Sunday, January 23, 2011

Whodathunkit!?: The 2010 Year in Bests: Music

I am really making an effort to finish the 2010 Year In Bests before 2011 is finished, so I appreciate your patience on this. So, for the next installment of

The Year In Bests;
The First-Ever TBOE What You Were Told,
And What You Should've Been Told Instead
Best Of The Year List.

I'll just dive right in without the usual lengthy preliminaries, and look at

What Everybody Else Said: When a category is as broad as I make them -- music, as opposed to songs or groups or things that people call music but aren't really, like anything Taylor Swift sang, it's hard to then say what everybody else said, because it's like saying "what did everybody else say about everything that could vaguely be music related," which, if you're being all-inclusive, would have to include what everybody else said about Dick Van Dyke's singing group, the "Vantastix," a name that's kind of awkward because it reads like it should be pronounced Vanta - Sticks, but it's supposed to rhyme with fantastics.

Dick Van Dyke has a singing group, and they performed for Obama and everything, but I bet tat you wouldn't find the Vantastix on any "Best Of" list from 2010. I'm not sure why that is. It may be that the critics confused "Vantastix" with the Fanta Girls. Or it may be that the critics, like me, thought that Dick Van Dyke was dead, and so they never thought to put him on their lists,

If that latter one is the reason, then maybe those critics should do what I do, which is to download the weekly podcast of Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me from NPR radio, because if they'd done that they'd have heard Dick Van Dyke on there as a guest, singing the words to the old Dick Van Dyke show theme:

And then they'd know he's not dead, and might have put him on their Best Of lists, instead of who they DID put on their best of lists. Which is... um... I don't know, because the only Best Of list I read for music prior to posting this was Stephen King's column for Entertainment Weekly, and he did that back in November. Plus, he had an annoying habit of referring to himself as Uncle Stevie, and I never got that, at all. Did anyone else ever call him Uncle Stevie?

Nicknames don't work... ever... if you give them to yourself. Self-given nicknames always... always... sound like child molester titles.

So to find out what everyone else actually is saying was The Best In Music, 2010, I googled the phrase "The Best In Music 2010" and got three sites that seemed to answer my query. (I actually got 1.3 million sites, but I'm not going to read all of them. So I picked three.)

A site called "AOL Radio Blog" posted the top 10 songs of 2010, and I think it's kind of charming that AOL is still out there pretending to be a thing and all -- like MySpace, only with fewer cleavage photos posted by goth 15-year-olds. Was anyone ever on AOL? Excluding Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, of course?

Anyway, you'd expect anything with "AOL" in the title to feature the best of 1998, but that's not the case, as this "AOL" features the best of 2010, and picked as its best of 2010 the song "California Gurls" by Katy Perry:

In doing so, AOL bravely ignored the fact that by spelling the word "Gurls" the song began its existence on the other side of the shark. And should I point out that fully 2/3 of the songs Katy Perry has released rip off the ideas and titles of other, better songs? No, I should not, because the kids don't care.

Talk about jumping the gun -- if I thought most "Best Of" lists were posted early (and I do), then it's because I hadn't yet seen NPR's "2010's Best Music (So Far)", posted way back in June. I guess doing it that way ensures that you won't overlook songs released back in January or February of 2010 when compiling your list.

That's why studios that want their movies to be considered for Academy Awards try to release them at the end of the year, right? Because it's hard to think back over a whole year.

Before I reviewed the NPR list I was pretty sure that the top songs would be something like Chilean Harp Mash-Ups or somesuch.

But instead, I saw that the NPR listeners had picked "Plastic Beach," by Gorillaz:

Which I then realized was the second song in this post to feature Snoop Dogg.

Then I found a site called "Metacritic," which had compiled all the critics' lists and had put up a list of what the critics thought was The Best Album of 2010, devising a complicated scoring system for no reason whatsoever. The list itself notes how many critics picked the album as number one, and number 2, and number 3-10, and so on, and since the only thing that counts is number one votes -- this isn't the AP college poll, after all, and people should not continue to insist that not winning somehow counts as winning -- a phenomenon I've railed against before -- and by the only standard that counts (how many people thought you were The Best), the clear winner according to critics was Kanye West's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy."

Here's a track from that album.

Whew! How long until New South Books gets around to Bowdlerizing that?

Why I Assume They All Said That:
I've got a theory. As you'd expect. And the theory is that, having elevated Katy Perry and Kanye West to great heights of fame when both of them attracted the public's attention for things other than music -- Katy Perry for latching onto lesbianism the way Anne Heche did before her as a career boost, and Kanye for making Taylor Swift a star -- the critics are now embarrassed and have to pretend that the music these two are making is somehow better than the rest of the music that surrounds them.

Which it's not. It's not that those are terrible songs. They're not. They're just not great songs, either. If they were the best of 2010, then 2010 was a really mediocre year for music. But I don't think that it was. I think that the reason people might think that 2010's music was mediocre is because they were stuck listening to derivative songs that add nothing new or interesting to the world.

What I Assumed They'd All Say:
I guess that. I remember when Kanye West's album came out, and all the critics went nuts about it, raving about everything from the cover art to the passion behind the music, so it was kind of a foregone conclusion that it would make a lot of Best Of lists at the end of the year.

As for Katy Perry, it was just her boobs.

What They All Should Have Said, Instead: I started writing this yesterday and originally when I began this post I was going to say Slow Club:

But then, yesterday, I had to stop writing the post and instead go do other stuff, so now, 24 hours later, I'm sitting and thinking about the music again and I realized that I'm not much better than the other people who write Best Of lists. (Note: I said "not much better than." I'm still better than them.)

I was going to pick Slow Club because they were the first thing that popped into my head when I thought to myself What was the best music I heard in 2010, and the first thing that pops into my head is usually the right answer, unless the question is Who's portrait is on the dime?

True story: The other day, I was talking to two people at work, and a third guy came up and asked us that question. He said "Who's on the dime?" and all three of the people he asked said, simultaneously, "Eisenhower."

Which is not true. It's Roosevelt, which we all didn't realize until the guy who'd asked the questioning told us we were wrong, and we insisted we were right, and then somebody looked it up on the Internet, after which we all agreed that the dime sure looked like Eisenhower.

Only it doesn't, really.

Which is all a long-winded, dime-related way of saying that I, too, can fail to remember things and might not think back over a whole year, accurately, especially since I have trouble remembering to pick up my car keys when I'm heading to the car, so that sometimes I end up standing outside my car without my keys, which are back on the kitchen counter, and so it's not always the case that the first thing that pops into my head is correct, because maybe I'd misremembered something or forgotten something.

Something like Titus Andronicus, who released an album called The Monitor this past year -- an album that's described as "sort of" a concept album about the Civil War, and which featured this song, which I love:

I didn't even remember that album until I saw it on that Metacritic list -- it came in at 11, getting no first place votes -- but once I remembered it I remembered how much I liked it, and so I changed my mind and decided that I'd give Titus Andronicus the title of Best Music of 2010...

... only now I've changed it again, because here's the thing: If I didn't remember that album, but I did remember Slow Club, and if the very first thing I thought about when I thought of the best music of last year was Slow Club, and if I have a station on Pandora called Slow Club and not one called Titus Andronicus, then shouldn't that be the best of 2010 -- the music that stuck in my head so firmly that it was the first thing I thought of when I thought of this category.

You bet it should. Slow Club made The Best Music Of 2010.

Previous Entries From The Year In Bests:

The Best Movie of 2010.

The Best Celebrity Story of 2010.

The Best Book I Read In 2010

The Best Short Stories Of 2010

The Best Food of 2010.

The Best Kids' Stuff of 2010.

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