This is one of those questions that comes up all the time, be it on the Internet, on the radio, or in the pub, so not wishing to be a party-pooper, we thought w would write our own thoughts on the subject.
We quickly want to say that we are not going to write anything about the way we listen to music now, compared to 30 years ago. Obviously, there was no Internet to speak of so we won't be talking about streaming, iTunes, Napster, torrents and so on. We'll leave all that for another time.
We think that when people say songs were better 30 years ago that is a huge generalization so we thought we would start by listing the top 10 songs of 1984. We have chosen 1984 so we can do a comparison with 2014, 2015 not having finished yet, of course. We're using the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1984 as a source, by the way.
01. "When Doves Cry" - Prince
02. "What's Love Got to Do with It" - Tina Turner
03. "Say Say Say" - Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson
04. "Footloose" - Kenny Loggins
05. "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)" - Phil Collins
06. "Jump" - Van Halen
07. "Hello" - Lionel Richie
08. "Owner of a Lonely Heart" - Yes
09. "Ghostbusters" - Ray Parker, Jr.
10. "Karma Chameleon" - Culture Club
Okay, well we're not really sure what to make of that list. So, let's take a look at the the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 2014.
01. "Happy" - Pharrell Williams
02. "Dark Horse" - Katy Perry featuring Juicy J
03. "All of Me" - John Legend
04. "Fancy" - Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX
05. "Counting Stars" - OneRepublic
06. "Talk Dirty" - Jason Derulo featuring 2 Chainz
07. "Rude" - Magic!
08. "All About That Bass" - Meghan Trainor
09. "Problem" - Ariana Grande featuring Iggy Azalea
10. "Stay with Me" - Sam Smith
Well, we think that it is fair to say that comparing the top 10 of 1984 and 2014 proves absolutely nothing. We wonder which of the above lists you think is better. Personally, we don't know which one of the two wewould choose. Being that this topic is about as subjective as it gets and it's all a matter of taste, we'll leave it up to you.
Let's go to the other end of the lists and see what were the bottom ten songs of the top 100 in the same years.
Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1984
90. "Tonight" - Kool & the Gang
91. "Got a Hold on Me" - Christine McVie
92. "Dancing in the Sheets" - Shalamar
93. "Undercover of the Night" - The Rolling Stones
94. "On the Dark Side" - John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band
95. "New Moon on Monday" - Duran Duran
96. "Major Tom (Coming Home)" - Peter Schilling
97. "Magic" - The Cars
98. "When You Close Your Eyes" - Night Ranger
99. "Rock Me Tonite" - Billy Squier
100. "Yah Mo B There" - James Ingram and Michael McDonald
Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 2014
90. "23" - Mike WiLL Made-It featuring Miley Cyrus, Wiz Khalifa, and Juicy J
91. "Beachin'" - Jake Owen
92. "White Walls" - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring ScHoolboy Q and Hollis
93. "She Looks So Perfect" - 5 Seconds of Summer
94. "Stay the Night" - Zedd featuring Hayley Williams
95. "Partition" - Beyoncé
96. "Studio" - ScHoolboy Q featuring BJ the Chicago Kid
97. "0 to 100 / The Catch Up" - Drake
98. "I Don't Dance" - Lee Brice
99. "Somethin' Bad" - Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood
100. "Adore You" -Miley Cyrus
Well, we really seem to be getting ourselves in a mess. We keep referencing these lists in the hope that one will definitely have 'better' songs than the other but, yet again, even when we look at the bottom 10 of the Top 100 of 1984 and 2014 we can't make a decision.
We think it is also worth pointing out that while we may be looking at the 'bottom 10' of the Top 100, they are still in the Top 100. With thousands of songs being released each year, this is no mean feat.
Additionally, while the bottom 10 songs are not as impressive as the top 10, they have achieve something, not just for the performing artists but also for the songwriters, that many would kill for.
Before we finish, we thought we would just list a few of the songs just from 1984 that did not make it into the Top 100 and see what you think. By the way, all these songs made it into the top 40 of one particular week. How many do you remember?
I Want a New Drug - Huey Lewis & The News
Livin’ in Desperate Times - Olivia Newton-John
One in a Million - The Romantics
Modern Day Delilah - Van Stephenson
Music Time - Styx
The Warrior - Scandal featuring Patty Smyth
So, what conclusions can we come to from all of the above. Well, we're not sure but what is certainly true is that today we only remember the big hits of 30 years ago and because we remember them we compare them to all the other songs, hits or not of current years. The same will be true in 30 years from now. People will only remember the hits of today and compare them with music 30 years from today. We will, of course, completely forget the middle of the road stuff.
Since the beginning of music, there has been bad, average, and great music; the future will be no different.