Battle for the decade: Eminem vs. The Beatles



So, it’s that time of year again. When every major publication starts publishing their best of/worst of lists for everything from music to sports to politics to Tiger Woods’ mistresses. As 2009 winds down, you’ll be hit with a slew of them. And this year adds an even bigger prize, the end of the decade. That’s right, in case you haven’t noticed the 20-aughts are almost over.

In reading through all of the decade in review news that’s been out there the past few weeks, I noticed something interesting. I always thought a decade lasted 10 years right? Wrong - at least in terms of the past decade of music. It lasted about 3 years. And the battle for artist(s) of the decade? Of all the groups, artists, pop-tarts and the like that were out there in the 2000s, the race came down to a white rapper and a band who hasn’t released any new music since the '70s. Eminem squeaked out the victory (in terms of sales) over The Beatles with sales north of 30 million (that’s albums).

So what do I mean by a 3-year decade? If you look at the top 10 albums of the decade (by album sales) eight were released on or before 2002. Number one? The aforementioned mop-tops with their #1s release. Number two? N’Sync’s No Strings Attached. Eminem joins the group with numbers four and five. And by the way, he took a five-year absence and still topped the overall list.

What does this mean? I personally think it means we are all in big trouble. No album since 2002 has cracked the top 10 in terms of album sales. Which means at least people aren’t buying music that just isn’t that good, but more importantly means that mainstream music is extremely fragmented and artists aren’t reaching and enticing as many people as before to buy their music.

Sure there are all the illegal downloads available nowadays that has to make some difference. But if you look at how many different ways a person can listen to an artist or group before making a decision to purchase, it’s not surprising that album sales are dropping. Remember when you used to have to buy an entire album to get that one song you like? No more. If you only like one song, you spend less than a buck on it and move on to the next one.

Perfect example: Daniel Powter was named the One Hit Wonder of the decade on Billboard’s recent list. His album overall was a bomb, but he sold his one song “Bad Day” enough to pay the bills for a long, long time. Had this been the '90s however, he would have been on the top 10 albums list for his one song alone.

What this means is that the musicians of the world have to step their game up to make the bucks and sales they used to. And so far, they haven’t responded. Bad for their pockets, but good for us listeners.

So, it’s onto another new decade – one where the music hopefully gets better – or at least gives us a full 10 years worth.