Recently, I found myself having an intense debate about music. An intriguing mix of shower thought and old pub-style debate – the kind where someone lays down some weirdly specific criteria that you’re all forced to work with. Where, on the spot, with little time to ponder the depth of your thoughts, you must come up with an impressive response that you can back up both quickly and confidently.
So readers, I have a challenge for you. While I’m not cruel enough to subject you to peer pressure or a time limit, I invite you to join my debate and come up with your own answers. To that end, I ask: what bands or artists can never be successfully imitated or replicated?
Since the music world is extremely overcrowded and oversaturated, it’s next to impossible to find something totally unique. Therefore, I propose work around the word “successfully” – someone has bound to at least try to copy the work of your chosen artist in some form or another, but that doesn’t mean it has been done successfully.
You can choose any band or artist, from any era or genre (an atonal orchestra if you prefer!). However, this is just a musical debate – your choices cannot be based on any kind of heritage. For example, I wouldn’t count the Beatles in this category. As controversial as it may seem at first glance, given that they literally define a genre, that in itself is what disqualifies them. They may have been the first to take these steps, but rock n roll is now a well-honed field.
How many artists can be described as having a strong Beatles influence, or cite the Fab Four as inspiration for records? People managed to imitate their musical style (one of the downsides of being the first – everyone copies you!), even if they didn’t reach the same heights as the Beatles.
This is based solely on musical originality. Being the first is not enough for this debate, but being the only one is.
Image or infamy should also not be contributing factors to suggestions. For example, I wouldn’t include Oasis or The Rolling Stones based on stage presence, epic tales of never-before-seen parties, clothes, or haircuts. This is purely based on the records each artist has released. I understand that the previously mentioned factors can contribute to what makes an artist unique, but this discussion only works within the somewhat limited framework that I am tracing. If you want to debate these artists’ cases in a different set of settings, be my guest.
Let me give you a few examples. I’m looking for artists who have ventured where no one else has gone before – and most importantly – where other artists will never go again. I put The Smiths and The Streets firmly in this category, two bands I never see being replicated successfully.
First, the streets. Mike Skinner and his team not only created some of the best 2000s tunes I had the pleasure of growing up with, but they also managed to stand out from the rest of the garage hip hop scene. Something we see all too often in the industry is an overreliance and fascination with youth culture – with a lot of trying to fit the lines about heartbreak, going out and having a good time.
The Streets have always been steeped in authenticity, and as is often the case with the best artists, they are the best storytellers because they speak their truth. There’s no obsession with trying too hard to fit it all in, if it doesn’t rhyme, it doesn’t, but it still works.
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An unofficial criterion (more of a guiding principle for myself) in this debate is that if I ever listen to anyone trying to copy Skinner’s relentless voice, I cringe. I crack really hard. In my mind, that’s an indicator that The Streets can never be successfully replicated.
The Smiths managed to fuse a brilliant, rogue guitarist in the genius that is Johnny Marr with an almost lyrical voice in Morrissey. No one can sum up his approach to songs better than the man himself, with Johnny Marr telling melody maker that he never saw his guitar as a solo instrument, instead he wanted it to “sound like an entire record” on its own.
The Smiths are instantly recognizable even before their leader sings a ditty into his microphone, which is a great base, but the biggest contributing factor to this debate is that no singer can sound like Morrissey without sounding like was trying to pull Morrissey’s microphone away. Truly unique.
These are two examples I found, although I seriously flirted with the idea of including Queen in them. However, I’m sure the comments section will put me to shame with much more insightful contributions. The glove has been laid in front of you, we look forward to reading your answers.