Pazz & Jop 2008 Confirms Our Suspicions

Well, the Village Voice‘s annual music-critics poll is here, and… it’s about what you would have suspected. In an oddly Grammy-like move, the top single, M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes,” is actually from 2007, and benefits from 50 carryover votes. And following the paper’s arguably racist cover from its 2006 P&J issue, TV on the Radio took the top album slot in what can only be described as a landslide, beating No. 2 Vampire Weekend by 669 points and 49 mentions. Consensus!

The rest of the albums list is a shuffled collection of the usual suspects (Portishead, Bon Iver, Lil Wayne) plus the obligatory Boomer babies, which this year includes a Dylan bootleg, My Morning Jacket, and, uh, Randy Newman? Grammier and Grammier!

The real action, of course, is in the singles list, which would’ve been considerably tighter had M.I.A. not grabbed those carryover votes. T.I. lands two songs in the top 20, which is nice, but overall there’s a feeling of confirmation rather than judgment. These are songs we all know.

Other than that, Simon Reynolds talks about Vampire Weekend, Tom Breihan talks about Lil Wayne, and various political conclusions are drawn from the popularity of certain songs. In 2009, we’re supposed to stick together. So let’s just say it’s all good, huh?

1. TV On The Radio, Dear Science
2. Vampire Weekend
3. Portishead, Third
4. Erykah Badu, New Amerykah Vol. 1: Fourth World War
5. Fleet Foxes
6. Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III
7. Santogold
8. Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago
9. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!
10. Kanye West, 808s & Heartbreak
11. Deerhunter, Microcastle / Weird Era Cont.
12. Randy Newman, Harps & Angels
13. The Hold Steady, Stay Positive
14. No Age, Nouns
15. Girl Talk, Feed The Animals
16. My Morning Jacket, Evil Urges
17. MGMT, Oracular Spectacular
18. Hercules & Love Affair
19. Raphael Saadiq, The Way I See It
20. Bob Dylan, The Bootleg Series, Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs – Rare and Unreleased 1989-2006
[the rest]

1. M.I.A., “Paper Planes”
2. Estelle feat. Kanye West, “American Boy”
3. Beyoncé “Single Ladies”
4. MGMT, “Time To Pretend”
5. Lil Wayne, “A Milli”
6. Santogold, “L.E.S. Artistes”
7. Hercules & Love Affair, “Blind”
8. Coldplay, “Viva La Vida”
9. Kanye West, “Love Lockdown”
10. Fleet Foxes, “White Winter Hymnal”
11. Portishead, “Machine Gun”
12. Hot Chip, “Ready For The Floor”
13. T.I. feat. Rihanna, “Live Your Life”
14. T.I., “Whatever You Like”
15. Rihanna, “Disturbia”
16. Death Cab For Cutie, “I Will Possess Your Heart”
17. Adele, “Chasing Pavements”
18. MGMT, “Electric Feel”
19. Pink, “So What”
20. Vampire Weekend, “Oxford Comma”
[the rest]

Pazz & Jop 2008 [Village Voice]

  • Cam/ron

    Wasn’t it that “Pineapple Express” trailer that made Paper Planes famous? I remember that MIA album had almost zero airplay when it was released.

  • Mike P.

    Two things:

    1) Randy Newman is a national treasure!

    2) Harps and Angels is terrible! Almost none of the things that make him great are in evidence. I do not understand all the praise it’s gotten, even taking into account Newman’s de facto status as a critic’s darling.

  • Chris Molanphy

    As someone who placed “Paper Planes” No. 1 on his Pazz & Jop ballot and feels it’s the deserved, indisputable single of 2008 — given both its empirical greatness and cultural ubiquity — I want to strenuously dispute your opening statement.

    Notwithstanding Maura’s prescient placement of the song on her Best of 2007 list, the fact is “Paper Planes” wasn’t released as a single until February 2008, full stop.

    I realize that nowadays, the digital economy and iTunes have made the very idea of a “single” quaint, given the ability to treat all album cuts as de facto singles. But the music business has a rich history of transforming last year’s album cut into this year’s monster single.

    Is it wrong for me to call “Billie Jean” the single of 1983 because Thriller dropped in 1982? Wrong for “Alive” to bring back happy memories of 1992 because Ten landed (and wallowed in momentary obscurity) in 1991? Wrong to call “Since U Been Gone” the monster jam of 2005 just because Breakaway was in stores for a month in 2004?

    I also think your statement about “a feeling of confirmation rather than judgment” is like blaming water for being wet. I’d understand the complaint (which we make here often about magazines’ year-end lists) if we were talking about a single outlet’s panel of critics, rather than the amalgamation of literally hundreds of them. It was ever thus.

    Sorry to come off as a P&J apologist, but I think we have to be fair.

  • Mike Barthel

    @Chris Molanphy: but if we’re going to bitch about the Grammies for being behind the times for constantly honoring albums or songs released 18 months ago, the same standard should apply here, right? I don’t care one way or the other, particularly, but if we’re going to draw these arbitrary decisions then we have to abide by them. If we’re saying that “Paper Planes” was the single of 2008, then all the votes cast for it in 2007 were not for that fact, right? I’m not arguing against people who voted for it–it’s a great song!–but its place at #1 does seem questionable.

    As for the rest of the singles, my beef is essentially that I don’t remember people getting particularly excited about any of these songs this year, except for “Paper Planes” and “Single Ladies.” And even then, not so much. There didn’t seem to be any “Hey Ya” or “Ignition (Remix)” in this batch. Maybe I’m wrong, though.

  • Chris N.

    For the record, the editing mangled my P&J comment on Metallica’s ‘Death Magnetic.’ It was written in the form of an open letter to the band, but the first part of it was cut and now it just reads like I don’t understand pronouns. That’ll teach me to attempt cleverness.

  • Chuck Eddy

    The Pazz & Jop vote-carryover rule (which Rob Harvilla calls the “Chuck Eddy Corollary” in his M.I.A. essay, since he emailed me to ask me what the rules were) goes back three decades (to 1979 for singles, 1980 for albums I think), and it makes perfect sense to me; for most but not all critics, 2008 is when “Paper Planes” had its impact as a single (and even Chris seems to be saying it had bigger impact that the #2 single.) The whole point is that literal release date shouldn’t matter to critics, who don’t work for the record companies, after all. (Same rule SHOULD still apply to album reviews, but stupidly never does anymore.)

    (Also, not sure who this alleged “we” is who has no better reason to bitch about the Grammys than their release window.)

    Otherwise, My favorite ballot so far (four Flipper albums!):


    I also think it’s funny that the Top 40 albums includes bands called both Fleet Foxes and Frightened Rabbit (the latter of whom I swear I never heard of before, though I probably just wasn’t paying attention.)

    Another thing I had no idea of til now: That some people still care about the Walkmen (32nd!?) and the Black Keys (55th).

  • Chris N.

    I had no idea people actually liked Vampire Weekend so much. I thought they were kidding about that.

  • Lucas Jensen

    @Chris N.: I had three separate people tell me recently they thought it was the pop album of the DECADE. Huh?

  • Chris Molanphy

    @Mike Barthel: To echo what Chuck said: I have all sorts of problems with the way the Recording Academy votes (cf. Herbie Hancock last year). But I have few problems with the Grammy committee’s rules for nominations, which are generally fair and solidly established: The nominating year is 1 October-30 September, and the song categories include material that came from year-before albums, which are not themselves nominateable. These are sensible release-window rules. You won’t hear me griping about song-nomination timing by the Grammys, here or anywhere else.

    (The only exception is the pointless Best New Artist award, which continues to embarrass the Grammy people by nominating acts that are often years old and rewarding flashes in the pan like the Starland Vocal Band and Jody Watley, nevermind Milli Vanilli. But as the only Grammy that rewards a single act rather than a piece of actual work, I suppose it’s understandable that the über-square Grammy committee would continually screw up such details.)

  • Chuck Eddy

    >even Chris seems to be saying it had bigger impact that the #2 single<

    I meant MIKE (as in Barthel) here, not Chris. (Hard to keep comments straight sometimes; Mike had written “I don’t remember people getting particularly excited about any of these songs this year, except for ‘Paper Planes’ and ‘Single Ladies.’)”

    I actually already had this discussion on Poptimists a few weeks ago, when I predicted “Paper Planes” would win P&J (over, uh, “A Milli” — guess I predicted that wrong. Thought Lil Wayne would do better across the board; what do I know?)

    Anyway, here’s what I wrote then, when Alex McPherson asked “my question in these cases is generally “so why didn’t you vote for it last year?”:

    “They didn’t vote for ‘Paper Planes’ last year because, uh, it wasn’t EVERYWHERE last year like it was this year. And maybe the more they heard it, the more it became part of the bigger world out there, the better it sounded. I dunno, I didn’t vote for it *either* year, but in 2008 (when it actually *felt* like a single, and *mattered* like a single) I act least *considered* voting for it. (By the way, *was* ‘Paper Planes’ an actual single in 2007? I’m assuming it was, since it finished so high last year, but if it was a single last year, I never noticed. And the way people vote for random album tracks these days — an eternal pet peeve of mine, but I’m an old fart, sorry — maybe it wasn’t.)”

    …hearing ‘Paper Planes’ on the radio — especially in mid-America, plane-flyover country — certainly puts it in a different context. How is that not obvious? And I think it’s really possible that the radio (and movie) play may have endeared the song to certain, say, middlebrow daily paper (plane) rock critics, and maybe also a few hip-hop critics, who never would have considered voting for M.I.A. before (and, shocker, might not have ever even paid attention to her.)

    …I don’t remember having a single conversation or reading a single blog entry about ‘Paper Planes’ in 2007 (at least in part because I avoided reading M.I.A. conversations in general, which I assumed would bore me.) Did think it was a standout album track on *Kala*, though. But again, not until 2008 did it strike me as anything like a single (even if it technically was one by the time 2007 ended — which, if there was a promotional video, I’d say it probably was.)

    And by the way, I’m the LAST person who has any reason to be a P&J apologist these days (seeing how I useta run it, and all.)

  • OokieDookie

    I actually didn’t put Paper Planes on my ballot because I still considered it a 2007 song (though the single was officially released in January, well before Pineapple Express). But of course, that’s what kept “Crazy” off Pitchfork’s 2006 singles list, so I guess that’s what we have to get for not institutionalizing douchiness.

  • bcapirigi

    I found a mistake! After shuddering with horror that Chantelle’s incredibly stupid T-Shirt placed a spot higher than incredibly awesome T.O.N.Y., I clicked to see who the offending critics were and, um, one of them (Steve Haruch) voted for a very different song called T-Shirt.


  • bcapirigi

    (Insert “Solange’s” between “than” and “incredibly.”)

  • bcapirigi

    Also, aren’t Alphabeat and This Is Alphabeat the same album? God, it’s like they weren’t even trying!

  • glenn mcdonald

    Once again, nobody bothers asking me to help.

    Stats for those inclined: []

  • Chris Molanphy

    @glenn mcdonald: Oh, I was waiting for this, Glenn! Thanks so much for doing this.

    My streak of über-alignment continues, but I’m down from my No. 1 position the prior year.

  • TheBeard

    Hey all-
    I managed to interview Village Voice Music Editor Rob Harvilla about this year’s Pazz and Jop for Flavorwire. He dropped some serious knowledge about the voting process and how the list is compiled. How come some people don’t vote for the album they listened to most over the course of a year? Because they’re embarrassed that it was High School Musical (or Avril, or Jonas Bothers), that’s why. Check it out: []

  • Chris N.

    FWIW, I didn’t vote for the Dylan album because it was archival material. Surely I wasn’t the only one.

  • DJorn

    @glenn mcdonald: I’m floored that J Neo Marvin (Chuck’s four-Flipper-album guy) didn’t make the “most eccentric” top ten. What the hell did those other folks vote for?

  • glenn mcdonald

    Well, Marvin also voted for Deerhoof (11 votes) and Robert Forster (9 votes), so that pulled him down to a tie for 33rd most eccentric…

  • Hope Eveland

    I think this is a real great blog article. Fantastic.