11 thoughts on “The 35 Most Influential Musicians in the last 35 Years

  1. I don’t have strong opinions, mainly because I didn’t really listen to a lot of pop/rock, especially from 2000 on. I would make one general comment though. My sense is that three areas have seen the most significant development and growth–namely, hip-hop, grunge, and techno. Oh, in the 80s, the Brit, alternative, mod music also seems like a significant development, but I don’t if that continued and evolved a lot after that point.

    I just glanced at the list (and they haven’t chosen the number one artist yet), and it seems like they have a lot of hip-hop musicians, which seems appropriate. Whether the musicians are appropriately ranked, I’m don’t have an informed opinion. There’s also the grunge groups in there.

    There doesn’t seem to be any techno group. By the way, I was looking for music to workout to on Apple music, and a lot of it had that techno, dance vibe. The first time I heard that sound was in the 90s, and it seems to be the pop music that followed, including today. Because of that, I think some musician should be credited for this, but I’m not sure who it will be.

    One last thing. Is Madonna really influential–particularly in terms of music, and not celebrity, videos, etc.?

    1. Wasn’t Madonna the model for all white pop divas who followed? You can draw straight lines from Madonna to Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Lady Gaga, and several more. In fact (I haven’t looked yet), if Britney’s not on the list, someone should be fired, and she owes everyting to Madonna. Remember when Madonna kissed Britney and Christina at the 2003 VMAs? Madonna knew.

    2. In terms of a white diva, doing R&B–a kind of blue-eyed soul, diva-style–Madonna would be at the top. I’m a bit ambivalent that this she had a big impact on the music. I guess, any musician who was the proto-type for a white version of R&B, from the 80s on would be deserving.

      I didn’t notice Spears on the list, but I could be wrong.

      1. If you’re talking about “music” as just the instrumentation, composition, and production, your hesitance to include Madonna could be right, but I take it to be performance and content. While the sex queen persona had certainly been done before, Madonna became enormous singing words like “like a virgin” and “nothing like a good spanky.”

        I haven’t looked at the list yet, because I’m trying to predict a few names first. If the list is talking specifically about influence on the music itself, that’s one thing. But take M***ael Jackon. A very influential musican, not just because of music. He practically made MTV, which in turn changed the way we think about music, and also made musicians who otherwise might have been disregarded. And he introduced new words into the way we talk about dance.

        Madonna did likewise on both, and you could probably add fashion, which you can only sorta say about Jackson. Her influence on music, if you take “music” to go beyond the way the music sounds (as I think you should) is undeniable.

    3. If you’re talking about “music” as just the instrumentation, composition, and production, your hesitance to include Madonna could be right, but I take it to be performance and content.

      I would include lyrics–both in terms of style and content. For example, I would think Bob Dylan’s influence resides primarily in his lyrics–both in terms of style and content. For hip-hop artists, my sense is that innovations relating to the lyrics are crucial. At different points, the lyrics and even rapping style took big steps away from the style of the Sugar Hill Gang and Run DMC. The content changed as well. And the hip-hop artists who deserve the most credit for this should get on the list.

      As for as influence beyond the music–i.e., performance, culture, fashion, etc.–I’m less interested in that, although I’m not saying this is an illegitimate way to define influence.

      1. That’s a good point, although I’m hesitant to give full-throated endorsement of this, likely due to my own ignorance of Dylan and his actual influence. My sense is merged folk and rock/pop–while also advancing folk, in terms of the lyrics–but in a more additive way, versus a more transformative way. I’m probably wrong on this, though. The fact that he blended the two should be sufficient to credit him as a huge influence.

  2. Before I look at the list, here is a brainstormed list of musicians since 1985 who should be on it. I’m intentionally focusing on recording musicians and their work; if we included executives and producers that would change the list enormously, but the title says “musicians.”

    Madonna
    M***ael Jackson
    Britney Spears
    Nirvana
    Green Day
    N.W.A.
    Public Enemy
    Eminem
    Jack White
    Metallica

    Foo Fighters
    Beastie Boys
    Van Halen
    Jay-Z
    Beyonce Knowles
    R.E.M.
    Blink-182
    Steve Aoki
    BTS
    Snoop Dogg

    Shania Twain
    Taylor Swift
    2 Live Crew (longshot, I know)
    Depeche Mode
    Justin Bieber
    Marilyn Manson
    Mariah Carey
    Dr. Dre
    Garth Brooks
    Backstreet Boys

    N*Sync
    Rihanna
    I’ll bet Cardi B is on this list
    The Cure
    Will Smith

    That’s 35. Dang it, I need more time. I’ll return to this in a few hours before I look at the Spin list.

    You have to consider the source, too. I subscribed to Spin for years, so I was the target audience for rather a long time. And I still look every year at Spin’s best-of-the-year lists.

    1. I’m most interested in hearing the way these musicians influenced the music–i.e., the way their contributions can be considered innovative, helping their respective artform to evolve–if you’re interested in doing this, anyway.

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