The 20 most important artists of the last 20 years (2023)

IN EARLY December, we asked them to pick the musical artists they think rocked MOJO Magazine's 20th anniversary, and they responded in droves. Now that we're done throwing balls on the abacus in the office, we have the results. Screams and screams in the echoing halls of recognized rock and desperate moans and creaks among the forgotten acts.

As requested, you've overridden your personal likes and dislikes, but not your judgment and insight, as you discover acts that influenced, acts that were groundbreaking, and a couple that simply dominated.

Some revived forgotten genres, others were relentlessly updated, others represented something timeless and admirable: avatars of courage and character, not just talent and melody. One or two have risen from the grave to cast a long shadow over the new music we love.

But who are they? Slide the gallery to reveal everything. And keep an eye out for more 20th anniversary content on the MOJO website and in upcoming issues of MOJO Magazine.

20. The Flaming Lips - The Fabulous Monsters

Anyone who has seen any of Wayne Coyne & Co's rocket-powered live shows will be in for a transcendent audiovisual experience second to none. These major strides in collaborative psychological healing are a far cry from the mid-'90s guitar blitz embodied by Cloud's Taste Metallic, but the Lips never stop, and that was in 1999 with the visionary The Soft Bulletin and its crossover -Successor. It wasn't until Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (2002) that the band found its true calling. As Coyne told MOJO in 2002, "Our best moments are a reunion of the Bee Gees and the Butthole Surfers. For us, music is about living at both ends." May your journey continue long.

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19. Nick Drake - The Forever Lost Boy of the British People

When Nick Drake released his second album,circuit breaker layerBy 1970, fewer than 3,000 copies were said to have been sold. His appearance on the cover of MOJO in January 1997 confirmed that although he was cruelly ignored until his death in November 1974, his influence and reputation extended beyond a small circle of acquaintances. Indeed, the late Ian MacDonald's cover story also served to draw new audiences to the man's thoughtful charm and visionary music. "And now we stand/we are anywhere," reads the epitaph on Drake's headstone, quoting a lyric from "From The Morning," the last song on Drake's latest album.Rosa Mond. Somehow those very words seem to say a lot about the rise of human influence.

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18. Blur/Damon Albarn - Britpop's Risky Addiction

MOJO came to life at the height of an imperial phase in English pop, and Blur embodied the best instincts of the new wave: post-punk school of art and creation, influenced by classic English pop mores, inventiveness in the studio, and that's when Weird and drugs started and Heartbreak Kicked on Blur (1997) and 13 (1999)) Blur thrived where others had failed. Albarn's hip-hop-inspired "side project" Gorillaz flowed back into the culture it invaded, and the Blur frontman's hunger for new musical connections paved the way for the crazy 10's collaboration: Atoms For Peace et al <

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17. Arthur Russell - The God of Little Things

In the last decade, Arthur Russell has replaced Nick Drake as the most cited influence on new artists. As young musicians with guitars gave way to young producers in bedroom studios, one lonely auteur of inner melancholy replaced the other. He listens to his 1986 solo album,echo weltor the remarkable compilations published after his untimely death in 1992 at the age of 40, and you'll know why. With Loose Joints and Dinosaur, L Russell created rugged, unique dance music that influenced Daft Punk, LCD Soundsystem, the dissonant edges of modern club production, and every damn art school dance punk band of the mid-2000s. Russell has also made cassettes and tapes of genre-defining solo works, orchestral drone tunes, empty house-dub ballads, sparse, reverberating country, tired folk melancholy, and vocal and cello songs of sheer one-of-a-kind genius. bewildering and closed worlds of so much modern music while promoting the eclectic aesthetic of acts as diverse as Wilco, Animal Collective, Radiohead, Antony And The Johnsons, Arcade Fire... The list really is endless on this one.

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16. Amy Winehouse - A Cry of Longing from the Heart

Amy Winehouse may have had blues, but all she's got is jazz, soul, and hip-hop. Her biggest triumph, 2006's Back To Black, channeled The Shangri-Las, Billie Holiday, ska and blue-beat through a devastating prism of angst and teenage obsession. Amy's best songs are magical combinations of the unwaveringly heavy and the dangerously vulnerable, and her music remains a touchstone for any artist wishing to explore pop's past to create a sound they can call their own.

15. Arctic Monkeys - From the rubble to the Ritz...

10 years ago, The Libertines held great promise for British music, but 21st century composer Alex Turner and his friends from Sheffield were waiting in the wings. Since 2005, they've been delivering the goods in the form of searing punk, clever lyrical acrobatics, and melodies that have been ruthlessly copied but never surpassed. As the first British group to emerge from the once-new, now-committed arena of 'social media buzz', they stood outside and watched for a while. now with contemporary R&B slink, zep-style riffing and '60s rhythm-and-torch pop.

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14. Paul Weller - El Modfather, inevitable

1993, with the birth of MOJO, also saw the birth of Weller's Wild Wood, with an artist reinvigorated by an eclectic mix of music that led Free, Nick Drake, Grant Green and Stevie Wonder to a new vision of authentic English hard rock. A generation of groups, including Blur and Oasis, tapped into the spirit of The Jam. Weller went on to serve as the gray eminence of '90s British rock, setting the stylistic and musical catchphrases, but it was his most outspoken phase after 2008, when krautrock, Debussy and folktronica suddenly found themselves in competition (and fueled 22 Dreams, Wake Up The Nation and the recent Sonik Kicks) which showed that this change is still open to reinvention.

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13. Björk - The Icelandic Queen of Avant Scream

In her youth, Björk sang a cover of Tina Charles' I Love To Love (But My Baby Just Loves To Dance). She then discovered punk and her attitude changed. A few bands later, her presence gave The Sugarcubes a clear advantage ahead of the release of Her Debut, her 1993 solo album, which once again showcased her pop vocals. The difference, however, was that this was pop on Björk's own terms. It was bold, ambitious, and transcended time and genre. And there remained Björk, an independent force in music creating sounds that cannot be reproduced, with a voice that, despite having vocal cord surgery in 2012, is childish, mundane and utterly unique. The latest experiments in applying her as her album also suggest that Björk is, as always, one step ahead of everyone else.

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12. Arcade Fire - The Neighborhood Menace

Heightened sonic ambition and an expert ability to channel fear and loss into charm and ecstasy made the Canadian collective, arguably the architects of the last decade's signature indie rock sound, a colossus. Rarely has a band of queer spirits been welcomed into the mainstream with open arms. By the time Funeral (2004) hit stores, his songs had captivated Dylan, Springsteen, David Byrne, U2 and Chris Martin, and made David Bowie his biggest fan. The rest of the world just followed.

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11. Kanye West: redefining, rap, celebrity, men's fashion...

New production work on Jay-Z's 2001 album The Blueprint (nuggets of soul colliding with Bowie and The Doors) heralded the talent of West Chicago, unlocking groundbreaking solo albums from increasingly eclectic soundscapes (folk, classical, synth-pop) and coined an overly shared cultish blog-rap style whose triumph over long-dominant gangsta ideology came to fruition when their 2007 album Graduation defeated 50 Cent's Curtis in a sensational best-seller. West's genius for advertising in the digital age makes him unmissable: his hunger for new musical territory makes him inimitable.

10. U2 - Bigger flavor can mean better

There's no shortage of anti-U2 sentiment, perhaps more than ever since their tax-evasion antics, but there's less of an argument against their energy and influence as the Dublin foursome defy time and tide to redefine the parameters of being a ridiculously successful rock band. : innovating live (the much-mocked 360° tour centerpiece 'Grip' from 2009-11 helped them gross over £700m) and optimized their place in the music scene through from the soundtrack (Passengers), art-rave (pop) and mainstream rock (everything since). Coldplay, for example, took a lot of notes.

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9. Jeff Buckley - The fallen hero of progressive composition

Jeff Buckley's death in May 1997 from a drowning accident deprived us of a truly unique voice. Three years earlier, Buckley's debut album Grace, with its melodramatic frenzy and grandiose musical textures, was at odds with the subsequent climate in which it was released. Voted MOJO Album of the Year, it has lost none of its power 20 years later. Whether it's the steamy Lila Wine, the Corpus Christi Carol Hymnal, or the opening of Mojo Pin, Buckley's voice never ceases to amaze. Meanwhile, his reading of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah remains definitive.

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8. Nick Cave - Sees a Darkness

Once the dictionary definition of a cult artist, relentlessly plowing his solo groove, never bending too far and always delivering what his audience demanded, the life of the former dark lord of gothic rock MOJO has been spent stepping into the light. and finding a new life in the old. threads to be found (love and death: the black comic and really real) and new creative zones (films: writing them; composing them). If he demonstrates that tenacity and consistency, he will eventually earn the status of a National Treasure (Commonwealth Treasure, anyone?) of the incorrigible Bad Seeds.

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7. Nirvana - Revenge of the US High. Rock underground

"The idea of ​​a record deal or being on TV never crossed my mind until Nirvana got big," Beck recently told MOJO, speaking about the Seattle band's influence on other musicians. As Jon Savage's insightful 1993 interview with Kurt Cobain [MOJO 238, September 2013] demonstrates, the tension in the band proved significant as their perspective influenced a broader culture as it attempted to embrace the mores of change of mind. the rock music. Musically, Nirvana also demonstrated that indie rock could make its way in the United States, a country hitherto enslaved by arena rock and MTV. Likewise, his ability to marry his punk aesthetic with a certain melodic classicism makes his music continue to resonate as we approach the 20th anniversary of his death.

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6. Johnny Cash - Return of the Man in Black

Johnny Cash's resurgence began in 1994 with the unrivaled first volume of American Recordings and continued until his death at age 71 in 2003. These insightful acoustic versions of songs by more recent older artists including Nick Cave, Tom Petty and even Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden, awakened the denominational soul of country music, filling a void across the decades and bringing the voice of one of the true recording originals of the 20th century to life for a new generation of fans. Cash proved that age doesn't have to be a barrier to relevance and success, a lesson the 21st century has learned immensely.

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5. David Bowie - The Avatar of the Future

MOJO's first guest editor (MOJO 104, July 2002) continued to create innovative and soulful music throughout the '90s and '00s (1999's 'Hours...' brought us the enchanting Survive; 02's Heathen, the 5.15 epic The Angels Have Lost). Meanwhile, Bowie's previous incarnations floated like ghosts behind the new waves of Britpop, neo-post-punk, and electronic pop. An illness knocked him unconscious, but last year he returned to typical Bowie style, releasing an impressive album, The Next Day, while maintaining the mystery and enigma we thought was lost in the Internet age.

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4. Tom Waits - What about the drink?

Though he didn't release a single song between 1993's "The Black Rider" and his 1999 masterpiece Mule Variations, the former barfly bard from Los Angeles has garnered more fans than ever in the past 20 years. His journey into the American catacombs continued to result in the kind of broken ballads and bone-shattering skronk-outs that can only come from a man who continues to burn genres and shy away from every cultural and musical trend thrown his way. Luckily, he's still alone out there.

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3. The White Stripes - Save the world with the blues

The fact that their first record was dedicated to Son House gave a clear indication of where The White Stripes came from. Like fellow Detroit renegades The Stooges, Jack and Meg White immersed themselves in the blues. Thus they dragged art into a new millennium. Their most famous album Elephant was recorded at Toe Rag Studios in East London and consisted of eight tracks. It proved that not all rock music had to sound processed. The band's highly charged sound was sustained by a regimented sense of self and a mystique they deliberately developed around their relationship. After six albums, The White Stripes disbanded in 2011. They announced their deaths with an appropriate romantic flourish, explaining that the breakup was meant to "keep alive what's beautiful and special about the band."

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2. Bob Dylan - The Mystery Reloaded

He traveled the world constantly, became the subject of a Hollywood movie, logged 100 hours of his radio broadcasts on theme time, continued to mine riches from his archives, and even found time to write a completely compelling first volume of autobiography. . There are generations of music fans who are discovering Dylan's music through the albums (including the wonderful Time Out Of Mind and Love & Theft) that he has released over the last 20 years. This can only be a great thing.

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1. Radiohead - The Sonic Alchemists

Surely no band has ever been that hard on themselves, but with what results! Successive rites of self-criticism and chronic dissatisfaction fueled as the Oxonian quintet (supplemented, of late, by the human metronome Clive Deamer) from Floydian lyrical guitar rock (The Bends) to angsty, episodic nuprog (OK Computer via a controversial but later fully confirmed millennial). reboot electronica Now seeks an ongoing quest to recalibrate the relationship between band, business, and audience while tearing apart all genre titles and current heirs to REM Blondes' "Band Most Admired."

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