With NME publishing their greatest albums of the decade everyone is on it and naming their best albums from the last ten (NME were early though – they didn’t even wait for the latest N-Dubz release!).
There is however, something sinister to this annual shouting match. People have started to throw around the ‘C’ word again. The ‘C’ word is one that should never be used lightly. The ‘C’ word can hurt people. And like crying wolf, using the ‘C’ word too much is dangerous because no one notices when a real one comes along.
So, for that reason I am going to try and explain why the word Classic should not just be thrown around willy nilly when evaluating music.
Classic. a) Belonging to the highest rank or class, b) Having lasting significance or worth; enduring.
Something of the ‘highest rank or class’ is rare. These things come around once in a blue moon. They are moments of perfection; things that will be remembered throughout time and passed down from generation to generation.
In popular music, they are those rare moments of magic when beat, vocal and lyrics marry in a sacred union across the entire record, or when an album makes a profound impact on culture, politics or music itself.
Have all those albums with the words ‘Classic’ plastered all over their advertising really done either of these things? Are they not just really good albums?
Now, I know we all get overexcited when we hear a great album, however do we need to call them all classics? If we always do this how are we going to tell the classics apart from the good albums?
I own hundreds upon hundreds of albums; I own loads of great ones, tons of special albums, I have plenty of groundbreaking albums… yet only six or seven classic ones.
Classic albums are rare, like finding a four-leaf clover in Hyde Park, and we should feel lucky if we get maybe two or three every decade. Musical perfection. Something that has had a profound impact. Think back to all the albums you’ve named a classic in the past, have they all fit that simple criteria?
So, while you’re putting together that list, or shouting down a mate be careful how you use the ‘C’ word because if everything is a classic, how are we going to shower the real classics with the praise they deserve?