With their “Top 500 Tracks of the 2000s,” Pitchfork has given us the Trapped In The Closet of “best music” lists.
Only, unlike R. Kelly’s masterpiece, Pitchfork’s “Top 500″ doesn’t get better as it goes on. (That’s not entertainment you’re feeling when you realize the rankings are sincere — it’s nausea and a needling urge to dismember.)
This list serves as a Pitchfork Media memoir better than it does as commentary on good music, most likely because this wasn’t a list put together by people who like music. This is the product of some terrorist, label stooge, and/or idiot condensing ten years of Pitchfork face-plants into 500 ranked insults to the medium of music. This “Pitchfork 500″ comes off as an ugly, red “MINE” stamp on a decade that, for all its offenses, deserves more.
Of course, Schreiber’s site is his own, and he can pick the hits any way he pleases (and he’ll tell you when you’ve had enough LCD Soundsystem). He should just be aware that doing so makes Al Gore’s wife look more Rock & Roll than he is. And while nothing could have saved Pitchfork’s article from being an absolute blight, the nerds might have retained a little dignity had they allowed the 2000s to actually, you know, finish, before revising its musical legacy into the soundtrack of a rich, white kid’s gay bar cocaine-binge. A little distance, perhaps even six months, might have given them better perspective.
Because we still remember the 2000s.
And Vampire Weekend is not better than Pulp.
But, that’s just the kind of shit Pitchfork wants you to swallow. And as fucking retarded as it is to include Vampire Weekend in a “best of” list without the word “joke” in its title — much less stacking the band on top of Jarvis Cocker’s head — this offense remains relatively minor in the overall scope of Pitchfork’s “Brought to you by Häagen-Dazs®!” hatchet job on the 2000s. In fact, there are far too many other equitably psychotic rankings to break down. About 499, I’d say.
For instance, ask yourself this for a moment: just how many Eminem singles were better, or more historically significant, than one of Johnny Cash’s last?
Could the answer truly be all of them?
Rankings mean something. “Best of” lists are explicit judgments about both aesthetic value and historical context, and Pitchfork seems to have disregarded both. But they have considered Interscope Records. And vanilla ice cream. Mostly Interscope Records (at least that much is transparent).
Now, I’m sure there were genuine, critically-motivated reasons for these choices as well. Nuanced and animal-themed, no doubt. I’ll speculate that any such defense would start with “Irony,” stray into French Feminism references, and end with a Pitchfork trip to the bank. Of course, they might genuinely love the major label tripe they propagate. They just can’t claim to be “indie” ever again. Hell, after this endeavor, they’d be lucky to get MTV comparisons. This list is early-Vh1-adult-contemporary in a library, at best.
I’ll leave the ridiculous rankings for some other glutton for punishment to tackle, and comment instead on the fundamental problems with the ‘Fork. I’ll start with cocaine and payola: idiot hipster’s shouldn’t snort it and idiot hipsters shouldn’t pocket it. That said, mention should be made of the mind-blowing number of plurality-crushing redundancies. Five-hundred picks suddenly doesn’t seem like a hell of a lot when Schreiber is intent on filling them almost entirely with Beyonce singles (only dipping into Destiny’s Child when things get tight).
Common sense dictates that a list cataloging the best songs of an entire decade should give recognition to a wide variety of deserving acts. But, according to Pitchfork, the independent music authority, this decade has produced only eight or so artists of any consequence. This conceit serves to remake these years into a sycophantic hegemony as repeat entries for favored major-label megastars eliminate any room for discussion of the legitimate best tracks of the 2000s. This results in wonders such as the inclusion of the Strokes’ fucking discography, and yet not a single nod to Greg Cartwright. A fine move for one’s wallet considerations, and batshit insanity for music criticism.
When not courting the ‘unit-movers,’ this list reads as if Pitchfork is trying to revise the historical context of their bad taste, abusing a (very) shallow hindsight to reform the 2000s into a time where every shitty animal band was not merely popular, but each its own little zoo-themed, techno Elvis. This arrogant assault on musical achievement is most noticeable in Pitchfork’s propensity toward deferring recognition of respectable acts (Wilco) to those awful brats that Schreiber and co. ‘made’ (Relevant Elephant).
And barring all postmodern, critical theory tropes typical of ‘Forkian criticism, the only justification I can see for the impossibly bad ranking decisions is that Schreiber wants to punish otherwise good bands for not having been “broken” by his apparatus. If that’s not the case, then Ryan is fucking HIGH, and his goons too afraid to say so. These rankings don’t even make sense in the context of Pitchfork’s scientifically calibrated decimal point review system. Perhaps, just as I don’t understand the algorithm for deciding the critical difference between a 7.4 and 7.7, I’m also unable to “get” this list. It’s a distinct possibility.
Of course, it might also be the case that the idiots who love “Hollaback Girl” so much better than almost anything else are the same kind of idiots who would write such diarrhea. To understand any of this, I placed myself into the pretentious shoes of a flamboyant, soulless philistine, tasked with appraising a decade’s artistic achievements. It’s simple: imagine you don’t know shit about music, and start writing about it anyway. With that perspective, I deduced the motivations behind Pitchfork’s “Top 500 Songs” list. Sounds something like this:
Ryan Shreibaby: “All right, guys. It’s time to talk about Flaming Lips’, “Do You Realize.”
Faceless Staff Nerd: “Flaming Lips is a pretty good band, you know, and “Do You Realize” is the product of spiritual quests, spider bites, flaming cymbals, and constant self-exploration. I’m speaking of that unintentional, rough draft accoutrement that catapulted them into a Kanye endorsement. But it’s what happens between all that tootin’ that really set our iPods on repeat. What’s a goon to a goblin? Nobody even knows what that means. Plus, it’s the state song for Oklahoma. Michel Foucault.”
Ryan Shreibaby: “Self-exploration, indeed. But Flaming Lips doesn’t have a silly animal reference in its title.”
Sudden Crybaby Nerd: (SOB!)
Snotty Nerd With A Lisp: “Ugh. And Oklahoma is so…maudlin. Positively illiterate. A higher ranking than “Ignition (Remix)” would simply lack the requisite Marxian irony. It would be…ugh…so very expected.”
Ryan Shreibaby: “Yeah! And those Jews ain’t doin’ shit for getting black people to like me! PUT THAT SHIT UNDER “TOXIC” BY BRITTANY SPEARS! AND MAKE SURE BLACK CRYSTAL KOALAS TOP THAT CUNT!”
A panel such as the above would explain, oh, the first 479 picks of this list. And it’s a cyclical process. For every ten entries, simply replace “Flaming Lips” with “Belle And Sebastian,” and “Brittany Spears” with “Chingy.” And so on. The formula looks like this:
09: Set iPod shuffle to “Indie”
06: Animal Name
05: Kanye West
03: Set iPod shuffle to “Indie”
02: Animal Name
01: Lil’ Wayne
Despite the bleakness of this list, it’s in the final 21 picks that Pitchfork really loses their shit. To be fair, up until the top tier, Pitchfork occasionally references a song that is actually noteworthy. And that’s commendable in a list this overwhelmingly awful. Unfortunately, the nerds take one step forward and two steps back into the path of a steamroller when Kelly Clarkson arrives at #21.
The musical aficionados at Interfork Records would have you believe that the 21st finest song of the 21st-century’s opening decade is Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone.” They dare to call this a rock song. And the idea is, I suspect, that if you’ll buy the independent veracity of that son-of-a-bitch, you’ll keep eating the shit all the way to big number one. And boy is that a hell of a trip.
With that grand conclusion to the decade, I am left with a single question:
Pitchfork, why in the blue hell should anyone put up with your self-indulgent, festival-baiting bullshit, if we already have scores of idiots and Clear Channel to guide us?
Are we meant to believe that the cultural import for the last ten years of music should be found best in homecoming dances and THE MIX one-oh-whatever radio stations? A trip to the goddamn prom? Is that where hip independent music is finding its zenith? Does that mean overly-saturated, obnoxious, retarded-shade-wearing, major label, unit-moving, HIT MAKERS are the new indie? I’m not sure if that’s more legitimate than the old indie or not, but it’s definitely as wack as your Kid A review.
Meanwhile, Kanye West is telling children not to read books.
If Pitchfork had an ounce of integrity, the wieners would have saved their Häagen-Dazs® money and five-dollar words for a “best of” list that amounts to more than a random idiot’s sparkly butterfly (and HTML-affected) Myspace blurb:
“I listen to a lil’ bit of everything. LOL! Just whateva’s on the radio, lik Rhianna n’ shit. I DONT reely like COUNTRY though, sory! ”
And that’s as deep as the P4K perspective goes. In fact, the more entries I read, the more I realize that only two contenders were ever in the running for Pitchfork’s “Best of the 2000s.”
And here are the big winners:
2. My Parents Like These Songs
“Plastic Sheets On My Bed”
Blah, blah, blah, Sufjawn, Sufjawn, animal crackers, bears, bears, crystal, Sufjawn, blah, blah, blah, “like watching a baby give birth on IMAX”, irony, paradox, antlers, blah, blah, “why won’t it grow?”, Sufjawn, Sufjawn, “I’m a community college English instructor,” blah, blah, Sufjawn, “Metal rules…no, really, we love it! All of it!” blah, blah, blahbityblahSufjawn, adult contemporary, Wes Anderson-ery things, blah, blah, album covers Chuck Klosterman would like, Sufjawn, retarded clothes, Sufjawn, retarded glasses, blah, “please don’t just look at the score– read the entire review!” SOB! Sufjawn, vanilla ice cream, revenue, Sufjawn, wolf, panda, animals, Sufjawn, rappers, blah, electro, gay, Sufjawn, relevant indie sensibilities, abc news, blah.
1. Extremely Condescending White Hipster Guilt
“Bombs Over Brooklyn (Please)”
[The Trust Fund; 2000]
We was sittin’ there watchin’ the stage. Waitin’ for the man they called Coltrane to come out and do his thing. It was me and my four droogs. Them bein’ Peter, Georgio and Dim; Dim being really Dim.
‘Round an hour’d passed and the place was packed straight through to the back. I’d just dropped some dollars for ‘Trane’s Giant Steps six months back. Now was the time, this was the place. The Village Vanguard. New York City. 1961.
I was only there for the first night, see, but them cats at Impulse! just made my life complete. They put out four CDs of all that sound ‘Trane put out those nights. But you know my type, man. Can’t afford to eat, let alone spend some heavy cash on music. So I only got the essential. Live at the Village Vanguard: The Master Takes is one disc, makin’ it one-fourth the cost of the box set. And you only get the best stuff.
Man, the opening beauty of “Spiritual…” It’s like a dream I had: I floated on the River Nile, smokin’ some fresh weed, relaxin’. But I ain’t ever gonna see the Nile anyhow. This track’s as close as I come, and it’s close enough. Best of the best, though, has gotta be “India.” It’s only when you listen to a perfect old jazz tune like this that you realize how much drum-n-bass is derived from this music. ‘Trane takes it to heaven and back with some style, man. Some richness, daddy. It’s a sad thing his life was cut short by them jaws o’ death.
Shit, cat. It don’t make a difference. The man produced enough good music to last me a lifetime. This Village Vanguard thing’s just another example of the genius of Coltrane.
- Ryan Schreiber
Thank you for that one, Schreibes. We never get tired of reading it. Hilarious and backhandedly racist. Why don’t you still write?
But seriously, it just occurred to me that this might not have been a (total) payola scheme. And it isn’t Missy Elliott or Outkast’s fault Pitchfork’s trying to win their approval (as if they needed it). It makes sense that the Pitchfork staff would remember this decade as one, long and awkward, “ironic” hipster booty-dance at a Kanye show that no black person would even touch.
And vanilla ice cream.
At any rate, best of luck with that whole “Pitchfork’s credibility falling down M.I.A.’s gash” thing.