(November 17, 2019). There are always a few surprises whenever Billboard recaps a decade in music. But few are as left-fieldish as some of the artists who appear on the list the magazine unveiled Thursday.
In its decennial review of the biggest and baddest artists of the ten years past – in this case the 2010s – Billboard listed five rock acts who’ve been charting for at least 35 years each. And in two cases, the artists have been doing it for more than half a century.
Billboard unveiled 90 of the 100 top artists of the past decade, retaining the top ten positions as a secret to be revealed later (although we have a pretty good idea who they are).
But the chart’s lower positions are a story in and of themselves.
Anchoring the chart at No. 100 is none other than legendary former Beatle Paul McCartney, and just above him at No. 98 are the ‘80s rock band Bon Jovi.
Coming in at No. 91 is “The Boss,” Bruce Springsteen. At No. 81 are The Rolling Stones and at No. 77 are the highest of the bunch, U2.
All five of these legacy acts have several things in common, including not only the fact that they’re all Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, but that they’ve all been recording professionally since before 1984 —before personal computers really took off, before Ronald Reagan’s second election as president, and even before the compact disc became the primary means of music consumption (remember those?).
To further put this in perspective, none of the nine millennial solo artists who rank among the ten biggest acts of this decade were even born when these five legacy acts were charting in 1984 and before. Katy Perry, the oldest of the newbies, was born in October 1984 – eight months after Bon Jovi (the last of the older acts to chart) debuted with “Runaway.”
What’s more telling is that there are nearly as many rock acts on the list who started recording before 1984 (five) as there are that started afterwards (eight).
And while it would be safe to assume that the older guys owe all their millennial success to touring, it would also be false.
Each of these five acts has had top-5 album success during the 2010s, with all but one reaching No. 1 (ironically, the Stones are the exception).
Springsteen has had two No. 1 albums this decade with another (this year’s Western Stars) peaking at No. 2.
Paul McCartney’s latest, Egypt Station, topped the Billboard chart in 2018 on the heels of his earlier pop culture rebirth courtesy of his 2015 collaboration (“FourFiveSeconds”) with Rihanna and Kanye West.
Bon Jovi’s last album, This House is Not for Sale, has the unique distinction of reaching No. 1 twice – once in 2016 and again in 2018 – although it also holds the dubious distinction of having the largest-ever fall from No. 1 (to No. 169) in its second release cycle. This House was their second No. 1 album of the decade after 2013’s What About Now.
Irish rock legends U2 topped the chart with their last album, Songs of Experience, in December 2017. It was their eighth No. 1 album overall. They also reached No. 2 with Songs of Innocence earlier in the decade.
The only one of these five artists who didn’t have a No. 1 album this decade were the British band who used to own the American album charts. The Rolling Stones peaked at No. 4 in December 2016 with their album of cover songs, Blue and Lonesome.
Still, a No. 4 chart peak for a bunch of 70-year-olds who’ve been a-rocking for more than five decades is nothing to sneeze at.
Of course the Stones have been poster children for aging rockers who still kick ass for eons. And their concert tours are still must-see events no matter what decade it is.
In fact, notwithstanding the album successes that each of these artists have had during the 2010s, it is still their concert tours that keep all of them relevant.
Helping their cause for the decade’s ranking, Billboard used a combination of album and singles chart data as well as social media and concert tour boxscore information to compile its decade-end top artist list.
Without the touring component, it’s likely that not all of these legends would have ranked in this decade’s top 100. But touring is as important to music as streaming, heck perhaps even more so…especially for rock artists, and particularly heritage ones like these five icons.
And without them on the decade-end list, rock’s presence would be significantly less.
So congrats to the Stones, Bon Jovi, Springsteen, U2 and McCartney on their accomplishments this and every decade!
DJRob is a freelance blogger who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter @djrobblog.
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