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The Top 20 Whitest Musicians of All Time: The Complete List

The Top 20 Whitest Musicians of All Time: The Complete List
Katy Baugh

*Top 20 Worst Bands Ever: The Complete List

*Top 20 Musicians of All Time, in Any Genre: The Complete List

*Top 20 Sexiest Female Musicians of All Time: The Complete List

*Top 20 Sexiest Male Musicians of All Time: The Complete List

Considering that most all of today's popular music -- be it rock, pop, dance or rap -- sprang from genres pioneered by black musicians, being all Caucasian about your songs is to literally betray your roots. To qualify as one of our whitest musicians, then, requires more than a pasty complexion, it requires a near-total disregard for jazz, blues and soul or, even worse, a complete whitewashing of them. Without further ado, then, here are 20 performers who put the you-know-what in honky-tonk. -Ben Westhoff

The Top 20 Whitest Musicians of All Time: The Complete List

20. Celine Dion

In 1997, the world had Titanic fever, and French-Canadian chanteuse

Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" was inescapable, especially on adult contemporary radio stations (aka where white people go to die). Dion's breast-beating rendition at the Academy Awards remains one of television's most disturbing moments, and her current residence at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas is proof that folks from all over the world have a near-insatiable appetite for bland fare. -Linda Leseman

The Top 20 Whitest Musicians of All Time: The Complete List

19. Pink Floyd

Somehow these moody Brits managed to scale the charts with "psychedelic" rock that was actually just sleepy electric folk dirges in disguise. Despite their perpetual poker faces and utterly sexless musicianship, their massive success set the stage for such gloomy paste-masters as Radiohead and Sigur Ros. It's incredible to think that Pink Floyd are named for two bluesmen. -Dan Weiss

The Top 20 Whitest Musicians of All Time: The Complete List

18. Weird Al Yankovic

While he grew up in Lynwood, it was a different Lynwood, a white Lynwood. "Weird" Al Yankovic listened the Dr. Demento Radio Show, worshipped Elton John, and made his first mixtape of parodies using an accordion. His first hit turned The Knack's "My Sharona" into "My Balogna," delighting proto-fanboys everywhere. Yes, Yankovic did a good job modeling a jheri curl in his parody of MJ's "Beat It" ("Eat It"), and we enjoyed "White & Nerdy," but that's, ironically, about as black as Alfred ever got. -Dennis Romero

 

The Top 20 Whitest Musicians of All Time: The Complete List

17. U2

U2 is the kind of band that now-middle-aged weekend warriors thought was "edgy" back in the '80s. That reality was, though, that even with their occasionally politically-charged lyrics, the music was about as challenging as the Olive Garden. In 1987, The Joshua Tree may have sounded like a fresh alternative to hair metal dominating radio at the time. But which is worse, Mötley Crüe's brand of hedonism of U2's penchant for taking themselves too seriously? -Linda Leseman

The Top 20 Whitest Musicians of All Time: The Complete List

16. Spoon

Spoon are often cited for helping to bring falsettos and R&B rhythms into the indie-rock fold, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a DJ blending their stiff tunes with Prince. No less an authority on whiteness than The New Yorker was aghast that they sound "even tidier live than on recordings." But what do you expect from a band who have written such booty-shakers as "The Fitted Shirt" and "The Two Sides of Monsieur Valenti"? -Dan Weiss

The Top 20 Whitest Musicians of All Time: The Complete List

15. Michael McDonald

A yacht-rock refugee, McDonald took the blandest elements of his former bands Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers -- smooth jazz keys, pinched falsetto harmonies, bass lines kidnapped from disco and beaten into funkless submission -- and used them to launch an '80s blue-eyed soul career so totally devoid of actual soul it was almost genius. Has any artist ever soundtracked more happy hour hookups at Chili's, or provided more fodder for banal wedding bands? Michael, we salute you. -Andy Hermann

 

The Top 20 Whitest Musicians of All Time: The Complete List

14. MC Paul Barman

In case the name didn't give it away, Paul Barman's sort of a cross between a Borscht Belt Richard Simmons and the guy at the front of your class waving his hand around and making the teacher go, "Anyone other than Paul?" Though he's not at all a natural fit for rap music, he's nonetheless very talented in a cheats-using-the-dictionary way: What fly honey could resist lines like "I won't use a dental dam 'cause it discourages my urges to submerge in her jizz" or "I like to suck toes / Yours secrete fructose"? He's also got a track, which is both whimsical and educational, called "Burping and Farting." -Dan Weiss

The Top 20 Whitest Musicians of All Time: The Complete List
Katy Baugh

13. Moby

You could hardly get any whiter than hanging out with Moby and a bunch of club kids in platform sneakers in the early 1990s. Sure, techno was black music, created in Detroit in tandem with the "Planet Rock" breakdance revolution, but by the time it hit midtown New York it was a bro-fest fueled by the whitest drug since aspirin, ecstasy. Moby moved on the hard stuff, too: organic tea. Sure, Play sampled deep South blues. So did Led Zeppelin. -Dennis Romero

The Top 20 Whitest Musicians of All Time: The Complete List

12. Jack White

Even beyond his name, Jack White is about as white as they come, both literally (does he ever go out into the sun? Dude must have a Vitamin D deficiency) and when it comes to his music. His songs are often little more than de-fanged blues, lacking the passion and grizzled realness that makes the genre speak to so many people. -Linda Leseman

 

The Top 20 Whitest Musicians of All Time: The Complete List
Keith Klenowski

11. The National

The National chose their name because it was "benign and meaningless," according to an interview with frontman Matt Berninger in The Scenestar. This is apparently also the guiding principle behind their music. You can catch a band that sounds a lot like The National any Friday night doing open mics in coffee shops in affluent suburbs from sea to shining sea. As if their adult album alternative radio sound weren't the most white bread thing since the death of Liberace, they also play benefits for Tibet with Vampire Weekend. Someone get these guys venti cups of Starbucks and get it over with. -Nicholas Pell

The Top 20 Whitest Musicians of All Time: The Complete List

10. Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton makes Jack White look like Son House. Dude tries so hard it's

embarrassing. Kind of weird, considering his pithy quip to a London audience in August

1976, "This is England, this is a white country, we don't want any black wogs and coons

living here." Slowhand was drunk, but has never apologized for the comment; on the

contrary, he's repeatedly defended it. Nor has Clapton ever apologized for the 50 years

he's spent making bland, boring approximations of the blues for beer commercials and

the bar bands of Topeka. After all, nothing says "authentic blues" like the

synthesizer licks on "Forever Man." -- Nicholas Pell

The Top 20 Whitest Musicians of All Time: The Complete List

9. James Blunt

James Blunt would make an excellent toothpaste ingredient, such is his blinding whiteness. He also has a song that climaxes with a rousing chant of "I'm so hollow baby/ I'm so hollow." Meanwhile, "You're Beautiful" was so uncool that even the castrato himself felt the need to darken it up a few shades by reminding folks it's sung from the perspective of a stalker. After all, that excuse did wonders for Sting. -- Dan Weiss

 

The Top 20 Whitest Musicians of All Time: The Complete List

8. Sarah McLachlan

There's a line in Buffy the Vampire Slayer where Willow says something about making love and Xander is all, "Wild monkey love? Or tender, Sarah McLachlan love?" When your very name is a signifier on Buffy for dreary, un-monkey-like sex -- and when the edgiest thing you've ever done is an XTC cover -- you are officially a deeper shade of pale. -- Andy Hermann

The Top 20 Whitest Musicians of All Time: The Complete List

7. Belle and Sebastian

You've heard the expression white person problems? They could just as easily be called Belle and Sebastian problems. The characters in the Glasgow twee legends' songs are afflicted by boredom, sexual frustration, ennui, religious confusion, and, on occasion, a bit more happiness than they're comfortable with. The singing is precious, the instruments are gentle, and one gets the feeling that none of this would be possible without Zoloft. The fact that they're one of my favorite groups probably says something about my own complexion. -- Ben Westhoff

The Top 20 Whitest Musicians of All Time: The Complete List
Anton Corbijn

6. R.E.M.

Now that their breakup's final, we can officially call R.E.M. the pinnacle of white signifiers in rock. From Peter Buck's guitar heroes being the Byrds to Bill Berry's surf-punk drumming to Stipe's garbled obscurisms ("Play 'Swan Swan H'!"), these liberal Southerners managed to skim all that is funky off of rock and roll. They once described themselves as a rock band who play sitting down; it's fair to say that's how their audience likes to listen to them, as well. -- Dan Weiss

 

The Top 20 Whitest Musicians of All Time: The Complete List

5. Radiohead

Go ahead and turn on VH1 right now. You know those bands playing in the background

of your favorite hot mess celeb reality show? Notice how they all sound like some pop

crossover version of Kid A? The prosecution rests. Radiohead went from being maudlin alt rock radio standard bearers to self-consciously difficult and avant-garde. They're currently the preferred artistic rock band for people who don't like artistic rock, with NPR-listening Volvo drivers everywhere lapping it up. -Nicholas Pell

The Top 20 Whitest Musicians of All Time: The Complete List

4. Will Smith

Too many years in Bel Air were bound to affect him. -Ben Westhoff

The Top 20 Whitest Musicians of All Time: The Complete List

3. Vampire Weekend

Before anyone had yet coined the term "stuff white people like," Vampire Weekend had already delivered the soundtrack: a queasy tangle of East Coast prep school lyrical imagery and borrowed highlife guitars, all bloodlessly delivered by two failed white rappers and their Ivy League pals like it was part of some African Studies project. Not everyone at the Weekly dislikes their music, but we will say this: Describing it as "Upper West Side Soweto" does not make it ironic, or subversive. It just makes Vampire Weekend the whitest pseudo-Afro-pop band since Rusted Root. -Andy Hermann

 

The Top 20 Whitest Musicians of All Time: The Complete List

2. Wilco

Wilco is the Mark Ruffalo of bands; just slightly-grizzled and tortured-seeming enough to disguise the fact that, at bottom, they're just a bunch of boring middle-class dudes who like Ben & Jerry's like you do. Listening to Wilco -- much like watching, say The Kids Are All Right -- lets you momentarily believe that life really is hard for us low-melanin types, and that nobody out there should ever forget it! -Ben Westhoff

The Top 20 Whitest Musicians of All Time: The Complete List

1. Kenny G

What do we mean when we say an act is "the whitest?" We mean musicians without anyflavor at all, the musical equivalent of a mashed potato sandwich with mayonnaise on white bread. We mean a total lack of influences from R&B, jazz, soul and blues; sure, Kenny G aims to roughly approximate jazz, but in truth he made an entire generation hate the genre with his customer-service-on-hold-style saxophone. Christ, it's not even a real saxophone; it's a fucking soprano sax. The dude might as well be playing a flute. Mr. G's backup band, so far as we can tell, is a Casio keyboard. Stinks, right? But get ready for this: he's the biggest-selling instrumental artist of all time. -Nicholas Pell

*Top 20 Worst Bands Ever: The Complete List

*Top 20 Musicians of All-Time, in Any Genre: The Complete List

*Top 20 Sexiest Female Musicians of All-Time: The Complete List

*Top 20 Sexiest Male Musicians of All-Time: The Complete List

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