Why cancelled artists still get high listings in the Top 2000

People at a concert
Marco Borsato looks at the list with songs in the Top 2000
ANP Foto/Remko de Waal

NPO Radio 2's music ranking Top 2000 has been an indispensable part of the holiday season for many Dutch people for decades. Despite the increasing number of artists being 'cancelled', songs by those artists, including Marco Borsato, Rammstein and Michael Jackson, still rank high in this year's Top 2000. Media scholar Simone Driessen explains how this is possible.

Dr Simone Driessen is a media scholar at Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication and researches cancel culture within the music world. In October, for instance, she spoke at NOSop3 about what happens when your favourite idol is cancelled and wrote earlier this month about the role popular music plays in US elections.


Not only the Top 2000 itself is a tradition for many. Traditions also play an important role in the creation of this 'list of lists'. Driessen: "Many people vote for the same artists every year, for instance Queen and The Eagles. They also often vote for a particular song because they think it belongs in the list, or because it is very personal to them. An example of this is Danny Vera's Rollercoaster. This song is rarely heard on the radio, except around the holidays."

Nostalgia and hit factor

The time of year also plays an important role in voting behaviour: nostalgia, the holiday spirit, looking back on the past year and looking ahead to what lies ahead in the new year. "These are all factors that influence voters and therefore certain songs end up in the top more quickly," Driessen says. Of course, the hit factor also plays an important role: this year, you can see that from the huge entry of Maan & Goldband (according to Spotify data, not coincidentally also the Netherlands' most-listened-to song of 2023). But Taylor Swift's hits are also doing well: she is suddenly at the top with twice as many listings.


Moreover, many people mainly vote for a song, and not necessarily for the artist. Driessen: "That's why we don't see this complexity in the figures or listings, but only find out when this is specifically asked. And if we then look at fans, a highly engaged group, we see that it can be complicated to completely reject an artist after his 'cancelation' (= boycotting the artist in this case). Some fans will reject the artist and thus no longer vote for the artist, while others will doubt this and either separate the art from the maker or continue to see the artist as innocent until a judge has ruled the case. There will also remain fans who vote because they just really like the music, or because they genuinely want to support the artist.

According to Simone Driessen, what about (songs by) Marco Borsato, Rammstein and Michael Jackson?

"In the case of Marco Borsato, we see the listings dropping considerably. Anyway, he has had little to no airtime in recent years, but more importantly, he has not released any new music either. This contributes to the fact that his 18 listings from 2015 have dropped to eight this year. These 8 listings show that there is still a group of people who continue to faithfully vote for him despite the allegations and a prosecution. It is not clear from the statistics whether these are loyal fans, or people for whom his music means a lot. But it does show the complex dynamics of music: despite the public comment of his persecution, the music can mean a lot to someone personally.

Rammstein has eight (quite high) listings in the Top 2000, probably because the group is popular among one of the largest age groups of Top 2000 voters (people between 40 and 60). Precisely because of the fuss about the recent concerts in the Netherlands, more attention has been paid to the band and, as a result, childhood sentiments have been rekindled among many people. Secretly, I also suspect that some people voted for them as a form of protest and to show support that the fuss and controversy surrounding frontman Till Lindemann is unproven/no follow-up. In addition, some of Rammstein's notations can be traced back to the fact that their albums are still quite recent (2019 & 2022) and that they have been touring a lot.

That Michael Jackson still has so many listings is more of a tradition/generation thing. Jackson cannot defend himself and 'about the dead nothing but good'. He is such a great pop figure that he cannot really be cancelled: the influence of his music on the music industry has put him on a pedestal forever. The side note here is that whenever we talk about Jackson, it is actually always about his alleged child abuse.Completely free of stigma he is not."

Related content
Simone Driessen in WIRED on fandom, politics and the QAnon theories about Taylor Swift.
Taylor Swift with guitar
With the current controversy surrounding Marco Borsato, ESHCC media scientist Simone Driessen, publishes an article contextualising the challenges fans face.
Marco Borsato

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