The greatest hits album from many bands provokes several different reactions from several different people. From a business/label standpoint, it’s either a way for a band to fulfill their contractual obligations without requiring the band to record new music, or it’s a way to say this band was so good and generated so much money for us that we’re going to honor them with an album highlighting their best work/squeezing their fan base for all the money the band is worth. In fans eyes, it’s a way to get an album full of the songs you know from a band without having to buy several albums from their catalog, OR it represents label fan base gouging, a death toll for the band’s creativity, and an annoyance that plagues conversations about a band.
To me, though, it gives fans a perfect stepping stone to explore a band and truly become a fan of their work.
I say all of this because I recently purchased a greatest hits album from The Cure. It wasn’t Standing On A Beach/Staring at the Sea, or Galore, it was The Cure – Greatest Hits. I feel super dirty because I typically fall into the “plague” category, if we’re being honest. I do not shy away from calling myself a music snob, by any means. I try to excuse by saying that I’ve heard all of their other stuff, I know more of their work than the average Greatest Hits buyer, and I’ve had several albums from them before when I was younger. But I was lying to myself. The reason I bought that CD was because it was less then $10, and it had a whole lot of songs that I love a lot. That’s why I bought it. But when I was listening to the entire album for the third time since I bought it, I noticed something, absolutely nothing will stop me from buying everything they’ve released. So, it was in that instance that I realized there’s a far better way to look at the Greatest Hits album, The Greatest Hits album is a perfect way to build new fans.. but there’s a caveat.
If the band has not released more than two or three full length albums, there should be no greatest hits album unless it’s like five songs and sold as an EP (I’m looking at you, A Perfect Circle!). This completely steers away from the label gouging/artist fulfilling their contract problems from a fan’s perspective that was mentioned above, and it provides a nice look at the band’s catalog. But the main point I was trying to make is that it’s a perfect tool to get someone that was born/not around for the band’s highest points of popularity to expose someone to their work and make them into a fan. Me, for example. I was born in 1983 and didn’t really start looking into music as a wonderful thing in the world until I was in the fifth grade. Granted, that’s really young for someone to start exposing themselves to bands that are more than just what their parents listen to like Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Wu-Tang Clan, and the like, but still that makes the year like 1994 or something, right? I wasn’t around/aware for most of The Cure’s 80s popularity, so I shouldn’t blame myself for buying this album, and no one should. Like I said, I will most definitely be buying all of their albums soonish, so I shouldn’t be too worried about getting a CD with a great collection of great songs for under $10! Why should I blame myself for making a smart purchase, right? Right.
Who am I kidding? I should have just bought Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me.