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50 reasons why magazine editors love lists

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Rolling Stone picked the 500 greatest albums of all time. Pitchfork culled the greatest 500 songs from the last 30 years. And a recent Blender magazine story offered “23 Reasons Why 2009 Will Not Suck.” Lists are a handy tool for music books and magazines, but do they undermine the craft of music criticism? In this week's Soundcheck Smackdown, we debate music lists with Rob O’Connor of Yahoo Music’s List of the Day and Alisa Solomon, who directs the Arts & Culture concentration at Columbia University’s Journalism School.

Soundcheck blog: John Schaefer on the Top 10 Reasons to have lists


Rob O’Connor and Alisa Solomon

Comments [7]

AR from brooklyn

this conversation is missing the big question: why are people so interested in lists to begin with? because they provide order (however false) to our chaotic world. 20 years ago we had casey kasem's top 20. but that was when everyone was listening to the same basic radio. now with the longtail and the dizzy-ing range of musical options (and media options) out there we CRAVE some way to make sense of it. lists do it shorthand.

Feb. 10 2009 08:04 PM
Malcolm from Manhattan

People who care about the prevalence of tritones on John Coltrane's Interstellar Space album can go find that in jazz music theory weekly, oh wait there's no such thing. The majority doesn't care about your well reasoned editorials on (insert obscure musical form or band here), they just want their MTV. So stop whining about how things should be, they aren't. This time would have been better spent introducing us to some actually good new music, besides what the idiot Williamsburg set likes.

Feb. 10 2009 02:42 PM
Maldo from Manhattan

FOLLOW THE MONEY: Magazines love lists because they're CHEAP. They can usually be done in-house, i.e., for free, and they take up a lot of space on the page. Perfect for today's dwindling editorial budget.

Feb. 10 2009 02:20 PM
J Weinstein from East Village

I agree with my old colleague Alisa: ships list, before they sink.

Feb. 10 2009 02:19 PM
Robots Need 2 Part'ay from Brooklyn

Lists are good for getting you into PARTYS.

Feb. 10 2009 02:10 PM
Petri from Chicago

I wish the list makers wouldn't peek other list makers' lists. Now both end of the year, and 'all-time-best' lists are suspiciously similar across different publications. I want to see some personality on these lists. Not all music critics can agree what is good and important.

Also, when compiling Top N lists, it should be assumed that the list compiler has good knowledge of let's say 20 times N candidates. I doubt that is often the case in lists compiled by a single writer, especially with small publications. I saw Top 200 albums of 2008 list the other day written by a single person!

Feb. 10 2009 11:54 AM
Brett from Long Island City

I just went to the Yahoo music page for the first time and thought it was great. As the music I typically listen to isn't chart topping, sites like this are an easy and fun way to keep up with what "the kids" are listening to.

Feb. 10 2009 11:40 AM

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