It can be said with some degree of fairness that modern music has gotten somewhat soulless, at least on the popular front. True music lovers can always find something with real heart and soul, or at least genuine creativity, to listen to, and there are always artists producing. However, the stuff topping the charts – with no disrespect to the artists behind it – tends to be somewhat repetitive, and engineered to elicit a very narrow range of responses and reactions. Putting it a bit too simplistically, the average song at the top of the pop charts today might get you dancing, but it won’t get you thinking.
Maybe this isn’t true for the more cynical among us, but it’s almost hard to shake the feeling that the music world is waiting for someone weirder and bolder to transcend the current era and present us with something new and interesting. It has to happen eventually, one would think, and it’s not as if there haven’t been candidates and close calls. In the meantime, thinking of things this way also makes us wonder what kind of impact certain artists from days past might have on today’s music scene. Just because it’s a fun conversation to generate, there are some artists who really stand out as ones we’d love to hear in 2019….
It seems only appropriate to lead off with the Queen frontman who’s been back in the news thanks to an incredible biopic depiction by the actor Rami Malek in the film Bohemian Rhapsody. Fresh off multiple Golden Globe wins, this film is up for Best Picture at the Oscars, and more importantly, it’s put Queen back on the radar in a pretty big way. Mercury was a star in large part because he couldn’t seem to have cared less about convention, yet he went his own way without sacrificing a profound understanding for what audiences wanted, and what would work at a live show. Imagining him in the current decade, there’s no telling what he’d come up with, but there’s little doubt it would break through.
Janis Joplin has been gone for almost 50 years now, yet continues to be a notable influencer among a lot of modern artists, even if they don’t actually mimic her style in any discernible way. Watch a few episodes of The Voice for instance and you’ll likely hear at least one of the coaches – all famous, popular, modern stars – compare someone to Joplin, or otherwise refer to her. Her unique vocal style and fluctuating hybrids between rock, soul, and blues will never be replicated, but could probably always have been popular. In an imaginary world in which she’s alive and recording in the 2010s, we’re betting people would still listen.
Sadly enough, Jimi Hendrix passed the very same year Joplin did, and yet left an equally timeless impression. And Hendrix too seems to retain an almost shockingly vibrant presence in the culture, even all these years later. He has in recent years effectively headlined a whole new category of online games, specifically in the slot genre. These games operate through various payment formats, on innumerable sites, and among millions of players, but it’s their themes that carry them, and Hendrix has led the way for some very successful themes revolving around popular musicians. Pair this with the fact that some of his hits are still extremely popular on modern film soundtracks, and it’s fair to say a lot of people who never bought an album or couldn’t pick him out of a lineup know how he sounds, and enjoy him. There’s virtually no doubt he’d be a hit in 2019.
Far and away the most modern artist on this list, Amy Winehouse would be a popular fit in part because she was one in the earlier days of what might be described as our current musical era. She passed tragically young (an unfortunate pattern on this list), but had a great deal more to offer, with her soul- and jazz-infused singer/songwriter style and a voice that simply sounded like stardom. We’re not so much loosely musing that she’d have been a success these days as serving up a reminder that she was well on her way to being one of the defining artists of an era that desperately could have used her.
Despite the fact that people constantly claim to have seen him alive, Tupac Shakur has been gone since 1996, and essentially belongs to an earlier stage of hip-hop that has all but disappeared, at least in mainstream circles, by 2019. Like other artists on this list, Tupac led a very imperfect life, but his talent has always been undeniable, and still holds up now without feeling dated at all. Additionally, while he’s often (somewhat unfairly) tossed into some vague sub-genre of “gangsta rap,” Tupac was not without a deeply thoughtful, often prescient, and socially conscious side. It would have been a treat to hear what he’d have had to say about the modern world, and there’s no doubt he’d have said it in a way that entertained.
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