Tag Archives: people

Pitchfork’s “People List” – By Hipsters, For Hipsters?

26 Aug

When Pitchfork released its “People’s Choice” list last week, assholes seemed to tighten up a bit. But it wasn’t the readers that the list seemed to piss off, so much as music writers that don’t work for the website. But when you consider the source, are the results really a surprise?

Pitchfork kicked this list off as a way to celebrate its 15-year anniversary, but with a list that spans from 1996-2011,  “People’s Choice” is already set up for failure.

Sure, lists make the music blogosphere keep spinning. And yes, it’s a nice package of 15 years. But when push comes to shove, music of the 90s will always be completely different from the music of the more tech-savvy decade that followed.

Then there’s the fact that the list might have been a year in the making, but it still feels flawed.

If I were the editor, I would have dedicated a 16-weeks to voting, tackling each year one by one. Instead, the voters (88% of which were male, by the way) weren’t really allowed to form their own opinions. They were, however, asked to vote on their favorites from the 116,009 albums found in Pitchfork’s archives.

The list is heavily in favor of “classic” albums from the 2000s. In fact, the two years with the most albums on this list? 2007 and 2010.

If you look closely, there are about the same amount of 16-20 year olds voting as there are 26-30 year olds. If you put that into perspective, nearly one-fourth of the voters were younger than four years old in 1996. Some of them weren’t even born yet (we see you, 15 & under.)

I myself am 23. I am the same age as Pitchfork’s largest audience and I was seven years old in 1996.

I get that this is the “People’s Choice,” but there’s something ominous about looking at a list of 200 albums where some were lucky enough to have their entire discography on the list. So why do some artists seem like a shoe-in? Do they deserve the credit, or were voters really afraid that they’ll somehow be seen anonymously voting from their personal computers for non-hip bands?

I can’t dispute that Radiohead deserves the #1 spot. Out of the 25 cities, only two – Houston and Minneapolis – picked something other than OK Computer as the best album of the past 15 years. But what happened to the rest of the list?

Craig Hlavaty of Houston Press made some legitimate points in an article he penned after results went live, one of the biggest being that neither Houston nor Austin voted Texas-based bands among their Top 20. Maybe voters misunderstood the assignment? Or maybe Houston Press’ sister publication, L.A. Weekly, was right to call these voters out on their shit by making their own list of the 20 Worst Hipster Bands.

Their pick? Bon Iver.

Pitchfork’s list of finalists is compiled of 132 artists. Of those artists, 31% got more than one album on the list, while 13% had their full discography included.

But though most of the picks on the list feel predictable, others don’t belong in a “Best of…” list, no matter who compiled it. And for Pete’s sake, what’s the deal with the Top 20?

Sure, it’s easy to see why Radiohead, Arcade Fire and Neutral Milk Hotel rank so high – they’ve made albums that not only stand the test of time, but that felt original and inspired the masses. Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavillion, on the other hand, might have been a great album, but did it really influence more bands than The White Stripe’s Elephant? The simple answer? Hell no.

But not all was lost. Some hidden gems give hope that at least a few hundred of the voters knew what the hell they were doing. Well, sort of.

Of the albums listed, the most surprising placements were Weezer’s Pinkerton (#118), which fell four spots after Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds and only three spots before Eminem’s Marshall Mathers EP. It’s also a shock that Interpol’s Antics scored lower in the rankings than Turn On The Bright Lights. Bright Eyes only landed on the list once.

Pitchfork might be known as “Home of the Hipsters,” but they taught us an important lesson – there’s an art to critiquing. Like FOX News, Pitchfork seems to have an audience that doesn’t understand how to form their own opinion. Instead, they regurgitate biased opinions of their faithful (but misguided) leaders.

If you’ve yet to look at the list for yourself, it’s fun and interactive, but you’ll probably just get pissed off. Brace yourself.

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