Rachael Maddux wrote an amazing piece for BuzzFeed Music about the problems of list culture. I agree with pretty much all of it. I’ve only ever done lists as ballots for publications I write for, and it’s a strictly political sort of thing for me. I enjoy highlighting the best of things, but the ranking of things, not so much.
This gave me more opportunity to mull over my own People’s List, and while I’m not dissatisfied with it or my decision to put one together in the first place, I definitely sympathize with this view here. But there’s a better way to have fun with your own personal canon: maybe my favorite thing about the MP3 era is that we have a far more interesting way to put together and contextualize the music we like — namely playlists*. There, it’s not so much a hierarchy but a narrative, still performative taste-wise but nowhere near as confrontational and potentially far more educational. You might not convince anyone that (to use Maddux’s example) Hanson is worth a damn by sticking their name on a numbered list, but you could change a few minds by slotting one of their album cuts between some like-minded but less-“guilty” power pop cuts and letting it all unspool at your next party.
*This is a natural offshoot of the old homemade mix-tape culture, which I went berserk for as soon as I got a dual-cassette deck back in 199x, but obviously it’s a lot easier to put together and change around and share these days.
I guess I can’t identify with this because I just dont take it seriously? I mean, it’s not like voting for president and that has actual real-world consequences. Your writing is preserved in amber too; your attitudes towards artists when writing, whose careers many times can be seriously impacted by your work (not to overdo it here, but basically im arguing that you dont write into a void), strikes me as much more stress-inducing and risky than simply listing records or songs you like. Attempts at conveying truth precisely can be ultimately more arbitrary and dangerous than making a list that no one will really take too seriously in first place if they are not a teenage boy.