On October 20 2019, the Twitter account “Classic Rock in Pics” shared a purported Rolling Stone magazine list of the top 100 singers of all time:
Images of the list (which, incidentally, did not match content published to RollingStone.com) spread widely on social media in the aftermath of its appearance, with many users railing against both the selections made as well as the order in which Rolling Stone purportedly ranked its best of the best:
Good grief, where are Mike Patton, Chris Cornell, Tori Amos, Serj Tankian, Ben Harper, Maynard James Keenan, and Reba?
Also, Freddie Mercury should be number 1.
Lastly, Dolly Parton at 73? GTFOH. I’m no country fan, but she should at least be top 20.
No one has a more powerful voice than Ann Wilson. She made Robert Plant cry!
Whitney & Mariah belong in the top 3. Period
Another broadly-criticized omission on the purported part of Rolling Stone was Beyoncé, supposedly absent entirely from their list of the all-time greatest singers. But in the original tweet and most shares, the list was presented simply as the magazine’s top 100 singers without any contextual information.
The original tweet highlighted an image, but there was also a link to a page on Rolling Stone‘s website. Angry comments on it suggested its author be fired, and the lengthy list stretched across several pages — beginning with Mary J. Blige in the 100th spot.
After a three-paragraph introduction, italicized text provided some context:
This is an excerpt from Jonathan Lethem’s introduction to the Greatest Singers of All Time feature in the November 27, 2008 issue of Rolling Stone. A panel of 179 experts ranked the vocalists.
As one pop culture site explained, the dates explained in part why newer singers “such as Adele, Lady Gaga, and Amy Winehouse” did not make the list, as they were not as widely known, if at all, in 2008.
Although Rolling Stone did publish an article called “100 Greatest Singers of All Time,” a list circulating on Twitter and Facebook did not make it clear that that ranking had first been published more than ten years before it went viral. Much — if not all — of the list matched up to the article’s content, but the panel of “179 experts” convened several years before Lemonade and Born This Way hit airwaves and Spotify. Out of context, the list looked dated and as if it intentionally lacked newer vocalists, but it was compiled before a number of prominent singers became famous.