Forget top ten lists, just enjoy the music

Chaka Khan gave a no holds barred reaction to being ranked 29 in a recent list, but it shouldn't be about lists, it should be about the music you enjoy, says Stevie G in his Downtown column
Forget top ten lists, just enjoy the music

80s legend Chaka Khan provided a nuanced reply to pointless best singer lists.

I didn't bother registering much reaction to Rolling Stone magazine’s bizarre top 200 singers of all time when it came out a couple of months ago. Any list that has Marvin Gaye outside the top 10, and that puts Ariana ahead of Ella Fitzgerald, is not worth the paper it’s printed on. There’s really 189 singers better than Brandy and Frank Ocean? I could go on and on. It’s a terrible list full of some dubious placings, but aren’t these lists a bit pointless anyway?

The Rolling Stone list recently returned to the news after Chaka Khan, arguably the greatest living voice in music today, clapped back with a no holds barred reaction when asked about it. Chaka, who came in at 29, but was less than impressed to hear that fellow legendary vocalists such as Mariah Carey and Mary J Blige were ahead of her. She also threw shade at Adele but last weekend Chaka took a more measured approach and issued a full apology.

On social media she wrote; “Recently, I was asked about a list of the ‘greatest singers of all time’ and instead of questioning the need for such a list, I was pitted against other artists and I took the bait,” Khan wrote in her post. “As artists, we are unfairly put into ‘boxes’, ‘categories’ or on ‘lists.’ Being an artist or musician is not a competition. It’s a gift, for which I am truly grateful.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. These lists draw debate and controversy and draw attention to flagging publications such as Rolling Stone, and provide content for many sites. But they are ultimately disingenuous and pointless. How can you really compare singers and artists of different eras and often different styles? Obviously, it feeds the algorithms but the lists don’t achieve much really.

Twitter in particular is full of accounts, usually from a nostalgia perspective, which just rank lists of 90s rappers and singers and albums. The debates go on forever and the same arguments get rinsed to death, but who really cares who was better between Nas and Jay Z or Biggie and Tupac? The pitting of younger rappers v older ones is even more pointless, and brings out the worst in music fans who think everything was better back in the day. The bottom line is, most people think the music of their youth is the best music. It’s always been that way. It’s usually because you were young then and everything was better!

I personally enjoy a lot of social media and use it to discover loads of great music and artists, but “stan-culture” is another area where it can usually go to far. And this time it’s not just older music fans who become unbearable. Fans of pop acts, who can be as obsessive as they come, can be the worst. It’s nothing new I guess. Elvis, The Beatles, Michael Jackson and loads more had fans that could push the limits. But as always, social media has accelerated some of these obsessions in the present tense. Sadly, it usually ends up pitting artists against each other too.

Curiously, many of these are women, and anytime you see any online content regarding Beyonce, Cardi B, Taylor Swift or any other major star, you’ll find their fans and fans of their so called rivals at each others throats.

It’s a shame that many of these fans are young women themselves, and that they can’t accept that there’s room for loads of successful artists to flourish at one time. But I guess rivalries have always existed, and long before social media it was newspapers and magazines that benefitted from stoking the situations.

It was once Mariah v Whitney or Michael v Prince or Kanye v 50 or Blur v Oasis or the Beatles v the Stones. Rolling Stone and other such publications aren’t stupid, especially if they’ve survived this long.

The artists themselves will often ignore the bait, but sometimes on a bad day they might clap back.

It’s often misunderstandings that get out of hand. With Biggie and Tupac, the misunderstandings and rivalry created a media manipulated beef that ultimately had tragic consequences, despite the uncertainly surrounding both deaths.

A rivalry can sharpen the minds of an artist too, as it did with both Nas and Jay Z at the time of their huge beef. But overall, especially as we get older, it’s worth celebrating the greatness without disparaging others, and without demeaning peers who have often achieved this very greatness themselves.

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