Mandy Moore. The Offspring. Hilary Duff. Nope, this isn’t a list of musicians who are easily forgotten about. It’s a small sampling of artists who have released their very own Greatest Hits albums. Who knows, maybe Moore is the new Dylan, and Duff is the new Hendrix. Or, maybe not. Come join Brian and Carlye on their journalistic journey of Greatest Hits albums – Hit or Miss?
While perusing through the “Great Gift Ideas!” CD display at the Virgin Megastore in Chicago last week, I came across something quite puzzling. There, near some Beatles’ LOVE discs and My Chemical Romance’s newest release was an *NSYNC Greatest Hits album. Yes, an album dedicated to the chart-topping singles from three of their albums.
After exploding with my typical cynicism, I slowly came to realize that, hey, maybe excessive Greatest Hits albums aren’t so bad after all. I’m a poor college kid, and I can barely afford one C.D., let alone three or four. Now, though, due to Best Of compilations, I am left with 30 extra dollars to buy my poor college kid survival accessories, such as a brick of Keystone Light or McDonald’s Snack Wraps. Also, if I wind up hating the band, I only have one disc to regret purchasing, instead of a handful.
Another bonus is that it can definitely highlight the accomplishments of a band that has some mediocre material. While *NSYNC struck gold with their singles, various tracks off their albums, such as, “Space Cowboy (Yippie-Yi-Yay)” are appreciatively forgotten. Thank God.
So, fuck it, I love Greatest Hits albums. After all, if I don’t have a three-disc CD changer, how am I supposed to get my fill of Justin Timberlake in his blond crunchy-curls phase? I mean, seriously. Best Of collections aren’t a convenience or just a good purchase, they’re an absolute necessity – they save me money, especially if I end up hating it, and they forgo those embarrassing songs that we all want to forget about, like “Digital Get Down.”
There are two reasons Greatest Hits albums are the bane of my existence: Musicians are either not deserving of them or they’re belittled by them. I don’t mean that certain bands or entertainers aren’t worthy because of my personal taste, but by the pure mathematics of not having many/any hits. I’m not a huge fan of Britney Spears or Sheryl Crow by any means, but the Greatest Hits format was made for them; mediocre artists with tons of hit singles and tons of radio-play. Because, honestly, who really wants to trudge through Spears’ In the Zone to get to “Toxic?”
But, when, as mentioned previously, The Offspring releases a greatest hits compilation, my brow gets furrowed. They’ve really only had one hit, maybe two if you count the embarrassing “Hit That.”
Besides aggrandizing unworthy acts, Greatest Hits releases trivialize the best of the best. Reducing Bob Dylan to “Tambourine Man” and “I Want You” seems comical. Ignoring the depth and complexity of an album artist like Dylan, contractually obligated to release “hits records,” turns the poet of rock into elevator muzak. Greatest Hits not only emphasize the money grubbing tendencies of record labels, but they also allow novices to think they’re true fans. Snobbish? Most definitely. But, real fans don’t listen to Greatest Hits. Overall, the concept is weak sauce. Re-releasing music is a lazy way to make money off of lazy people who don’t want to take the time to know an artist.