There is a radio station called Greatest Hits Radio. I confess that I haven’t brought myself to actually listen to it so I shall refrain from being too critical but if there was ever a radio station for our time this has to be it.
I am not a great lover of the greatest hits album. Don’t get me wrong, I have many such records in my collection and they can be a good introduction to a band’s music. My suspicion though is that they are the precise opposite to that. I reckon people buy the greatest hits to prevent them having to wade through the regular musicians output.
Let’s be honest, the greatest hits, the golden greats, the essential collection is more a product of the record companies marketing department than the creative side of the business. There is one thing worse than this though and that is the various artist compilation album epitomised by Sony’s 1983 introduction of the Now That’s What I Call Music (known simply as ‘Now!’ now). For those of you fortunate to have never listened to one of these abominations, the Now! series, which currently stands at 101, is a collection of the ‘best’ songs from a particular period of time. There have been many themed variations on this: Now That’s What I Call Xmas/a Party/Dad Rock/Skiffle/Yodelling etc. There is also a web site now where you can enter your birth date and they will take you to the nearest Now! release from that time (mine was Now! 1 – I suspect I am not their target demo-graph).
So why am I writing about this 80’s phenomenon today in 2019? It struck me that our activity on social media is a bit like the greatest hits compilation; we post the highlights of our life, the good bits, and we avoid the experimental b-sides or the problematic third album. This is perfectly understandable, why would you want to paint yourself in a bad light? The difficulty in doing so is, to my mind, two-fold. On the one hand it is clearly an inaccurate representation of who we are, it isn’t really us, none of us are only our best bits we all carry some blemishes and scars. Worse than this though is that I might not be the best arbiter of what constitutes the ‘essential collection’ of me.
When I have purchased a greatest hits album that has drawn me further into an artist’s repertoire I rarely go back to it. I find more interesting tracks buried in their back catalogue. I buy their latest offering to see which direction they are going artistically. I take the opportunity to see them live if they are playing in my town. I enter into a relationship with them and invest my time in getting to know them better and understanding what makes them tick.
If we want to use Facebook or Twitter or Instagram to seriously engage with one another then we need to be more open, honest and trusting in what we choose to share with people. We might find that unflattering picture or dubious idea that we don’t like actually wins friends and influences the people who see it.
At the same time we need to treat other people’s highlights as just that, this is not the whole story of who they are but it is an opportunity, an invitation, to get to know them better. So let’s not be too critical of the photoshopped image of our friend, let’s not complain of people virtue signalling and use their posting of what they consider a worthwhile article to build a relationship and get to know them better.
In making small changes to the way we treat ourselves and each other we open up possibilities for us all to become better informed, better connected and, just better.
Now that’s what I call progress.