying theme that I’ve found out recently is that all of these 100 artists, though influential and inspiring in their own right, probably have virtually no links to each other. Delirious? is a different artist to Backstreet Boys who in turn is different to Delta Goodrem, The Goo Goo Dolls, Alicia Keys, John Mayer, SEAL, Cimorelli, Jennifer Lopez, Coldplay, Linkin Park, Tenth Avenue North and Skillet. All of these artists (and more) are unique and each of these 100 artists deserve their place within this subjective list… when each artist is analysed on their own merits. Yet wholistically, perhaps some of you may complain that these artists make the list over another arbitrary 100. You may complain and say that I’m not doing my job right or I’m deliberately against a certain artist or artist group (like rap, which has no representatives outside of Lecrae), or that I’m pushing a certain agenda, or that I’m like the left or the right or that I’m too woke or too conservative in including a lot of music artists that lean one way or the other on the political spectrum, or that I don’t have enough Christian artists or that I have too many Christian artists. Regardless on how you view my list- the fact is that it’s just that. It’s a list made up by an average joe. And it certainly holds no weight when compared to other more prestigious lists like Billboard or The Rolling Stone. Jon and myself are just owners of a website that maybe a handful of people in the world actually take the time out to read… and who are we to claim that we have authority over any list we make. Any of you could write up your own list of 100 names- include 100 names that we never did… and guess what? It’ll still be valid. Whatever criteria you use for your lists (and if you want to see our heart for this blog series, read our very first post we made in February 2019 explaining our thought processes!)… well that’s your criteria.
Contrary to underlying and assumed popular belief that the U.S. charts comprise of the holy grail of artists, and that they comprise of the be-all-and-end-all of every artist that is undoubtedly the most inspiring and the best; there has been, and probably will forever be, something much more poignant, moving, powerful, compelling and encouraging if you will, about music that is produced, written and recorded outside of the U.S.A., in my humble opinion. I’ve already mentioned in a previous blog post (or maybe in the introduction post in this series) about how we aren’t as caught up as most people on the state of ‘pop’ music these days; and since that time we’ve found out that a number of artists on the top 100 charts whom we do not listen to, and haven’t blogged about- are American. Artists like Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Ariana Grande, BTS, The Weeknd, Justin Bieber, Post Malone, Drake, Billie Eilish, Harry Styles, Megan Thee Stallion, Maroon 5, Lil Nas X, SZA, Luke Bryan, Dan + Shay, Jason Aldean, Kane Brown, Khalid, Imagine Dragons, Eminem, Cardi B, Chris Brown, Twenty One Pilots, Kendrick Lamar, Jonas Brothers, Eric Church and Panic At The Disco; have all dominated the charts over the past year or so, and apart from BTS who is from South Korea, they’re all from America, or American adjacent countries. None of these artists are artists who we have blogged about, or are going to be blogging about (except for Justin Bieber, who was recently a late addition to this blog list!); and so when looking at who is cool and hip at the moment… does this mean that we’re out of touch with American pop, and even if we are, does it matter in the grand scheme of things?
Life is fragile. One minute it’s there and the next, it’s not. You could be healthy one day and dead the next, and the day before, you’d be none the wiser. Gee, that sounds morbid, doesn’t it? That sounds like a super way to start a blog post, don’t you think? But bear with me, everyone; there’s a point to this introspection and this depressive start. You see, if death can come knocking at a moment’s notice, and you can’t really prepare for it…then what is the point of striving so hard, to acquire money and possessions and the like, if you’re not going to take it beyond the grave? Death is so certain, and it’s something that affects all of us; and the fact that it’s not just the old and sick that die, is pretty scary and overwhelming. As cases of COVID-19 keep rising around NSW and in Australia and also around the world, and as people keep on dying, I often of late have thought about the lives cut short by the pandemic, especially people who are young. I wonder about their hopes and dreams and how they can’t ever accomplish everything that they would want to- because they’re dead. Dreams cut short and potential not realised- because you’re dead. I know that if you’re dying not because of old age, but because of any other means; then that is an incredibly sad way to go. And though I’m being reminded about death a lot, I know it’s not something that you can change. You can’t cheat death, no matter how you try. When it’s your time, then there’s no two ways around it. Death is something that we all, like it or not, eventually will have to accept. Death happens to ALL of us. Not some. Not just the old or the babies who are unfortunately aborted. But to all of us. And though I’ve seen death and been to funerals before (for my uncle and also for a friend from church), the thought that death can happen tomorrow…actually sunk in for me about a week ago.
The other day NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian extended the lockdowns across NSW for yet another 2 weeks. With little change happening over the past few weeks of lockdown that NSW has had so far, freedoms are once again limited to exercising around the block and only one person going out to the shops for groceries. It remains to be seen whether the two-week extension of the lockdown will have any effect at all on case numbers and whether COVID-19 infections will decrease or not; but the fact of the matter is that we all are frustrated. Tired of staying at home, wanting more human interaction, and mingling with friends and co-workers. We long to go over to people’s houses for a barbecue and a cold beer, and we long to go to the movies or to a concert. In short, we as a nation and as people globally, long to get back to a life that is semi-normal, before COVID. Because at home, we don’t seem to be productive, and at times we think that we’re not doing anything. Yes, we’re listening to music, we’re zooming, we’re binging on all of our streaming shows, we’re sleeping in… but as we look abroad to other countries who have opened up the country a whole lot more than us Australians have (and it’s largely due to a supply issue of vaccines, which are more readily available overseas, plus people from other countries are generally more willing to receive vaccinations!); I reckon we’ve all become slightly envious. Envious and jealous of how many countries around the world have sprung back to normalcy (to an extent). Envious of how people are living overseas with apparent freedom. And though we know that there are still rampant COVID-19 deaths happening overseas… we choose to overlook them, in favour of our biases and preconceptions that other countries have it better than us because they have less restrictions. Are we envious and jealous though… unnecessarily? I mean, someday Australia will have opened up to the world, and for now we just gotta be patient and stay the course until more vaccines come, am I right?