By Chris Moore:
It simply cannot be denied that, to a certain degree, musical preferences are based on personal opinion. Few people choose their favorite songwriters based on a logical rationale explained to them clearly by an expert in the field. That’s the way it is.
It is also true that some songwriters and bands simply make better — more enjoyable, more intelligent, more catchy, etc. — new music than others.
In the new rock music genre, there are literally thousands and thousands of bands competing for the spotlight, ranging from the indie music artists performing at dances and in clubs to the alternative music stars who have considerable cult followings to the pop music superstars who are in our faces everyday, posing on magazine covers, making music videos, performing on television, being talked about ad nauseum on music blogs, and much more. The question is intriguing: who are the best new rock music songwriters of all time?
The Laptop Sessions music blog is an interesting place to start. Among the contributors, there is a wide range of new rock music embraced, from Radiohead and R.E.M. to the Beach Boys and America. How do th econtributors manage to reach consensus, or at least agree about the acoustic guitar music being posted on their site? The greatest factor is songwriting. If a band’s songwriters can compose quality material worthy of the cover videos on their video blog, then the songwriters at the Laptop Sessions are happy. Truly, what is an acoustic song if not a stripped-down, all-bared-for-the-world-to-see version of a song. It is easy enough — and observable often enough in new rock music — to cover up imperfections in vocals and instrumentation with computers and mixing. For instance, if the acoustic music in a song seems lackluster, then a producer can press a few buttons and slide a few faders and ta-da! — the acoustic sound is bright and catchy. Many songs on the radio today might be respected less if the artists were to perform unplugged versions of them, revealing their weaknesses and flaws.
Still, the question remains — who are the best new rock music songwriters of all time?
The answer goes back to the beginning of rock music as we know it. Songwriters in the 1950s were clearly separate entities from the performers of the era. For instance, the songwriting team of Leiber and Stoller wrote many of the hits that Elvis Presley took credit for, performing and reaching success with his new music.
With the 1960s came a new sense of ownership for performers of new rock music. Songwriting teams such as John Lennon and Paul McCartney (responsible for most Beatles songs) and Brian Wilson and Mike Love (the main writers of Beach Boys songs) along with influential individuals such as Bob Dylan (obviously the writer of all Bob Dylan songs!) decided that they didn’t want to perform another songwriter’s material. They had songs of their own. Stories abound of producers insisting that these young men record tracks written by other songwriters — George Martin, the famous Beatles producer, was convinced that the song “How Do You Do It” would be a big hit for his boys. However, Lennon and McCartney felt strongly that it wasn’t them; they had their own songs that they felt more strongly about. Although they recorded a version of “How Do You Do It,” they convinced Martin to leave the cover song off their album, only releasing it in 1996 on the first Anthology disc. They went on to have some success writing their own songs…
Brian Wilson altered the way we look at pop music, utilizing instruments that had never found their way into the studio under normal circumstances and stretching the boundaries of vocal arrangements beyond all possible belief. It is fortunate that he took such control in his songwriting, as his new rock music inspired generations to play, write, and record music of their own.
Bob Dylan is another songwriter whose material speaks for itself, having been covered by some of the greatest performers of the past five decades. In the sixties, his acoustic songs of protest were definitive, and his new rock music was exciting and fresh. In the seventies, his acoustic guitar music again came to the fore with Blood on the Tracks, considered to be the best break-up album of all time. In the eighties, he lost some favor with fans, but stayed true to his songwriting strengths, finding space for such acoustic songs as “Dark Eyes” on his 1985 album Empire Burlesque amidst other, more typical eighties-sounding songs. In the nineties, he seemed more concerned with covers than original material, excepting of course the huge hit albums Time Out of Mind and those of the Traveling Wilburys. Even in the new millennium, he has proved his songwriting chops with new rock music on his two albums since 2001.
There are so many great songwriters that it becomes difficult to choose the best after these five founders of new rock music songwriting. Certainly, a glance down the list of Laptop Sessions categories and numbers of covers performed for each artist will explain their stance on this question — who are the best new rock music songwriters of all time. Certainly, the Beatles, Beach Boys, and Bob Dylan are among the most often recorded cover videos on this video blog. A brief breakdown of other great songwriters follows below:
The Moody Blues songs are among the most masterful and under-appreciated new rock music songs of all time. Their ground-breaking, intriguing concept albums have yet to be fully addressed by such institutions as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Yet, the cover video Laptop Sessions seek to do them justice.
Byrds songs are some of the most rocking and catchy of the decade. Known for their covers of Dylan and traditional song, they were excellent songwriters in their own right, particularly member Gene Clark, who went on to a solo career of his own.
Although the band has yet to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, many Chicago songs have been big hits and they have certainly created a style and sound all their own.
There are many Eagles songs that reached hit status in the seventies, and this enduring band recently found success again with their first studio album in years. They are one of the classic acoustic guitar music bands of this decade.
There are not many ELO songs on the Laptop Sessions video blog… yet. The reception for the cover video of “Evil Woman” was so great that there are many more Electric Light Orchestra covers in the works.
Warren Zevon songs are among the darkest and most cheeky of the decade. He quickly made a name for himself with such songs as “Werewolves of London” and “Excitable Boy,” both with a rock n’ roll beat and a dark humor that can be found in much of his best material.
R.E.M. songs are the quintessential alternative music songs — they helped paved the wave for a slew of indie music artists in the decades to come and translate very easily to acoustic guitar music versions.
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers songs may not sound like your typical eighties, synthesized new rock music. Instead, Tom Petty remained true to his acoustic music and new rock music roots, always producing music with solid beats, catchy choruses — solid music that earned him the ambiguous title of “steady Petty.”
Contrary to popular belief, “One Week” is only one of many Barenaked Ladies songs. Their catalog is comprehensive — they have many albums that express their incredible range and ability. The songwriting duo of Ed Robertson and Steven Page must a couple of the best songwriters of the decade.
Ben Folds Five songs represent some of the most unique new rock music, as they shun the guitar and focus on the essential lineup of piano, bass guitar, and drums.
Wallflowers songs are a favorite of the Laptop Sessions songwriters, and there are many cover video sessions devoted to the work of Jakob Dylan, arguably one of the best lyricists of recent times.
The New Millennium
The best new rock music songwriters of the new millennium have yet to be decided. While the Laptop Sessions contributors have chosen a wide range of songwriters for their acoustic cover songs, they have yet to choose acoustic music from artists or bands formed since 2000. Even the indie music and alternative music that they enjoy is from bands whose formations were before the new millennium.
If you like to listen to new music or read music reviews, you should send your requests for songs to be included as cover videos to [email protected], or visit the video blog at http://LaptopSessions.com.