Who are today’s legends?

Whether Western musicians of our generation will stand the test of time.


Queen – live show in Houston 1977 Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Tabitha Mendez

Which is better, music now or music of the past? This has always been an ongoing argument between my dad and I — especially in the car when we rush to reach for the aux cord, determining who gets to play their music for that ride. As we drive blasting Queen’s “Radio Gaga” from the car speakers, a song we both agreed on, I bring up what had been on my mind for a while now, “Will any artists of my generation be like Queen?”  

Maybe it was on my mind because at the time I had just finished watching “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but it definitely wasn’t the first time I had thought about this complicated question.

“Well, nobody will be like Queen,” he responded. I wondered if there are any artists who are popular now who will have movies made for them years later and still have such a strong following. I wanted to know if there is an artist of our time who would have the same effect 30, 40 or 50 years from now. Artists like Queen have made such an impact, it seems like nobody will reach the level and ability to influence the world that they and other artists of their generation already have.

When I went to see “Bohemian Rhapsody,” I watched with amazement at how much energy people were expressing in the packed theater, bobbing their heads to “Hammer to Fall” a month after it came out, and about 35 years after Queen was at their peak, to celebrate what they had been and still are: music legends.

I wasn’t always a huge fan of what I like to call “dad music” — some of my dad’s favorite music that came out before I was born. However, it was either the long car rides where my dad was in control of the aux or the TV show “Glee’s” random love for Journey covers that had me finding more moments where I was listening to “dad music.” Including the moment when I was sitting in my theater chair, second to last row, dancing alongside everybody else to Queen’s top hits.

So many movies are inspired by or in honor of artists from previous generations like Queen (“Bohemian Rhapsody”), David Bowie (“Bandslam”), The Beatles (“The Beatles: Eight Days a Week”), Elton John (“Rocketman”) … the list goes on. These artists, plus many more, are known for being music idols. Artists like Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Journey and U2 haven’t died down since they were top artists of the mid 1900s. They are seen as icons, legends and inspirational bands that changed the landscape of music.

I don’t think our generation lacks potential; there are so many great artists who create songs that have been around since I was born: Drake, Eminem, Post Malone, Ariana Grande, Gaga, Taylor Swift. However, just because we love them now doesn’t mean we always will. It’s hard for me to picture now who will make it multiple decades because nobody seems to have something so unique or empowering that’s worth remembering.

I want to know who my kids are going to consider a part of their “mom music,” and if there’s going to be anyone who will stand the test of time. Music has become so commercialized that now it sometimes seems like music is often judged more on presence and performance than the music itself. There has been so much more effort put into making people look and act a certain way that will draw attention, rather than putting meaning into their lyrics that “show” rather than “tell.” It changes the way we see artists now, focusing more on the show they put on and their appearances in gossip magazines, rather than focusing on the music. I feel like artists now are trying to reach the level that these other legendary artists hold, but keep falling short.

Back when Queen, Elton John, Michael Jackson and those alongside them were performing, it was clear they would be forever legends in the music industry because of their authenticity and their clear passion for creating something magical.  But it’s hard for me to really capture even a few people to represent our current generation.

These artists have been going strong (some since the 1950s) and are still talked about today. I wonder if there will be movies made for Gaga or Drake. And if those movies will feature people, not only people from my generation trying to relive the past; but also future generations who listen to “old” music because they’ve heard about the influence that music from the 2000s made in the music world.

It seems unlikely to see anyone now living up to the legacy that the music legends from the 1900s have presented. Maybe there will be artists inspired by current artists, but to call them artists that changed the way the world looked at music is questionable.

Photos courtesy of Creative Commons