A List of the Best Music Lists
Each year concludes with the fire-hose of lists, summarizing the past year into a concise, dinner-party-quotable chart (you’ve probably figured this out by now). However, far too many offer the item with no annotation. Luckily, there are a multitude where the writers offer us reasons for their canonizations. If you’ve finished The Brown Tweed Society’s retrospective, and are still thirsting for more, I offer you my List of Lists, 2010-style (so profound I can’t even define it):
The 50 Worst Songs of the Decade – Idolator/Village Voice
A brief read of today’s Idolator is reminiscent of watching Michael Jordan’s comeback with the Bullets, er, Wizards. The look is fairly similar (almost down to the cheesy moustache), but instead of thunderous dunks of Maura Johnston and Michelangelo Matos, we get missed layups and tired hug-fouls of Soon-To-Be-Irrelevant Karaoke Puppet #65. Prior to her exit, Johnston and fellow badass Christopher Weingarden began a list of the 50 worst songs of the decade, offering scathing catharsis towards the tunes that left us hating life. Midway through the brilliance, The Big I pulled the plug, foreseeing that the compilation was likely to bash their new objects of affection. To conclude this madness, the Village Voice is allowing them to finish their project.
MAD’s “Snappy Put-Downs” have nothing on these two: In discussing “Into the Night”, one of Carlos Santana’s late-period cash-in duets with pop stars (this one features Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger), Johnston says “Kroeger’s singing even includes a chorus of ay-oh-ay-ing that actually makes the listener appreciate banal lyrics like ‘She had fire in her soul it was easy to see / How the devil himself could be pulled out of me.’ (What, he couldn’t squeeze a “desire” in somewhere?)”
Intensities in Ten Suburbs – 10 years, 100 songs:
You want an antidote to the screeds from above? Back in 2002, when Interpol freaking took over, I totally went balls-out for Turn on the Bright Lights. But there were moments that made me cringe – and by “moments”, I mean “lyrics”. A few years later, l found a column entitled “The Ten Worst Lines on Interpol’s First Album” by Andrew Unterberger of the greatly-missed Stylus.com. While deft with illuminating the cheesy center that often resides in greatness, AU truly excels in revealing why something is awesome. This list of his 100 favorite Oughties songs hits enough indie touchstones for Pitchfork obsessives like myself (and you, too – come on, admission is the first step), but pledges his love for some serious cheeseball pop – Fergie or Pussycat Dolls, anyone? While its takes a special breed of indie aficionado to craft such sincere etudes to songs by Vertical Horizon or LifeHouse, the real achievement of this behemoth is its dead-on historical summary of the decade in music. (He left out electroclash, but that’s about it). Franz Ferdinand, the Killers, and the Rapture are there, as they should be. If you were anywhere near a radio the past ten years, and are willing to appreciate the brilliance of good pop song in addition to Franz Ferdinand & Co, the block of “Idioteque”, “Toxic”, “Toxicity”, “Crazy in Love”, “Last Nite” and “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” will be as much fun to read as it is to hear.
Bottom Feeders – Popdose.com
If you really wanted to read your life away, Popdose’s writers, most notably Dave Steed, have combed the desert of every Hot 100 song from the 1980s that did not make the top 40. Bottom Feeders offers informative takes on tunes that you likely saw one time on MTV, never to be heard again. While more fact-based than comedic, there’s a mess of great anecdotes, like “One thing I’ve never been able to get out of my head is that Eddie Van Halen wanted Patti Smyth [of Scandal] to be the lead singer of Van Halen after they parted ways with David Lee Roth.” Somewhere, in a Baja California salt factory, Sammy Hagar is shooting at the walls of heartache.
If the music equivalent to Infinite Jest’s footnotes did not satiate your needs for music lists, Popdose’s Jason Hare offers the first true dissertation on the too-mellow-for-the-yacht rock from the late 1970s. Adventures Through the Mines of Mellow Gold, featuring my favorite internet-related logo (Michael McDonald is involved – you’ll thank me later), answers your burning questions, such as “Am I crazy in thinking that ‘Baby Come Back’ sounds like a note-for-note bite off of Hall and Oates?”
Best and Worst of a Decade After Rock – The Buffalo Beast
Sometimes we Serious Wordy Types need the piss taken out of us. Damn few approach what this mag can do. (where’s 2009’s Most Loathsome Americans? Don’t make us hurt you).
The 100 Greatest Country Songs of All-Time – The Other Side of Country
(Scroll down about 37% – yeah, I know this is five years old, but damnit, it deserves to be here). Jack Sparks of CityPages, the Twin Cities’ Village Voice-affiliated weekly, compiled his favorite country tunes, and damn, he nails it. Like Unterberger, Sparks has a gift – reading his column will remind you of why you love music. While he doesn’t post nearly enough, his running diaries of the Country Music Awards are as funny as they are anger-inducing. When describing an anonymous catalog model with pitch correction performing “He Stopped Loving Her Today” amidst a tribute to George Jones, he notices that she’s reading from a TelePrompTer.
“You don’t know the words to THIS song?”
GOLD, JERRY, GOLD!
But the real deal is that list of songs. As a bizarro-world version of me, he is able to articulate his love for a song far more succinctly (a few sentences, or even a mere expletive, sends the message). Since he often updated it year-to-year, I advise spending a few hours in the archives of his site and giving them a read. What’s #1? It ain’t Kenny Chesney. I’ll tell you that.