WorldIn the new list of the best songs from 'Rolling Stone', Aretha...

In the new list of the best songs from ‘Rolling Stone’, Aretha Franklin beats Bob Dylan

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It was designed to cause a stir and it succeeded. This way it is possible to define the new list of the 500 best songs of all times, which dominates the musical discussion since the new release by the magazine Rolling Stone days ago. It echoed around the world, despite being, even more than its debut in 2004, a listing oriented to the North American market (the first place has editions on five continents).

The debate manifests itself at the top. Like a Rolling Stone, by Bob Dylan (the 2004 list winner), gives way to Respect, song by Otis Redding powered by Aretha Franklin. A couple’s conflict, about the division of roles in the home, with sexual overtones, replaces a story of resentment: Dylan commemorated the predictable fall into hell of a girl (usually identified with Edie Sedgwick of Andy Warhol’s circle). An addendum: it has always been unsettling to listen Like a Rolling Stone in a stadium, sung by tens of thousands of voices, as if that revengea (the dish-that-se-come-cold) were interpreted as an anthem of rock freedom.

With the importance of the greater relevance given to women, perhaps the main dominant vector is a derivative of the Black Lives Matter: the recognition of the debt of the United States to its black population. It is not circumstantial that it is eliminated hound dog, by Elvis (previously at position 19), and land the original version, by Big Mama Thornton. Of top ten Narcissist number 2 disappears from the list (Satisfaction, by the Rolling Stones) and utopian number 3 (imagine, by John Lennon), replaced by songs that reference African-American struggles, both with shrill rhetoric (Fight the power, from Public Enemy) as in a conciliatory version (The Change Is Gonna Come, by Sam Cooke). In general, rappers gain greater visibility with the rise of Missy Elliott (now number 8) and Outkast (number 10).

In terms of Beatles, it is intriguing that hey jude fall and appear Strawberry Fields Forever: we move, then, from the communal to the introspective. It could be argued that the preference for Lennon’s psychedelic masterpiece is due to the growing respectability of psychotropic substances, increasingly removed from the stigma of “drugs”. On the contrary, a cousin sister vanishes, the glorious Good Vibrations, by the Beach Boys, perhaps overwhelmed by its hippie lexicon. The nuances of language matter as much as the modernity of the dissemination channel: dreams, edited by Fleetwood Mac and previously despised, breaks through in the nomination of the big ones thanks to a TikTok video, conceived in 2020, as an advertisement for a soft drink.

For those who want some stability in the listing, the consolation that the new top ten still keeps Smells Like Teen Spirit, from Nirvana, and What’s Going On, by Marvin Gaye. The invasion of Latin pop did not reach the top, but reguetón, youth stars and stylized country changed the profile of the 500 Best Songs of All Time. These consumers are part of the readership of the new Rolling Stone, who even dedicated a cover to the Korean BTS phenomenon.

In the magazine, they explain these seismic changes by their desire to make a more inclusive ranking: if voters in 2004 were 170, they are now proud to have tabulated the opinions of 250 artists, journalists and industry figures. But they already know that the final flavor of the mixture obeys the consciously chosen ingredients. Nor do we reveal anything new if we advise that these lists are, to put it politely, retouched in the final stage, sometimes even with the participation of the advertising and marketing departments.

Jann Wenner, the founder of Rolling Stone, demonstrated mastery of these obscure arts. Although he wasn’t really a deep connoisseur of music, he understood the concept of symbolic capital. His magazine helped establish the rock canon, with abundant special issues and voluminous historical books, reinforcing the cultural hegemony of his own generation, that of the baby boomers. His big move was to appropriate, with the founder of the label Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertegun, an alien and very commercial idea: the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In the beginning, before the materialization of its mausoleum headquarters in Cleveland, a computer participated in some of the votes and everything, from the selection of candidates to the revelation of the winners, gave an unexpected aspect to preconceived decisions. Over time, as this particular Hall of Fame grew in importance, each annual ad sparked a scandal by reiterating its antipathy to heavy metal and more popular rock (even though the organization promised to shrug off those prejudices).

But Jann Wenner, since 2017, is no longer the owner of Rolling Stone. The magazine changed its frequency (previously fortnightly, now monthly), its paper, its size and, of course, its content. Now it tries to captivate Generation Z without bothering the previous demographic groups too much. Mission impossible, said that one.

LIST OF 2021

1. Respect, by Aretha Franklin.

two. Fight the Power, from Public Enemy.

3. The Change Is Gonna Come, by Sam Cooke.

4. Like a Rolling Stone, by Bob Dylan.

5. Smells Like Teen Spirit, from Nirvana.

6. What’s Going On, by Marvin Gaye.

7. Strawberry Fields Forever, by The Beatles.

8. Get Ur Freak On, by Missy Elliott.

9. dreams, from Fleetwood Mac.

10. Hey Ya!, from Outkast.

LIST OF 2004

1. Like a Rolling Stone, by Bob Dylan.

two. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, by The Rolling Stones.

3. imagine, by John Lennon.

4. What’s Going On, by Marvin Gaye.

5. Respect, by Aretha Franklin.

6. Good Vibrations, by the Beach Boys.

7. Johnny B. Goode, by Chuck Berry.

8. hey jude, by The Beatles.

9. Smells Like Teen Spirit, from Nirvana.

10. what’d i say, by Ray Charles.

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