Listless journalism

Nick Biggs

Over Christmas and New Year it was nearly impossible to pick up any music publication and not encounter an end of year list. Journalists everywhere were overwhelmingly generous in their endeavors to share with us what they considered to be the year’s best new live acts, the worst album covers, the shortest nu-metal tracks to feature the letter ‘Q’ in their title. And I can understand why: readers get a concise, quantitative, easy-to-read break down of the year in music; the journalist simply regurgitates a series of casually selected articles in a random order of significance. Readers get hours of pleasure discussing the brilliance/ineptitude of the journalist; the journalist saves himself a few days of ‘real’ work. Everybody wins. How I wish that was the end of the story.

The problem is that the success of these annual round-ups has opened the door to any number of ill-conceived, poorly executed or just down-right ridiculous lists. They have become frighteningly all-pervasive in music culture. If this tidal wave of journalistic detritus is to be stopped, we must fight fire with fire. Thus I present to you Five Lists That Should Not Exist:

1. NME’s 10 Tracks You Have To Hear This Week
The list that dispels the myth that NME are flavour of the month, brings a whole new meaning to the term ‘sensationalist’ and proves NME knows no limits when it comes to patronizing its readers.

2. Rolling Stones’ 500 Greatest Albums of All Time
There are seven bands featuring women in their top hundred albums and virtually nothing made post 1960’s. As far as I’m aware music does not begin and end with white men sporting beards and guitars.

3. BBC’s Sound of 2010
Providing exposure to talented musicians: good. Crediting their future success to the BBC’s ‘prophetic’ judgments (not the band’s hard work and BBC sponsored radio air time): bad. Previous winners include The Bravery and 50 Cent.

4. Channel 4’s Greatest Songs of the Noughties
If Snow Patrol wrote the song of the decade and James Blunt reached the top ten, I would say it is time we fetched the shotgun, took Music from the Noughties out back and did the most humane thing possible.

5. World Premiere Entertainment’s Nigerian Worst Albums in 2009
Why does this exist? What possible purpose could it serve? Or perhaps someone was just especially perturbed by the sub standard quality of Shayo Master: the new release of renowned musician Bigiano.

List making is an entertaining and debate-provoking activity that I have no wish to see disappear, but as the above list demonstrates, lists are now continually being used more whimsically and capriciously than ever. They’re being used to arbitrarily compile meaningless data into an order that apparently proves something: to attach an air of authority to judgements of mere preference. Lazy music journalists are implementing them whenever they are too unimaginative to write something original. If this fiendish exercise continues, well, it might get a bit boring. We must refuse to read these lists, write angry letters and rise up in protest: this practice must be stopped.


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