Rank Ranks

I have always taken qualitative rankings of music far too seriously.

Case in point: I distinctly remember crying to my mother on the Sunday morning when I heard that Sheryl Crow's "All I Wanna Do" surpassed Boyz II Men's "I'll Make Love to You" as the number 1 song in the country. I loved Boyz II Men, and I hated Sheryl Crow (this is still true, though I doubt I would cry over either's successes or failures nowadays), and I whined through heavy tears to my undoubtedly flummoxed mom that it wasn't fair, that The Eagles had done all of the production and instrumental work on "All I Wanna Do" and that "I'll Make Love to You" was a far superior song. I think the reaction was something like "Stop crying about the damn weekly top 40 and get ready for Hebrew school." I wanted to call in sick. It didn't happened, and I stewed about that bitch Sheryl Crow for days and refused to listen to her song whenever it came on the FM radio.

Yes, I took those countdowns far too seriously. I woke up early on Sundays to listen to Casey Kasem and stayed up as late as I could that night to try to hear all of the Rick Dees' rankings, usually jotting down the top 10 in my notebook so that I would not forget the next morning. Into my teens I became an avid watcher of the American Film Institutes "Top 100..." series, eventually pledging one summer to watch all 100 of the Top 100 Most Heart-Pounding movies, and eventually writing my Princeton application essay about the effort (yes, I finished; no, I didn't like all of the movies; my favorite movie from the list is A Clockwork Orange; the most heart-pounding movie was probably either The Omen or Poltergeist; the least heart-pounding was probably E.T.).

Which brings me to the recent release of 2009's first important musical countdown, music now being the only countdown I really follow, as I never go to movies anymore and books...well, I won't get started on the state of modern literature, but I will say once again that I am tired of 500 page realist fiction books about middle-aged middle-class white men and their sexual frustrations in college-town America. I can get music easily, and so I do, and I listen to most everything of consequence that comes out (a kind way of saying that I haven't heard Green Day's latest yet).

The music magazine SPIN (not Spin, okay? All caps) released it's 20 Greatest Albums of 2009 So Far, apparently straight-facedly using the word "Greatest" even though it seems a bit idiotic to bestow "greatness" upon an album based on an unranked list of 20 albums from only 6 months maximum of LP releases.

But I digress. Here's the SPIN list. Of course, I disagree with a lot of the picks and non-picks, but that's natural. Past 2009's Big Three (is it safe to call the triumvirate of Bitte Orca, Merriweather Post Pavillion, and Veckatimest "The Big Three" yet?), a lot of SPIN's picks are head-spinning: as in, laughable, from my perspective.

Jeff Tweedy of Wilco is on the cover, which might sell magazines but which seem silly considering that Wilco album is solid but really familiar. That Peter Bjorn and John album is pretty awful; the first single, with the chorus of kids jacked from D.A.N.C.E., was a sugar rush at best. I, along with actual critics, liked Welcome to Mali better when it came out in 2008. Far by Regina Spektor is unSpek-tacular (see what I did there?), Jarvis Cocker phoned one in, and Antony and the Johnsons' popularity continues to baffle. I guess as long as there is a market for people who love the sound of beached whales giving birth over dramatic violins and echoing pianos, there will be a market for Antony and the Johnsons.

Otherwise, you know. Dirty Projectors and Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear are all great no matter what the reactionary "hipsters" say. Phoenix and Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Mos Def all killed it. So did Dan Deacon and Super Furry Animals and, uh, Various Artists of the Dark Was the Night compilation, but even I'm bored with this post so I'm going to stop.

That being said, I really started to write because the SPIN list got me excited about all of the Best of the 2000s lists that should be coming out in six to nine months. Unlike those Best of the 90s countdowns, which I could only understand in a very limited sense (and also a very angry sense since I did not understand the appeal of Nirvana), now is the first decade countdown list that I can actually as though I will be able to fully follow along with.

I've been thinking about what the typical (if that exists) top 10 will look like. Not very hard, but I've been thumbing through the catalogue in my mind. I'm guessing the big acts of the decade will be rewarded for an epochal disc: Radiohead's Kid A, Outkast's Stankonia or Love Below, White Stripes' White Blood Cells or Elephant, The Strokes first album, Jay-Z's Blueprint. Yoshimi and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Funeral and--in select publications--Parachutes/Rush of Blood to the Head.

Let me think about this a little bit. I'd like to see--those of you that care about these kinds of things--your lists, too.

And I promise not to cry if you rank Sheryl Crow ahead of Boyz II Men. Or, uh, Joanna Newsom ahead of Clipse. Yes, I am reaching for a comparison. Give me a break. But don't Gimme Fiction.

See what I did there? Yeah, I think it's time for bed, too.


Dave Holtz said...

Is it wrong that I feel like it is wrong to call Kid A the best album of the 00's, even though almost everyone will surely declare it to be? As dumb as it is, I think it's the fact that it was released in October of 2000. It feels like it should just be a bonus album on best of the 90s lists. I'm not really sure if it captures the collective state of mind of the 00s in the way that OK Computer did for the 90s.

Steven said...

some of those top 20 suck. surprised camera obscura didn't get a nod. tv on the radio deserves a place in a... top 25? top 20? of best of the decade. is that crazy? i would also push for a spot for one of the national's albums up there too, but they're not particularly innovative.

Dave Holtz said...

Oh, also! As far as 2009 is concerned, one of my favorite albums so far this year is Mandala, by the Rx Bandits. It's for the most part gone under the radar--I'm not sure if this is a result of bad promotion, or if maybe my music taste is just bad. But as far as I can tell, most critics aren't even reviewing it. I'll e-mail you a link to the album--I'd be curious to hear what you think.

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