<i>Blender</i> Jerks Off Another “Worst” List

bollockssss.jpgIt’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.

idolator
  • mike a

    I have to admit that Sting as “worst lyricist” is funny. However, in general, I’d much, MUCH rather see a writer take a “hated” record seriously than throw cheap shots at sacred cows. It’s the old debate-club trick: pick a position opposite to your own and convincingly argue it. Scram and Roctober zines are great at this, and it’s one reason I’m curious to read that Celine Dion 33 1/3 book when it comes out.

  • janine

    Porno? People get cheap porno to complain about it? Hunh?

  • mike a

    Anyway, The Best Show on WFMU opened and closed the book on current Dylan by playing Modern Times back-to-back with the theme from “Mr. Belvedere.”

  • NoNewYork

    i hate it when people complain about latter day tom waits. its so ignant.

  • Weezy F Baby

    …and then you repost it to this blog because you know it’ll turn into a big comment thread.

    gotta think about the click-throughs!

  • janine

    To be clear, I too hate listicles (unless I have to use the bathroom) but I couldn’t follow your rant.

    Could be worse, remember that VH-1 show, “The List?” The one where Rebecca Gayheart and Carrot Top or whoever would share their views on the seminal classic rock albums or whatever? That blew.

  • dog door

    I refuse to click that link. If you can listen to Tom Waits’ Orphans and not be moved, you have no soul.

  • Anonymous

    I cant believe the anger I felt when I read that Neil Peart was ranked #2 on the worst lyricist list and Sting was #1. First off, Sting is a musical icon that doesn’t deserve criticism by some small minded, feeble witted writer who makes his living spewing crap onto the pages of some two bit magazine. Okay maybe some of the lyrics are a bit cheesy but this is a man who created his own style of music. White Reggae(Reggatta de Blanc) was a Police original.

    Moving on to what really irks me is criticizing Neil Peart. This is a man who’s lyrics tell stories that evoke thought and emotion far greater than most lyricist’s even attempt to conquer. Just because you don’t understand them or don’t care to understand them, don’t be critical of them because it sends up a glaring red flare that says, “I am not bright enough to figure this out, so let me mock it in the hopes that nobody realizes it”. The old saying “We mock what we don’t understand” rings true in this case.

    I had a friend who was a big fan of Kiss. I am a big Kiss fan as well. I tried many times to get him to appreciate Rush and his comment to me was that he would rather listen to someone sing about sex, drugs and Rock and Roll than someone singing about Oak trees. While he appreciated the quality of the music, it just wasn’t for him. I can certainly appreciate that. Rush is not for everyone but for those who want to absorb what Rush produces, it is truly a wonderful experience.

  • Jess Harvell

    @janine: at this point, in 2007:

    writing listicle = being listed as executive producer on boner time vol. nine.

    complaining about listicle = diddling with the implement of your choice to boner time vol. nine.

    actually, you know, thinkin’ about stuff = the dying art of good sex.

    the list/listicle used to be fun, can’t deny it, but, as with boner time vol. nine and many other things, their numbng ubiquity in these crazy internet times makes long for the “thinkin’ about stuff” part, as well making me wonder if the blog world’s enervated/enervating obsession with them isn’t verging on the kind of creepy compulsion where any pretense to pleasure has been long forgotten. that “dead-eyed hypersexualized environment” stuff maura and i are always complaining about.

    also, like i said, the catholic church has a lot to answer for.

  • janine

    @jessdolator: Ohhhh, I get it. Where does fetish porn come in (like close-up shots of feet squashing hot dogs)? Is that like a 33 1/3 book?

  • SlimShadenfruede

    I worked for Blender at the beginning. It took forever to release the first issue because so much was lifted fro m the UK’s Q magazine that the lawyers put the brakes on.
    Since getting rid of one of the two head editors it’s been on autopilot a bit. Craig Marks is the biggest ASSHOLE ever. Shit floats indeed.

  • brainchild

    @janine: i actually liked that show, “The List”, even if it did make me respect the brothers Hanson.

  • Bob Loblaw

    What happens to the metaphor if you masturbate to listicles?

  • Al Shipley

    The dumbest part about the Waits entry is that in a list of individual records, it makes no sense to dismiss the last 20 years and half dozen or so albums of a guy’s career, especially with the failure to point out how they’re different or worse than the early stuff (I mean sure, his voice is a little more gravelly than it used to be, but I have a hard time believing he crossed some subtle line for people who can only handle the sandpaper lungs up to an arbitrary point).

  • Christopher R. Weingarten

    FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T LINK TO IT

  • Anonymous

    I don’t understand. Why is “Ten Worst” lazy and yet a blog saying “Look how lazy they are at Blender” was a tough and exhaustive expose?

  • Cam/ron

    I agree that hackery polluted that Blender list (What, “Pet Sounds” and “Kid A” are overrated? Really?), but I wouldn’t dismiss the entire best/worst list format as a lazy, cheap thrill. If the critic can pull it off, it can be brilliant. I just finished reading Greil Marcus’s classic list of rock artist deaths from the 70′s where each scored points based on their manners of death.

  • queensissy

    None of this is helping me find out who’s been stealing my half and half.

  • CloneOfAaron

    I remember the first time I read Blender, they had a sidebar telling people to check out Rain Dogs as it was an unappreciated classic or something similar.
    Hmm.

  • yolakayak

    The endless lists that seem to fill blog-space turn into just noise. They’re publishing lists because they just don’t have any content, a result of hiring monkeys sitting at keyboards. Say what you will about idolator, but at least you folks continue to crank out some snappy _writing_ and that’s what keeps me coming back. So, enough praise- have another speedball on me and get the fuck back to work…

  • Weezy F Baby

    im surprised you didn’t liveblog this listicle.

    can we at least get a snippet of IM conversation between you and maura??

  • Jess Harvell

    @Weezy F Baby: i did briefly consider including our discussion about the plan to start culling the commenting herd, yes.

  • Lucas Jensen

    While the tenor of the review is childish, I do agree that Never Mind the Bollocks is wildly overpraised.

  • Jupiter8

    I hope it’s supposed to be ironic that the ad on the second page of this list is for Springsteen’s new record…

  • Halfwit

    @jessdolator: Was that a burn?

    I think that was a burn…

    @Weezy F Baby: BURN!!

  • FionaScrapple

    @Lucas Jensen:

    You are FAR too kind.

  • janine

    @Salvatz: Holy, crap. Was that stuff about Rush up there all day? Here I thought only my ears ignored them.

    That said (not that I’m condoning lists) Dave Pirner’s rhyming dictionary has to be #1, followed by Nikki Sixx (say it again).

  • audiotaco

    i can’t stand blender and their Lists. As a result, i found your critique hilarious. keep up the good work.

  • Weezy F Baby

    @jessdolator: so you mean i won’t be able to comment on how c-c-craaazzyy your mom is? FUCK.

  • Halfwit

    Operator: 911… what is your emergency?

    Halfwit: MOMMY AND DADDY ARE FIGHTING!!

  • KinetiQ

    Isn’t this par for the course over there? Hell, look at the course of current american music journalism. I verb* idolator to run as far away from that as possible. Well, that and the fact that Mojo only talks about stuff from “back in the day”, which is great, but every once in a while it’s nice to get a reminder why they do that.

    * – lazier than participating, slightly more involved than reading – “browse” is too LLBean and “surf” is too mid-90s.

  • Homage

    HEAVY META
    HEAVY META MACHINE

    Y’all is some beautiful-ass motherfuckers, and don’t let no cooze tell you elsewise.

  • Anonymous

    The Top 7 Worst List Makers in Journalism History:

    1. Jon Dolan

    2. Josh Eells

    3. Tim Grierson

    4. Andrew Harrison

    5. Ben Mitchell

    6. Tony Power

    7. Mark Yarm

  • Zach Isso

    I must agree about Dylan, everything else is nonsense though.