The legacies of music's most decorated and iconic artists is rarely contested, and often for obvious reasons. We accept that Michael Jackson was the King of Pop with very little argument. James Brown is undoubtedly one of the founding fathers of funk, not only for the way he danced to a beat but in the way he revolutionised the genre. Despite these legacies, fans will always seek to critically assess whether an artist deserves higher praise, or less. Social media and exposure to blogs for the better part of a decade has meant that fans have been able to have open and honest conversations about the greats, but what is it about our desire to compare multiple entities?

Prior to the release of D'Angelo's Black Messiah very few, if any, would have agreed that he was in the same league as Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Curtis Mayfield or even perhaps his purple highness, Prince. When I first mentioned this online, I was met with confusion and shock that I would rate D'Angelo so highly. With only three studio albums to his name, it would be easy to exclude D'Angelo from the aforementioned list of soul legends. It's a legitimate reason as many of the artists mentioned before have amassed upwards of a hundred albums between them, including compilations. On the other hand, Donny Hathaway had only four solo recordings, yet his unwavering influence on soul music and D'Angelo himself can never be disputed.

D'Angelo has long been influenced by his predecessors, that much is obvious when one hears his melodies alone. His authenticity as an artist has on occasion been called into question because of the influence of Curtis Mayfield, Prince and Sly and the Family Stone. Whilst that is certainly true, there are few examples where an artist or a piece of music has not taken elements from what has preceded it. Musical lineage suggests that in time an artist will one day inherit D'Angelo's extraordinary talent.

It's possible that many won't want to consider D'Angelo a soul luminary because he is still alive. The adage, 'an artist is only appreciated once they are dead', should not exist. It is quite feasible to objectively critique an artist's work whilst they're alive. Black Messiah is a unique body of work, not just because of the artistry, but because of its relevance in the here and now. Marvin Gaye's What's Goin' On was dubbed one of the greatest soul albums of all time due to his ability to challenge the US government's involvement in the Vietnam War. Yet when it was released, it cemented Gaye's place in the soul hall of fame. Black Messiah, a euphoric yet social critique, may go down as one of the best funk-soul albums of recent times due to its relatability. How much time we should allow an album to marinate before we call it great? Better yet, should the legacy of an album or an artist be limited to its age? When you hear collaborators such as ?uestlove and Q-Tip speak so highly of him, the credibility of his inclusion is further strengthened.

Comparisons allow artists to stand the test of time, which is why these legacies must exist, even if we don't agree with them. Competition often brings out the most admirable skills and attributes of an individual. Contemporary artists will often look to legends not only as influences but as people they would eventually wish to eclipse, although they may not divulge such desires.

Despite countless top 100 shortlists by the likes of Rolling Stone, there are few absolutes. So whilst we get caught up in Breaking Bad vs The Wire debate, perhaps the beauty and attraction of discussion lies in the fact that there is no right or wrong answer. We are drawn to these discussions largely because of our somewhat earnest affinity with these artists.

Discover: Our Thoughts on D'Angelo's fantastic Black Messiah.