Over on MSNBC, Tony Sclafani argues that Madonna has surpassed the Beatles in regards to her influence on pop music.
It’s Madonna‘s impact on the course of pop music that bests the Fab Four, not her sociological importance, songwriting skills or recording innovations. Influence means an artist has an effect on the future direction of music. While the Beatles influenced scads of artists in their time, after their breakup, their sound became yesterday’s news. Artists that tried to copy them (Badfinger, the Raspberries, Squeeze) seemed quaint or quirky.
But a quarter century after Madonna emerged, artists still use her ideas and seem modern and edgy doing so.
There’s a jump in logic there: comparing artists that “tried to copy” the Beatles to artists that “use [Madonna’s] ideas” is apples/oranges. I mean, the Beatles proved that mainstream pop music can be taken seriously; the fact that the phrase “sociological importance” comes up in a commentary about pop music owes a lot to the Beatles.
But he points out a few interesting things:
• “[B]efore Madonna, most music mega-stars were guy rockers; after her, almost all would be female singers.”
• “Top 40 and MTV back then treated black music like a subgenre — not the backbone of 20th century American music, as it’s recognized now.”
• “When the Beatles hit America, they changed the paradigm of performer from solo act to band. Madonna changed it back — with an emphasis on the female.”
I could easily argue both sides of this argument. But what do you think?
Video: The Beatles – “Rain”
Video: Madonna – “Like A Prayer”
MP3: Madonna – “Hung Up”