(November 22, 2019).  Last week, in a release that flew under most folks’ radars, Billboard magazine unleashed its 125 Greatest Of All Time artists ranking, to commemorate the trade publication’s 125th anniversary.

Except for a story in USA Today commemorating Mariah Carey’s placement on the list as the top female, the GOAT chart received very little fanfare outside of Billboard’s own website.

It is an interesting list though – if not also surprising in a number of ways – and it is worthy of further exploration, which this blog is always happy to do, of course. 

100 years ago: Cover page from the January 17, 1920 issue of ‘The Billboard’

It’s hard to believe Billboard (or ‘The Billboard’ as it was called way back then) has been around since 1894, but it’s true.  

With what began as a publication for theatre, carnivals, novelties and other forms of late 19th-century entertainment, Billboard started charting popular music in the early 20th century and by 1940 had published its first “pop” singles chart.

It would be another 18 years before the marquee singles chart we know today, The Hot 100, was inaugurated (August 1958).

Similarly, the magazine’s top albums chart began in 1956 as a ten-position list before it grew to 200 slots in May 1967, where it’s been ever since.

It is those two charts – the Hot 100 singles and Billboard 200 albums – that inform the Top 125 artists list Billboard released last week, and it is that list that DJROBBLOG dissects for readers here.

While the artists who make up the bulk of the list are not surprising, the order of some of them are.  

For example, who would have expected the Rolling Stones to be one step from No. 1 (behind only the Beatles), or that three British acts – the Beatles, Stones and Elton John – would rule this American all-time recap. 

Does the fact that Madonna – the queen of Pop – ranked behind Mariah Carey surprise you?  What about the fact that the top three American acts are all women, and that all of the above placed higher than Michael Jackson?  Or that Taylor Swift is already in the top ten – at the ripe old age of 29!

Taylor Swift isn’t the only millennial on this list – there are at least a dozen – and they represent their generation pretty well, too.

There are nine rap acts and eight country stars on the list, to go along with the multitude of rock, pop and R&B artists – so it’s pretty eclectic genre-wise.  The country breakdown doesn’t include acts who started as country but ended up pop (like Taylor or Olivia Newton-John), or who  briefly delved into country (Ray Charles, Lionel Richie).

But there’s no point in continuing to build it up, check the list out for yourself, along with the various slices and dices that DJROBBLOG put together for you below.  Then be sure to provide your opinions in the comment section at the end of the article (or on one of our social media pages).

Here are the Top 50 artists overall on the list:

The Beatles are the top artist on Billboard’s GOAT list, which combines success on both the pop singles and albums charts.
1.The Beatles
2.The Rolling Stones 
3.Elton John
4.Mariah Carey 
6.Barbra Streisand 
7.Michael Jackson 
8.Taylor Swift
9.Stevie Wonder
11.Whitney Houston
12.Paul McCartney 
13.Elvis Presley
14.Janet Jackson
15.Rod Stewart 
19.Billy Joel
20.Garth Brooks
21.Herb Alpert
24.Bruce Springsteen 
25.Neil Diamond
26.The Supremes 
28.Bee Gees
29.The Beach Boys
30.Fleetwood Mac
32.The Temptations 
33.Celine Dion
34.Aretha Franklin
35.Daryl Hall John Oates
38.Eric Clapton
39.Lionel Richie
40.Led Zeppelin 
41.Bruno Mars 
42.John Denver
43.Maroon 5
44.Olivia Newton-John
45.Bon Jovi
46.Phil Collins
47.Diana Ross
48.Bob Dylan
49.John Mellencamp 

You can access the full list of 125 here

Here are the top 25 male solo artists (with overall rank in parentheses):

Michael Jackson (right) recently made news as the highest-grossing dead artist for the 7th-straight year; Elton John made news for calling MJ “mentally ill.” Together, they’re the top two solo males on the Billboard GOAT list.
1.Elton John (3)
2.Michael Jackson (7)
3.Stevie Wonder (9)
4.Paul McCartney (12)
5.Elvis Presley (13)
6.Rod Stewart (15)
7.Drake (16)
8.Prince (17)
9.Billy Joel (19)
10.Garth Brooks (20)
11.Herb Alpert (21)
12.Eminem (22)
13.Usher (23)
14.Bruce Springsteen (24)
15.Neil Diamond (25)
16.Eric Clapton (38)
17.Lionel Richie (39)
18.Bruno Mars (41)
19.John Denver (42)
20.Phil Collins (46)
21.Bob Dylan (48)
22.John Mellencamp (49)
23.Jay-Z (50)
24.Justin Bieber (55)
25.Marvin Gaye (65)

Here are the top 25 female solo artists:

Madonna (pictured) may be the ‘Queen of Pop,’ but Mariah Carey holds court among women on this GOAT recap.
1.Mariah Carey (4)
2.Madonna (5)
3.Barbra Streisand (6)
4.Taylor Swift (8)
5.Whitney Houston (11)
6.Janet Jackson (14)
7.Rihanna (18)
8.Celine Dion (33)
9.Aretha Franklin (34)
10.Adele (36)
11.Beyoncé (37)
12.Olivia Newton-John (44) 
13.Diana Ross (47)
14.Donna Summer (51)
15.Lady Gaga (56)
16.Britney Spears (58)
17.P!nk (59)
18.Alicia Keys (60)
19.Katy Perry (61)
20.Miley Cyrus (62)
21.Linda Ronstadt (67)
22.Carole King (73)
23.Kelly Clarkson (85)
24.Mary J. Blige (88)
25.Paula Abdul (92)

Here are the top duos/groups:

The band Chicago (from Chicago) is the top American group on the GOAT list.
1.Beatles (1)
2.Rolling Stones (2)
3.Chicago (10)
4.The Supremes (26)
5.Eagles (27)
6.Bee Gees (28)
7.Beach Boys (29)
8.Fleetwood Mac (30)
9.Santana (31)
10.The Temptations (32)
11.Daryl Hall John Oates (35)
12.Led Zeppelin (40)
13.Maroon 5 (43)
14.Bon Jovi (45)
15.Nickelback (52)
16.Boyz II Men (53)
17.Carpenters (54)
18.Foreigner (57)
19.The Jacksons (63)
20. Earth, Wind & Fire (64)
21.U2 (66)
22.Van Halen (68)
23. Aerosmith (70)
24.The Black Eyed Peas (71)
25.The Monkees (75)

Here are the top British acts (*denotes mixed-nationality bands):

The Rolling Stones are among the three British acts who dominate the overall GOAT list, and naturally lead this subset as well.
1.The Beatles (1)
2. The Rolling Stones (2)
3. Elton John (3)
4.Paul McCartney (12)
5.Rod Stewart (15)
6.Bee Gees (28)
7.Fleetwood Mac* (30)
8.Adele (36)
9.Eric Clapton (38)
10. Led Zeppelin (40)
11.Phil Collins (46)
12.Foreigner* (57)
13.Ed Sheeran (84)
14.Pink Floyd (86)
15.Queen (87)
16.Def Leppard (96)
17.George Michael (108)
18.Genesis (119)
19.The Police (120)
20.George Harrison (124)

Here are the top American acts:

Mariah Carey heads the list of American artists and is joined by two other women in the top three.
1.Mariah Carey (4)
2.Madonna (5)
3.Barbra Streisand (6)
4.Michael Jackson (7)
5.Taylor Swift (8)
6.Stevie Wonder (9)
7.Chicago (10)
8.Whitney Houston (11)
9.Elvis Presley (13)
10.Janet Jackson (14)
11.Prince (17)
12.Billy Joel (19)
13.Garth Brooks (20)
14.Herb Alpert (21)
15.Eminem (22)
16.Usher (23)
17.Bruce Springsteen (24)
18.Neil Diamond (25)
19.The Supremes (26)
20.Eagles (27)

Here are the top Canadian acts:

Drake is also the No. 1 act of the 2010s and the No. 1 rapper overall.
1.Drake (16)
2.Celine Dion (33)
3.Nickelback (52)
4.Justin Bieber (55)
5.Bryan Adams (93)

Here are the top R&B acts (defined here as non-rap acts who had significant success on Billboard’s R&B/soul charts over the years):

The late Aretha Franklin ranks at No. 12 on this pop-oriented list, but would be much higher on a soul chart-based GOAT ranking.
1.Mariah Carey (4)
2.Michael Jackson (7)
3.Stevie Wonder (9)
4.Whitney Houston (11)
5.Janet Jackson (14)
6.Prince (17)
7.Rihanna (18)
8.Herb Alpert (21)
9.Usher (23)
10.The Supremes (26)
11.The Temptations (32)
12.Aretha Franklin (34)
13.Beyoncé (37)
14.Lionel Richie (39)
15.Bruno Mars (41)
16.Diana Ross (47)
17.Donna Summer (51)
18.Boyz II Men (53)
19.Alicia Keys (60)
20.The Jacksons (63)
21.Earth, Wind & Fire (64)
22.Marvin Gaye (65)
23.Justin Timberlake (74)
24.R. Kelly (80)
25.Mary J. Blige (88)

*note: the above list is based on pop crossover success.  The order would be substantially different if it were based on their R&B and soul chart success.  

Here are the top country acts (not counting acts who started as country but ended up pop, or who briefly delved into country):

No surprise: Fresh off his 7th CMA Artist of the Year award, Garth Brooks is also the top country artist on Billboard’s GOAT chart.
1.Garth Brooks (20)
2.Kenny Rogers (76)
3.Tim McGraw (77)
4.Carrie Underwood (105)
5.Shania Twain (111)
6.Kenny Chesney (115)
7.Rascal Flatts (121)
8.Alan Jackson (125)

Here are the top hip-hop acts (those who primarily rap):

Eminem is the second-most successful – and the top American – rapper on Billboard’s pop recap.
1.Drake (16)
2.Eminem (22)
3.Jay-Z (50)
4.The Black Eyed Peas (71)
5.Nelly (72)
6.Kanye West (89)
7.Lil Wayne (104)
8.50 Cent (117)
9.Ludacris (122)

Here are the top post-2000 acts (i.e., those whose first chart entry was on or after January 1, 2000):

Taylor Swift is the top millennial artist on the GOAT list (No. 8)
1.Taylor Swift (8)
2.Drake (16)
3.Rihanna (18)
4.Adele (36)
5.Beyoncé (solo) (37)
6.Bruno Mars 41)
7.Maroon 5 (43)
8.Nickelback (52)
9.Justin Bieber (55)
10.Lady Gaga (56)

So there you have it.  Were you as surprised at some of the rankings as I was? Or did you expect to see an artist or two that didn’t make it?

Again, feel free to comment below or on any of our social media feeds and give your opinions.  

And Happy 125th anniversary to Billboard!


Conspicuously absent: The late James Brown – Godfather of Soul and owner of 94 Hot 100 chart entries – is nowhere to be found on the 125 GOAT list.

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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By DJ Rob

3 thoughts on “Billboard just released its Top 125 GOAT list; We sliced and diced it for you…”
  1. Great summary of this list, thanks.
    I don’t know, it looks like this is based more on sales and charts than on actual artistic merits. Guess it makes sense, being a Billboard list.
    There are artists in the top 15 who are not even remotely in the same league as Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Aretha, Dylan, Pink Floyd, James Brown himself. But I could go on and on (I mean, Tom Waits, Marvin Gaye, Nina Simone, Public Enemy, Beck…), without even quoting artists from outside popular music, (I don’t think they were considered for this).

    1. You’re absolutely right, this list is based on chart success – it’s a Billboard list after all – not artistic merit. Thanks for reading and the comment!

Your thoughts?