A couple weeks ago while I was standing in my local record store looking at what new album I should add to my music collection and I came across a small section containing what the store had in stock from Pantera. Figuring I did not own an album from them (judge me later) I decided to go with one of theirs, but which one was the question? They had Cowboys from Hell, Reinventing the Steel, and The Best of Pantera: Far Beyond the Great Southern Cowboy’s Vulgar Hits. Seeing that last title got me to thinking about something…
That something was the fact that “greatest hits” albums are…uh, well great. However, I find myself rarely buying these “best of” compilations and getting the entire album that one of these popular songs is on instead. Why? It is rather simple actually: a good amount of the time I just like other songs from that album more than the most popular one. For example, I picked up Cowboys from Hell and while I do enjoy the title track and Cemetery Gates (the two most popular tracks off of that album) I am currently enjoying The Sleep and a couple other songs more. Truthfully, I had never heard the aforementioned song before picking up the album.
Are “greatest hits” or “best of” albums a bad idea? Not really. They serve a wonderful purpose if you are wanting to try out a new artist but are unsure of which album to pick up first. I would say they, obviously, offer a good sampling as to what other people like about the artist or band. Releases like these can also benefit the artist, band, and even the record label company. Put all of your most popular songs on a new disc and release it, then boom instant sales because people will buy it for whatever reason.
While I do feel that releasing an album containing a selection of your most popular songs can be a good idea if you’re an artist or band, at times I feel like it can also be a cheap way to boost sales and basically earn a quick buck or another platinum record. Of course, when looking at it you can argue that it is the music industry and an industry needs to make money. How long can we really use that argument though? Frantic has talked about how music needs to move forward or else it will stagnate; I would argue that releasing a “best of” album every so often is not really moving forward. Yes, if you’re an artist that has been around for a while and release an album like this every 10 or 15 years than there is plenty of time for your material to move forward. You will have to release new music in order to get new fan favorites…unless you’re one of those people who release “top hits” that are literally the same just digitally remastered every time.
Like I mentioned earlier though, I don’t think albums like this are the worst thing ever. They are perfect for checking out the “best” an artist or band can offer up if you are unfamiliar with them. That’s what I did when I first heard of Godsmack; I checked out their Good Times, Bad Times: Ten Years of Godsmack album. It was sort of a “best of” of theirs from the stuff released in the past ten years at that point. In the end, it did its job perfectly and got me hooked on them and made me end up getting a couple of other albums from them.
I believe that the biggest reason behind me liking other songs off an album other than the popular ones is because a lot of the “popular” songs are quite frankly, just overplayed on the radio and after hearing them so frequently one gets tired of hearing them. Do I think these songs should be played less and the others played more? Not necessarily because then you run into the same issue that playing the already popular songs brings up, it’s like a vicious cycle that can’t be helped. Looking back at the dilemma that caused me to write this article. I was wanting to buy an album from Pantera and I could have walked out of my record store with all of their greatest hits, but instead I went with the full Cowboys from Hell album. The two albums both have Cowboys from Hell and Cemetery Gates on them; and while I really like those songs, especially the latter, they fall victim to being played quite often on the radio I listen to frequently and as a result, I wasn’t overly interested in those two songs. Other songs off that album, such as The Sleep, Medicine Man, and Domination (though I’d argue that Domination could be the third most popular song off that album) are ones I like more.
In closing, the only true downside to a “best of” album is the fact they can be released and seen as a way for a band or artist to make even more money off of their already popular songs. At the same time though, they can be excellent starting points for checking out a band or artist that you haven’t heard much of their stuff before. Though, sometimes you might want to skip over them and go straight for a full album; maybe your next favorite song from that artist is one you haven’t heard too often.