“Best-of” lists are always interesting – they are subjective judgments of art by committee, so most are taken with a grain of salt. I enjoyed Stereogum’s response to Entertainment Weekly’s list of the “Best 100 Albums,” and although EW’s list is exactly what you’d expect from a list compiled a) by committee and b) by people in their 20s and 30s and c) by people, regardless of demographic identifiers, being completely self-aware, it’s not horrible. When you can say such a list is “not horrible,” then it’s a start. Before continuing, I declare that any such list is a good start for people who aren’t into something – in this case, “albums” – emerging themselves into something.
Spoiler Alert!!1! No Wilco, no Coldplay:
Here we are, end of June 2013, as appropriate a time as any to take stock of the entire history of popular music. Well not us, but Entertainment Weekly, who just published a double issue with “100 Best” lists of just about every artistic medium known to man. We’re just here to pick apart their choices! Naturally any list of the 100 Greatest Albums Ever is going to have one of maybe three possible Beatles albums in the top spot (unless it’s NME doing the list-making, in which case it’s either the first Stone Roses record or the first Oasis record); also to be expected in the top 10 are Pet Sounds and Nevermind and London Calling and Thriller and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy … sorry, come again? FIFTY ONE spots higher than Master Of Puppets? SEVENTY ONE spots higher than Zep 4? EW, why you gotta be such trolls?
via Entertainment Weekly‘s 100 Greatest Albums Ever – Stereogum.
Putting rankings aside, the big omission here is Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which turned into sort of a religion for music-writing folk in the last decade. That, combined with the exclusion of Coldplay, was odd. Coldplay is a band that I don’t like the fact that I like, has a catalogue of note. For Wilco’s work being omitted, well, shame-shame-shame. It might not be the best album ever, but it’s in the top 100 of any list. The rockabilly-hipster-altcountry intern in this meeting was probably fired for insisting it be included, which it obviously wan’t.
Conversely, the list did get its Doolittle love on, which I give out my thanks – I always assume that The Pixies, like Art Deco, will only be re-discovered by every-third generation. I was also impressed that of the country albums included, they got it right – The Dixie Chicks’ Home and Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison earned their merit, and won’t argue with it simply because I doubt many of the critics at EW listen to country music of any kind.
There was also a bit of serendipity – although I thought both were low, Notorious B.I.G’s Ready to Die and Guns-n-Roses’ Appetite for Destruction being ranked 31 and 32 was refreshing – I love ‘em both, though due to my age, AFD was more influential to my tastes.
As a person who grew up in the age when both were wildly popular, let me ask you this, fellow late-30something/early-40something reader: did it ever occur to you that, as good as Purple Rain was, that it was better than Thriller? Of important albums by weird, non-rapping black guys in the 1980s, Thriller was The Thing. Purple Rain is awesome, yes, but Thriller, as an album by importance, influence, cultural immersion and – yeah – sales – was a hugely bigger, better album. Granted, Purple Rain has “Darlin’ Nicky,” but Thriller is Thriller. (PR was 2, Thriller 4 btw).
As Sterogum noticed in its own way, how does Led Zepelin IV fall that far (79), aside from being the only album LZ clocks on this list? Same for Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (37) (Wizard of Oz viewing optional)? Music evolves, tastes change, I get that – but as albums – the subject of the list – they are, along with select Beatles work, are what great albums are. Paul Simon’s Graceland is high, and representative of what I’m talking about, so the editors of said list understand the concept of album. But LZ and Pink Floyd, right there with Beatles, Dylan and Stones, deserve much higher notice, and much more representation.
As a couple snotty comments, I’d add this: does Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy really belong at 8? Nope, unless Metallica’s Master of Puppets belongs (the uber-metal group received no notice, dammit!). I suspect most rappers, and people who like rap, would be appalled by West’s inclusion on this list, especially at that level, and I like some of the guy’s work.
That said, it’s a list, it’s subjective, it’s fun. Verdict: not a very good list, but some gems within.