Friday, November 7, 2008

Pitchfork's 500 Greatest Songs?

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On Nov 11, the Pitchfork-curated book The Pitchfork 500: Our Guide to the Greatest Songs from Punk to the Present hits bookshelves. Someone already chronologically transcribed all the songs in the book here, if you are interested.

While mostly comprehensive, some songs and artists are conspicuously absent. Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart"is a huge oversight. Also, how do you make a compilation of songs partially entitled "From Punk to the Present" and not include the Descendents (RIP Frank Navetta [-2008])? As much as I dislike U2, the influence of Joshua Tree was huge, even though Bono singing mostly about America while his country hardly had widespread electricity is a little off putting. Its absence is glaring.

The inclusion of Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out" suggests that popularity was a factor in choosing songs, but the exclusion of George Michael's "Faith" negates this idea.

Also perplexing is that the entire lexicon of R&B was purposefully ignored, despite is popularity, radio play on 'pop' radio stations, and genre-shifting. While P4K stated its focus for the book lied on hip-hop, electronic, indie-rock, metal, experimental underground music, and pop, the complete omission of artists like The Fugees, Mary J. Blige, and Erykah Badu- makes the any "best of" list seem incomplete. I'm not saying P4K had to include everything- I wouldn't expect them to have a recording of Leonard Bernstein with the New York Philharmonic, for instance- but music with guitar, bass, musical singing, and drums shouldn't be ignored.

And including only one song by The Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, and Smashing Pumpkins? No Calexico? All these groups that were around for 10 years- plus- deserve a little more recognition. With the trouble they went to compiling this list (only including one song per album, and no more than four songs per artist), it could have been a little more inclusive.

However, I realize the best 500 songs over 19 years is difficult to determine, and most of the songs deserve their spots on the list. But for some of the artists in the 2003-2006 category, it is difficult to understand their importance: Kelly Clarkson (even though her drummer is the drummer from +/-)? The incredibly angular sounds of Johnny Boy and Fiery Furnaces? The cheesy R. Kelly? Time will judge these artists more harshly than the compilers of this list.

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