The NEA and the RIAA (demon spawn) collaborate
March 7, 2001 3:07 PM   Subscribe

The NEA and the RIAA (demon spawn) collaborate on a list of the top songs of 20th century, topped by Somewhere Over the Rainbow. The list was picked by hundreds of "music lovers across the country" from "all walks of life," including the "music industry," according to the press release. The voters picked from 1,100 songs provided by the RIAA and the NEA, though write-in spaces were available on the ballots. The announcement of the list is part of a wider effort to bring the songs to school-age children and adolescents, in a project that involves Scholastic publishing and AOL (the Great Satan). Step right up and take a few whacks at them...
posted by jhiggy (43 comments total)
I'll start the kicking by noting that ranking "American Pie" at No. 5 makes me ill.
posted by jhiggy at 3:08 PM on March 7, 2001

No kidding, and am I too young to know about a different Bill Murray?
posted by mblandi at 3:11 PM on March 7, 2001

To me, it seems hard to get a consensus on music moreso than other entertainment forms. Probably because the genres are so different and there's not the same kind of crossover we're used to seeing in movies/film.
posted by owillis at 3:21 PM on March 7, 2001

The Billy Murray cited in this list was an early 20th century novelty and Irish-song singer. It's not the cleanest page in the world, but you can read more about Murray here.
posted by jhiggy at 3:23 PM on March 7, 2001

another goofy thing about this list: They call it top songs, but insist on citing specific performances. I am perfectly at ease with Take Me Out to the Ballgame as one of the top songs of the century, but I think it is silly to pick out one performance. (The boundaries break down even further in the list when whole albums are cited, i.e., Sgt Pepper).
posted by jhiggy at 3:29 PM on March 7, 2001

Destiny's Child?
That's it. I'm headed to my bunker because civilization is obviously drawing to a close. Goodnight, everybody.
posted by likorish at 3:47 PM on March 7, 2001

There's one glaring omission. (Lyrically, at least, it dates from 1935.)
posted by holgate at 3:49 PM on March 7, 2001

well, gee holgate, they had to leave room for their normal pop junk, cleaned up versions of opera songs about rapists, etc.
posted by dagnyscott at 3:55 PM on March 7, 2001

What number was Destiny's Child? I don't think I want to spend the time rading through that ENTIRE list ;P
posted by swank6 at 3:56 PM on March 7, 2001

Destiny's Child was near the bottom, but above "All Along The Watchtower" by Jimi Hendrix.
posted by likorish at 3:59 PM on March 7, 2001

"The announcement of the list is part of a wider effort to
bring the songs to school-age children and adolescents, using
distribution from Scholastic and AOL."

Isn't this just obviously a marketing ploy? As the story mentions,'s parent company is AOL, who has something to gain here. And saying the RIAA is doing something simply for "educational value" is as insane as saying the same of the pharmaceutical industry (for more, see the current print version of Mother Jones).

Also insane is the inclusion of "Livin' La Vida Loca," by Ricky Martin, coming in at 203. Why even list this song?
posted by jasonsmall at 4:06 PM on March 7, 2001

Doesn't it bother anyone that enormous corporations apparently have our educators in their back pocket? This is a transparent ploy by the media titans to sell more music to kids, using teachers as the pushers.

(Hey, he said to take a whack.)
posted by kindall at 4:12 PM on March 7, 2001

How about The Wedding March...brings tears to my eyes whenver I hear it.
posted by Postroad at 4:51 PM on March 7, 2001

The list was put together for young people to "help further an appreciation for the music development process, including songwriting, musicianship..."

With this list? The only thing this is going to further is an appreciation of getting as far away from American corporate music as possible.

Besides, how can we take such a list seriously when it fails to recognize the brilliance of Luther Campbell and 2 Live Crew?

"...recording, performing, producing, distributing..."

DISTRIBUTING? "Gee, Mom, after they played 'The Wabash Cannonball' for us in class today, I decided I want to grow up to be a rack jobber!"

Another blatant omission: Ernest Tubb's "Walking the Floor Over You."
posted by aaron at 5:00 PM on March 7, 2001

Wrong century, Postroad.
posted by holgate at 5:01 PM on March 7, 2001

Oh, and dagnyscott: this definitely deserved to be in there, too. ;)
posted by holgate at 5:04 PM on March 7, 2001

I was thinking the exact same thing, jasonsmall.

Conspiracy theory, here, but I wasn't all that surprised that Warner Brothers owns the video distribution rights to The Wizard of Oz.
posted by gramcracker at 5:07 PM on March 7, 2001

I would love to know what percentage of those 325 songs are part of the Warner catalog.

Another omission: Chuck Berry's "My Ding-a-Ling."

And not a single Michael Jackson song? Or any novelty songs?
posted by aaron at 5:15 PM on March 7, 2001

Michael Jackson has no songs on there! What an outrage!!! I am so pissed.
posted by chaz at 5:17 PM on March 7, 2001

Neither does Vanilla Ice! What are they thinking!
posted by ktheory at 5:26 PM on March 7, 2001

any list of the best songs of the century that doesn't contain Monkey vs. Robot is horribly flawed.
posted by cfj at 5:51 PM on March 7, 2001

This sounds like all the stuff my dad downloaded from Napster. (He was in trouble with my mom, as Napster is *stealing*, until she heard the music on a CD he burned then Napster was not so bad).
posted by vanderwal at 6:04 PM on March 7, 2001

"Organizations team up to improve music appreciation."

Stravinsky's Rite of Spring isn't listed anywhere... surprise, nothing composed by the 20th century's most genius composer is listed. Nor does the list mention anything from Debussy or Shostakovich...

This is a sad, sad day for 20th century music. This list has absolutely nothing to do with music appreciation, as all it does is list shiite that most people are able to 'appreciate' without any effort or musical cultivation on their part. Nothing but a miasmatic pile of refuse-drenched songs that hold no musical sophistication whatsoever. As though "Over the Rainbow" is going to have any significant, lasting impacts on the face of music. If anything, the list is nothing but a self-gratifying pat on the back to the painfully banal popular music industry.
posted by Dane at 6:13 PM on March 7, 2001

Herbie Hancock's "Rockit?" Now admittedly that's something I may have dug at the age of nine. But to overlook Hancock's jazz career (Maiden Voyages or Head Hunters) with this amazingly dated offering of scratches and synths is an insult to Hancock and jazz in general. In fact, where the hell is Miles Davis or Wes Montgomery? What a damned ugly list.

The RIAA can kiss my...
posted by ed at 6:27 PM on March 7, 2001

Correction: Apparently, Davis's album "Bitches Brew" is on the list. Even so, "We Are the World?" I don't think so.
posted by ed at 6:31 PM on March 7, 2001

ed: yes, jazz is definitely under-represented here. so what else is new? to be fair, they do have "Kind of Blue" in there. but what about "Sketches of Spain"? and where's Chick Corea? "A Love Supreme" but not "Giant Steps"? Sonny Rollins doesn't rate? Keith Jarrett?

and on the rock side, jimi is dead last? sheesh. another good example of why all lists suck.
posted by cfj at 6:54 PM on March 7, 2001

ed: dig "kind of blue" at no. 113 < / blue note >
posted by allaboutgeorge at 7:02 PM on March 7, 2001

I love the fact that "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is ranked four slots ABOVE "What a Wonderful World".

"Yeah, that Sachmo fella was pretty good, but he was no Cobain."
posted by Optamystic at 7:15 PM on March 7, 2001

Beat It is on there near the top.
posted by swank6 at 7:23 PM on March 7, 2001

The Ying Tong Song definitely deserved a spot ;) Just proves Americans' total lack of taste in music...

Oh, and that Stravinsky's not bad, either.
posted by dagnyscott at 7:28 PM on March 7, 2001

someone earlier noted: "'I love the fact that "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is ranked four slots ABOVE 'What a Wonderful World'."

What about "Y.M.C.A." three or four slots above "Ave Maria?" Isn't this sort of like having "Disco Duck," by Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots ranked above "Amazing Grace?" ("Love Rollercoaster" might have been more acceptable, actually, but that's another story.)

Anyway, can you imagine these placed on continuous play too? "Free Bird" directly following "Moon River?"
posted by raysmj at 7:53 PM on March 7, 2001

Holgate: you mean I have been married that many years ago? Seems like yesterday.
Ernest Tubb: wow. Brings back memories of the shit kickers (an army term) as they were know--young army regulars from the south who flooded the barracks with this stuff daily.
posted by Postroad at 8:05 PM on March 7, 2001

In 1999 Time Magazine called it "Song of the Century."

The RIAA and NEA rank it at #273.

Billie Holiday's Strange Fruit (yeah, I wish I could link to a recording of it) is the most beautiful, important, and timely recording ever.

Ranked five spots below Kim Carnes' "Bette Davis Eyes."
posted by dfowler at 11:34 PM on March 7, 2001

On the strength of dfowler's recommendation, I fired up the old Napster client (one last hurrah, and I doubt Billie would mind) and pulled Strange Fruit. Beautiful, haunting melody, gut-wrenching lyrics. A worthy song to get one's account canned over, methinks...
posted by Optamystic at 12:25 AM on March 8, 2001

The list was picked by hundreds of "music lovers across the country" from "all walks of life," including the music industry."

How did they select these people? I wonder how different the list would be if they'd polled a random sample of the population.
posted by Loudmax at 2:12 AM on March 8, 2001

That is maybe the silliest thing I have ever seen.
posted by sonofsamiam at 7:17 AM on March 8, 2001

continuous play would be hi-larious! can you imagine, "that's the way (i like it)" followed by "yes, we have no bananas"? now that is a party i'd like to attend.
posted by bluishorange at 7:55 AM on March 8, 2001

Strange Fruit mp3.
posted by amanda at 8:55 AM on March 8, 2001

Perfect list for Disney World, Barbie World, or any world other than the real world.
posted by Twang at 9:52 AM on March 8, 2001

Thanks, amanda.
posted by dfowler at 10:06 AM on March 8, 2001

now that is a party i'd like to attend.

I have parties like that every Thursday night. Feel free to attend.
posted by daveadams at 11:43 AM on March 8, 2001

My exhaustively considered list of most critical amendments, (the complete list is really too long to post). Addressing the insult of the rankings of what does belong is another whole issue...

Most heinous inclusions:

- Destiny's Child - Bills, Bills, Bills
- Martin, Ricky - Livin' la Vida Loca
- Cyrus, Billy Ray - Achy Breaky Heart
- Williams Jr., Hank - All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight
- Smith, Will - Men in Black
- Thomas, B.J. - Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head
- Shangri-Las - Leader of the Pack
- TLC - No Scrubs
- Twain, Shania - You're Still the One
- Warwick, Dionne - That's What Friends Are For
- Pointer Sisters - I'm So Excited
- Womack, Lee Ann - I Hope You Dance

Most unforgivable oversights, (a HIGHLY abridged list):

- Who - My Generation
- Black Sabbath - Paranoid
- Menuhin, Yehudi/Edward Elgar - Elgar: Violin Concerto (EMI - 1932)
- Callas, Maria/Victor de Sabata - Vissi d'Arte (EMI - 1953)
- Run-D.M.C. - It's Like That
- Velvet Underground - Heroin
- Gould, Glenn - Goldberg Variations (Sony - 1955)
- Harris, Wynonie - Good Rockin' Tonight
- Clooney, Rosemary - Tenderly
- Hendrix, Jimi - Purple Haze
- Kalsoum, Oum - Al Atlal
- Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart
- Kenton, Stan - Artistry in Rhythm
- Glass, Philip - Einstein on the Beach
- Henderson, Fletcher - Sugar Foot Stomp
- Brenston, Jackie - Rocket 88
- Johnson, James P. - Carolina Shout
- Cold Chisel - Khe Sanh
- Clash - London Calling
- Smith, Clarence - Pine Top's Boogie Woogie
- Metallica - One
- Morrison, Van - Madame George
- Ramones - Blitzkrieg Bop
- Kuti, Fela - Gentleman
- Simon & Garfunkel - Bridge Over Troubled Water
- Parliament - Tear the Roof Off the Sucker (Give Up the Funk)
- Smith, Bessie/Louis Armstrong - St. Louis Blues
- O'Connor, Sinead - Nothing Compares 2 U
- Wilson, Jackie - Lonely Teardrops
- Nine Inch Nails - Head Like a Hole
- New Order - Blue Monday
- Jordan, Louis - Saturday Night Fish Fry

Most wrong-minded song choices by right-minded artist choices:
- John, Elton - Candle in the Wind -over- Your Song
- Seger, Bob - Old Time Rock & Roll -over- Night Moves
- Summer, Donna - She Works Hard for the Money -over- I Feel Love -and- Bad Girls
- Clapton, Eric - Change the World -over- I Shot the Sheriff
- Prince - Purple Rain -over- When Doves Cry
posted by freddy_gier at 12:42 PM on May 9, 2001

Oh, and let's not forget...the NEA insists that this reflects how "...the recording industry takes seriously its role as caretaker of our nation's cultural heritage." That statement stands in stark contrast to the fact that the more historical recordings, from before 1920, are almost entirely out of print, unavailable to the curious music fan in spite of their acknowledged stature. And every one of them was originally released by one of the two major labels, Columbia and Victor, who are now owned by media giants Sony and BMG, respectively!
posted by freddy_gier at 12:49 PM on May 9, 2001

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