Thursday, July 30, 2009

David Bowie is the F-ing S

After a lot of careful thought – about 20 minutes – I've decided that if I could trade my musical career (none) with any successful artist's, it would be David Bowie. He was unquestionably cool during his musical peak, and he still is cool now, which is why shows like The Venture Brothers can cast him as the leader of the Guild of Calamitous Intent and get away with it.

In fact, David Bowie has so many hits that you probably don't realize how many hits he has. Here are hit singles and songs I've heard on mainstream radio, that you've probably also heard and never realized he did:

“Dancing in the Street.” “Modern Love.” “Blue Jean.” “Let's Dance.” “Under Pressure.” “Heroes.” “Fame.” “Golden Years.” “Knock on Wood.” “Sound and Vision.” “Young Americans.” “All the Young Dudes.” “The Man Who Sold The World.” “Changes.” “Life on Mars?” “Suffragette City.” “Rebel Rebel.” “Space Oddity.” “Starman.” “The Jean Genie.” “Never Get Old.”

That is 20 songs right there, and if some of those are debatable to you, just replace them with your personal favorites that I left out, like “Ziggy Stardust” and “Diamond Dogs.” Quite simply, you will be hard-pressed to name other bands with such a vast, expansive repertoire. Other bands or artists that I at least considered swapping places with:

- The Beatles. Like David Bowie, The Beatles have a slew of hits. However, I'm kind of narrow in my thinking; I want to trade places with just one person. And since I'm somewhat vain and egotistical, I'm not sure if I'd want to split credit like Lennon and McCartney do. Even George Harrison has at least one insanely catchy solo pop ditty.

As a result, the Beatles almost feel like an unintentional superband. McCartney is still cranking out hits by his lonesome and Lennon was a supernova once he left the group.

- Queen, Weezer and the Beastie Boys. Because they're all made up of multiple members, I have to lessen their accomplishments ever so slightly. Queen's Freddy Mercury was the closest competitor to Bowie's crown, except that I like Bowie's overall catalog a bit better. (This also overlooks that Freddy Mercury died of AIDS and liked boys.)

Queen has a lot of F'ed out, overplayed pop rock shmaltz that hasn't held up well to me. I'm specifically referring to “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions,” which are always played 50 million times at any sort of sporting event.

Some of Queen's best work is also, well, downright odd. “Fat Bottom Girls” and “Bicycle Rice” are incredibly catchy tunes, but they're somewhat like Weezer (another band I mentioned in this paragrah) in that the songs won't really appeal to all audiences. They feel a bit too much like nerd rock.

The same applies to the best of Weezer's arsenal, for which the term “nerd rock” was coined, after all. I love all of their songs, from the Pinkerton tracks “El Scorcho” and “Falling For You” to the obvious pop bait like “Pork and Beans,” “Buddy Holly” and “Keep Fishin'”.

- Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Sublime and The Doors / Jim Morrison. All of them are great, and all of them are dead, which I'm not really into. Overlooking this aspect, their premature deaths prevent them from possibly joining either the preceding or proceeding groupings...

- Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots. If we were doing this list after initial albums, based on potential, then both these bands would rank highly, much like Ben Grieve would after his stellar debut for the Oakland Athletics in 1998. Unfortunately, Pearl Jam kept making weird, artsy records instead of doing good alternative rock, and Stone Temple Pilots fizzled out as Scott Weiland got hooked on heroin.

- Beck, Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails. Awesome artists, except that they're not that varied or commercial successful. If I want something besides industrial from NIN, I'm shit outta luck.

- KISS and The Eagles. The opposite of Beck and Radiohead, both these bands are hugely commercially successful, but not really that deep or critically acclaimed.

- The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Modest Mouse, The Killers, Queens of the Stone Age, Interpol, Girl Talk and The White Stripes. All these are somewhat new bands that have had some great releases, but do they have staying power? Can they change styles and stay fresh and still stay commercial and critically awesome?

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