Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Why I Don't Like The Pitchfork 500 - Part II

No, this list is not completely ridiculous. It does not entirely exclude mainstream music. And maybe there wouldn't be anything wrong with a list that did. But why throw a bone to mainstream music while essentially marginalizing it? It's like "Yeah, we know, some commercial hits were really good." Some? Thanks Pitchfork, I'm glad I have your permission.

Or maybe they have a heart after all. Maybe they anticipated that their list would be accused of being too snobby, or maybe they actually appreciate and respect some mainstream music, but regardless of the reason, there are some very well-known, commercially successful songs from the last 30 years included in the Pitchfork 500. I'd say about 10-15% of the songs either charted on the U.S. Billboard Top 40, or appeared on albums that charted on the U.S. Billboard Top 40. So good job, guys.

But the mainstream choices that they make! Dear God! Some examples:

1) Bruce Springsteen. They don't overlook Bruce Springsteen. Actually, I'm not sure I would have minded if they did. But they don't. So what songs do they pick? "Hungry Heart"? "Born In The U.S.A.?" "Glory Days"? Oh no. No, they pick "Atlantic City" and "I'm On Fire." Why, because they are cool, artsy Springsteen and not as obvious?

2) U2. Sure, they pick a couple of U2 songs. "One"? "With Or Without You?" Nope: "New Year's Day" from War and "Bad" from The Unforgettable Fire. Apparently U2 disappeared off the face of the earth after 1985. Come on. You mean to tell me that "Bad" is a "greater" song than anything off The Joshua Tree or Achtung, Baby? I know you guys don't really believe that. But you sat around and thought, "Well, everybody knows those songs, and they appear on plenty of other lists, so let's leave them off ours."

3) Same with R.E.M. Sure, they're on the list, but only "Radio Free Europe" and "South Central Rain," before they went completely downhill in ... what, 1986?

4) Nirvana. We get two Nirvana songs: "Smells Like Teen Spirit," which is a well-known song, and "Scentless Apprentice" from In Utero, which is not. Why not represent In Utero with "Heart-Shaped Box," "All Apologies," or even "Serve The Servants"? Because they want to be kooky, that's why.

In so many places, the choices reek of posturing. Why The Sugarhill Gang's "8th Wonder" and not "Rapper's Delight"? Find me a person who thinks "8th Wonder" is either better or more significant than "Rapper's Delight." No solo John Lennon (he still wasn't dead yet), but Yoko Ono's "Walking On Thin Ice?" Sure, I guess so. The Pet Shop Boys are on here, but it's their 1990 single "Being Boring." Just go with "West End Girls" and stop trying to be so contrarian, damn it. Talking Heads' album Remain In Light is represented by "Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)," not "Once In A Lifetime." Hey, I probably like "Born Under Punches" just as much as "Once In A Lifetime," but come on.

I mean, if they called it "500 Overlooked Songs From 1977-2007," then I wouldn't be as irritated. But no, these are the "essential" songs, not the overlooked songs. The problem is, if an alien landed on Planet Earth and asked me to give him a list of the 500 best songs between 1977-2007, I would not give him this list. Or how about "500 Songs From 1977-2007 That A Person With A Passing Interest In Popular Music Might Not Be Totally Familiar With." And if they called it that, I would be OK. But no, they really wanted to pass this off as some sort of Definitive List. Like, "If you don't hear an artist that's not on our list, you aren't missing anything." Which is obnoxious.

1 comment:

Herr Zrbo said...

Keep 'em coming, I like these! Stick a pitchfork into.. uh, pitchfork.