Taking Apart Yesterday's Facebook Music Screed

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Yesterday, about a half-dozen of my Facebook friends forwarded a gloom-and-doom listicle from a site called Buzzfeed entitled "12 Extremely Disappointing Facts About Popular Music." Now up to over one million hits, the doom-and-gloom piece is subtitled "This is the saddest thing you'll read all day!!! You let this happen! You!!!"

Okay leaving aside the fact that it was far from the saddest thing I'd read all day -- that would probably have been the deaths of the final two of the four children of that homicidal dad in Bay City -- it's difficult to conclude that the article was anything other than dishonest, a compendium of misleading BS, cherrypicked facts, and apples-and-oranges comparisons purporting to show...what, exactly? That people suck? That music is in the toilet as never before?

If that was the article's intent, it fails on anything other than the most superficial analysis. Let's examine its contentions point-by-point.

1. Creed has sold more records in the US than Jimi Hendrix

Okay, that sucks. But in Jimi's heyday, rock was young and only young people were listening to rock. Also, there were close to 100 million more people in the America of Creed than there were in Jimi's America. And note it says in the US only. Because he had to go overseas to make his name, Hendrix is hugely popular in the UK. Today, a black man with his looks and lyrical and instrumental talent probably would not have to go to London to make it. Witness the later success of the far-less-talented if somewhat similar Lenny Kravitz.

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Courtesy photo
Rihanna has more #1 singles than Zeppelin? So? Brett Butler hit more singles than Babe Ruth, too.
2. Led Zeppelin, REM, and Depeche Mode have never had a number one single, Rihanna has 10

Rihanna is a pop singer from today's neo-singles era. REM, Depeche Mode, and Zep were rock and/or new wave bands from the album era. This article fails to mention that Rihanna's 10 #1 singles are matched by Stevie Wonder. You did that too! You!

3. Ke$ha's "Tik-Tok" sold more copies than ANY Beatles single

The same phenomena as in the Hendrix example: There are millions more people in Ke$ha's day than there were in the Beatles' day, and the Beatles were only popular with the young in their time. Today several generations are into pop. Will Ke$ha have 19 more #1 singles? We think not.


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Ke$ha's bigger than the Beatles! The Mayan Apocalypse is well and truly nigh, my friends!
4. Flo Rida's "Low" has sold 8 million copies -- the same as The Beatles' "Hey Jude"

Again, population. And it's not like people in the swingin' '60s had hugely better taste than the morons and philistines and squares who allegedly dominate today's music-buying public. "Hey Jude" was the top-selling single of the '60s, but do you know what was number two? If you guessed Percy Faith's "The Theme from 'A Summer Place'" treat yourself to a hit of acid.

5. The Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" is more popular than any Elvis or Simon & Garfunkel song

By what standard? Sales? We'll see if the Peas stay relevant for 40 or 50 more years. We'll see if there's a reunion concert in Central Park or a comeback special in Vegas.

6. Celine Dion's "Falling Into You" sold more copies than any Queen, Nirvana, or Bruce Springsteen record

And "Feelings" was on the charts for longer than all but six singles released in the groovy '70s. And it's a silly comparison. Likening a suburban-mom schlockmeister like Dion to a trio of rockers is just silly. There's always been a huge market for musical wallpaper and there always will be, and it will always exceed those of teenage / twentysomething rage and ennui, glam-rock theatricality, and hard-won nuggets of wisdom from blowsy Jersey Shore bar-rooms.

‎7. Same with Shania Twain's "Come On Over"

Laura Branigan's "Gloria" was on the charts for longer than all but five records released in the '80s. Sex sells, and few stars were ever sexier than Shania.

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Shania Twain. Combined with Mutt Lange's Midas touch, sex sells.
8. Katy Perry holds the same record as Michael Jackson for most number one singles from an album

And was her album anything like the phenomenon Thriller was? Hell to the naw. With total record sales down across-the-board, chart success means much less today than it did in the early '80s. All I know is that while you could escape Katy Perry if you wanted to, there was no corner of this land you could run to if you wanted to escape Thriller.

9. Barbra Streisand has sold more records (140 million) than Pearl Jam, Johnny Cash, and Tom Petty combined

So? They aren't competitors. I'm sure Thomas Kinkade has "outsold" many much better artists who are nevertheless wildly well-paid themselves.

10. People actually bought Billy Ray Cyrus' album Some Gave All... 20 million people. More than any Bob Marley album

Billy Ray was the beneficiary of a fluke ditty that became a phenomenon like "The Twist" or "Macarena." Beyond that, he's actually a pretty decent trad country singer. If that album has outsold Legend it all came in its year of release, and it hasn't been by much and one day Marley's hits will pass it by. And can anyone argue that Billy Ray has more relevance than Marley today? Sure, he sired that once-ubiquitous, now-baked-as-often-as-a-Rasta daughter of his, but people don't go around solemnly misquoting him on Facebook like they do with Marley.

11. The cast of Glee has had more songs chart than the Beatles

As we said earlier, the charts simply ain't what they used to be. If the cast of Glee racks up 20 #1 hits, as the Beatles did, then there might be some cause for alarm.

12. This guy [Justin Bieber] exists

What, there were no teen idols before today? Is that the point? Or is that Bieber lacks talent? If either of those are the contention this writer was trying to make, he is sadly mistaken.

As Warren Graves and I put it in my Facebook page, Bieber is just a one-man version of New Kids on the Block which was in turn a white copy of a New Edition, which was something of an update on the Jackson 5, which had its own white doppleganger in the Osmonds. So guys like him have been around -- you could go all the way back to Frankie Avalon and beyond. And in that tradition, I'd contend that Bieber is among the most talented.

All in all, in the words of veteran St. Louis critic / writer Rene Spencer Saller, this article was "pretty inflammatory, but not necessarily in the way that the 'writer' (lister? bullshit stat compiler? trivia aggregator?) intended. More than the devolution of pop music, it underscored for me the devolution of journalism."


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19 comments
Vanessa52405
Vanessa52405

there is alot more people now then before, so of course more people buy todays albums. 

Bette
Bette

My question is : is it worth comparing sales from say the 70's t osales in the 90's? IT seems marketing and distribution is 'easier in the 90's because information and technology make it so.It seems that a huge selling recording in the 70s got to be huge because of word of mouth as much as distribution and airplay. So Shania selling 'the most' isn't as impressive as say Buddy Holly's sales or even the Beatles selling huge numbers for their times...................

David Cornell
David Cornell

"All I know is that while you could escape Katy Perry if you wanted to, there was no corner of this land you could run to if you wanted to escape Thriller." True that. I didn't read how accessibility played a factor in any of this. Population, sure, but without the word-wide-interwebs and easy downloads, would those singles that everybody is bitching about have sold so many?

Craigley
Craigley

Soon as I get home, first thing I'm gonna do is punch yo mamma in da mouth! 

GlenW
GlenW

Indeed. And people eat this shit up. We are truly a nation of fools.

Jaymac4
Jaymac4

People, this is Buzzfeed. They write articles about their sponsors. They aren't journalists, they are an add server blog. Taking anything from them somewhat seriously pins the joke on you

Bella Adela
Bella Adela

THANK YOU for illuminating the "real" story on this inane list. I read it, found it to be slanted at best and bizarre at worst, and pooh poohed it. You just verified my suspicions.

Terrye Newkirk
Terrye Newkirk

And the Beatles were more popular than Jesus Christ. As Ranger Doug says, poor taste is timeless.

Julie Zarate
Julie Zarate

ugh. THANK YOU.  the only retort i could come up with was "the internets".

Championshipvinyl73
Championshipvinyl73

how the hell did the guy make it through a (flawed) diatribe about the shite state of music without mentioning Nickelback,  (or as I call them "the sign of the coming end of days")? As much as I wish they never existed, are they really that much different than Aerosmith in terms of shallow, repetitively riffed-up cock rock and movie soundtrack songs?

Daniel Mee
Daniel Mee

"The cast of Glee has had more songs chart than the Beatles"Also worth noting: the cast of Glee sings songs that are already popular. The cast of Glee could sing every Beatles song that charted, and since it's safe to assume that every one of those would chart, releasing one additional song that charted would put them over the mark. 

Here's a more fair comparison: if the Rolling Stones released a cover of each of the songs that the cast of Glee has recorded, who would have more singles chart? They'd probably be exactly the same. And it wouldn't mean a damn thing, other than that widely released, well-marketed recordings of well-known songs sell well. Duh!

Huey
Huey

Pretty slow news day. Crack journalism, HP!

Joe
Joe

Man, that reminds me.  I totally had a thing for Laura Branigan back in the day.  Dang, that was even pre-Jesuit days. . . .

Don John
Don John

Goddamn, Lomax! Thank you for writing this, and Amen.

John Nova Lomax
John Nova Lomax

Well, it fooled a million-plus others, among them a whole mess of my Facebook friends. 

Katehelene26
Katehelene26

Yes they are different, nickelback in no way compares to Aerosmith! Aerosmith is fantastic in terms of lyrical genius and individuality. I might say the there was ONE movie soundtrack, of which they didn't even write,  everything else; their own songs which are not all about shallow subject matter and no way resembles 'cock rock' . They at least made music that meant something and was full of substance, instead of the repeated one liner choruses in today's songs. And lastly may I add that their songs sound different to each other rather than a blur of annoying and brain-aching noise!

Craigley
Craigley

or them Limp Biscuit bastards

MASSMURDERMEDIA
MASSMURDERMEDIA

not long after srv passed, denis leary said "why can't we get motley cue onto a helicopter?"...  the same could be said of nickelback, creed and coldplay...  they should all tour together, 3 birds/1 stone... 

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