May 10, 2006

Yet Another Music List

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at May 10, 2006 5:29 PM

Via Matt Yglesias, Blender magazine has a list of "The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born", for those of us who were born around 1980. You may recall that this publication previously did a list of the worst songs ever, correctly selecting "We Built This City" for the top slot. (I was pretty sure I blogged that list, but can't find any evidence of it.)

A list this long will inevitably contain some really good and some really bad choices, but should at least name one song by My Bloody Valentine. I had to scroll down to #290 before I discovered that they couldn't decide between "Only Shallow" (Loveless) and "Swallow" (Tremolo), and so named the nonexistent song "Only Swallow". However, the correct answer is "Soon" (and "To Here Knows When" should also have been on the list).

The second thing I did (after looking for the MBV song) was look for the most inexcusable song on the list, which I found more quickly: Nelly, "Hot in Herre" at #80. Another contender appears twice: "Where's Your Head At" by Basement Jaxx. There's also a strong preference for cheesy 80's ballads, but I will chalk this up to nostalgia.

It's harder to argue for the biggest omission: I can always find some obscure song that I really like but wouldn't appear on such a list. However, several of my favorite songs by the better-known indie bands are in fact present (usually around the 400s). Given what does appear, it's a little surprising they didn't include a song by the New Pornographers, either "Letter from an Occupant" or "The Laws Have Changed". In another type of omission, they included three New Order songs but none of them are "Bizarre Love Triangle" or "Blue Monday".

I'll have to wait until after next year's survey of '80s music to compile my own version of this list, but in the meantime the rest of you can point out other omissions.

Tags: Lists, Music

Basically, the list is unsurprisingly arbitrary---the writers can't seem to decide when to pick hit singles and when to pick deep album cuts, and they get caught somewhere in the middle.

Power ballads: You're right that they went overboard here, and they managed to do it without including necessary songs such as "Winds of Change," which is absolutely gorgeous.

New Order: "True Faith" is correctly listed as their top song. "Love Vigilantes" is actually reasonable, but "Temptation" should not have been listed instead of "Blue Monday" or "Bizarre Love Triangle." I discuss this in a bit more detail in my entry, so you can go there and use a find command if you want that specific bit. (My hands are tired. I need to stop typing.) Also, if you count the Joy Division entry (which absolutely needs to be around where it is), this group (or slight modifications thereof) actually has 4 songs on the list.

Oh, and why the Hell isn't "Tarzan Boy" on the list? Come on.

For further commentary that has way too much detail, see my blog entry on these lists. (I need to budget my time much better...)

Posted by: Mason | May 11, 2006 1:25 AM

Oh, and I consider "We Built This City" to be a very good song, but I'm an 80s child and you probably saw this coming.

Posted by: Mason | May 11, 2006 1:29 AM

Yet another list to show critics dont know $#|+

Britty Spears in the top 10?!?
Also no billy joel in my quick search thru

defintly a poor list in my irrelevant musical opinion

Posted by: shellock | May 11, 2006 7:00 AM

Also "End of the World" (REM) should make the cut been reading to much politics for it not to seem like a important song

Posted by: shellock | May 11, 2006 7:28 AM

I think Mason's initial assertion is dead-on. I gather they succumbed to a compromise between the competing forces of obvious picks and the need to be pretentious and/or edgy. Admittedly, I only scanned the list for a little bit, was unimpressed, and read AG and Mason's summaries. As such, I'm more interested in reacting to ya'll's posts than I am responding to the article itself...

There's nothing wrong with "We Built This City." It's a fun song, but is neither fantastic nor crap.

"Where's Your Head At" is a fine song, though I doubt it belongs on the list--and there are better Basement Jaxx songs to boot.

I wholeheartedly agree with you wrt New Order.

*now reading comments*

No Billy Joel? That seems like sacriledge to me.

I might have to scan over the list to see what REM songs *did* make the cut... there are several that belong, including "End of the World". Reminds me of "We Didn't Start the Fire", taking us back to the aforementioned dearth of Billy Joe. I mean Joel--is there any Green Day on the list?

Posted by: Lemming | May 11, 2006 10:36 AM

There was one Green Day song. I believe it was "When I Come Around." It was close to the end of the list. (I can't believe I went through the whole list and even read many of the blurbs.)

They put "We Didn't Start the Fire" on their worst songs list! WTF? That is one of my favorite Billy Joel songs, and he has a lot of awesome songs. (I read "dearth" as "death" at first, and I was briefly shocked.)

The three REM songs that made it were (in order) Losing My Religion, Everybody Hurts, and Man on the Moon (all from the same album). "It's the End of the World" would have made sense to be included. I love the song "Stand" dearly, but history hasn't seemed to have been kind to it, so I didn't expect to see it on the list. (That and "Shiny Happy People" are the two songs Michael Stipe has been quoted as saying that he regrets, which is too bad, because I really like both of them.)

Posted by: Mason | May 11, 2006 11:09 AM

Mason: Yeah, I thought about mentioning in the post that "True Faith" is the New Order song I'd keep on the list, replacing the other two with "Bizarre Love Triangle" and "Blue Monday".

Shellock: I'm going to take a contrarian position here and say that the inclusion of "Hit Me Baby One More Time" is justified. Maybe not in the top 10, but definitely in the top 50. Both because of its appeal and the way it's emblematic of an entire genre of teen pop.

It seems to me that much of Billy Joel's best work is from the '70s and thus disqualified from the list, but I can see a few songs that merit consideration.

Lemming: I may be in the minority in being extremely annoyed by "Where's Your Head At". I do like other Basement Jaxx songs, just not that one.

Mason: Actually, "Losing My Religion" is on Out of Time (along with "Shiny Happy People") while "Everybody Hurts" and "Man on the Moon" are on Automatic for the People. (In related news, my '90s music quest continues.)

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | May 11, 2006 11:28 AM

Gazebo: Yeah, sorry about that. I messed up the album comment. And I own one of those albums, so I can only offer my sleep deprivation as an excuse.

In terms of New Order, one could also make an argument for "Regret," which was their entry in the aging new-wavers popular song affair. In looking at their wikipedia entry yesterday, I was heartened that their strange song-title selection was specifically discussed. (They have some swaps and many titles that come from lyrics of other songs on the same album or even from previous album tities. They have so many songs with titles that don't appear in the lyrics. It's simultaneously cool and confusing. They do, however, seem to have departed from this markedly in recent years.)

Posted by: Mason | May 11, 2006 11:39 AM

AG: I will give you "hit me baby one more time" in the top 100 just not top 10.

Mason: Shiny and Happy People and Stand are both good songs in my opionon.

A somewhat short list of song I would have added that i can think of off the top of my head:

Paul Simon Graceland CD pick a song any song
Beach Boys - Kokomo
Billy Joel - We didnt start the fire, River of Dreams, and more...
Phil Collins - Groovey kind of love, Take Me home
Genesis - Jesus He Knows Me, Invisible Touch
Indego Girls - Closer to free
Bush - Glycerine
Josh Joplin - Camera One
Savage Garden - I want You
Third Eye Blind - Semi Charmed Life
TMBG - Istambul
Goo Goo Dolls - Iris, Black Ballon, Name

The list should go on but i should get back to my day job...

Posted by: shellock | May 11, 2006 12:24 PM

From what I'm reading, they seem to be looking at it from a "Most Influential" perspective instead of actual quality of music. For example, there are a TON of U2 songs from the 80s and 90s that were better than "One" ("With or Without You", "Pride (In the Name of Love)", or "Sunday Bloody Sunday" all come to mind), but they went for "One" because of the back story and the effect it had on the band. Same with "Billie Jean", and Eminem's "My Name Is..." And I do admit, it's hard to argue with some of those choices from that perspective.

But yeah, "Where's Your Head At" could definitely be omitted for the sanity of all.

Posted by: Chris L-S | May 11, 2006 12:29 PM

Random notes on the worst song ever list i Like Since Arcane Gazebo could not find the post:
We Built this city - though it can get annoying
Kokomo - it should be on the great list
I'll Be there for you
Two Princes
Breakfast at Tiffanies
Shiny Happy People - Should be on the great list
Cotton Eyer Joe - Good party dance song
We Didnít Start the Fire - Definate Great
The Sounds of Silence
Obladi Oblada - There is a folk signer I listen to who recomends a Primal Scream in the song for the "Ah" part

Posted by: shellock | May 11, 2006 12:40 PM

Shellock: "Semi-Charmed Life" actually was on the list.

Chris: So was "With or Without You". :)

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | May 11, 2006 1:18 PM

Shellock: I assume you mean "Closer to Fine" by the Indigo Girls rather than "Closer to Free" by the BoDeans. While I'm mentioning the Indigo Girls, I definitely recommend listening to their version of "Uncle John;s Band."

Posted by: Mason | May 11, 2006 1:20 PM

My bad on "Semi charmed life" actually being in the list

Also Yes is meant "closer to fine"

Posted by: shellock | May 11, 2006 1:30 PM

Oh yeah, everyone keeps dissin' Spin Doctors--what gives? "Two Princes" is a great song, and "Little Miss" (did I get that right?) is even better. *sigh*

Posted by: Lemming | May 11, 2006 3:18 PM

Heh, in case Lemming didn't get far enough through my blog entry, I dissed the Spin Doctors too, and I would both both of these songs in the bottom 50. :)

Posted by: Mason | May 11, 2006 3:31 PM

Oh, I saw. I saw.

Posted by: Lemming | May 11, 2006 3:51 PM

I would "put" both of them there. Fear my mad English skillz!

Posted by: Mason | May 11, 2006 5:22 PM

Not to mention your inability to spell "ph34r". You got "skillz" right though, so at least there's hope.

Posted by: Lemming | May 11, 2006 11:31 PM

I wasn't using l33t. I was using gangsta', which happens to have the same spelling of "skillz." I went to high school in the 'hood, remember?

Word to your mother.

Posted by: Mason | May 11, 2006 11:47 PM

Must I proofread everything? I know that language too...

"I warn't usin' no 1337--I be down with the OG, and we's gots da same spellin' a 'skillz', bitch. My homies and me, we from the hood, so you best check yoself.

Word to yo mamma."

This early in the morning I probably missed something.

Posted by: Lemming | May 12, 2006 11:12 AM

My point was more along the lines of the extraordinarily high ranking of "One" - that was actually one of my less favorite U2 songs, thus my questioning why it was put so high on the list. That and I stopped reading after about the first 25.

Posted by: Chris L-S | May 12, 2006 11:27 PM

Lemming: Your version is much more amusing than the one that comes out of the automatuic translators. Have you considered changing fields? :)

Posted by: Mason | May 13, 2006 12:50 AM

If you want to understand why certain people perceive music differently and why the principal horn of the Boston Symphony was a disillusioned university physicist from the 60s west coast who won two auditions in 1972, then you MUST read

Introduction to the Psychology and Research of Music by Dr. Edwin E. Gordon

-musician turned neuroscience and behaviorist researcher unafraid to call Eastman School of Music "a trade school and a waste of 5 years of my life"

Posted by: Katie | May 13, 2006 7:43 PM
Post a comment