Lesser Known Saint

Lists are for suckers

For years, many of my friends have done their “Best Of” lists for the current year’s music. Some have even gone so far to post their top 100 of all time!! Equally, I’ve been asked for years to post my top picks for music – and I’ve declined each time, for reasons I haven’t fully been able to elaborate on at the time. Recently, however, I’ve had a couple conversations that have helped clarify my position of why I don’t do lists…and why I think “Best Of” lists miss the point. Or maybe it’s me who is missing the point.

Lists are inherently subjective, and while I realize the absolute absurdity of wanting to have a definitive list, there are a couple problems I’ve always had with these sort of lists. First, it’s impossible (or close enough to it) to listen to enough music over the course of the year in order to truly have a grasp on what was released and to be able to listen to it all, evaluate, and rank it. When I only listen to a small fraction of the available music released in a year, how can I make any claim to have made a list that’s anywhere close to being definitive? The problem is magnified when you take into consideration all of the different genres that you could possibly listen to. How do I decide whether a death metal album is better or worse than a pop rock album?

That brings me to my second issue. My music tastes change and vary over time. Five years ago, you couldn’t tear me away from a techy album full of guitar pyrotechnics. A year ago, it would have been difficult for me to even stomach that type of metal. Perhaps even metal in general. However, over the past few months, I’ve found myself getting back into fairly complex metal. Were I an obsessive list person, wouldn’t that put me in a position where I would need to listen to albums I’d dismissed earlier? Or is because technical guitar music is making inroads with more melodic elements that I would normally gravitate towards? Periphery’s new album would be a great example of that. Along the same lines, pure repetiveness that I would have snobbily dismissed a few years ago, I see myself enjoying more and more as time goes on.

Lastly…the main problem I have with these lists (and this reason trumps everything else I’ve typed), is that making a list ranking music is NOT what the enjoyment of music is supposed to be. Do I need to know whether an album makes my top 10 in order to enjoy it? Is my #6 favorite album in 2010 really that much better than my #7? Music isn’t a competition – it’s an expression. It’s enough for me to know that I enjoy an album – I don’t have to know whether I like it more or less than another album. I like dissecting songs, riffs, solos, etc., in order to learn more as a musician, but I simply don’t see the point of dissecting just in order to rank it. It’s worth saying again…music isn’t a competition – it’s an expression.

Furthermore – on Jim’s list of top albums, there has already been discussion generated among our friends about how he’s crazy for having an album at #1 when it should be #2. Isn’t it enough that he likes both of those albums a lot? Maybe I’m just getting old. I don’t feel it’s necessary to argue someones music taste anymore.

There was some really cool music put out in 2010…as well as some music that I didn’t like. Same with the year before, and the year before that. That’s good enough for me.

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