Billboard Charts are calculated using custom formulas collecting sales, streaming and radio play.
Most Popular Artist of the Decade: Eminem
Most Popular Song of the Decade: We Belong Together by Mariah Carey
Most Popular Album of the Decade: No Strings Attached by N’SYNC
Most Popular Group of the Decade: Nickelback
There are plenty of comments to be made regarding this. First of all, Billboard is obviously not capturing sales data from music downloads properly. Maybe Eminem sold the most CDs, but I’d venture to say that other artists sold more music overall. Also, Mariah Carey should not be on this list. Her popularity peaked in the early 90’s! That can’t possibly be the #1 song of the decade. Again, CD sales vs. downloads may be a factor here. N’SYNC… okay maybe their album sold the most copies of any this decade. The boy-band marketing machine has not be replicated so far. As for Nickelback being the most popular group of the decade? I’ve said way too much about them already.
This sort of thing makes me sad for the state of music today. Musicians are deemed popular and then MADE popular. American Idol is probably the biggest example of this today. AI tours the country, selects a number of “singers” based on the opinion of a few judges (who’s judgement depends as much on looks and stage presence as on talent), uses the performers to score ratings and ad revenue by picking or writing songs for them to sing, then signing them to prohibitive record deals with their own production company and finally letting viewers choose who will be “popular”. Is this how we really do things now? Whatever happened to musicians crafting their own art and finding an outlet for it?
I think the next decade in music will see a shift away from corporate machinery to a more DIY music distribution model. More and more big name bands are breaking it off with labels to make and release their music on their own. Technology has evolved to a place where anyone can record a studio record in their bedroom, build a website to showcase it and then give it away or sell it to their audience online. This model leaves no room for any other hangers-on to give their opinion about the music (or wardrobe) of the artist and therefore has the ability to produce a purer artistic expression than a label ever could. Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album is the prototypical example of this. They recorded the album how they wanted and the label said “change it or you’re dropped”. Wilco refused, were dropped, dispersed the album online, won huge praise from fans and were finally signed to new label who released YHF to the waiting masses. Wilco is now one of the biggest bands around. Recently, UK juggernaut band Radiohead parted ways with their label, recorded an album on their own and released it on their own website for free with a digital “tip jar” available. The experiment was a wild success, shaking the CD industry and its boosters to the core.
I’m currently working on my list of my favorite records of 2009. As I’m going over my notes, I don’t see very many bands that appear on Billboard’s charts. I see bands and musicians who let their art breathe. They craft something that speaks about who they are as people, not about what their bosses think people want to hear. Their buzz is based on demonstrated skill, not popularity contests. Hopefully, the next decade will give these artists their due praise.
Check back in the next couple of weeks for my list!