I have always had a huge problem with greatest hits albums because they are rarely anything more than just a simple collection of hit songs. Greatest Hits albums do not have the flow of a studio album, they do not have the unique feel of a studio album, and they often struggle to gain any momentum. Greatest Hits albums are usually made when the band or the artist needs money badly, when a record company is desperately trying to squeeze some money out of an artist, and when an artist or a band has absolutely no new material. I have always thought we should call them "Greatest Quits" albums.
But I have come to accept that not everyone enjoys music the same way I do. A good percentage of people would get a bands greatest hits before they picked up everyone of the bands albums because this saves them not only time but money. Greatest Hits have become the logical listen in our culture of immediacy. We have to accept that not everyone wants to go through a bands discography, not everyone feels obligated to write every day on a blog, not everyone cares enough to put every album in historical context, and sometimes Greatest Hits albums are the best way to Dizcover new Muzik.
We have to accept that Greatest Hits albums will always be the first option for most people when they want to check out new artists. Instead of yelling at these people for not having all of Arcade Fire's B sides downloaded we should simply offer ways to reform the greatest hits album. We have to reform the greatest hits album to make it sound like it was an actual studio album, we have to reform the greatest hits album to make sure we are actually getting the bands best songs, and we have to reform the Greatest Hits albums so the average person can actually be an educated listener of music. How do we do this though? How do we fix something that has been broken for so long?
The answer is so simple that it may shock you: the tracklist. We have to understand that every ten track album usually follows this exact formula: the first track is the introduction that sets the tone for the entire album, the second track takes the first track in an extremely soft (piano based) or extremely hard (guitar driven) direction, the third track is the track that is supposed to rope people into buying the album and is usually the most catchy song and the single, the fourth single expands on the sound of the third track and tries to keep the momentum of that track going, the fifth track is usually the "experimental" track and is usually a long ballad or a long hard rocking song, either the sixth track or the seventh track will be an interlude and the other track will return the album to the form that was presented in the single, the eighth track will often serve as a experimental song in which a band tries to do something they are not accustom to doing (for instance a hard rock band trying a dance song or featuring a guest R&B singer,) the ninth track is usually a water downed version of one of the singles and is just a set up for the last track, and the tenth and final track is an epic expansion of one of the ideas presented in the first track and is usually the longest and most complicated song on the album. The standard ten track rock album usually flows perfectly together and is usually a uniquely bad or uniquely good listening experience because of this.
So obviously the tracklisting and the flow of the album are very important and it is really important that we take advantage of this while creating the new version of our greatest hits albums. The key for us is choosing the bands best opening track of their discography, the best second track in the bands discography, the best third track in the bands discography, the best fourth track, and so on. This way we get all of the bands best songs, we get an album that features a variety of the bands work, and we also get an album that flows together perfectly. This tracklist formula not only gives us the real version of the bands greatest hits but it also gives us the bands ultimate album. Here are a few "Greatest Hits" for some of my favorite bands:
RADIOHEAD'S GREATEST HITS
Radiohead's best first track: 2+2=5 (HTTT)
Radiohead's best second track: Paranoid Android (OKC)
Radiohead's best third track: The National Anthem (KID A)
Radiohead's best fourth track: How To Disappear Completely (KID A)
Radiohead's best fifth track: All I Need (IR)
Radiohead's best sixth track: Karma Police (OKC)
Radiohead's best seventh track: Reckoner (IR)
Radiohead's best eighth track: Idioteque (KID A)
Radiohead's best ninth track: There There (HTTT)
Radiohead's best tenth track: Videotape (IR)
This is an album that surprisingly flows together very well. The opener "2+2=5" is a classic political rock song that's last riff flows perfectly into the opening acoustics of "Paranoid Android," the last solo of the near six minute epic flows into the classic opening riff of "The National Anthem," "The National Anthem" naturally flows into "How To Disappear Completely," the story of HTDC fits together perfectly with the love song feel of "All I Need" (you could say that Yorke was lost and suicidal but then found love and it was "all he needed" to escape from his depression,) the paralyzing final seconds of "All I Need" flow perfectly with the piano acoustic driven opening of "Karma Police," the chaotic ending to "Karma Police" would flow perfectly into the electronic and electric guitar opening of "Reckoner," the soft ending of "Reckoner" would work with the "sudden" opening of "Idioteque," the banging beat of "Idioteque" goes well with the opening drums of "There There," and the end of "There There" would work well with the soft start of "Videotape." Radiohead's ultimate album gives us ten of the bands best songs that flow perfectly together.
BRIGHT EYES GREATEST HITS
Bright Eyes best first track: At The Bottom of Everything (Wide Awake)
Bright Eyes best second track: Four Winds (Cassadaga)
Bright Eyes best third track: The Calendar Hung Itself (Fevers & Mirrors)
Bright Eyes best fourth track: You Will? (Lifted)
Bright Eyes best fifth track: Take It Easy (Leave Nothing) Digital Ash
Bright Eyes best sixth track: First Day of My Life (Wide Awake)
Bright Eyes best seventh track: I Believe In Symmetry (Digitial Ash)
Bright Eyes best eighth track: Landlocked Blues (Wide Awake)
Bright Eyes best ninth track: Make War (Lifted)
Bright Eyes best tenth track: One For You, One For Me (People's Key)
Still feels like a real album!
THE BEATLES GREATEST HITS
The Beatles best first track: Help! (Help!)
The Beatles best second track: Something (Abbey Road)
The Beatles best third track: Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (Sgt Pepper's)
The Beatles best fourth track: Oh Darling! (Abbey Road)
The Beatles best fifth track: Here, There, and Everywhere (Revolver)
The Beatles best sixth track: Let It Be (Let It Be)
The Beatles best seventh track: Michelle (Rubber Soul)
The Beatles best eighth track: Strawberry Fields Forever (Magical Mystery Tour)
The Beatles best ninth track: And Your Bird Can Sing (Revolver)
The Beatles best tenth track: I'm So Tired (White Album)
Might need a few more tracks, but is still pretty damn good.
THE NATIONAL'S GREATEST HITS
The National's best first track: Fake Empire (Boxer)
The National's best second track: Sorrow (High Violet)
The National's best third track: Lit Up (Alligator)
The National's best fourth track: Squalor Victoria (Boxer)
The National's best fifth track: Afraid of Everyone (High Violet)
The National's best sixth track: Slow Show (Boxer)
The National's best seventh track: Lemonworld (High Violet)
The National's best eighth track: Start A War (Boxer)
The National's best ninth track: All The Wine (Alligator)
The National's best tenth track: England (High Violet)
SAY ANYTHING'S GREATEST HITS
Say Anything's best first track: Belt (IARB)
Say Anything's best second track: No Soul (IDOTG)
Say Anything's best third track: That Is Why (IDOTG)
Say Anything's best fourth track: Alive With The Glory of Love (IARB)
Say Anything's best fifth track: This Is F____ing Ecstasy (IDOTG)
Say Anything's best sixth track: Mara and Me (S/T)
Say Anything's best seventh track: Shiska (IDOTG)
Say Anything's best eighth track: Baby Girl, I'm a Blur (IDOTG)
Say Anything's best ninth track: Cemetary (S/T)
Say Anything's best tenth track: Have At Thee! (IDOTG)
What do you guys think? What would be the ultimate albums for your favorite bands?