Thursday, August 06, 2015

#100: Shrinkage

So Aqualad sends me a link to this article: THE TOP 100 !!!!!! SONGS OF ALL TIME !!!!!

Okay, the headline wasn’t caps lock hollered, nor buried in a plague of redundant punctuation, but it probably should have been. All top-whatevers probably should be. Doesn't it seem like “top 10” or its ilk is the new societal standard template for the recycling of media-bytes into new configurations so that we can re-experience pop culture dynamos in perpetuity (and never have to resort to our own hog-tied creative instincts for artistic fulfillment, nor the imperfect unmarketable endeavors of our weirder spacier friends with that artistic bent)?

I remember when I was young, the odd top-ten list or top 935 songs countdown on the 93.5 radio station actually came with criteria and were thus arranged with some semblance of mathematical legitimacy even if the criteria depended on educated opinion. These days top-ten seems to mean ten selections arbitrarily drawn from the limited perspective of some bozo who offers no reasoning behind his choices and couldn’t if he tried. I’m trying not to perceive this migration as another needle in the haystack of evidence suggesting that the masses of our species are slowly dissolving into a tepid pool of intellectual sludge.

But this was in no way supposed to be a rant…

I actually have no complaint with this rock critic’s exercise. I think he’s upfront that this is an entirely subjective rendering in accordance with his own instinctive ear and not a balanced or academic analysis. And the guy obviously loves music and knows a thing or two about putting the slippery concepts of musical appreciation into very useful words. Well done, I say. I think the usefulness here is not in expert opinion but rather – here are some potentially awesome songs… if there are some you haven’t heard of before, click the link and experience! You might find a new fave!

Should you actually give a damn what his favourite songs are? No. And mine neither. But I think the same usefulness might apply to my own endeavor. Yes, I’m going to heavily feature within this blog, for a while, the plugging of my own top-100 songs. I made the challenge to Aqualad who immediately declined. Naturally he wouldn’t expect to be able to pull a (17-year) lifetime of music observation into his head all at once. “I’d probably be forgetting about a lot of great songs,” he said. And I’m sure that would be true for almost anyone, but it so happens I have been a passionate music-lover and a note-taker by hobby, since junior high so I was well-equipped for this!

I hope you’ll follow along and maybe relive a couple oldies you loved and forgot about or maybe even discover a couple tunes new to you that you’ll be glad you heard.

I started by going through my music collection plus my list of songs I must obtain which I’ve kept up to date since the early eighties, and making a list of the most critical songs – those I knew without a shadow of a doubt belonged in the top 100.

It turns out there are precisely 168 songs that no doubt belong in my top-100.

Wheedling it down to 100 was almost easy. I could confidently separate my top 99 but then about 20 seemed tied for 100th place. So I had to listen to them all before The Boss finally won out and squeaked into my personal singles hall of fame.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, To hell with this, there’s gonna be about fifty Rush songs on here.

Well there’s not. Had I been using any kind of academic process at all, there might have been fifty Rush songs on here. But I went with this criteria: Toe-tapping, head-bobbing, torso-swaying catchiness. Thus the songs are generally anthemic, energizing, and/or emotionally captivating. These songs do not necessarily offer the richest listening experiences, but the most addictive. Interestingly, the list contains some of the most structurally shallow songs in my musical awareness along with some of the deepest; both extremes of the scale. In other words, the criteria is this: These are the 100 songs that would cause me to mildly strangle you if you tried gabbing at me while they were playing on the radio. The bluer I would let you turn, the higher the song ranks!

I captured some rather trivial demographics so that we can look at fun patterns:

43% (or 43 songs obviously) were released in the 1980’s. That’s no surprise. I became a teenager in the 80’s and there is nothing like the chaos of puberty to drive one to the solace of one’s headphones and the deepest emotional music connections we generally make in our lifespan.

That leaves 31% from the seventies which, in my humble objective opinion, was probably the peak of mainstream songwriting since the classical age, and 12% from the sixties, which was rock and roll’s golden age, no doubt, and I adore it, but I interpret that (early) sixties rock, in a very general sense, lacked enough sophistication to give songs deep lasting resonance.

Only one 20th century tune predates the sixties and only one song predates the century. Just nine songs come out of the nineties, the latest from 1997. Very sadly, that leaves just three songs from the last eighteen years! Oddly, two of those three hail from Sweden.

Geographically, I predicted that America would dominate but in doing the research I discovered that more than a few composers I assumed were American turned out to be Canadian or English. The photo-finish breakdown is such:

37% UK
36% USA
20% Canada
7% other.

If Canadian origin seems disproportionately large, I suggest that it stems just a little from genuine culture, not at all from personal prejudice, and mostly from logistics: Canadian radio leans toward Canadian content (per legislation as far as I know) and familiarity breeds fondness.

Style-wise my leanings are quite diverse but this criteria lends itself very predominantly to rock and pop, with meanderings into new wave and the briefest possible flirtations with metal, southern rock, classical and jazz. Alternative is under-represented but then again, alternative music, for me, is largely album oriented and not singles oriented. Grunge is flat-out missing. I once adored it but never has a style had less legs. Nirvana, and more-so their peers, have gone flat with time.   

Presented in reverse order, I give you:

THE TOP 100 !!!!! (personally subjective) SONGS OF ALL-TIME !!!!!

# 100
By Bruce Springsteen
1985, USA

I was in the darkroom working on a high school photography assignment while this was playing when I first realized how much I digged it, along with a host of other tracks from the new Born in the USA album. I decided right then I had to buy that album (on cassette) but I ended up dubbing someone else’s copy and put Brian Adam’s Reckless on the other side. That tape became my summer soundtrack that year.

On that same occasion, I also first noticed the lamenting quality of the lyrics (consistent with the album). But I was a rather lamentable teen so it all worked. Previously I had interpreted the music as upbeat and boppy (with one of the late great Clarence Clemons’ most delightful sax riffs carrying the bridge). On the first few occasions I overheard the tune I might have somehow equated goin’ down with gettin’ down. It was quite a while before I picked up on the rude physiological interpretation.

Peaked at #9, Billboard's Top 100

 "…wonderfully exuberant and hilarious."--Debbie Miller, Rolling Stone

"A prime exemplar of the kind of good-time party song that Springsteen and E Street do best, sliding easily through the verses with a ... bouncing rhythm ... and a fun, jumping end."--Caryn Rose, Billboard Magazine

Here's a cute, tidy version by NYC indie rockers, Vampire Weekend.

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