Do you ever wonder?

Do you ever wonder why some artists (individuals or groups) attain success through critical acclaim and/or record (cd) sales?

Here is my list of those who have made it in the recording/entertainment industries and is completely puzzling to me.

Please list your own; it's irrelevant what you think of mine.

OK, here you go (in no particular order):

Sheryl Crow
Norah Jones
Michael Bolton
Celine Dion
Joe Cocker
Manhattan Transfer
Rickie Lee Jones
Phil Collins

That's enough to get started; show me what you got.
Can't agree with all your choices, especially, Rickie Lee Jones, although she does seem to be in a long lasting slump. The single one that puzzles me the most these days, (other than EVERYONE from those stupid TV talent shows) is U2. No rhythm, no melody, no musicianship, no nothing. I don't get it, there is just no music here. Sorry U2 fans, just my stupid opinion, I even like Tom Waits, so chalk me up as a complete lunatic... "with stains on his pants". While I'm at it, let me just say that Dylan sounds terrible these days. I loved Bob Dylan, and cherish his earlier Lp's. "Masters of War", "God on our side", etc... amazing songs. But, the voice is just terrible now. My wife who actually is/was also a fan, just calls him Frog Man.
RE Phil Collins: Mostly a combination of talent, personality and business sense/management combined.

In general, all three are needed for an artist to enjoy long term continued success on a large scale. Having said that, I can take or leave most of his commercial solo output.

I suspect most in the list benefit from all three of these things to different extents. All are undeniably talented for a start.

Re Boston: THeir first album was unique at the time, largely accessible and quite well done overall. HAving said that, they get way too much air time on classic rock stations in proportion to their output these days resulting my being extremely sick of them.

RE Joe Cocker: He got a lot of exposure back in the day. Also, singing a well known Beatles tune in the opening credits of a highly regarded series like "The Wonder Years" back in the day didn't hurt. OVerall, he's never been my cup of tea.

Meh regarding most of the others although there are a few tunes from most that I enjoy.

One recent artist whose level of success I do not get is "Nickelback". IF that's the pinnacle of modern success, rock may truly in fact be dead.

I like many also could not understand Taylor Hicks winning American Idol but his career since would seem to bear me out on that one.

BTW I'm enjoying Dylan's more recent work over the last 10 years more these days then a lot of his older classic stuff. I admire that guy for doing his own thing at his age and still being successful. A true legend!

U2? They're OK and have a lot of good tunes but I have never been a big fan.

It would also seem that quirkiness can help an act remain in the public eye over the long haul. Michael JAckson anyone?
Santana--enough already
Whitney Houston--not then, not now
Bob Dylan--Blood on the Tracks, fine. But that don't make poet laureate.
Sting--should have stuck with the boys.
Madonna--packaged to last forever.
Phish--Jesus, please...just stop.
Hi Audiofeil,

while I could not answer for all of your list, I could for some. (by the way I agree with most of your list. I do like Pinks voice. I just wish she had better material). As for Celine Dion...yuk.

Sheryl Crow and Celine Dion both being in your list is ironic. She wrote songs for her! I believe Sheryl was a music teacher/songwriter/muso who sang backing vocals for Michael Jackon in the late 80s, and made some money from adverts including one for Macdonalds. Her 1st album sold 7 million copies. So many of you out there must have bought it. It even won 3 grammies. That kind of success means you will hang around for a while.

Another nice coincidence for your list is that her 1st album was produced by Phil Collins producer. Somewhere along the way she got involved with Eric Clapton which would have opened many doors if she needed it by then. Timing is everything.

Phil Collins was in an already huge progressive rock band (Genesis) and wrote a tender 1st solo album about a split with his wife. In his special situation ,with a fan base, management/powerful record co etc found its way to the masses and secured a path to instant solo pop success. He is clever and was a powerful guy in the industry in the 80s/90s. I have heard some unkind stories about the sort of guy he is. You got to love "In the air tonight" though dont you? I cannot help "air drumming" to that one.

In Celine Dions case it cant hurt to marry your manager who happens to be very powerful figure. I seem to remember hearing a story that label mate Mariah Carey who married the head of Sony records in the US at the time was so concerned about Celines huge success that she had hubby move Celine to another label so she could be the biggest artist on it. Nice try, unfortunately Celine kept recording...!
norah jones? really?

i think her voice alone is good enough to merit success and her first two albums were great (IMO).
Probably just about everything that creeps into the hit parades although, in honesty, I can't be sure of that anymore ever since the likes of Atomic Kitten, Black Eyed Peas, actually forced me (physical pain, I swear) to quit listening to the radio about 4 years ago.

Apart from those two, Celine Dion, Sheryl Crow and Phil Collins score high on my own List Of Dread too, the latter in spite of the fact that from the 1st album to "The Lamb" I used to be a Genesis aficionado (after that count me out).

And then there is the wonderful Jennifer Lopez (listed with a bullet!), Alanis Morissette, Europe, Poison and Kiss (wonder if these clowns ever figured out what the S-runes actually stand for)

I'm sure I'll think of some more mega stars once I hit "submit"
Hey Bill,
Well, I can go along with most of your list, with two exceptions: Norah Jones, (I really like her voice, although I will admit that her records have been hit or miss), and Phil Collins. (He is the true definintion of "Pop Music", and he does it well: But Pop music is what it is, which is just toe tapping music, that does not require a lot of thought. And yes, his best days are truly well behind him, as his talent seemed to have peaked in the late '70s, and he has just been coasting since then.)

I gotta agree with you, I have never understood the attraction of U2. (And I can not stand Bono's voice.)
But you like Tom Waits? Yikes!

Other I just don't like include:
Elvis (Never liked him, his voice or his Schtick)
Stink (Never liked the Police either)
Radiohead (Another guy whose voice I don't like)
Prince (Yuck, with a capital "Y")

I really like good vocals, and if I don't like a person's voice, (for whatever reason), I just can not like their music much.

Now Yoko Ono, there's a good voice!
(Excuse me while I run to the toilet! .....)

My two cents worth anyway.
I don't think the OP is really asking for comments about his individual choices, but why are some artists incredibly commercially successful and others not?

A few examples:
Rolling Stones vs. the Kinks
U2 vs. Gang Of 4
Stevie Ray Vaughan vs. Buddy Guy
Grateful Dead vs. Quicksilver Messenger Service
Eric Clapton vs. Jack Bruce

Everyone on this list attained commercial, artistic and critical success, but the first named became megastars and the second named did not. In sports and other competitive fields a person's willpower and desire are major determinate factors, but I'm not sure that's the answer here. Then again, it's called show business and some will naturally know how to work the system better than others.
My 8 year old daughter loves Disney Channel. Seems like every attractive teen on a show that can carry a tune to any extent at all there these days also gets pushed as a recording artist.

I do think Miley Cyrus has talent and it will be interesting to see where her career goes. And how about them Jonas brothers?

I suppose appeal is totally in the eyes of the beholder. One thing for sure, if your selling lots of records, somebody out there likes you.

Remember also that the "pop" in pop music stands for popular and often has little to do with artistic merit, which is all very subjective anyhow.

One thing I've learned as I've gotten older is that most things that are in fact popular generally have some merit mixed in although often it can get lost in the mix.

Running the "quircky" test on your entries:

Kiss - quircky
Queen - quircky
Spears - quircky
R. Martin - quircky
McCartney solo - past his prime at 67 now but historically as un-quircky as most any major pop star I can think of, I suppose. Go figure! LEnnon. George and Ringo were more the quircky ones.

MCCartney is one of the most measureably successful singers, songwriters musicians and all around performers of all time. What is there to wonder about there (except perhaps his last marriage and that he has never been all that flashy while doing his thing)?
Wow did you open a can of worms. All artists have their merits of course. If they are making money somethings gotta be right. BUT as long as your asking, my wife always says, "Rod Stewart sounds like Dinky Duck after taking a hit off the helium tank".
God I love her.
Thanks Audiofeil, John

The Dave Matthews Band
James Taylor
Emerson, Lake, and Palmer
The Cure
Flaming Lips

An eclectic mix of stuff I can't stand.
I live near Atlanta and the following two "artist" are in concert together here this weekend. Kanye West and Lady GaGa. I don't anticipate any arguments about putting these two on the list.
My list would be virtually anyone on commercial radio - sounds negative but the current state of pop/rock music is just intolerable for me. This really became apparant when I got back into vinyl and broke out all my old artists from the 60's and 70's.

There is alot of great music that is current it is just not played on commercial radio. If I hear Pearl Jam, Live, or Boston once more...
"Every generation throws a hero up the pop charts" - Paul Simon. Mr. Simon has said that he has had the pleasure to have worked with hundreds of stellar musicians that nobody has ever heard of.
Great fame, more than anything else, is just sheer luck. The spotlight finds them, not the other way around.

That said, my short list:

Joe Cocker

Norah Jones is simply "angelic." She is articulate, smooth, beautiful and simply one of the best female artists around. One can get "lost" in her music and her talent is "top tier." But, your question simply shows the "magic" of music in that we all have different perspectives.
I agree with Mapman. Well said.

Some people win the music lottery, some don't. Sometimes it's talent; sometimes it's luck; sometimes it's marketing or the people around you. I don't know. How did George W. become President?

I'm not a big Celine Dion fan but I have to say that she has a magnificent voice. That's what got her out of Quebec in the first place. It gets lost in everything that is around her presentation and shows though.

No opera singers on your list? It was Alfred E. Newman of Mad Magazine who said: "If opera is entertainment, then falling off a roof is transportation." LOL Look it up. I wouldn't make something like that up.
Good one, Bill. You are the provocateur el suprimo.
I don't agree with all on your list but that isn't your point. The band I don't get is "Cowboy Junkies". I have tried and tried to catch the buzz on them. Great arrangements - yes. Great recordings - yes. Good songs? Good performances? I guess, but mainly I just fall asleep.
It does make me wonder how a group like ELP ever became so popular in their heyday, and I like ELP a lot.
Phil Collins- So so badio
Sting- Pompous duschebag
Maria Carey- Pop fingernails on the chalkboard
Madona- Bad medicine for the masses

And the number one all time biggest selling artist that completely baffles me is.... Garth Brooks

And one more thing, I grew up in the 70's. How was it that the biggest radio stations would heavy rotate the likes of Journey, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, Chicago, Foghat, Rick Deringer, Kansas, ELO when there was the Roling Stones , The Who, Led Zepelin, Allman Brothers, Stevie Wonder, Pink Floyd, Aretha Franklin (I could go on here forever with great artists)? The 70's rock format stations are still play that garbage.
What, no mention of Kenny G or John Klemmer? IMHO, neither of them should have ever picked up an instrument.

However, I think that many of the artists deservedly roasted in the post have also done some great work. For example, REO Speedwagon released the excellent T.W.O. before all of their subsequent drivel. Chicago produced 6-7 great albums and another, what, two dozen of dreck? Tom Waits' last 15 years may have been an artistic waste, but The Heart of Saturday Night is unforgettable....and so on. Hell, even Miles Davis had an off decade now and then.
Dave Matthews Band - voice like 6 cats in a sack. WTF.

The Stones last listenable album was Some Girls, and their previous stuff has been played enough to last a lifetime. Somebody bury the corpse already; it stinks.

U2 - everything post Joshua Tree is market-tested pop schlock that should never be heard outside of an elevator. The Ford Taurus of rock bands.
Come on, you are a smart guy. Does it actually puzzle you that the music buying public is composed of morons?
James Taylor posted on this thread-sacrilege!

To me he is the epitome of the singer/songwriter.

For this thread - Kris Kristofferson
I think it is all a matter of timing. The events and the struggles of the times in past history and the general mood of the people motivated musicians and songwriters to create some of the best and most enduring songs. Some even becoming anthem status. Because everyone has differant tastes and reasons for liking or disliking certain bands or solo artists is subjective. Present day I personaly find that far too many of the artists get noticed for the wrong reasons and talent is not always first and foremost. That said the likes of Michael Bolton or Lady GaGa don,t make me wonder....they make me hit the search button immediately. Cheers
It may also be important to note that many artists can be clearly segregated into early years when they cared about the music and later years when they cared about the money or ran out of material. Early success begets the later album sales because fans always hope to recapture that initial magic of an artist.

Elton John - great up to "Caribou"
Stones - great up until after "Some girls"
Chicago - great until IV
Boston - great until their second album
One man's "quirky" is another man's genius. Paul was a great Beatle, not a great solo artist. Songwriting? Way overrated. Not much of a lyricist. And kingd of girly.
These lists are so personal and idiosyncratic that they're just about meaningless. One person loves Norah Jones while another detests her. Both are right, there's really no argument. One person likes chunky peanut butter, another likes smooth, while still another hates peanuts. It's what makes the world go around. 8^)
One thing is clear: mainstream tastes almost always favor the ignorant masses who just want something mildly pleasing that won't make them think too hard. God forbid, they might hurt themselves.
"Does it actually puzzle you that the music buying public is composed of morons?"

"mainstream tastes almost always favor the ignorant masses who just want something mildly pleasing that won't make them think too hard"

The purpose of music is to make us think hard? Thinking is usually associated with the logical cognizant function of our brain. To me, music's beauty lies in its ability to bypass our analytical consciousness and just make us feel. I suppose that, in your eyes, what I'm about to say will only serve to solidify my position in the moron camp, but I've never been able to rationalize the emotional influence that music can have over me. It seems to me that someone who's into music for the purpose of mental stimulation, would be better served, and save a bundle, by just buying sheet music.
Phaelon: Are emotion and intellect really that separate? Wouldn't you say that profound emotion has enough depth to be analyzed almost endlessly? Take Bach, Coltrane, or Schoenberg for example...there is enough there to think about AND feel until the end of time! You really can't separate them if the art is that pure..
Not everyone on your list appeals to me either, especially Michael Bolton. However, in my opinion, all of the people and band on your list are talented and do appeal to others. Maybe you don't agree that they have talent?
One more time.

It doesn't matter what anybody thinks of my list or any other list.

Criticism (or validation) is unlikely to change many opinions here. For example, IMO Norah Jones really does suck despite some of the cheerleading for her I've read in this thread.

Please give us your selections and ignore the others.
I could list dozens but I'll stick with just one.I never could figure out why Elvis Costello is so well regarded in the music world.He has a few catchy tunes but I see nothing special about him,certainly not the musical genius that lots of people claim him to be.Of course this is just my opinion.
Yes Audiofeil, I do have a list for you. However I do not listen to (or really even think about) pop music, so it is jazz and classical.

I cannot understand how Winton Marsalis or his brother ever could be considered great jazz figures. They are both second rate revisionist imitators, makers of 'parodies' and farces. In the classical world, I cannot understand the adulation given to the Kronos Quartet. They playing sucks the life out of anything that is not 'obvious', and they 'mainstream' anything they touch.
And of course, I cannot understand why people do not see through Keith Jarrett. New age fluff, nothing more.
I used to wonder about Philip Glass but haven't thought about him for awhile?

I used to wonder about these names but mostly can appreciate them now after looking more closely.

Sometimes I think people often don't get something that others do because we form early first impressions based on pre-cnception or whatever and never take the time to look more closely.

Chuck Berry
Little Richard
Carl PErkins
Chuck Mangione
Dick Dale + surf music in general
Herb Albert
The Beach Boys
Jim Capaldi
Fusion Jazz
Van Der Graaf Generator
The Church
The Clash
Alan Parsons Project

I still often do not get a lot of Steely Dan material that others think is just the bomb. The last concert I went to that I can say I was honestly bored at was Walter Becker.
This issue is only interesting if you separate your subjective tastes from plain-old odd popularity. It's about stepping outside yourself and trying to observe music objectively.

I don't like Celine Dion's music but I understand her popularity. Same for Phil Collins. Etc.

PS - Did someone actually list Queen on their list of "why?" I have a suggestion for you, Cam3366 - try actually turning on the power button on your amp and listening to Sheer Heart Attack (the album, to be clear). You may not love it but to be puzzled about the high regard in which this band is held is simply obtuse.
Mapman - We are one about the Clash. There's an Alan Parsons song about the death of a friend (one of the few pop songs I know of about mortality) that I think you would like if you heard. Not a particular fan of that band but any one who wrote that song can't be all bad.
Whoops, I forgot:

Little River band
Lynyrd Skynrd
England Dan and John Ford Coley
Dr. Hook

Didn't used to get them...but after closer scrutiny I do now.
I have many examples but I have deliberately chosen what I think is the worst.

Just listen to this and please, please, someone explain to me what is so captivating about Shirley.
Yes, I never used to get Louis Armstrong or Duke Ellington and much early jazz even!

Ken Burn's "Jazz" documentary turned me 180 degrees on that one. A little education CAN be dangerous....
Shadorne, I can't check the link currently.

is it Shirley Bassey or Shirley Jones? Or some other well known Shirley?

Shirley Jones was hot when she was young and had an angelic voice, at least as I remember from "Oklahoma".

Shirley Bassey I do not get yet but then again I have been underexposed to-date.
I used to wonder about Mitch Miller when I was a kid and I had to fight with my Dad about whether to watch "Sing Along with Mitch" or cartoons.

I picked up a MM album recently for 25 cents used just to see if it was as bad as I remember over 40 years ago, and guess what, I liked it! The songs are pretty banal lyrically but fun and the stereo recording of the MM chorus voices singing and harmonizing is absolutely phenomenal, breathtaking, etc.! By audiphile standards, that record (on Harmony label I believe) should have cost me a pretty penny!
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"I've never understood the attraction of Tiny Tim."

Only Victoria May "Miss Vicki" Budinger could explain probably.
Tiny Tim is a misunderstood genius. However he should not actually be listened to at all in order to understand this. The music is superfluous to what he is. Given this, I think he is way way better than Eric Clapton or the Beatles.
I wonder why Tiny Tim and Philip Glass never recorded together? That would have been interesting.

They didn't, did they?