Jay Z, Eminem, Elvis and more: When were they on top? - Omaha.com
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Jay Z, Eminem, Elvis and more: When were they on top?
By Kevin Coffey / World-Herald staff writer


Jay Z show

When: 8 p.m. Sunday
Where: Pinnacle Bank Arena, 400 Pinnacle Arena Drive in Lincoln
Tickets: $29.50 to $122
Information: pinnaclebankarena.com or 402-904-4444

* * *

Jay Z has good reason to watch his throne.

He's at the very top of the rap game, but there are a lot of other hip-hoppers trying to topple him.

Jay Z is a savvy business mogul as well as a rapper, but artists don't stay on top forever. For every Michael Jackson, there's a New Kids on the Block that just doesn't last.

Some do manage to stay on top long enough to become an enduring star, and we think Jay Z is going to join the likes of MJ and Bruce Springsteen.

We took a look at a dozen artists — Jay Z included — with lasting appeal and when, exactly, they were on top — as well as when (or if) they ever played our biggest venues.



Eminem

When was he at the top? 2000

And in 2000, he released: “The Marshall Mathers LP.” It was so formative that Em recently revisited it with this year's “The Marshall Mathers LP 2.” The original is considered Eminem's best album as well as one of the best hip-hop albums ever. The record even made Rolling Stone's list of the best albums of all time: “Before his second major-label LP, Eminem was a shock rapper with a sense of humor; after Mathers, he was the voice of a generation. Songs like 'The Real Slim Shady' created a vast, pissed-off audience. And no one could deny the narrative heft of 'Stan.'”

Has he played the area? Nope.

Albums sold in the U.S.: 35 million


Jay Z

When was he at the top? Today. Right now. Currently.

And right now, he's busy with: “Magna Carta... Holy Grail.” Hova's latest album went platinum the day of its release, and on it he's surrounded by friends such as his wife, Beyoncé, and his buddy, Justin Timberlake.

Has he played the area before? Not that we're aware of.

Albums sold in the U.S.: 29 million


Mariah Carey

When was she at the top? 1995

And in 1995, she released: “Daydream.” Mariah Carey has as many No. 1 singles as Elvis — 18 in total — and three of them came from this album. “Fantasy” and “One Sweet Day” were both big hits, but “Always Be My Baby” might be Carey's most recognizable song. (It ended up on three of her greatest hits albums.) The New York Times called the album “voluptuously romantic make-out music” that you can take seriously. Agreed.

Has she played the area? We don't think so.

Albums sold in the U.S.: 63.5 million


Nirvana

When was the band at the top? 1991

And in 1991, the band released: “Nevermind.” An album that helped redefine rock music and usher in the grunge era. The record has influenced just about every piece of music released since then. And the best evidence for its importance, both symbolically and historically: “Nevermind” knocked Michael Jackson from the top spot on the Billboard 200.

Did the band play the area? Oh, yes. They played Duffy's Tavern in Lincoln on May 26, 1990, and played Aksarben after the release of “Nevermind.”

Review excerpt: “Nirvana earned about $1,300, including a $500 guarantee, for the performance, which was attended by about 220 people. At the time, the show's $8 advance ticket price was the highest charged for a performance in the bar's three-plus years under (Reg) McMeen's ownership.

“'We didn't get as many people as we had hoped for, but it was a pretty great and intense show,' McMeen said. 'There was a lot of nervous energy in the crowd for the show because we had hyped it up so much.'”

Albums sold in the U.S.: 25 million


Garth Brooks

When was he at the top? 1991 to 1998

And in that time, he released: “Ropin' in the Wind,” for which he won a Grammy; “The Hits,” an 18-song hits album that was certified 10-times platinum; and “Double Live,” the best-selling country album of all time. It really was an amazing run that only really stopped because he retired from performing for a while. But honestly, he still hasn't dropped from the top of the country heap. Brooks is still the top-selling solo artist (country or not) from the past two decades. That's better than even The Beatles.

Has he played the area? Yep. He played a sold-out run of five shows in Lincoln in 1997.

Review excerpt: “The singer really had the audience screaming during the performance of his crossover hit, 'Friends in Low Places.' Brooks stopped the song to tell the audience that he would be making a live recording — to be released as an album in the future — during his five-show run in Lincoln, which continues through Sunday. That said, Brooks instructed fans to sing the third verse, which they did with an arena full of vigor.” (That may be the version of “Friends in Low Places” that appeared on 1998's “Double Live,” but there's no way to be sure.)

Albums sold in the U.S.: 128 million


Madonna

When was she at the top? 1984 to 1989

And in that time, she released: “Like a Virgin” and “Like a Prayer.” These two albums featured some of Madonna's biggest hits and most recognizable songs, including “Like a Virgin,” “Love Don't Live Here Anymore,” “Like a Prayer” and “Express Yourself.” And she earned her nickname from the song “Material Girl.” That period was the top of her musical achievement and led directly into acting roles, greatest hits albums, her infamous “Sex” book and her documentary film, “Truth or Dare.”

Has she played the area? Nope, but we would love to have her.

Albums sold in the U.S.: 64.5 million


Bruce Springsteen

When was he at the top? 1984

And in 1984, he released: “Born in the U.S.A.” The top-selling album of '85 was also Springsteen's most successful. It had seven top 10 singles, as many top 10 singles as Michael Jackson's “Thriller,” including the title track, “Dancing in the Dark,” “Cover Me” and “I'm on Fire.”

Has he played the area? Lots of times. Tickets to his 1984 show at the Devaney Center in Lincoln sold out in less than a day.

Review excerpt: “Bruce Springsteen can whip a crowd into a frenzy any time he wants. He proved that once again at Sunday's concert in the Bob Devaney Sports Center. “The post-intermission half of the show harkened back to late-1970s Springsteen shows: excitement building song after song, the crowd on its feet, The Boss himself pouring out more energy in five minutes than an ordinary human expends in a year.”

Albums sold in the U.S.: 64.5 million

Michael Jackson

When was he at the top? It might be easier to say when he wasn't on top, but let's go with 1982 to 1987.

And in that time, he released: “Thriller” and “Bad.” “Thriller” is the best-selling album of all time, and it officially cemented Michael Jackson as the King of Pop. He topped the incredible success of “Thriller” with “Bad,” which is considered one of Jackson's best albums. Of the 11 songs on “Bad,” only one tune — “Just Good Friends” — was not released as a single. The album features big hits such as “Bad,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “Man in the Mirror” and “Smooth Criminal.”

Did he play the area? No.

Albums sold in the U.S.: 75.5 million (“Thriller” alone accounts for 29 million of those)

Fleetwood Mac

When was the band at the top? 1977

And in 1977, the band released: “Rumours.” Though Mick Fleetwood formed the band a decade earlier and the band swapped out several members over that time, the lineup that recorded “Rumours” is considered the band's best: Fleetwood, John McVie, Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks.

Has the band played the area? Oh, yes. They've played several times recently, but also back in the day, including on June 19, 1976, as well as on Aug. 21, 1980.

Review excerpt: “It was, simply, a great show, and the crowd cheered and cheered throughout. ... Though Miss Nicks is probably the best known member of the group, mostly because of her looks, her bewitching, eerie movements on stage and her flowing costumes, guitarist Lindsey Buckingham ... often displayed a jagged energy not found in most of Fleetwood Mac's AM radio hits, which tend to be ballads or laid-back rockers.”

Albums sold in the U.S.: 48.5 million

Led Zeppelin

When was the band at the top? 1971

And in 1971, the band released: “Led Zeppelin IV.” “Stairway to Heaven” anyone? The band's signature song became THE slow-dance song of the '70s and is generally considered one of the best rock 'n' roll songs of all time. The record also contained the hits “Black Dog,” “Rock and Roll” and “Going to California.”

Has the band played the area? No.

Albums sold in the U.S.: 111.5 million

The Beatles

When was the band at the top? 1968

And in 1968, the band released: “The Beatles,” commonly known as “The White Album.” Really, they were the biggest thing ever from 1963's “Please Please Me” to the band's final release, 1970's “Let It Be.” But “The White Album” was their most successful. The double album is a classic and includes a number of the band's most recognizable songs. And even the songs not played on the radio are loved by many. A.C. Newman, singer-songwriter and leader of the band The New Pornographers, told music blog Consequence of Sound: “'The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill' is not the best song on the album, but I remember singing it into a tape recorder with my brothers and sisters when I was a little kid, so it's my favorite. ... It's a darker, funnier musical world than the more iconic 'Yellow Submarine,' like Lennon decided to briefly work McCartney's side of the street just to mess with him.”

Did the band play the area? Nope.

Albums sold in the U.S.: 177 million (the most of any artist)

Elvis Presley

When was he at the top? 1956 to 1957

And in that time, he released: A lot of stuff. And don't get us wrong, Elvis was the King from when he started to his death in 1977. But in '56 and '57, Elvis released a string of singles that included “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog,” “Don't Be Cruel,” “Love Me Tender,” “All Shook Up” and “Jailhouse Rock.” In '56, Elvis's songs held eight spots on the top 10. It was an incredible run.

Did he play the area? Yes. He played here several times, including on June 19, 1977, which was part of the TV special “Elvis in Concert,” broadcast on CBS after Elvis died.

Review excerpt: Presley also played Omaha in May of 1956. A letter to The World-Herald's Public Pulse read: “The screaming of the audience, which cut down hearing the music, and the pushing and shoving, I learned later, were the same reaction that Elvis has been receiving all along the line. “Elvis and his band members agreed that this was one of the most orderly performances they've played in the last three months. “I would like parents to know that Elvis is a wonderful person to meet. He's just a normal American youth.” — Ann Paulson, Country Music Fan Club Association

Albums sold in the U.S.: 134.5 million

Contact the writer: Kevin Coffey

kevin.coffey@owh.com    |   402-444-1557    |  

Kevin covers music, whether it's pop, indie or punk, through artist interviews, reviews and trend stories. He also occasionally covers other entertainment, including video games and comic books.

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