The pantheon’s performers: Will current musicians be remembered?

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The pantheon’s performers: Will current musicians be remembered?

Sam Mwakasisi

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There’s no denying that there’s a certain essence and art to creating legendary music. There’s a difference between music that gets overplayed on the radio for a few months and music that is listened to and celebrated for decades. When we think of legendary musicians, our minds drift to a glut of artists from yesteryear; David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Prince, Bob Marley, Tupac Shakur, the list goes on. We never really think about what artists that are famous right now will keep that relevance long into the future. This leads us to a driving question: will current musicians be remembered?

There are a number of noted factors that go into exactly how an artist’s legacy is measured. One of the largest and most important factors is how much an artist has shaped their field in music or possibly music as a whole through a massive ripple effect, breaking new ground and blazing a trail for others to follow. “From a revolutionary point of view, artists like Run DMC, The Beatles, Elvis, Lou Reed, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Aphex Twin, James Brown will be up there, though the potential list is long,” Lucy Jones, author for music journalism magazine NME, said.

Additionally, musicians are often remembered for the stories that surround them, which sometimes assume the forms of tragedies. “Artists with a story attached stand a good chance of surviving,” Jones said. “Michael Jackson may be remembered for Thriller being the first video by a black artist to air on MTV, but he may also be remembered for his bizarre life and the child abuse allegations. Biggie and Tupac may be remembered for their fatal rivalry.”

However, one of the most essential traits of modern, lauded artists is that they find a deep relevance that will have value for long into the future by tying into topics that are ever-present in society, including race and gender. Although social commentary has been present in music for a long time, with artists such as the Beatles incorporating social themes into songs such as “All You Need Is Love”, it’s still an important element that has led to artistic statements such as those of Kendrick Lamar.

Now that we know some of the ways artists can be remembered, how does this apply to the musicians of now, if at all?

When student’s opinions were garnered on this topic, the main consensus hearkened back to older music in the sense that current music will fail to have the same impact in decades to come, even with the multitude of talented people that are popular today in the world of music.

“I don’t think we have less talented artists,” Hannah Niederman, sophomore, said. “I just don’t think artists nowadays will be remembered forever because their music wasn’t widely known and impactful in the same way it was back then. [70’s music] was tied to the transformation of the country, which is why it inspired so many people.”

Some based their opinions on their pessimism over the lack of artistic merit in modern music.

“Before, it was raw and [artists] poured their talent and heart in the music, but now all they do is blabber with a drum machine in the back,” Petros Berrios, sophomore, said. “Some people make amazing music, don’t get me wrong, but others are just missing the jam.”

However, others saw relevance and applicability as the secret for long-lasting music, and in this day and age, now is a time that we may need more people than ever to use this as a springboard to create something that people need to hear.

“Without a clear message tied to the changing tides and the division of the country, we are less able to unify under one artist, making all art less profound for a long period of time,” Niederman said.

In the end, there may not be a single clear-cut answer to the question of how artists will certify their legacies. With the changing values and ideals that may alter the future’s views of music, and the fact that music is a constantly evolving medium, it may be best to capture zeitgeists before they die out. Creating visionary music that ties to these themes while they’re still universal could be what separates one-hit-wonders from musical legends. Although the question of which current musicians will be remembered is seen as a daunting “be all, end all” test, perhaps the most significant additions to today’s music will be made when it’s not seen as a difficult task and everything falls into place. And who knows? Maybe our future generations will look back on the music of now like ignored relics.