Who is the new Bob Dylan?
"This 18-year-old sings like the young Bob Dylan," raved German newspaper "Die Welt" in 2012 when Jake Bugg stormed to the top of the British charts. Bugg is often compared to Bob Dylan, as his voice, performance and lyrics recall the legendary folk rock singer-songwriter.
The editors at "Die Welt" see Dylan everywhere... In 2102, the paper wrote: "Max Prosa is the German Bob Dylan." Long hair, harmonica, guitar and (sometimes) a cigarette dangling from his lips - Max Prosa's looks come close to the original.
The US media also like to sell singer-songwriters as the new Bob Dylan. "The New Yorker" chose the charismatic Conor Oberst to fulfill that role. He became a professional musician by the age of 17, and has been successful with various bands and solo ever since.
"One of many, or the new Bob Dylan?," wondered the "Huffington Post" about George Ezra, a singer-songwriter with a powerful voice and a guitar. Though his music is distinctly different from Dylan's, they both became stars thanks to their unique voice.
The Tallest Man on Earth
The Tallest Man on Earth plays music that strongly resembles Bob Dylan's early years. Kristian Matsson, a rather short Swede, says he was influenced by Bob Dylan. His raw voice, virtuoso guitar playing and melancholic texts come close to the original.
Some comparisons are simply absurd. Justin Bieber? A respectable music journalist wouldn't recognize any of the folk legend's traits in the teen idol. Yet his manager does: He told "Billboard Magazine" that "It's like Bob Dylan: He pissed people off, but whenever he switched, he reinvented himself in a way that made him who he is today."
Courtney Barnett is "Australia's answer to Bob Dylan," wrote the British "Independent." For a change, this Bob Dylan is a female. Her melancholic vocals, smart lyrics accompanied by a folk guitar are the makings of a legitimate Dylan heiress.
The Arctic Monkeys frontman comes across like Dylan, at least according to some music blogs: "Turner's 'Suck it and See' lyrics are reminiscent of Dylan's mid-60s output." Alex Turner has been called the "voice of the generation" and is celebrated as - another - new Bob Dylan.
The British "Guardian" describes Willy Mason as the "20-year-old drifter who is already being called the new Bob Dylan." At least he has the attributes: the guitar, the folk songs and the melancholic charisma.
As Bob Dylan releases his new album "Fallen Angels," we explore a long-lasting media trend: proclaiming the "new Bob Dylan." These musicians have all been compared to the living legend - but some come closer than others.
Even though Bob Dylan rejects any kind of glorification, he remains a living legend: the ultimate writer of American folk and protest songs who symbolizes an entire generation.
And even if he is still active, the media seem to enjoy proclaiming a "new Bob Dylan" every then and again.
Thirty years ago, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young and Donovan were regarded as legitimate heirs to Dylan's throne. Long hair, guitar, harmonica, singer-songwriter - apparently, that's all it takes to be compared to the great Bob Dylan.
The fact that there's even a hashtag #newBobDylan is proof that the musician plays a huge role on the singer-songwriter scene even today.
Where the "new Bob Dylans" are concerned, more often than not, the only thing the new and old have in common is the fact that they play music. Some are not even called "new," but rather German, Czech or African Bob Dylans.
For his 75th birthday, the real Bob Dylan is releasing a new album. "Fallen Angel" is a cover album of songs by Frank Sinatra, whom he revered.
When the new Bob Dylans turn 75 themselves, perhaps they will come up with a similar idea and honor their idol with a cover album of Dylan classics.
Julius Schmitt, Felix Schlagwein / db