The PCHA music question at hand: You can only listen to music from one artist for the rest of your life, but it can only be music that hasn’t been released yet. Anything this artist will appear on in the future counts, though — guest appearances, new bands in which they start, etc. Nothing from the back catalog is allowed.
So a few thoughts before we get into it:
1) You want someone you have faith will be around for a good long while, so artists of a certain age and bands who could conceivably break up soon are bad ideas.
2) Solo artists are safer than bands, because again — bands break up. You don’t want to bet your remaining life’s entertainment on Japandroids, only to see them split before ever releasing another album.
3) Prolific is ideal. Life is gonna get pretty boring with only one artist to listen to, so the more new music, the better. Ryan Adams>Stone Roses, in other words.
4) Diverse and eclectic get bonus points. I’d rather hear new sounds every couple years than the same old thing (however good) repeated album after album. Let’s call this the Ramones Corollary.
Again, here are a few honorable mentions before we really narrow it down:
Cloud Nothings — They’re three albums in, and young and consistent. Plus, they’re one of those bands, like the Smashing Pumpkins, that is essentially a dictatorship. It’s the Dylan Baldi show, so I think that makes them unlikely to break up soon. And they hit my sweet spot sonically.
Neko Case — Her soothing voice would make me forget that I can’t listen to anything else ever again, and I think she’ll keep churning out records every few years for a good long time. But at the end of the day, I would need something that rocks a little harder.
Beyonce — Like Neko, she’s maybe a bit too far along in her career, though still in her late peak. But her miss:hit ratio is too high for me on a per-album basis.
David Simon Cowell:
Here are my honorable mentions:
-Lauren Mayberry of Chvrches: This is my flier on a talent still super early in her career. The Bones of What You Believe is a really solid first effort, with her vocal performance the clear highlight. All the songs are credited to the band, so I can’t be sure how much of a writer she is, but her stage presence is outstanding. I could definitely see a producer/rapper putting her voice to good use in guest spots, in addition to the hope I have for Chvrches’ future. Plus, she can make Rage Against The Machine sound like The Sundays, which we’ve clearly all been yearning for.
-Conor Oberst: This is my choice for the Neko slot, who also is on my short list. Basically it’s a vote for the staying power of a great songwriter. I’m guessing that he’ll have a career like a Neil Young or Bob Dylan, with long fallow periods dotted with great records. You wouldn’t want to take everything from their post-35 work, but you’d get a great 10 albums out of it. Given that he’s already shown a great ability to adapt and experiment, I feel confident there’s good stuff in the future, even if it’s a decade down the line.
-Ana Tijoux: This Chilean rapper/singer is the real deal, regardless of whether you understand a word. She’s already 37, but Vengo was one of the best hip-hop albums of last year. She seems to be hitting her stride.
The only thing that gives me a slight ray of hope for your Oberst pick is the Desaparecidos reunion.
My top 3:
3. Kanye West. I won’t sing his praises or talk about why I’m selecting him, because I have a hunch you’ll handle that. But I will say that before this year, I probably would have had him number 1. But I hate every new track I’ve heard out of him since December, and I think a “years in the creative wilderness” period is a distinct possibility. I have plenty of faith that he’ll turn it around, even if that does happen, but it’s enough of a concern that I drop him fron 1 to 3.
2. Kendrick Lamar. Similar to your Chvrches choice, this is a bet on a talented young artist with only a couple albums under his belt. But based on what I’ve heard so far, Kendrick can do anything, and I think he’s in it for the long haul.
1. Spoon. I’m choosing safety and comfort over risk. Spoon is past its prime, but I think they’re going to continue to crank out B+ to A- albums every three years or so for the foreseeable future. And they’re really a band in name only — this is Britt Daniel’s gig — so I don’t think there’s a few of them breaking up. Daniels also tends to make a fun guest appearance or two per year. While I think Kanye or Kendrick will have more great albums ahead of them than Spoon, I ultimately would prefer listening to Spoon’s sound for the rest of my life than either of those two.
David Simon Cowell:
Before I do my Top Three, let’s take a break for a little play I wrote:
IF THE DILEMMA WAS PRESIDENT:
PRESIDENT DILEMMA: What’s next?
CHIEF OF STAFF MICHELLE TANNER: Sir, we have to choose the replacement for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito… the anal infection from that decomposing gerbil finally killed him.
P.D.: I already know who I want… David Boies.
C.O.S.M.T.: Ummm, sir? You do know that a Supreme Court Justice has a lifetime appointment and Boies is 72, right?
P.D.: HE’S TIMELESS! HE’S AN ALL-TIME GREAT AND HE ALWAYS WILL BE!
C.O.S.M.T.: Looking at his record, too, he hasn’t really had many big wins in the past decade… most of his reputation comes from the ’90s and ’00s.
P.D.: I. Don’t. Care. He’s my choice. Just tell the senators that if he’s not past his prime, then I’m not old, and that’s all that matters.
C.O.S.M.T.: You got it, dude.
And now, My Top Three.
3) Lorde: This pick is the equivalent of projecting a basketball player as the next LeBron when they’re in high school. She’s only 18, and clearly it could go either way at this point. However, I’m betting that she’s around for the long haul. She has a rare combination of good lyrics, a great voice and a genuine apathy about what anybody thinks of her. I’m looking forward to having her in the pop mix for decades to come.
2) Rhianna: How the fuck is she only 27? I have never listened to a Rhianna album and I probably never will (although I have spent some private time with S&M). But she has been featured on one of the top rap singles in each of the past 7 years, and I don’t see that changing. Rap anthems are better with a great female voice on the choruses, and she’s the top dog. I think that I get top singles from the Jay-Z’s of the world, plus hopefully some more mature solo albums down the line.
3) Hmmm, let’s think about this… oh, I don’t know… IT’S FUCKING KANYE! Everyone knows it’s Kanye. Taylor Swift and Kris Humphries know it’s Kanye. He’s 7 for 7 in albums, has the biggest range in rap history, and helped Kim come to grips with Bruce’s sex change. He’s a fucking unicorn. I only have one question for you, The Dilemma… how dare you?
Holy fucking shit. Giving me grief for Spoon and you pick Rihanna and Lorde?? To stick with terms you’ll understand, those are the equivalent of taking Adam Morrison and Yi Jianlian with NBA lottery picks. What a waste.
Also, just anticipating your top pick, I wrote a little one-act play too:
2015: Kanye releases terrible album of duets with Paul McCartney and pop ballads.
David Simon Cowell: This is amazing. Maybe his best yet.
2017: Kanye releases an album actually called “Yeezy Goes Country,” featuring duets with Garth Brooks, and Kanye attempting to play a pedal steel himself on every song.
David Simon Cowell: This is amazing. Hip hop and country actually have a lot in common when you think about it. Probably the best country album of the last 40 years.
2018: Kanye releases an album inspired by Metal Machine Music, with no vocals or distinct tracks.
David Simon Cowell: This is amazing. What I love about Kanye is that he’s a provocateur.
2020: Kanye releases a tribute to Marcel Marceau containing pure silence.
David Simon Cowell: This is amazing. Album of the year. Unquestioned genius.
2021: Kanye releases massive hit rap album containing his best songs ever.
David Simon Cowell. Hip hop died in 2019. It’s irrelevant to the kids today. I’m all about modern jazz now.
David Simon Cowell:
As opposed to drafting Patrick Ewing number one… this year.
To be honest, if I had gone first, I would have had Kendrick at number 2, with Rhianna at 4 and Vampire Weekend at 5. I switched them to make things more interesting and to infuriate you. But there’s a zero percent chance I care about hearing another Spoon retread, so both are clearly better choices. And you are completely wrong about Lorde… she’s the Anthony Davis to Kanye’s LeBron.
“I switched them to make things more interesting and to infuriate you.” And I definitely would have taken Kanye number one in a vacuum. Somehow, we’ve become the Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless of the blogosphere.
David Simon Cowell:
I was this close to putting Taylor Swift number one.