There’s something we want to get out of the way before you start clicking away at the gallery above: We know this isn’t the first time you’ve seen an article purporting to name an artist “the next Bob Dylan.” In fact, music journalists have been doing this for decades — fixing their eyes on some poor young talent and foisting them into the echelon of Dylan-hood. Dylan is the original GOAT and calling a young singer-songwriter the next Dylan is much more of a bid for cheap attention than it is a legit coronation.

But we want to examine Dylan as an idea — or, better yet, an amorphous idea cloud that encompasses a literary and poetic approach to lyric writing; complex relationships with the concept of “folk”; willful abandonment of critical and audience expectations; and the elucidation of the hopes and frustrations of a specific place and time. Dylan’s legacy encompasses all of these things, so we’re excited put together a list of contemporary artists who engage with those ideas in different ways. While none of them will ever be “the next Dylan” (after all, there can only be one GOAT), all of them exhibit the influence of the ideas he popularized and the musical era he shaped. Just remember: If we believed every time someone was dubbed the next Dylan, Donovan and John Prine would be selling out arenas right now.

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