End of the decade lists

I don’t think I’ll have one… I’ve been all over the map, and really don’t have anything original to contribute (then again, it is the internet…). But one thing that’s been intriguing me is the motivations behind those lists. I’m not sure that I completely agree with Umberto Eco’s idea that lists are the origin of culture, but I think there is something there.
In some ways, through these end of decade lists (and 10 years ago with the end of the century/millenium lists) establish the official history of critical consensus for that year. If I look at Pitchfork’s 20 best albums of 2004, I would get a pretty good idea of what they were talking about that year, and what contemporary records were compared to.
On the other hand, these kind of canons are bad at predicting long term recognition. For example, take a look at a list of Best Picture winners and see how that lines up with the history of US cinema. And so everybody wants to be the person that makes not only the right call now, but the correct call in the eyes of history.
Another thing that I’ve been wondering is how much these lists restrict our listening choices. For example, Pitchfork a couple of years ago did a list of the best songs of the 60’s. They might have a better handle on what those songs were than somebody writing in 1969 because it’s impossible to accurately predict influence. Retrospectives have that advantage. On the other hand, these canons build upon themselves, and history is littered with musicians who have gone out of print or been all but forgotten because, at times completely irrespective of their music or craft, they did not fit in with the narratives of their eras (or genres).

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