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The Top 10 Artists That Should've Quit When They Were Ahead

by dsussman   May 24, 2009 at 10:42PM  |  Views: 1,320

There are so many talented musicians that left this world during the peak of their career. Some say it’s tragic, and others may argue that it protected them from getting old, losing their talent, and eventually selling out. Short of dying, strategic retirement stops the artist from creating works that will stain their career, and it keeps a pure and perfect image of them in the minds of their dedicated fans.

10. U2

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Source: Ebet Roberts/Getty Images

I’ve said in the past that Joshua Tree is not my favorite U2 album, but if Bono and the boys stopped making music around this time they would be hailed as one of the greatest bands of all time--no questions asked. Thanks, Brian Eno.

Instead, U2 seems to deliver watered-down throwaway pop-rock year in and year out. If I have to sit through another crappy award show performance with Bono still acting like he’s hip and relevant, I’m going to puke up my Cheerios. The band has become a cartoon cutout of their former selves. The only reason why dedicated fans still rush to see them is so they can watch the band perform the classic hits that made them popular in the first place. I don’t think die-hards are really praying for U2 to do Zooropa in its entirety on a live stage. If so, they should be stoned to death. Either way, the band’s image would have been immortalized if they went off the grid before they could do an incredible amount of damage to themselves by trying to consistently recreate the same success as The Joshua Tree.

Bono’s humanitarian is one of the few notable thing he’s done in the last 20 years.

9. Rivers Cuomo

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Source: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

After the release of Pinkerton, something happened to Rivers Cuomo. He changed. The dork who was attending Harvard and used his new knowledge of music theory to expand his art was no more. There have been a number of rumors regarding Rivers’ mental issues and I’m not really sure what to believe. The only proof I have is in the music and The Green Album showed Rivers devolve into a paper-thin version of the person he use to be.

In my opinion, Weezer’s The Blue Album and Pinkerton are two if the best albums of the ‘90s. The Green Album was a whole different story. The album lacked the band’s initial imagination, intelligence, and dry wit of their first two classic LPs. I think things would have been a little bit better for Rivers’ music legacy if he had just pulled the plug on his music career and did something else.

8. Nas

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Source: Al Pereira/Getty Images

If you look up lists of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time, Illmatic usually rates in the top three spots. This is because it’s one of the greatest f***ing albums ever made.

Now if Nas realized this and bought a Winnebago before the release of It Was Written, fans and journalists would have turned him into a hip-hop legend and we would be putting him in the upper echelon of the greatest MCs of all-time without even batting an eye. I do understand that some may do this now, but with tracks like “Hate Me Now” there are numerous weak elements of his career that can be used as ammo against the New York native’s so-called greatness. Even though It Was Written was looked at as not being on par with Illmatic, sentimental classics like “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)” would have easily eclipsed any harsh criticisms if he had hung up his mic.

7. Metallica

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Source: Paul Natkin/Getty Images

…And Justice For All and Death Magnetic are both very good efforts, but if the entire band of Metallica retired after the fatal bus crash that took Cliff Burton’s life back in 1986, we would have been left with enough thrash to satisfy all of us till the end of time. The only thing that I could argue, though, is the fact that Metallica’s 1989 tour might have been the very best in the history of their career. The band was tighter than ever and they were playing with a ferocity that could have rivaled any metal band of that era. Even Slayer. Yeah, I said it.

With that said, things would have been much better off if the entire machine known as Metallica hadn’t made it into the 1990s. Just the idea of the band not meeting Bob Rock makes me very, very happy.

6. Eric Clapton

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Source: Ron Howard/Getty Images

Clapton has had a pretty wild career. If the man had ridden off into the sunset before he could make it to the ‘80s I can guarantee you there would have already been a movie made about his life and it probably would have been directed by Marty Scorsese. From The Yardbirds to Cream to Blind Faith and even to Derek and the Dominos, this man has had one of the most legendary musical careers in the history of popular music.

I’m not gonna get too deep about the tragedies of his life and how he persevered to get to where he is today, but I will try to state my case on why it would have been better if his music had ceased by the end of ‘70s. The early 1980s saw Clapton return to form and prestige due to numerous collaborations with some of music’s biggest names, but the content itself was nowhere the caliber it had been in the ‘60s-‘70s. His new over-produced Phil Collins sound transformed Clapton from a raw blues axe man into a packaged product ready for the new MTV audience. Even if you like the unplugged version of “Layla,” you do have to admit it was kinda sad to hear Clapton’s music get so mellow and completely predictable.

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