Monday, December 20, 2010

End-of-year Top Ten lists: why we need 'em

Posted By on Mon, Dec 20, 2010 at 7:18 AM

Listomania
  • Listomania

You listened to us sound off - okay, fine, rant -- about why end-of-year lists are a scourge to the Internet on Friday afternoon. Now, it's time to play devil's advocate, sans liquor bottle. Here are three arguments about why lists are necessary to the survival of music criticism.

They're simple.

In the increasingly proliferating amounts of music available to the masses -- especially in a world where, to quote our writer Chance Dibben, "any idiot armed with a laptop and an Ableton might be a moderately entertaining artist" -- Top Ten lists are a way to direct listeners to important developments in the world of music. Of course, it's sad that we must pare down top honors to ten albums -- or fifty, or 100 -- but they're one of the only easy-to-digest notations of what albums moved, and moved us. How else do we combat the incoming onslaught of sound -- and, let's face it, shit - that floods our inboxes each week? In an age of over-stimulation, minimalism isn't just appealing: it's necessary. Communication is key, ay? Which brings us to the next point:

They give voice to listeners, not just critics.

Arguably, your Top Ten list is more important than the lists of Pitchfork, Spin and Rolling Stone put together. Why entrust your taste to a handful of institutions? While contributing to the discussion is easier than ever now -- thanks, social media -- there's always more room for thoughtful, concerned dialogue about what you're listening to. That's why your Top Ten list is of more value than anyone else's: you've tuned in, you've mulled it over, and you're the one downloading MP3s, and determining what wiggles through the cracks of the system, and into the spotlight. Sure, that makes it all the more scary that someone like Ke$ha is conquering airwaves; but, let's face it, the clamorous anonymity of the blogosphere is the new home of music geeks, not the space behind the record store counter. (It's a sad reality -- and one that we're feeling locally, too.)

Top ten lists make people think.

The Top Ten list is a form of thought that ignites debate between listeners. Really, what more can we ask for? Ranking albums requires discernment, discussion and, at its best, arguments. According to rom-com platitudes, two vital parts of a healthy relationship are fighting and fucking. The same goes for music lovers. (Hold on a minute, now.) Love, passion, hate, rage: that's what top-ten lists are all about. They're simple, straightforward, and most importantly, they spark fiery debate in an era where apathy is dangerously prevalent.

There we go, readers. Be nerdy; be snobby; but, most importantly, be passionate. That's what music needs -- now, more than ever.

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