Music (2) 9/27

Anyone who is online and a fan of music may have seen Billboard recently released a list of the top rock songs of the last decade. At first glance, this may sound exciting. A whole decade of culture reflected by what we as a society have been listening to given to us by one of the most influential music publications … and the top three are all Imagine Dragons songs. 

What now? Even someone who listens exclusively to top 40 radio will look at this list and be amazed. 

For those who haven’t yet seen the list, here it is:

Now, you can see at first glance a couple issues with this list. 

First, over half of the list is dominated by two artists: Twenty One Pilots and Imagine freakin’ Dragons. Now say what you will about either of these bands, but we all can agree that this just isn’t fair. 

Second, what exactly does Billboard consider “rock”? 

Sonically, most of this is just pop. But Billboard seems to define rock as just music where the instruments are played by the artist themselves. OK, low bar, but sure. As you look further into Billboard’s list, you see many other artists who seem to deviate even more from what we traditionally think of as rock.

“Sail” by AWOLNATION at No. 14? Sucker for Pain by Lil Wayne and Whiz Khalifa at No. 42? This is just plain silly. 

On the top 50 list you do see a couple of artists who can be defined as more traditional rock music such as Fall Out Boy, Disturbed and even Rise Against. But their inclusion does not excuse the inclusion of what is very obviously not rock music. While I understand this list is purely based on the songs’ numbers on the Billboard charts over time, and how much it has been listened to, we can all agree that Billboard could have at least put more effort into defining “rock,” or at least come up with a list based on cultural impact over listens. 

This is just a list of the most-listened-to songs by the most passive of music listeners.

Anyway, while “Ho Hey” perfectly encapsulates the trend of music where a bunch of dudes shout “hey” around an acoustic guitar, or while Imagine Dragons perfected the sound of a car commercial, or while Twenty One Pilots has rebirthed a new Hot Topic generation, I think that we can all agree “Top Rock Songs” is a stretch. 

Most played? Sure, maybe. 

I believe these songs are played on the radio more than others. The major labels pay for them to be played more, so of course they get listened to more. I think we can all agree, though, that when we think of “Top Rock Songs,” we think of ones that have had the most impact culturally, or what songs are a reflection of us as a society. If that is the case here, it just goes to show that our society has been shaped by corporations to further their own financial gain, and the more I think about it, the more I think that may be true.

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