I promised myself I wouldn't write any sort of complaint about this. I even promised myself I wouldn't read it. The mere thought of it infuriates me. But I have little discipline about these things, along a never-ending compulsion to make the rounds of my most visited websites. It was inevitable. Thus, this morning, I read Pitchfork's Top 500 songs of the decade list. I hated every moment of it...
Instead of critiquing the choices on the list, which would probably make me even more of a douchebag than the folks at Pitchfork, I instead find myself questioning why the list even exists. A list is a strange beast. It pits the items that populate it in an arbitrary contest, and attempts to draw comparisons where, sometimes, no legitimate comparisons can be made. Still, there is a certain appeal to list making, especially in the interesting debates that can ensue. Lists made by individuals can give you more insight into that person’s taste, and can by no means be considered or even claim to be authoritative.
A problem arises when lists are created with the intent of holding authority. This is where my annoyance with Pitchfork (and with myself for not being able to ignore them) begins. Still, on some levels, there is a place for some of these lists. Even though I might not agree with them, I think Pitchfork’s album lists have the ability to teach some people about music they’ll end up enjoying. Indeed, I used these lists when I was still figuring things out about what I liked in music. There’s something of great substance to an album: it’s a collection of work, and thus saying an album is great means that there is more than just a fleeting point of interest that you might gain from exploring it.
Here we arrive at the heart of the issue. A list is already arbitrary, and thus must have some sort of redeeming amount of cohesion to justify its existence. When you populate a list with songs, you cross another line. You’ve added another dimension, and what was already apples versus oranges now becomes Granny Smith versus Clementine versus red delicious versus blood orange. The amount of reason needed for a selection has decreased to a miniscule amount, and you’ve now created something that will likely not benefit anybody who reads it.
And so, the only reason I can muster from this list’s existence was to anger readers like me and to subsequently cause me to write a pointless retort that will probably just annoy those who read it. Thus, my morning was wasted.