Zut Alors!: The Best Of Debacle

I first noticed it while working in my first record store many years ago. I was shelving some new releases when a Hilary Duff Greatest Hits CD caught my attention. I stopped dead in my tracks and wondered when I’d missed the moment in time when a teenager (the Jackson 5 excluded, naturally) had enough of a back catalogue to warrant a greatest hits collection. Ever since that day, I’ve noticed an increasing stream of bands, with perhaps one or two songs you’d recognize at most, releasing greatest hits albums. And every time, I feel like I laugh a little bit more. I don’t know if it’s desperation on the part of record labels, or an attempt to refill coffers that have long since run dry, but whatever it is, the amount of bands with completely unwarranted greatest hits compilations has reached an all-time high. Or, rather, low.

If you consider that Radiohead, a band with a relatively long lifespan, has only recently released a greatest hits, that should begin to put things into perspective. Comparatively, and this most recent example is what pushed me over the GH-hating edge, the Libertines, as good as they were during their brief reign, recently released their own Best Of. Perhaps it’s just me, but two albums and a few singles do not a Greatest Hits make. Besides, if you asked most people these days, the only thing they’d probably remember of the Libertines would be Pete Doherty and his wacky antics, not to mention his eventual departure from the band. Oh, and quite possibly the band’s penchant for red military coats. To further illustrate my point, when the Verve, one of my top three favorite bands of all time, released their Greatest Hits, I didn’t buy it. I did download the two previously unreleased tracks from iTunes, but as for the actual CD, I left well enough alone. And believe you me, I love the Verve more than I love most things in life.

What drives people like Hilary Duff, the Libertines, the Gin Blossoms, et. al. to think that taking the Greatest Hits route is a good move? Sure, there might be those completeists out there who want everything ever recorded by a certain band, but the financial windfall from that can’t be enough of a reason. It can’t be the street cred, either, because there’s not much of that to be had in the land of Best Of’s. I’d have to say mainly it’s either a) ego or b) the record label. Perhaps it’s a bit of both. I vote for going back to the days when releasing a Greatest Hits was done at the twilight of one’s musical career. The days when a Best Of was full of songs you knew. Because, really, if it’s not song after song of familiarity, it’s not much of a Greatest Hits, is it?


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