Sunday 31 July 2005

So let's put on our classics and we'll have a little dance, shall we?

It's a word we all use all of the time. It's not very big or very impressive and wouldn't get you much in Scrabble, even with a triple-word score. Five letters. The late, great Richard Whiteley would probably not have been expecting to see you in the next episode of Countdown if you had came up with this, and it wouldn't have taken Carol long to rack it up. 3 consonants and 2 vowels please Carol.

It has a lot of meanings, but I'm particularly interested in this one:

"Of outstanding significance or importance".

What makes something (or someone) great? Not war anyway, if a certain big-eared green know-all is to be believed.... but what does? Is greatness something that can be objectively assigned to something? Can we all categorically agree on greatness?

If you look at the results of some of those polls for "greatest film of all time" you'd probably think so. Some films appear time and time again. Take 'Citizen Kane'. Always in the upper echelons of these polls, but how many of the people who must vote for this have actually seen it or could say what it is that makes this a great film? Many of the things that mark it out as an original have become diluted because they are now commonplace. Does that make it less great? Books are the same (although here the word 'great' is often replaced with the word 'classic', but I take them to be essentially synonyms in this context). Have you read "War and Peace"? No? It's a classic though, isn't it?

It's a nonsense, of course it is. How could the classification of anything in this way be anything other than subjective? You either like something or you don't. It's possible to admire something that you don't like, I think, but would you want to call it great? I don't think I would, and yet there is still definitely a sort of consensus opinion about this kind of thing.... something inside all of us which makes us want to say that 'Raging Bull' is a great film, but that 'Ghostbusters' is merely an amusing comedy from the 1980s, even if we all know which one we would rather be watching.

This brings me to music.... what is it that makes a song great? Is it the singer? Is it the lyrics? Is it that fantastic synth solo in the middle?

Let's carry out a completely unscientific experiment here to explore this, shall we? I want you to put your thinking caps on. Cast your mind back over the last 10 years.

Think about what you reckon the 5 greatest songs are since 1995.

Now have a think about what you think will go down as the 5 greatest songs since 1995.

Are the two lists different?


(and yes, of course I want to know what songs you've come up with - on both lists)

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