But because WN can't help but be a bit contrarian and research something to death and boredom (and especially because this is an argument I'm not usually wont to make), let me point out that there is one gigantic omission from this list (which you can see on VH1. com here). Yes, there were inevitably bands and songs left off that could have made the list, which are all great argument-starters and discussion pieces, but one name was so glaringly absent that even WN, not even a particular fan of this musician, couldn't help but notice and had to recheck the list, almost sure that WN missed it in one of the episodes.
Who, you ask, is so noteworthy in their absence from VH1's list?
(building suspense, blog-style)
Okay, so WN isn't a huge fan (fairly indifferent, really), but he was arguably the biggest music act going in the 1990's, and inarguably one of the 10. He's in a fairly small group of musicians to sell over 100 million albums, the majority of which he made in the 90's. According to Wikipedia (i.e. with a grain of salt, but with references!), his total album sales put him at either #1 or #2 among solo acts (with Elvis) and #2 or #3 overall (behind the Beatles).
WN isn't the type to make an argument that popularity is the same as excellence or that greatness should be measured in one way only, but it's nearly impossible to argue reasonably that Brooks wasn't one of the top 100 musicians of the 1990's and that one of his songs didn't merit being near the top of this list, let alone on it at all.
Anyway, one could take this a couple of ways. One is that Brooks didn't hold up very well in this decade (his divorce and quasi-retirement or maybe his music didn't stand the test of 15 years time); WN finds this a bit tough to believe, particularly given some of the dated songs that did make the list. (How long has it been since Kris Kross made you want to jump, jump?) A second take, which WN thinks is far more likely, is that there's a pretty clear bias on this list against country music.
Check out the list. The only country artist on the list is Shania Twain (#46, "You're Still the One"). But if you look at album sales (again, not perfect, but a good proxy for popularity), there were 46 albums from the 1990's that sold 10 million or more copies. (25 on the table, another 19 below)
- 4 were soundtracks (The Bodyguard, Forrest Gump, Titanic, and The Lion King), of which two had a song on the top 100 ("I Will Always Love You" and "My Heart Will Go On").
- 3 were older bands with either greatest hits albums (Led Zeppelin, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) or similar to a greatest hits (Eric Clapton's Unplugged).
- 30 other artists and bands had an album that sold 10 million or more copies (including Whitney Houston and Celine Dion).
- Of these 30, 21 had a song on the top 100 list: Pearl Jam, Metallica, Nirvana, Whitney Houston, Hootie and the Blowfish, TLC, Alanis Morissette, Jewel, Shania Twain, Celine Dion, Matchbox Twenty, The Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, The Spice Girls, Korn, Green Day, Mariah Carey, Madonna, The Notorious B.I.G., MC Hammer, and NSYNC.
- The remaining 9 with no songs on the top 100: Garth Brooks, Kenny G, The Dixie Chicks, Kid Rock, Santana, Creed, Ace of Base, Faith Hill, and No Doubt.
- 6 had multiple 90's albums selling 10 million-plus copies: Brooks (4), Shania Twain (2), The Dixie Chicks (2), Celine Dion (2 or 3, whether you count Titanic), The Backstreet Boys (2), and Mariah Carey (2).
Out of the 46 albums on this list and the 41 non-soundtrack, non-greatest hits that didn't have a top 100 song, 9 came from 4 country artists, of which 1 was on the top 100 list. Out of the other 6 acts up there, decent arguments could be made for 5 making the list (although Santana and Creed didn't release their albums until the second half of 1999, limiting their 90's appeal) and we'll pretend that Kenny G never happened.
Somewhere between 20 to 25 percent of the biggest 90's albums were country music and only 1 percent of the top 100 songs were country. 3 of the 9 snubbed bands (with 7 of the 13 snubbees' albums) were country. WN isn't a country music apologist usually, but it seems to me that this is apparently biased against country music. Yes, VH1 isn't typically thought of as a main purveyor of country music, but it's not as if the Dixie Chicks and Faith Hill weren't mainstays on their rotations for some of their biggest singles. And while the list will always reflect the tastes and judgment of the selectors, it's a pretty big snub to leave Garth Brooks off the list.
Just my two cents.