I recently spent time with Pitchfork’s list of the 200 greatest albums of the 2010’s. While I was a bit confused as to why they put out this list before the 2010’s ends, I have to say that the choices that they made were very…okay.
As I delved further and further into the list, I couldn’t help but try to stifle my enthusiasm for some records’ placements and groan at a few others.
But that got me thinking about the idea of lists in general.
While many readers — like myself — seems to enjoy lists, I’ve concluded that their credibility can sometimes be misleading. These lists tend to be written well, but they will always have a few exceptional albums that are left off the list.
There are many albums on the list that are both critical favorites and big hits, such as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West and To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar, but what’s missing are the overlooked gems that many still crank up on their headphones.
This is not a new trend, by the way. There are bands and artists that have major fanbases and artistic credibility but just never garnered the mass public’s attention.
And it’s not like critics get it right all the time. Look no further then legendary critic writer Robert Christgau. While I have massive respect for Christgau, his negative reviews of albums like Ok Computer by Radiohead or Daft Punk’s Discovery have left me dumbfounded.
This also applies in many other places in the music industry. The Grammys for instance, have never given the prized gramophone award to artists like Led Zeppelin, Public Enemy, and Queen — when those bands were in their prime. And yet, these bands have stood the test of time despite their lack of that kind of critical recognition.
So should we stop making lists? I don’t think so.
The beauty of making lists is that it helps increase the discussion about music. While you may disagree with what a certain journalist may say about your favorite album of the year, that should inspire you to make a list of your own and to spread the word about the music that you think is great. The beauty of music is that fans tend to see a glimpse of themselves in the music that they love, regardless of what a record reviewer might say.
Even if there are albums like Metallica and Lou Reed’s Lulu or Kid Cudi’s Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven that are panned by fans are critics alike, there’s always a possibility that those records mean the world to someone else.
And at the end of the day, that’s what music comes down to: personal taste.
Music is one of the most subjective mediums in the history of artistic expression. As a reviewer, it is a bit humbling as well to know that for as much as I may wax poetic about a certain album, there’s always someone that may think it’s crap. Even though many year-end or decade-end lists seem to be contentious whenever they are put out, it makes me proud as a writer to know that we’re at least having the discussion about what makes our favorite music so fantastic.
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