“Yes, it’s No. 1, it’s Top of the Pops.”
— The Kinks
You’ll have to stay with me on this.
One of the things I hear people say frequently when talking about music is something along this line: “I can listen and get into any kind of music ... except rap/hip-hop.” I get that, to a degree, because I generally say I love all kinds of good music ... but I don’t find much good in the popular “bro country” that’s now coming out of Nashville.
Even with that, though, artists like Jamey Johnson, Eric Church, Tyler Childers and Jason Isbell — one of the two or three greatest lyricist since Dylan himself — definitely keep me from dismissing the genre altogether.
Back to rap/hip-hop. I honestly don’t understand why people who like rock and roll music — which has been the music of rebellion since it was popularized with the release of “Rock Around the Clock” in 1955 — don’t get into at least some rap/hip-hop. To me, it’s like the Motown of the ’60s, only with a lot more cursing. Even with often child-like and fake “I’m the baddest there ever was” boasting lyrics, it’s usually the beat in the genre that appeals to me.
(An aside: Rap/hip-hop is not, I’ll grant, a music of longevity; it is more a part of the now. Think about artists who’ve made it in the genre: Some burn brightly but are surpassed eventually by upstarts with new gimmicks (auto-tune anyone?) ... think Dr. Dre or Run DMC; others make so much money no one buys their “I’m just a poor boy from the ghetto” whining anymore ... think Jay-Z and his wife, Beyonce Knowles; and some just work at car washes or hustling and hang around long enough for their songs to become TV ads ... “Scoop, there it is.” Tag Team ... No, I just can’t comment further.)
I hate the fact that people are going to read stereotype into this, but one of my favorite artists — not just hip-hop, of all time — whose work has withstood the test of time is Eminem. (The stereotype comes with the color of Marshall Mathers’ skin ... he’s white.) Trust me, Eminem’s whiteness has nothing to do with his skills. (He’s no Snow or Vanilla Ice.) No, Eminem has remained relevant because he has talents that are invaluable in the music he makes — lyrical cleverness and an ear for just the right beat — plus he’ll tell you right quick that he would not be where he is without the help of the innovative Dr. Dre.
Eminem’s latest album, “Music to Be Murdered By,” came out a few months ago, and while someone who knows me and knows my musical tastes bought it for me for my birthday (it was delivered late, but no big deal), I only got a chance to listen to it recently. And, Machine Gun Kelly disses aside, “Murder” is one of the best whole albums I’ve heard in years. There’s the usual biting rhymes that Eminem is known for — and the corny ones, like “I’m like Long John Silver, selfish” ... think about it — but the rapidity and clarity with which the artist spits his rhymes is both fascinating and wildly entertaining.
OK, kind of put that to the side for a minute.
I mentioned in a column recently that I’d listened to a copy of The Who “Live at Leeds” that was purchased at a yard sale, and one of my favorite Herald readers sent me a long email explaining his enduring — and endearing — love for the album.
(Aside 2: I love it when I hear from other music lovers ... they are the best people in the world.)
Now, to tie this all together: Once several years ago when I wrote mostly entertainment articles for this publication, I took on the Herculean task of naming my Top 500 albums of all time. There was no magical formula, just a music lover’s compilation of an art form that has all but disappeared, thanks to the current short-attention-span two or three generations that listen to something called “downloads” over and over until the next Ariana Grande or Rihanna or Korean Pop trifle comes along and then it’s on to the next thing.
There is the good news, though, that vinyl (How I love my RECORDS!) is making a comeback, and more and more artists are releasing actual albums on actual vinyl.
Sooooo — whew, this was a long way to get here — I think it’s time to update my Top 500 albums list. (And, trust me, I may be one of only six or seven people who cares, but that’s enough for me.) This time, though, I’d like some input from other music lovers. If you have a list of your favorite albums or if you — like the aforementioned favorite reader — want to offer your comments on a particular album, please feel free to do so.
I haven’t set a time limit yet for the publication of this list, but I have a sneaky feeling it’s going to be very different from the one previously published. (Hint: There will be a new No. 1!)
So if you’d like to join in the fun, send me your album lists and/or commentary at this email. It’ll make my task that much more fun.