This is an opinion column. The thoughts and viewpoints expressed are those of the author, Phil Scilippa.
It’s been 17 long years since Rolling Stone published a list of the “500 Best Songs of All Time.” 17 years is quite a stretch of time to update the previous version, which many readers took issue with. That’s to be expected, though—after all, calling anything the “best” is subjective and entirely based on personal opinions.
But the issue is: some people’s opinions are wrong. So after 17 years of moaning and complaining about the previous list, I took a gander at the new version released yesterday with a glimmer of hope in my eyes. But now I’m not sure why I bothered.
Surely there should have been enough great music in the past 17 years that would dethrone some of the older bits that might not have deserved their places in the previous version. But alas, we’ve sunk even lower in 2021.
Let me preface this op-ed by saying that much of the list is reasonable. Prince, Chuck Berry, Hall & Oates, Tears for Fears, Aretha Franklin, and a slew of other seminal artists are present, and certainly deserve their places on the list of 500.
Rolling Stone established the list’s order by convoking “a poll of more than 250 artists, musicians, and producers — from Angelique Kidjo to Zedd, Sam Smith to Megan Thee Stallion, M. Ward to Bill Ward.” Surely, much of the great music present on the list can be attributed to votes from these artists. But sadly, that means they’re also responsible for the stinkers.
Let’s take a look at a big problem with the list: out of 500 songs, only five electronic or dance music tracks are represented. They come courtesy of five different artists. First up is Daft Punk, who only breached into the #465 spot with “Get Lucky.” Depeche Mode unjustly appear at #415 with the timeless “Enjoy The Silence,” while Marshall Jefferson’s house music masterstroke “Move Your Body (The House Music Anthem)” appears in the 335th spot.
Kraftwerk’s genre-defining magnum opus “Trans-Europe Express” clocks in at #304, and there’s a nearly 300-song gap between that and the next dance music artist, Swedish disco icon Robyn with 2010’s “Dancing On My Own.” And as far as electronic music goes, well, that’s it.
Please understand: I’m not saying that any run-of-the-mill EDM producer deserves to unseat Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” But out of all those votes in the poll, no one thought to include Justice? Avicii? The Crystal Method or The Chemical Brothers? Jeff Mills? The Prodigy’s “Breathe” essentially changed the game for music in the late 90s, but the iconic group are nowhere to be seen on this list.
Instead we have Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass” and Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies,” among other moth-eaten anthems of yesteryear. Come on, they’re not that good, are they?
While there’s something to be said about electronic music’s influence on the post-2010 world of pop and some of those songs being included here, it just doesn’t seem like 1% of the list is a large enough share for electronic and dance music. While seemingly every modern pop artist takes influence from dance music in some form, those polled didn’t seem to take those roots into account when voting.
The problem extends beyond the EDM genre as well. It seems that the only metal music the artists polled know comes from Sabbath or Metallica. Country doesn’t seem to get a fair shake either, with only a handful of (admittedly perfect) songs laying claim to their places on the list. Every classical composer’s most masterful work has seemingly been left in the dust in favor of Cardi B.
I could go on all day about this, dissecting exactly what my issues with Rolling Stone‘s list are, but at the end of the day, opinions are just that. I could tell you why Nickelback deserve a spot in the top 50, but the Internet has already told you to hate them. I could explain why Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” doesn’t deserve the top spot, and why it’s not her best song, but can I really disagree with the opinion of the masses?
My own is just as valid as those of the 250 artists polled, and really doesn’t mean much in the long run. I listen to enough Korn, Limp Bizkit, and jump up drum & bass to completely remove any credibility from what I’ve said here, so my words should probably be taken with a grain of salt. Besides, we all know that the best song in the world is actually just a Tribute.
You can check out Rolling Stone‘s full “500 Best Songs of All Time” list here.