Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Freddie quickly becoming greatest musical icon

NME is holding an online poll to find the ultimate musical icon from the past 60 years. Queen on-line was urging fans to go and vote for Freddie since he made the shortlist along with these famous and no-so-famous names:

Alex Turner, Amy Winehouse, Beth Ditto, Bob Dylan, Björk, Bob Marley, Bobby Gillespie, Chuck D, Courtney Love, Damon Albarn, Dave Grohl, David Bowie, Debbie Harry, Dizzee Rascal, Elvis Presley, Eminem, Ian Brown, Ian Curtis, Jay-Z, Iggy Pop, Jack White, Jarvis Cocker, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Joe Strummer, Joey Ramone, John Lennon, John Lydon, Johnny Cash, Johnny Marr, Julian Casablancas, Karen O, Kate Bush, Keith Richards, Kurt Cobain, Liam Gallagher, Lily Allen, Lou Reed, Madonna, Marc Bolan, Michael Jackson, Morrissey, Matt Bellamy, Noel Gallagher, Patti Smith, Paul McCartney, Paul Weller, Pete Doherty, PJ Harvey, Prince, Richey Edwards, Robert Smith, Roger Daltrey, Shaun Ryder, Sid Vicious, Siouxsie Sioux, Syd Barrett, and Thom Yorke.

There are definitely some choice names missing from this list and some would question how a few got on the list (who decides on the shortlist, anyway, the janitor at the NME office?). I understand that NME is in the game of attracting viewers/readers and there’s nothing quite like pitting one zealous fan against another in a grudge match of loyalty.

But come on . . . Courtney Love on par with Bob Dylan?

There are names here that I’ve never even heard of. Perhaps that’s more a reflection of my isolated existence in northern North America with NME being a British organization with a particular bias towards their own artists, but how can you even consider someone who’s not able to garner global brand franchise. Doesn’t an “icon” by definition need a significant fan base or at least universal awareness?

Wait a minute, isn’t this the same demographic that posted on Twitter and Facebook after the Grammys that they didn’t know who the old guy (i.e., Paul McCartney) was? Is this a sign of the times? The old is conceding to the new at a rate much faster than in previous years?

Whatever the case, the NME site isn’t posting the real-time results of the poll but a quick glance through the comments below leads one to believe that Freddie is the runaway favourite . . . so far. Here are the stats that I collected from the 138 comments (at the time) from those that explicitly stated who they voted for:

Freddie Mercury — 74
Madonna — 6
Johnny Cash — 4
David Bowie — 3
Michael Jackson — 3
Jimi Hendrix — 3
Paul McCartney — 3
Bob Dylan — 2
Jimmy Page — 2
John Lennon — 2
Joe Strummer — 1
Keith Richards — 1
Morrissey — 1
Ian Curtis — 1
Noel Gallagher — 1
Dave Grohl — 1
Iggy Pop — 1
Ringo Starr — 1

Wow. There is no contest according to these numbers. Maybe the fact that Freddie kicks ass in three obvious categories: singing, songwriting, and showmanship. I don’t see any of the remaining 59 artists being able to compete at all levels.

Interestingly, the video on the NME site shows interviews with established artists and their opinions on who would qualify as the best qualified icon. Most said The Beatles (one said Beyonce!) or any of the earlier generation of artists that laid the groundwork for the stars to come. But according to the general consensus amongst the lay readership who provided commentary, it seems that the old guard is not worthy of any such distinction . . . with the exception of Freddie.

In addition to the more blatantly overlooked artists — Joni Mitchell, Pete Townsend, Bruce Springsteen — what about songwriters like Diane Warren or producers like Mutt Lange. What about other genres like opera, classical, jazz, or country?

Oh yeah, it’s a “pop” music poll meant to draw in readers to the NME operation.


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