13 February 2012

Top 100 Songs: Introduction

One of the big realizations that the "listen to every critically acclaimed and personal desired album from 2010" project gave us was that neither Brandon nor I are particularly good at creating new content on a consistent basis. Personally, I blame a life that exists outside the internet, so I'm not too worried. We're going to do this new project, though, and it'll work much better. As I mentioned quite a few times, the hardest albums to review were the middling ones, the okay-but-not-great, the ones that weren't actually bad enough to pan.

Here, though, we're going to each go through our top 100 songs. So we've agonized over our lists and checked them multiple times and I think we're good to go.

And a thanks to our devoted readers, willing to put up not only with months of nothingness, but also the complete navel-gazing that is a project like this. These are not the 100 best songs out there. They're not necessarily "100 songs I think you should know." They are 100 songs each that mean something to us. We are connoisseurs of music and have spent years and many dollars in pursuit of knowledge of the subject. In that there may be some value to you, if only that it may introduce you to songs you don't already know. But no guarantees: one of the things that I learned in making my list is that I leaned very heavy on my formative years of music geekdom -- high school and college. Perhaps this shouldn't be surprising.

Which means, you might already know all the songs on my list. (I'm not sure what's up with the outliers in 1970 and 1975 except that each year has one album represented twice. I also find it interesting that while the highest concentration is in the high school and college years, there are no songs from the year I graduated the former and started the latter.)

Very early on, Brandon suggested that we limit the list two only two songs per artist, otherwise our lists would be heavily skewed to our favorites and three quarters of the list would be from a half dozen artists. This wasn't a "hard" ceiling, as there were allowances for post-breakup bands, guest spots, and things like this. Essentially we just went with what made sense. This was my working definition:

* Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, and Son Volt count as three separate bands.
* CSN&Y is the same as CSN, but solo Young is different, even if the CSN&Y song is a Young song.

Quibble if you want, but it's the spirit that counts. Besides, I don't think there are any edge cases on my list.

I have a lot of tracks: one hundred songs counts as less than one-third of one percent of all tracks I have rated. I've been diligent for the last two years to rate every song I listen to -- which made compiling my list somewhat easier. So I queried my collection for everything with the highest rating. After culling the duplicates, I was left with 1651 songs. I went through this list, dividing them into four categories:

1) YES -- the songs that have to be included
2) PROBABLY -- the songs that should be included
3) MAYBE -- the songs that should be included, if I have room
4) NO -- the songs that aren't in the top 100

I took artist discographies as a whole and made sure that I only marked up to two tracks per artist yes, probably, or maybe. Even doing this, I was left with 157 YESs alone. Then, through this list, I marked "the ones that absolutely have to be included or else this entire project is a sham"...which gave me 81. Then I spent a few days agonizing over choosing 19 tracks from 76.

So, yeah, here we are. While the top 100 may be slightly different on a different day, I think it's as accurate as it possibly could be. I'm a little sad that it doesn't show a great deal of diversity: the only two pre-1960 songs are both classical works; country, blues, and rap are all under-represented. There's no reggae or jazz. There are artists I love that aren't represented at all (Old 97's, Leonard Cohen) but there are artists that I think have only one non-crap song (Xzibit). But it is what it is.

-- Lin


John said...

Although I am certain to know little about these songs, I am excited for the list.

Lin said...

You might be surprised. My guess is that you'll know 20-25 of my list. I haven't seen Brandon's so I don't know for sure, but I'd guess 15 or so of his.

Besides: learning experience! Right?