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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What Classics Will Emerge From Today?

The Black Eyed Peas. (Flickr/Walmart Stores)

We remember the Beatles, I Love Lucy and The Catcher in the Rye from decades past. What, if anything from our era, will go down in history as classic? Tell us what you think in the comments section. Meanwhile, Slate made some predictions and here are some of their choices:

Not on the list was Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” which we discuss in the interview and you can listen to here.


  • John Swansburg, culture editor at Slate

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  • Robert Pierce

    Thermonuclear Armageddon would be better than having any song that uses pitch correction become a “classic”!

    • Beez

      It’s a fact of modern day production techniques/technology. Something can’t be just discounted because of it…having said that no Black Eyed Peas songs are classics. Very little pop music could be considered classic

    • Edward from Milton

      agreed! Remember the “talk box”? Whether we thank/blame Peter Frampton, Joe Walsh, or (my pick) Rufus feat. Chaka Khan, you don’t call Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” a classic! (kind of oblique, but if anyone with autotune is classic, it’s Cher for “Love After Love”!

  • Beez

    NAS- Illmatic
    Distant Relatives
    Bob Marley
    The Roots (discography)

    • Edward from Milton

      I used to get wrong-number calls from people using 5 year old pone books, but….Bob Marley?? He died 30 years ago…..

      • Beez

        A classic by definition stands the test of time. I didn’t know you had to be alive for your body of work to be considered classic.

  • Akire

    Re: Black Eyed Peas and similar suggestions – really?  Is the best this generation of artists can do is write innocuous songs about partying?  I’m not familiar with a lot of today’s popular music, but surely there must be some artists out there with something to say and a message worth remembering. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/pyromosh B.j. Richards

      I think what you’re talking about is out there, but the problem is fragmentation.

      “Deeper” music tends to exist deeper within the many, many genres that are emerging.  So they’ll much less likely to reach a critical mass of people that consider them “classic”.  A country song wiht a message is not likely to appeal to a fan of hip hop.  Likewise counter culture music or punk probably won’t be enjoyed much by folks who like industrial or other disparate genres.

      These more trite, fun songs speak to a more common core.  A lowest common denominator, where genre is less important.

      This isn’t entirely new, it’s just that music (indeed, all media) is even more fragmented than ever.  “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” didn’t exactly have a deep social message either.  That’s not to say this kind of music didn’t exist in the 60s though.

      • Akire

        I think you’re right about all that.  Technology today makes it possible for so many more “niche markets” or sub-genres to exist because people don’t have to hear it on the radio to find it – three cheers for the internet!  That also makes for a less unified cultural experience of music.  I think that diversity is well worth the problems it presents.  I just find myself continually turned off by “today’s popular music” (egads, I sound like my grandmother!) because it seems like there’s a lot of people with nothing to say who insist on running their mouths anyway, and because I think there’s a real lack of musicianship in a lot of what I hear.  But that’s an opinion mostly based on the tripe I’ve had to listen to in social situations or casual radio-surfing, and not on any in-depth searching on my part — I’m not qualified to make any all-encompassing criticisms of most of today’s popular genres.  Still – a lot of music of the 60s and 70s was truly brilliant. There are the obvious candidates like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Crosby, Stills and Nash, who favored social commentary.  But then there was The Who – excellent musicians who also understood songwriting as a form of storytelling.  Jethro Tull – complex and compelling music and truly poetic songwriting.  Sting was and is a great storyteller.  There are lots of other examples of musicians who had something of value to say and the musical skills to support it – whether it was social commentary or more personal storytelling.  The folk world today really celebrates a high standard of musicianship and lyric writing (well, mostly).  Surely these things are valued in other genres as well, even though I haven’t stumbled across it.  Do you think the songs which demonstrate musical and/or lyrical excellence, regardless of genre, will eventually float to the top over time?  Or will we be stuck remembering only the lowest common denominator?

  • Jean Smith

    ARTIST: Bob Dylan TITLE: Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts

    • calendar checker

      “What Classics Will Emerge From TODAY?” If that 1975 song says “TODAY” to you…..wow.

  • F. Jackson


  • Paul Franklin

    As much as it grates my nerves, “Shipping up to Boston”, or at least its intro by the Dropkick Murphys, will likely live on.

  • Edward from Milton

    “I Gotta Feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas will be a classic tomorrow like “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice is a classic today….NOT.

  • Robert Pierce

    Górecki’s Third Symphony (1976)! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphony_No._3_(G%C3%B3recki)

  • http://www.jameskurtz.com/ James Kurtz III

    As for the typeface, Clearview is an okay choice, but it is too utilitarian to be a classic. The typeface that will define these times is most certainly Gotham. 

  • L from MA

    Future classics will be defined by 30 and 40 year old, 20 years from now.  Thay means the stuff kids and teens like will become the ‘classics’ - think Harry Potter books and movies, The Hangover movie, or Lady Gaga.

  • Bobbyhousing

    Arrested Development!

  • EP

    Two comments:
    While the Mac/PC commercials are tremendously popular among Mac users, this subpopulation is still only 5-9% of the population. That’s hardly enough to brand something classic.
    Roger Federer may have been more historically great at his sport, but as far as ubiquity and greatness, someone that every knows exactly who he is, can only be Tiger Woods. Most people have probably heard of Federer, and maybe seen him on YouTube, but everyone know who Tiger is and what he did, on and off the course.

  • Kenny Powers

    East Bound and Down! Duh

  • Ramsey

    Robin made a good point early on in this discussion: when I Love Lucy was on the air there were only three channels.  

    IF classics can still be made, I would argue that they’ll never be the same as the classics of our parents youth.  I don’t think we’re counting today’s music with substance as classics because that’s all been done–Bob Dylan wasn’t just an artist, he was an activist, and he took people by surprise.  Now, his legend makes any activist/artist/songwriter/folkster with anything important to say seem contrived or cliched.  

    Thus, classics today, I would argue, are being crafted out of innovative STYLES of music.  People mashing up genres of music that have never been successfully fused.  I suppose the Black Eyed Peas do some of this, but I simply cannot condone their music.  I think a better example of a modern pop classic would be Outkast’s “Hey Ya.”  It seems to me that the genre of the song was familiar enough to love right away, but somehow still unrecognizable.  Classics start new trends, or at least they bring something new to the masses and make it mainstream.

    I also like Robin’s nomination of Dave Egger’s memoir for the same reason–it’s delivered in a new and creative way.  It reads like a novel, dark and mysterious, and never outright telling the truth.  It’s tragic (yes, Heartbreaking), but will make you laugh your ass off.

  • Kenny Powers

    There is so much out there in the world now, therefore, there will be lots of classics for each individual person. What will you remember from our century? Lord I hope its not Bob Dylan’s book, the Black Eyed Peas, or some stupid typeface. There will always be great artists and great art out there. Even if there is so much more BS.
    Off the top of my head: Drive By Truckers “Decoration Day” 2003
     Black Keys “Brothers?” 2010  In January 2011, the album was certified Gold -wikipedia
    Portugal the Man “Censored Colors” 2008 That’s just some highlights in rock music. 
    BELA FLECK AND THE FLECKTONES???? I would like to see them play the Super Bowl… NOT!   
    Bill Frisell “Ghost Town” 2000

    p.s. the iPod is not a “classic” it is a device… it can however be used to store classic works. Youtube videos by nature cannot be classics. They ARE a new art form. They ARE NOT a lasting contribution to culture. Isn’t that the main requirement for something to be a classic? Either way, it’s not like anybody is going to show their kids “the star wars kid.” 

  • frickyfrickfrick

    Star Wars Kid existed before youtube even existed.

  • Jimvsmij

     There will be no universal classics in the sense that 20 years from now people in their 30′s will hear a song and have nostalgia remembering when they were in their teens in 2011. Ask yourself, how many teens do you know that listen to the… radio or watches music videos on MTV. The radio is for the generations who discovered music on it. The generation now uses social media to discover new music and anything that makes it onto the radio they wouldn’t be caught dead with it on their music players. There is so much new music from new garage band artists that pop up that in order to stay relevant teens must constantly be researching and updating their playlist or risk major embarrassment by their peers. What is cool now would be social suicide to still be listening to 3 months from now. Add that with countless types of social groups all with their own flavor of music that they like and what you get is a world without universal classic songs that gives that the corresponding generation nostalgia when they hear it. Radio is dead to them and I predict that our generation is the last to listen to music via radio and after we are gone so will be music broadcasting on radio frequency.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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