What do Led Zeppelin, Chuck Berry, Queen, the Beach Boys, Diana Ross, the Grateful Dead, The Who, The Kinks, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Janis Joplin, Buddy Holly, The Doors, Bob Marley, and Neil Young all have in common?
None of these acts have won a Grammy.
Here are some more thought-provoking music-biz facts for you:
1. Ke$ha’s “TiK ToK” sold more copies than any Beatles single.
2. Rihanna has 10 No. 1 singles and six Grammy Awards. Led Zeppelin has 0 and 0.
3. Lil Wayne has charted the most Billboard Hot 100 hits (109) of any solo artist. Before Wayne, Elvis Presley held the record with 108 Hot 100 hits. But let’s remember the King’s chart successes transpired over the course of 54 years, starting in 1958 when Billboard introduced the Hot 100.
4. Flo Rida’s “Low” has sold 8 million copies in five years. The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” has sold 8 million copies as well, but it took 44 years.
Has the world gone mad?
I’ve had my suspicions for a while that the world is, if not completely mental, not too far off. When police covered unarmed peaceful protesters with pepper spray at UC Davis, that felt pretty loco. It seemed clearly insane when a nut job in Albany, Georgia, firebombed a Taco Bell for not including enough meat in his chalupa. But those are just a few isolated lunatics.
Lil Wayne nabbed four Grammy Awards for his multi-platinum album, Tha Carter III.
I’m more concerned when the total communal semi-unconsciousness makes gaga decisions like embracing such unfunny comedians as Louie Anderson or Dane Cook, and celebrating unhealthy, malnourished supermodels. When the populace embraces mediocrity over brilliance, I sense a collective crazy.
Unlike other art mediums, great music does not cost any more than not-so-great music. It’s like you could have an original da Vinci in your home for the same price as a Dale Earnhardt Commemorative NASCAR dinner plate. Sales figures indicate that people tend to ignore the work of the masters in favor of the less masterful. Why are people filling their lives with uninspired music when there’s so much great stuff out there? There should be room in your iPod for the sublime in addition to whatever is currently trendy.
Personally it bothers me that Grammy-winning Creed has sold more CDs in the U.S. than my non-Grammy-winning hero, Jimi Hendrix. There’s nothing wrong with Creed—they’ve done some good music and have enjoyed a ton of success, but most would agree that Creed’s sound is derivative, while Hendrix’s artistry was fueled by an incredibly creative mind. I’ll bet if you asked Creed guitarist Mark Tremonti—a great player in his own right—he’d probably agree that his fans should pick up a copy of Are You Experienced or Axis: Bold As Love for their collections to play between “With Arms Wide Open.”
In America, our music is a bit like our food. McDonalds earns $21 billion in annual profits and while no one over age 6 would argue this is the best food you can buy, a whole lot of us gravitate toward this not-too-fair fare. We see an advertisement with people apparently enjoying a Big Mac and the next thing you know, we’re zombies placing our McOrder in the drive-in.
At a session in London, I heard a term that perhaps defines this phenomenon: shitegeist.
As defined by urbandictionary.com, shitegeist is: “That which is popular but ultimately worthless, often based upon media-based images and embodying a crippling shallowness. By its nature, transitory, so today’s shitegeist is tomorrow’s chip wrappings. Derived from Zeitgeist, but embodying the meaningless of postmodern culture.”
Like low-rise, pre-ripped $300 jeans and blinged-out iPhone cases, our music drives our economy while driving us to a more superficial life experience.
But then again, who am I to criticize music taste? The media spills over with bitter bastards tearing down what others create. While doing research for this column, I found Blender magazine’s “Top 50 Worst Songs of All Time.” Blender’s list contains plenty of refuse I’d rather not hear again, but it also held many songs I like—and some I love. What’s wrong with these songs?
“The End” by The Doors
“What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes
“Sunglasses at Night” by Corey Hart
“We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel
“From a Distance” by Bette Midler
“Your Body Is a Wonderland” by John Mayer
“Kokomo” by The Beach Boys
Hell, I’m sappy enough to even like “The Greatest Love of All” and “Ebony and Ivory,” (both on Blender’s list). They seem kind of beautiful and poetic. I’ve had a few publishing deals and earned decent money writing songs that are not nearly this good. In fact, I’ve written plenty of terrible songs and got paid to do it. This makes me worse than the worst. And yet, as bad as much of my work may be, I’ve never had great success. I’ll just keep aiming for the stars, hitting the gutter, and hoping for the best.
John Bohlinger is a Nashville multi-instrumentalist best know for his work in television, having lead the band for all six season of NBC's hit program Nashville Star, the 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009 CMT Music Awards, as well as many specials for GAC, PBS, CMT, USA and HDTV.
John's music compositions and playing can be heard in several major label albums, motion pictures, over a hundred television spots and Muzak... (yes, Muzak does play some cool stuff.) Visit him at youtube.com/user/johnbohlinger or facebook.com/johnbohlinger.