There was a time not too long ago when a ‘Greatest Hits’ or ‘Best Of’ compilation signaled the end of a particular artist’s career. Sales plummeted, groups split up, and singers retired or simply passed away – the only reasons why an artist’s record company would consider releasing a collection of his or her biggest, greatest or best hits. But as with all things in life, times change and the decision of whether or when to release such a compilation seems to be increasingly random or arbitrary.

The definition of what should be considered a ‘hit’ remains a highly debatable issue. Yet to me it’s fairly logical that a singer (or even their record company) should not release such an album after one hit single and three subsequent album failures – there really is nothing great about such an artist.

There are of course also those sad “Greatest Hits” collections that serve the purpose of cobbling together the few memorable songs by a band that has otherwise produced a range of forgettable offerings. Few people will every pick up their albums, but they may be tempted to pay for a collection of their best material. It’s a desperate attempt by the record company to make some money back on a bad investment.

So what makes a ‘Greatest Hits’ or ‘Best Of’-package credible? First and foremost, consider the particular artist’s general popularity. In the case of someone like Britney Spears – whose career spans a mere six years – the wide popularity of her music has made her the star she is today. Secondly, consider the longevity of the particular artist – the time over which the hits are spread out determines whether his or her career is noteworthy.

While some artists can knock up a multitude of hits in a short space of time, it’s the careers spanning decades that usually equate to higher sales figures for such compilations – think Madonna, Cher, Barbra Streisand and Queen. One can also consider album sales and chart positions when determining an artist’s credibility, but this is a very relative factor: some artists (again, like Britney Spears) have sold millions in a very short space of time while others (like Sarah McLachlan) has sold similar quantities over a much longer period.

Last, but certainly not least, look at the singer’s influence on the world. In our celebrity-crazed society it is human nature to also admire singers for what they stand for or are trying to achieve with their work. The examples of artists who possibly sell more albums because of what they stand for in life are many, but notables includes U2’s Bono and his efforts to drop third-world debt, or Sir Bob Geldoff and his work with Live 8, or a singer like Anastacia and her work to create breast-cancer awareness. These people are not just selling music, but are using their fame (and sometimes even their fortune) to reach a higher goal. I’m not referring to humanitarian work only, but also to the influence the work has had on our pop culture – how their music has shaped an era and inspired the masses. Think of Madonna and her impact on female representation in the media in the 80’s and 90’s, and her impact on the gay market.

We respond to hype, we respond to reviews, we respond to tabloid gossip and eventually we respond to the work itself. Whether our music collections are put together by haphazardly adding music we like at face value, or whether a definite decision-making process backs up every purchase, music remains an important ingredient in everyday life. There is an upside to the more frequent release of such packages as it makes it easier to get acquainted with unfamiliar singers, very often giving us a more concise summary of an artist’s career without us having to buy the whole back catalogue. And in that sense I think they certainly have a place on the record store shelves. Here are a few recommended ‘Greatest Hits’ compilations:


Marketed and distributed by SonyBMG

Like her or not, Celine Dion has sold more than 180 million albums worldwide, with more than 26 million of these being her French recordings. On Ne Change Pas is a double album with 33 of her greatest French hits, including a duet with Il Divo. It is a great way to get acquainted with Dion’s French work; an aspect of her career that is often neglected. Let’s face it: not many artists can achieve this kind of success in two languages!


Marketed and distributed by SonyBMG

Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox made up 80’s super-group Eurythmics; their music not only shaping the lives of the people who grew up with their songs, but also generations to come. Ultimate Collection is just that – the ultimate in masterful 80’s pop music. It features 17 tracks of which new single, I’ve Got A Life, proves that age will never keep genius quiet. The Eurythmics is an excellent example of how good music lives forever and that success doesn’t always equate to mammoth album sales.


Marketed and distributed by Gallo Record Company

Formed 25 years ago, Violent Femmes has released 10 albums and garnered millions of fans globally. Unfortunately, millions of sales did not follow. Permanent Record captures 25 years of obscure releases that have shaped the lives of anxious teenagers over the years; songs like Add It Up, Gone Daddy Gone, Blister In The Sun, American Music and I Held her In My Arms will undoubtedly go down in history as songs that shaped a generation. The collection is more about nostalgia than about hits, but absolutely deserves the title of “very best of”.


Marketed and distributed by Universal Music

Bryan Adams may not be everyone’s cup of tea but he’s had a long musical career, and a mightily successful one at that. Anthology is a double album with 36 tracks and features classics (like Summer of ’69, Heaven and Cuts Like A Knife), duets (When You’re Gone with Mel C), and more recent hits (Please Forgive Me, The Best Of Me and Open Road). Adams has quite a few ‘greatest hits’ albums available, but Anthology is the most complete collection of his work.


Marketed and distributed by SonyBMG

There would have been no Robbie Williams success story had it not been for British boy-band Take That. An absolute phenomenon in the nineties, lead-singer Gary Barlow remains a respected songwriter to this day, and Robbie is… well, Robbie. Take That had a huge number of hits and a massive impact on the (teen) world around them (a reunion tour has been mentioned – minus Robbie). The Ultimate Collection is just that – a collection of all their greatest hits. It includes Never Forget, Back For Good, Relight My Fire, It Only Takes A Minute and the stunning, previously unreleased Today I’ve Lost You.


Marketed and distributed by Gallo Record Company

When Alanis Morissette stormed onto the international music scene ten years ago the world shook with a mixed bag of emotions. Her debut album, Jagged Little Pill, became a

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