It’s so easy you wonder why everyone doesn’t do it until you realize that now it’s all they do: Come up with an idea (“Top 10 Worst [X]“) on the L train ride to the office that morning, slap together 10 (or 25, or 100) cultural artifacts ripe for the kind of snarky working over that won’t actually tax you at all as a writer/thinker; pen some short blurbs peppered with limp barbs (self-deprecating ones especially good because they let your self-hating audience subconciously focus their anger); hit publish; watch the page views spike that day as it gets stuck in the online drain traps, letting music fans while away dead time that could be productively spent cursing at Facebook Scrabble or plotting ways to murder the coworker who keeps stealing their half-and-half. It’s the kind of cheap content-creation that’s now cynical enough to border on nihilistic if you’re doing it with any level of seriousness–and for years, who’s even been able to tell which onionskin layer of pop-cult crankiness is born of sincere anger and which is a just-get-me-through-this-workday-Lord put-on, not just among the pros but even the consumers?–and even complaining about it (like me!) makes you complicit in your own manipulation. (Hell, even these meta-complaints that I’m making have long been part of the best/worst deal, but if you think I’m starting down that slippery slope, you mad.) All of which makes the latest Blender list another installment in a silly-ass cycle of critical (self-)abuse:
In 2007, and somehow I doubt I’m the first person to actually make this comparison, the online chatter/message board/blog complaint cycle whenever any publication posts a best/worst list has become the rock critical version of a lot of frustrated people getting their hands on cheap porno, easy fodder for complaining, especially for those can’t get it together to actually have their own opinions or (even more sadly) those who take the downright lazy, possibly-not-even-sincere opinions of others as a minor affront, the kind of content that lives or dies on the merits of how funny and/or insightful the writing is, while being so culuturally debased that you as a writer occasionally need to check yourself that you’re still, you know, writing cheap porno. Which is probably when you just say “fuck it, it’s a paycheck,” and wind up with the slack, distracted writing and sad recieved-wisdom of Blender‘s list of “The 10 Most Overpraised Records Ever”, the kind of list that would barely qualify as Girls Gone Wild, one of those late-night last-resorts that feels even more shameful for how lame it is:
Tom Waits’s later-day output:
Whereas critics once kindly described his plaintive, atonal yowls as “gravelly,” they haven’t acknowledged what’s obvious to anyone without nerve damage in or around his eardrum: that Waits’s vocals now sound like moderately well-enunciated barfing. He may be one of the most unique performers on this or any other planet, but it’s getting increasingly difficult to classify his output as “music.”
Not enough lazy, unchecked assumptions dangerously mixed with a terminal quantitiy of snappy zingers for you? Well how’s about:
Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, The Sex Pistols:
You’re ugly! God is dead! Jesus is a leprechaun! The queen has a penis! We hate everything! Blah blah blah blah blah blah! Blah! Blah!
Which is hanging onto to “critique” with its fingernails and exclamation points. I guess you can see why this was left to languish online, while the big dogs at Blender prepare their list of the “40 Worst Lyricists” for the next print issue. (Sting at No. 1!) Well don’t worry, junior pornographer Larry Dobrow. Keep at it and some day you may be called up to do the best/worst thing alongside the major league panderers in the magazine itself. Really work hard and, this being America and all, you could make it all the way to the top: programming director at VH1.
The 10 Most Overpraised Records Ever [Blender]
*The extended metaphors in this post were brought to you by Catholic guilt and Major League Baseball.
**Please don’t think this frustrated rant (full of ironic contradictions) against the slipping relevance of long-form criticism in a blurb and listicle world will eventually preclude us from shamelessly posting Idolator’s Top 100 Worst Songs Of The 1990s, where we’ll gently mock you (and ourselves, of course, that’s implicit) for once loving Goldfinger in order to make our rent that month.