The Greatest Hits Album is sometimes considered the Gerber baby food of an artist's discography. Some of them are very good, like Sweet Potato Apple Carrot Cinnamon. Others are, frankly, Ham and Gravy. Yet even if a Greatest Hits album can reach the insane heights of S.P.A.C.C., it's still only an introduction to more complete meals. A 16 song playlist of Kendrick Lamar's best, most popular songs is certainly going to slap, but it will never carry the emotional, thoughtful impact of To Pimp a Butterfly. Some bands, like the almighty Queen, are singles-generating machines that can't drop a consistent album, but even their hits compilations can come off as "That's What I Call Music" CDs stocked in the back of an FYE. With less and less Greatest Hits and "Essential" albums being produced, there just doesn't seem to be a place left in this world for a 12-track chock full of a band's high points. However, one sacred temple of bangers and throwbacks remains standing: The All-American Road Trip.
There are many threats and dangers when setting out on the open road. Fatigue, boredom, something about carburetors. You name it, and it could happen to you. You don't want to confront your family in the afterlife and have to say, "I died in that car crash cuz 'COFFEE BEAN' by Travis Scott came on, and sure, it's a highlight from Astroworld, but it's also a bit chill and then I yawned and next thing I knew I'm floating in some weird void with my estranged aunt and Grandpa Bill." Don't be THAT person. You need to revamp your tunes. A well-crafted playlist, with over 250 of the most bumping, sing-a-long-able jams from the past 50 years can be a great solution, but do you really want to put that together? Work is boring today, but come on! You need that special collection of songs that:
1). Everybody knows.
2). Definitely had some radio play when it was first released.
3). Demands some surround sound, backseat chorus from the kids/roommates/hitchhikers you're riding with.
4). *OPTIONAL* Makes the glass shake when you crank the bass just right.
This is where the greatest hits album comes alive. Aside from RedBull and cigarettes, these back-to-back hits are going to keep everyone awake and excited as you tackle the American frontier. Also, just stop smoking cigarettes, no matter how cool it makes you look.
Greatest Hits albums are imperfect, but they shouldn't be lost to history. The next time you set out to see the World's Largest Ball of Yarn, consider throwing away the prestige records and hit playlists. Instead, roll out with the Essential Bruce Springsteen, the incomparable The Temptations - The Ultimate Collection, or even shed a power tear to Amy Winehouse - Greatest Hits, and let the King of the Open Road rule your domain.
Joe Brueggemeyer hosts and edits The Marquee podcast with Logan, and has an unhealthy obsession with baking.