Why Rolling Stone’s ‘Top 500 Songs of All Time’ List is BS

(For reference, the list in question can be found here )

Ah ‘Best-of’ lists, how utterly useless you are. Sure, they’re awesome when chatting with one’s mates in the schoolyard, but anything beyond that is a pointless. Which is why Rolling Stone magazine publishes one every bloody two weeks. I have a long list of complaints for why music journalism sucks in general, and this is a main part of it: laziness.

If I pound my head on the keyboard often enough, words will come out

Seriously, these lists are the most futile thing ever attempted since resistance. The obvious point is that, at every stage of the list’s process, everything can be called out as bullshit. Who decides the list? Is there a public vote? Is there a cut-off date? Will any songs/artist be purposely excluded? Will we change the list to suit our audience? Will we suit the list to suit ourself? Hmm… good question, me.

Clearly Windows ME is the best and smartest OS ever.

I’ll get back to that implication later. First I’ll deal with this problem.  Lists like this can never be as definitive as they claim to, especially when you have 500 spots up for grabs.  It’s all fine and good having a problem with the top 5 or whatever, but you know people will have a problem with Weezer’s Buddy Holly only being number 499, being beaten by such classics as “Push It” by Salt n Pepa  and Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” (yes, that sentence was difficult to type), which were listed at 446 and 482 respectively - an absolute tragedy. Even a friend of mine who isn’t a fan of Weezer agrees this is a disgrace.

What have I ever done to you?

Let me talk briefly (ha) about the top 5 spots, with particular emphasis on the top 3:

  • Number 5: Respect- Aretha Franklin
  • Number 4: What’s Going On- Marvin Gaye
  • Number 3: Imagine- John Lennon
  • Number 2: Satisfaction- The Rolling Stones
  • Number 1: Like a Rolling Stone- Bob Dylan

I have no real qualms with any of the artist in the top 5 being there, however I do have a theory. Information on how songs were voted in is pretty lapse, and I couldn’t find my copy at the time of writing, but I recall it was voted on by a collection of artists from different genres of varying quality, and I’m certain they didn’t refer to people more on the technical side, but I could be wrong. Not that it mattered. Have a look a the the top two songs there. Go on, I’ll be back in a minute, I’ll just leave this picture that reminds you who published the list.

It was Rolling Stone magazine, if you couldn't get it

Although the magazine was apparently named after the Muddy Waters 1948 song (which featured at number 465, btw), it is my opinion that the vote may have been ‘muddied’ (see what I did there) a little bit by the magazine to save face.  Both songs, Satisfaction and Like A Rolling Stone, are not their respective artist’s best work, and neither are they better than Imagine. To insure that this opinion wasn’t just my own, I asked a few members of the Nerd Vice team (and conducted a brief search on google) about this. None of them said any of the above two song’s were their artist’s best work, a few not even mentioning them at all. When I asked about the placement, it was universal: no way is Imagine 3rd to the others.

It’s obvious why that Dylan song was chosen, not a lot of Dylan songs have “Rolling Stone” in the title. I was honestly a little surprised the Muddy Waters song wasn’t higher, if not in the top 25. Hendrix, who as well as being incredibly talented had the “fortune” to die young and therefore be completely and totally idolised, did a… decent cover of it, although it was called Catfish Blues, the song’s original title, by the way. Curious then is the choice of the Rolling Stones song. My brief poll (and my own opinion) decided that Sympathy for the Devil is likely the best Rolling Stones song. The song choice wasn’t as crucial as the Dylan one, the band’s name already supplying the Rolling Stones name. So why Satisfaction? Well, it was their first number one. So laziness is why Satisfaction was chosen. Ugh…

Using the same picture in one article? LAZY

So to summarise, Rolling Stone magazine fuddled up a list so that songs either by or called Rolling Stone came on top, and Imagine is in fact the greatest song ever. Any arguments? Feel free to pelt them at me at light-speed.


CircleGuy (30 Posts)

Hey! My name's Rob, aka theCircleGuy! I'm a guy who loves the Beatles, so much so that sometimes it seems like I'm crazy. I have more to say, but not now- the owls are listening. I've been told I have to note that I'm from Ireland, which is not in Britain. Shame, shame on you... geography teachers...