Full disclosure: We love The Beatles. Most, if not all, of the artists mentioned on this list are directly influenced by The Beatles and thus the case can be made that The Beatles may possibly be the most influential band of all time. Their innovations and creative approach in the field of recording technology cannot be overstated enough and this, among many other reasons, are why The Beatles are held in the high regard that they are. However, the contemporary musical discourse which suggests that the fab four are fundamentally untouchable is myopic; there are other musicians, which have come during the fab four’s rise and even after their dissolution which can arguably be considered as influential, if not more so. The musical legacy of these musicians have been crucial touchstones for all types of genres since.
That said, there comes a time to reflect and ask, “Are The Beatles the most influential band ever? Should I whine about artists I believe are more influential?” For many, the answers are yes and no, respectively. For us, the answers are no and yes. Let the whining commence:
Yeezy, Yeezy, Yeezy. Love him or hate him, Kanye West is a musical genius. “Name one genius that ain’t crazy” he raps on “Feedback” off his most recent album, “The Life of Pablo,” and truer words are rarely spoken. Born in Atlanta but a Chicago south sider at heart, West’s music career was foretold at a young age when he established himself as a reputable producer under Roc-A-Fella Records. Jay-Z’s “Blueprint” would hardly be “Blueprint,” the double-platinum, Billboard-topping, hip-hop classic that it is today if not for West’s contributions to the album.
Peep West’s discography: “The College Dropout,” “Late Registration,” “Graduation,” “808’s & Heartbreak,” “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” “Yeezus,” “The Life of Pablo.” “Dropout,” brought soul samples in vogue and sports one of the best hip-hop tracks ever released, “Through the Wire.” “808’s” groundbreaking minimalist production paved the way for artists like Drake and set the musical landscape for years to come and “Fantasy”’s bombastic feature-ridden tracklisting and masterful production showcase the wealth of talent and creativity West should be known for. And that’s not even half of his legacy. Yes, he said some things in poor taste (read: West is a genius but also a little crazy but who can blame him? Are you a genius?) but if you love someone, you forgive them. Kanye Omari West, thank you for your contributions to music and pop culture. We love you.
-Julian Medranda, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor
Tell me: When “Bohemian Rhapsody” starts playing and you’re amongst a good (maybe drunken) group of friends — what do you do? Do you 1) Sing the song as loudly and terrible as you can with your group of friends or 2) There is no “2” there is only “1.” If you chose both options, you’re correct! Any other options are invalid.
As far as influential bands go, Queen definitely deserves to be considered amongst the many great artists that have changed the music landscape for good. For starters, let’s begin with arguably the most monumental contribution Queen has made for the music industry: The music video. Sure, Queen may not have been the first artist to come up with the idea of a promotional video accompanying their newest single (ironically looking at you Beatles), but it was the band’s magnum opus “Bohemian Rhapsody,” that popularized having a music video along with their newest single.
Queen released the video in 1975 featuring the band members in the now iconic image of light shining on their faces against a dark background. It was only after the success of the single that music videos became the norm. And honestly, where would the music industry be without music videos? MTV, one of the early pioneers in bringing music videos to the mainstream, wouldn’t be where it is right now (or maybe it would given that it has betrayed its music video roots; MTV stands for Music Television now, come on, not Mediocre Television). And without artists expressing their sound with visual media we wouldn’t have gotten iconic visual pieces by Michael Jackson (“Thriller”), Nirvana (“Smells Like Teen Spirit”) and more.
But besides that, credit is due for the late frontman Freddie Mercury’s sublime vocals — now considered a voice for his generation — that breathed new life into quintessential anthems like “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions.” On top of that, the band’s hard rock performances across stadiums worldwide, notably Wembley Stadium in 1986, and Mercury’s flamboyant on-stage persona helped popularized the arena rock genre that bands like Journey, Boston and Bon Jovi thrived off of.
So, iconic? Check. Influential? Check. Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me? For me? For me!? Check! *Cue headbanging riff*
-Adrian Garcia, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor
In 2015, the Metropolitan Museum in New York held a retrospective on the decades spanning the career of German Krautrock pioneers, Kraftwerk, which questioned whether they might not be the most influential band ever. Now, for a band that might not be exactly recognizable for most pop music audiences, this might seem ridiculous, but the influence of Kraftwerk’s experiments with electronic instrumentals paved the way for pretty much every modern musician musing these technologies.
Kraftwerk was founded in 1969 by Ralf Hutter and Florian Schneider in the German city of Dusseldorf. Throughout the 1970s, this band would experiment and popularize a genre of electronic music called krautrock, which is German for “Cosmic Rock” and refers to a genre of experimental rock music that came out of Germany during the 1960s. This band forms the cornerstone of contemporary electronica as the first group to bring this arcane genre into the purview of pop culture. 1974’s “Autobahn” is the first successful pop album to heavily experiment with vocoders, synths, drum programming machines. The musical language that they would adopt on this record, and similarly develop throughout subsequent projects can in a sense only be compared to the combined influence of James Brown and Elvis Presley on rock.
What made The Beatles such a music milestone for rock n’ roll applies just as well to Kraftwerk and their legacy: They invented and developed the musical language of the genre, which would then become an important innovative point for many other musicians. Hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambataa’s experiments composed with an 808s drum machine was inspired by his appreciation of Kraftwerk.
In a current musical landscape where electronic music is ubiquitous, even musicians that do not work within this frame are heavily indebted to Kraftwerk. In fact, one could argue that the entire musical landscape which uses electronic synthesizers and softwares owes a considerable debt to Kraftwerk, be it hip-hop, EDM, house music, post-punk or R&B. The relevance of these technologies in modern music are indebted to Kraftwerk’s initial experiments.
-Faraz Rizvi, Arts & Entertainment Editor
David Bowie, The Thin White Duke, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane — the one man with as many alter egos as albums in his discography is perhaps one of the most original artists to gain prominence in the 1970s and 1980s. But is he more influential than The Beatles?
For starters, not only has Bowie had a lasting influence not only now, but a direct influence on some of the most prominent musicians of his own time: Producing records with Lou Reed and salvaging Iggy Pop’s solo career, Bowie’s musical wizardry helped shape Reed’s “Transformer” and “Berlin” along with Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life.”
Albums such as “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust” in 1972 pushed the envelope, bringing instrumental arrangements and song structures that always pointed forward. From using vocal distortions through out “The Man Who Sold The World,” to folk-rock on “Space Oddity,” David Bowie was a major touchstone for the variety of genres that began to blow up in the 1990s. For many Bowie might be the rockstar who has influenced more genres and musical movements than any other.
Moreover, his penchant for reinvention made him a relevant voice for the entirety of his career, from “Ziggy Stardust” in the 70s, to “Outside” in 1995, which is arguably one of the finest post-punk records of the decade. Even in 2016, Bowie’s posthumous record, “Black Star” topped top 10 lists across the board. Spanning a 40-year recording career, Bowie managed to make the release of every record an event, bringing modern music some of its most iconic moments.
-Faraz Rizvi, Arts & Entertainment Editor