We in the music journalism business like to throw around the word “legend” very often, primarily because we are lazy and can’t always be bothered to pick up a thesauraus.
However, occasionally, there are some stars whose contributions to popular music do justify our choice to classify them as legends. John Lennon. Kurt Cobain. Jimi Hendrix. Hey, even some living ones as well. Bruce Springsteen. Elton John. And while it’s always tough to call who will go down in history as a legend, we decided to list a few artists working today who we think will make the cut.
As the decidedly more vocal half of The White Stripes, Jack White earns a place on this list simply because he thankfully helped to shift our attention away from the nu-metal acts that were dominating the alt-rock radio airwaves at the time, reminding us that there’s supposed to be a sense of fun in rock ‘n roll. He may not be the greatest guitarist, vocalist or songwriter of the era, but he is one of the purest, and that is what has always distinguished rock from pop: authenticity.
Jack White has plenty of it.
The Arcade Fire
Who would have guessed that this group would have ever been as big as they currently are? On paper, their brand of indie rock seems like the kind of music that should only be enjoyed by college art students. In practice, however, it is simultaneously anthemic, intimate, and appropriate, striking a chord with nearly all who listen to it. That is no easy feat, but it makes us think that there’s something timeless to songs like “Wake Up” that will keep people listening to them decades from now.
They may only be two albums into their career, but these guys deserve credit for taking the neo-psychdelic sounds of their scene and blending them with pure pop sensibilities to create catchy tunes that capture the vibrancy of youth. They are blissfully good in a manner that bridges the generational gap.
Also, we’re sorry for the overly alliterative sentence above, but that’s just the kind of mood that MGMT’s music puts you in.
Has Jeff Tweedy already joined the ranks of living legends? Maybe, but just in case some people thought otherwise, we felt the need to include him on this list to say that he definitely belongs here. He’s been renowned as one of the most prominent figures in the folk rock movement, but don’t let that fool you–he’s pure rock ‘n roll, able to be angry and sad and rebellious and confused, all in the course of one song. Listening to Wilco is like listening to Van Morrison; the tune itself may be poppy and sunny, but there’s an undercurrent of raw feeling that cuts through the hooks and finds a place in you where it won’t let go.
Hey, there’s no requirement that we like all of these artists. She may only sing dance-pop music, but it appears to be influential dance-pop music–Katy Perry’s new album owes a little bit to Gaga, and we’re sure plenty of rising stars are hoping to emulate her as well. For better or for worse, she’s started her own mini-musical revolution, and that’s enough to ensure a lasting legacy.
We’re going to distance him from his main band, Death Cab for Cutie, and just treat Gibbard himself as the legend. Why? Because the music he creates in his individual projects probably isn’t enough to earn him a place on this list, but his overall identity is. In the 80s the iconic rocker was a hair-metal singer with untamed sexual desires. In the 90s it was an angsty teen. Now it is the sensitive acoustic guitarist, and no one sums up that persona more fully than Gibbard. He set the standard in terms of style and sound, and now dozens of guys who want girlfriends like his are following suit.
He is the reason young men are picking up guitars these days.
He is going to be remembered more for his music than for his antics, and when you consider the things he’s said and the stunts he’s pulled, then that just means that the music is incredible. Before Kanye, you might have been the kind of person who stayed away from hip-hop because you were more of a “rocker.”
Well Kanye West reminded us that good music is good music, and that lasts forever.
Who’d we miss? Let us know in the comments!