A few months ago, I blogged that WXPN‘s top 885 countdown this year — which has become somewhat of a tradition over the course of the past decade — would be the greatest songs of the new millennium. The only requirement for voting for a song this year is that it must have been released on or after January 1, 2001. Apart from that, it was an anything-goes list, not unlike the first one back in 2004 when they had the greatest songs countdown.
For a quick overview of how the voting works in these countdowns, each participant would vote for ten songs, ranking those songs from 1 to 10. The song that a person voted for as number 1, would get 10 “points”, 2 would get 9 points, and so on down the line. (Or, to use the formula that the computer software behind the scenes undoubtedly uses, if R is the rank on a particular voter’s list, then that song will get a score of 11 – R for the final tallying that, once it’s scrubbed for typos and other variations between different voters’ choices for what is undoubtedly the same song…)
In the end, the highest ranking song turned out to be “Rolling in the Deep”, from Adele’s second album, 21.
Don’t get me wrong. I like “Rolling in the Deep”. It’s a fun song. But somewhere long before the they revealed the number one song, I predicted that it would come out on top. By the time they entered into the top ten and this song hadn’t yet been played, I was certain that it would be number one.
But the countdown as a whole was more than a little bit underwhelming. I had one song I voted for make the final list: “Breathe Me,” by Sia came in at number 259, but the final placement of the songs that I personally voted for doesn’t really factor into how I feel about the countdown. After all, I’m not complaining about the fact that quite literally none of the songs I voted for in ’04 made the final list (a fact that I consider surprising considering that I voted for songs like “I Don’t Like Mondays” by the Boomtown Rats, “Hard to Handle” by Otis Redding and “Swan Swan H” by R.E.M. that year.)
No. It’s underwhelming more because of how monolithic the entire countdown felt. John Mayer was the artist most predominantly represented in the list, with 20 songs. If you want an artist whose music is virtually by definition unchallenging and poppy to the point of being boring, it’s Mayer. Yes, I respect that there’s a place and time for that kind of music, but more than 2% of a “greatest of” countdown really isn’t it.
Some really horrible music placed really high up on the list. Back in 2005, I blogged that the worst album of the year, I thought, was Coldplay’s X + Y. In that blog entry, I mentioned that the only good song from that album, was “Speed of Sound”. What I didn’t mention was that I felt the worst song from that album, was “Fix You”, an overproduced work that I’d be embarrassed to put my name on if I were Chris Martin or any other member of that band. (I did, however, mention that a couple of years ago when I listed my opinion of the songs you need to hear before you die. It placed at number 18.
There were way too many songs that got excessive airplay. These are songs that I don’t inherently dislike, but, by virtue of having been played excessively, I can’t really listen to them any more. The highest ranking of the songs that fall into this category was “Crazy,” by Gnarls Barkley, which came in at number 6. (It’s also worth noting that I considered the album from which it came, St. Elsewhere, to be the worst album of the year, primarily because of how poorly produced it was. The volume level on consecutive songs was horrible. One song was far too quiet and the next excessively loud. At the time, I had two young children, ages 2 and a newborn, and I couldn’t listen to the album in the car with them, the transition between tracks was just so jarring… And yes, that, too, brought down the song in my opinion…) Also in this boat was “Hurt,” as performed by Johnny Cash, and “Hey Ya” by OutKast.
Then there were the artists that were completely shut out of the countdown. Where were the Dresden Dolls? Cousteau? Tim Minchin?
And finally, there’s the really bizarre ranking of songs by artists that did make the final list. I happen to be a pretty big fan of the Decemberists, but I don’t quite get how “O Valencia” could actually place higher on the list than both “The Crane Wife 3” and “The Engine Driver”.
In the end, I fear that people who listen to the songs on this list will think that music over the course of the past twelve years was by and large uninspired, boring, and, well, not as stylish or artistic has previous eras in terms of musical accomplishment. The reality, despite the list itself, is that this couldn’t be further from the truth. You just need to look elsewhere.
My list of all ten countdowns, with my votes and how I fared, is below:
|Year||Topic||What I voted For||How many of my items made the list?|
||None of them|
||Five (Poe, Tori Amos, Nine Inch Nails, John Lennon, and R.E.M.)|
(Harry Chapin, Tori Amos, Phil Ochs,
Nine Inch Nails, Portishead, R.E.M.,
Marvin Gaye, Def Leppard, Alice in Chains,
The Who, John Lennon, Sarah McLachlan,
and “Weird Al” Yankovic)
|2007||Most Memorable Musical Moments||I didn’t vote||N/A|
|2008||Essential XPN songs||I didn’t vote||N/A|
|2009||Desert Island Songs||
||1 (“I Am the Walrus”)|
|2010||Road Trip Songs||
||1 (“Gimme Shelter”)|
|2011||World Cafe Artists||I didn’t vote, although I vaguely remember doing something about Fisher’s performance||N/A|
|2012||Greatest Rock Songs||
|| 4 (“Instant Karma!”,
“Crazy On You”, “Piece of My Heart”,
and “Love Reign O’er Me”)
|2013||Greatest Songs of the New Millennium||
||1 (“Breathe Me”)|