The Best Artist That No One Hates

December 05, 2018

I was at the dentist last week, forced into captive listening to the light rock radio station in town for the first time since the last time my teeth were cleaned. I like to pretend that the hygenist is a torturerer, trying to get important secrets out of me. I urge the government to never entrust me with important secrets, because even though the metal hook probing my tender, neglected gums feels kind of good, my brain is still screaming, "I'LL TALK! I'LL TALK."

The music this particular day started surprisingly good. We started with Kings of Leon followed by Imagine Dragons. It had me wondering whether I was such and old dad that I might need to dedicate a preset button to the light rock channel. I've forgotten who was up third, but I remember thinking that it wasn't bad. Up fourth was the inevitible airing of Phil Collins's "In the Air Tonight." No one has been to the dentist and not heard In the Air Tonight since 1987.

I understand that the dentists have to limit their playlists music that no one dislikes. For the past week, I've been trying to mentally think of the best artist you could choose, with the caveat that no one dislikes the music. You immediately have to strike,

  • hard rock (sorry Van Halen and Jane's Addiction -- maybe the best two rock bands period),
  • hip hop (no one dislikes Chance the Rapper. except "I don't like rap" people, who would like it if they gave it a chance),
  • anything with unusual chords or chord progressions (Radiohead and Arcade Fire -- it was nice while it lasted),
  • jazz, blues, classical, opera, etc. There are vocal critics who hate it all,
  • any pop or dance music that's too electronic or funky,
  • anything too twangy,
  • anything dirty (so painful to scratch Prince and Madonna off the list)

What's left? Who's the best artist that everyone likes?

(Nothing and no one, to be honest, but here's what I've come up with as the best potential answers.)

Billy Joel:

This is thex first answer that popped into my head, and perhaps still the best.

Dave Matthews Band:

In their heyday, I was put off of DMB by a super irritating coworker who was super enthusiastic about DMB. Her constant prattling made me want to hate DMB, and I'm only just now getting past that.

Tina Turner:

Maybe my personal favorite, but not as univerally beloved as she should be.


Radiohead without the unusualness, maybe? But along with the interesting sounds go the... well, the interesting sounds. Not sure if they belong here or not.

Johnny Cash:

Popped into my head late, but I think the man in black is a good addition.

Avett Brothers: Potential winner here, but can you really say that everyone likes a band that unashamedly includes cellos in many tracks? I think you can, but I understand if you want to quibble.

Hall and Oats, Huey Lewis and the News, Loverboy:

80s hit machines, but we're looking for the best, and none of them are better than Billy Joel.

Cage the Elephant, Kings of Leon, The Kooks:

All super good, and I don't know anyone who dislikes them. I know a lot of old people who have never heard of any of these bands though.

The Killers:

Just thought of this as I was finishing up. Might be the winner.

Give me more ideas. I'm sure there are a ton.



This sort of came up in conversation over Thanksgiving week, after I had written most of the post, but before I actually posted it. (You'd be surprised at how much I write and discard.) It seems like Billy Joel probably does win the title of Best Artist that Nobody Hates.

When I was a kid, my dad had these work friends who were nuts about being Catholic and about Billy Joel. We went to their house for what was probably a Super Bowl. My family always went to watch the Super Bowl with Dad's work friends rather than with their real friends, of which there were plenty of other gatherings. I'm not sure why.

These friends talked about how they would stay up all night, with the VCR set to record but on pause, wired remote in hand, just waiting to unpause during the first millisecond of a Billy Joel video. They had them all recorded, even though they had stayed up hours and hours into the night many times. Man we lived in a dark age.

They were also very unhappy with the church, because the Pope had mentioned that he wasn't a fan of "Only the Good Die Young."

Anyway, send me your ideas about who should be on the list.