November 17, 2018

The Oldies of Tomorrow

“What makes a song last? The history of popular music tells us that many masterpieces of songcraft—and even the most world-conquering smashes—are quickly forgotten.

Meanwhile, many earworms burrow deep into the collective consciousness, where they take root, whether we like it or not.

Who could have predicted that “Don’t Stop Believin’ ”—which was, upon its release in 1981, a flop from a critically derided band—would become the 20th century’s best-selling digital download? Or that it would be a “novelty” dance single, of all song varieties, that would become Billboard’s pick for the greatest single of all time?

Separating the most durable tunes from the millions of other would-be classics is no easy task. So we asked critics, musicians, and industry professionals to predict which tracks from the past 25 years we’ll still be dancing and singing along to for the next 100 years. Some of these songs our children will belt in sports arenas. Others our grandchildren will dance to at their weddings.

The New American Songbook is emphatically not a list of the best songs of the past quarter-century, although many of these tracks would make that list, too. As predicted by our panel, tomorrow’s oldies, like tomorrow’s America, will be a lot less male-dominated, and a lot more diverse. Less than a third of the songs on our list are fronted by white men, and no artists are featured more frequently than pop music’s first couple Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Classic rock will soon be rivaled by classic rap, and the Cole Porter of the next American songbook may be Max Martin.”

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