Monday, September 14, 2009

Pop curators

Pitchfork Media recently published a list of the top 500 songs of the millennium, along with several other retrospective lists covering the past 10 years.  These “top x” pop culture lists are bullshit in most cases, since the lists imply that the authors are definitive authorities on purely subjective matter.  These lists might be relevant if they were compiled as “most influential,” simply because influence is easier to assess than quality (though it’s still a fuzzy science).  Instead, they usually come across as snobby and irrelevant.  Also, the evaluation criteria is usually unpublished or nonexistent; if Pitchfork posted their criteria somewhere, I couldn’t find it after about 10 minutes of searching.

Still, I don’t mind throwing out the rankings and using this list as a general guide to the music of the ‘00s.  Ryan McGinness, one of my favorite visual artists, has a great quote from a 2005 interview in Giant Robot in which he discusses the role of the curator.

Everyone has a word processor and can cut and paste, so that has created more "writers."  With digital video you have more "filmmakers."  We have "musicians" who can't even read music.  Ultimately, when you broaden any field, the whole of the output becomes diluted, and it's more and more difficult to separate the extraordinary from the average.  This is why the role of the curator or DJ is becoming more and more important.

I trust Pitchfork as a filter through which I get my music, but the whole “official list” thing really gets under my skin, no matter what the context or medium.

Sometimes I wonder if young people are so compelled to passionately argue over & defend their preferences in music, movies, art, etc. because these are the few areas in which they can claim “expertise.”  In our 20’s, most of us aren’t really experts in anything, so we have to construct pride in areas of personal preference - which is easy to do since our preferences can never be objectively proven or disproven.  Not saying this is the case for everyone, just speculating that this is a factor for some.

And of course, since I felt compelled to write a blog post about a pop music list, I’m obviously not above this behavior.

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