Brief Complaints About Pitchfork’s Latest List

Pitchfork recently released its list of the 500 best songs of the decade to predictable controversy. The truth is, I’ve long since passed the point at which Pitchfork’s opinion still bothers me. Pitchfork has a built-in audience that it constantly has to stay one step ahead of, so the lists and reviews it churns out are alternately predictable and erratic. It may seem capricious and arbitrary as to whom it deigns to support with its god-like power over hipsters, but there is a method to its madness.

It comes as no surprise, then, that certain songs by trendy and atrocious acts like Antony and the Johnsons, Cat Power, and Sufjan Stevens make this list.

What really puzzles me, though, is when crappy, uncool songs make the list. It makes absolutely no sense to me that a list that has Spoon’s “The Underdog” at 130 would also have “Party Hard” at 129. Andrew W.K.? Really? I used to play Madden 2003 on mute to avoid hearing that song. And if you’re going to include two Coldplay songs, don’t you also have to include “Vertigo” by U2 or some crap like that?

Also infuriating is Pitchfork’s desperate attempts to maintain credibility in urban music. I’ll believe 9/11 Truthers before I believe people who read Pitchfork still regularly listen to “Big Pimpin” (31).

What’s troublesome about Pitchfork is its complete lack of a guiding philosophy. A very popular and catchy song like “Disturbia” doesn’t make the list, but “Cry Me a River” is at 65? The soporific Sufjan Stevens is on the list three times, once in the top 50, but Andrew Bird can’t crack the top 330 with his only song?

If you just accept these inconsistencies, the list is somewhat interesting, particularly the top ten (I had a whole long rant about the top ten, virtually all of which I disagree with, but realized that none of the choices are really completely indefensible… except maybe “Maps” at #6. That song is bad.).

Putting “B.O.B.” at #1 basically illustrates the Pitchfork philosophy. First of all, this is part of their explanation:

“B.O.B.” is not just the song of the decade– it is the decade…. The title– aka “Bombs Over Baghdad”, a phrase that sounded oddly anachronistic in 2000, sadly ubiquitous two and a half years later– is only the start of it.

So, if it weren’t for Bush’s aggressive military policy, the song wouldn’t be as good? How does that make sense? And what other explanation is there for this song being the decade?

“B.O.B.” is a good song, but it’s not even the best OutKast song of the decade. “B.O.B.” may be a more interesting choice than “Hey Ya,” which was more popular because it had a more basic melody, but it’s not a better song. It’s like people who say George Harrison is their favorite Beatle, or Lisa their favorite Simpson— we get it, you’re trying to be different. But sometimes the obvious choice is obvious because it’s right and sometimes something is more popular because it’s better. And when doing a list like this, it’s better to be conventional than wrong.

6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Peter on September 1, 2009 at 6:04 PM

    If this list is like other pitchfork staff lists, it was likely generated through sort of collective ranking mechanism- this should be familiar to you, as every other post on this blog seems to be some sort of ranking constructed in such a manner…

    Reply

  2. That last paragraph reeks of anti-contrarianism.

    Reply

  3. Posted by John S on September 1, 2009 at 11:11 PM

    I’d be find with the list if it were contrarian, but Coldplay and Andrew W.K. don’t strike me as especially inconoclastic choices.

    Reply

  4. Posted by James Schneider on September 2, 2009 at 2:42 AM

    Okay, everyone knows that the top five is:
    1. Umbrella by rihanna
    2. sneaker night by Vanessa Hudgens
    3. Down by Jay Sean(that song is great)
    4. Dancing Choose by TV On the Radio
    5. Best I Ever Had by Drake

    Reply

  5. I didn’t say the list. I said your last paragraph.

    Reply

  6. […] *Incidentally, how can a video that won “Video of the Year” not also win “Female Video of the Year”? Doesn’t the former include the latter? This is what I mean when I say music evaluations need a guiding philosophy, or at least internal consistency. […]

    Reply

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