Real music fans embrace strict quotas

by Sonny Bunch on August 23, 2012

Over at Slate, Jody Rosen is very upset that Pitchfork’s reader-generated list of the top 200 albums of 1996 to 2011 is “aesthetically, generically, regionally, racially … narrow and conservative. Pitchfork’s readers ignored virtually every musical genre other than indie rock and its folk- and electronic-offshoots.” Despite acknowledging that Pitchfork is “the online bible of indie rock fans,” Rosen thinks it should have compiled a list with more variety: “The Top 40 scarcely registers a blip in this world. Hip-hop—and for that matter, Afro-America—is represented mainly by Kanye West. (Kanye contains multitudes, but c’mon.) Country music doesn’t exist. Metal doesn’t exist. Reggaeton, bachata, salsa? ¿Cómo? The world outside the United States—it’s barely there.”

My favorite part of the piece, however, comes when he suggests that indie rock fans need to embrace a strict regimen of quotas to be true music fans:

If I’m not mistaken, there are just 23 records by women artists in the top 200, and only two in the top 50. And that’s a generous count, making room for co-ed acts like The xx, Beach House, and Portishead. Again, we can look to the self-selecting voting base. According to Pitchfork’s own stats, 88% of the poll respondents were men. “The Dudes’ List” might have been a more accurate title.

Still—what the hell is wrong with these dudes? Did it escape their attention that for much of the past decade and a half, female artists have had a stranglehold on the popular musiczeitgeist? Have they never heard of Missy Elliott? Can they really prefer The National to M.I.A.’sKala, to Bjork’s Homogenic, to Joanna Newsom’s Ys?* Where are politics in all of this? If you surveyed the roughly 24,600 men who submitted “People’s List” ballots, I wager you’d find nearly 100 percent espousing progressive views on gender issues.

“Where are the politics in all of this?” I emphasized that for a reason, because it’s heartbreaking in its oblivious philistinism. What Rosen is explicitly arguing is that we should ignore artistic merit in order to ensure a more gender-representative list for public consumption. I wonder what Rosen thought of Vibe when it released its monochromatic 10 best albums of 2010. Isn’t he aware that there is only one white person on that list? White people make up more than half of the population, but they barely warrant a mention from Vibe. And there’s no mention of indie rock at all! Nor metal, nor salsa, nor etc, ad nauseum. I’m disgusted by Vibe’s lack of diversity.** I’d like to imagine Rosen is too.

“Well, this is different,” he’d probably say if he read this, “because Pitchfork has undue influence in the blah blah blah.” That’s not Pitchfork’s fault! That’s not Pitchfork’s readers’ fault! Look, I don’t read Pitchfork because it doesn’t comport to my own, relatively suspect, taste. I haven’t read their People’s List because any list that tries to make the argument that the massively overrated and generally terrible Kid A is the second best album of any 15-year period is not to be trusted. But why would I bother getting worked up about it either? Pitchfork and its readers lead a cloistered, indie rock-centric existence! It’s what they like! Their refusal to kowtow to PC sensibilities about the “correct” number of women or minority artists in any given list is, frankly, refreshing. Why should they pretend to like something, as Rosen would have them do, in order to artificially inflate the standing of overrated nothings like MIA?

*Are you trying to tell me that there are people who prefer MIA and Bjork and Joanna Newsom to The National? The National’s better than all those artists. MIA in particular.

**Note: I am not actually disgusted by Vibe’s lack of diversity because I understand that Vibe is a hip hop magazine that caters to fans of hip hop. If it included an album by The National, I’d be confused.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

SkinsFanPG August 23, 2012 at 11:12 am

Generally terrible Kid A? For shame Sonny Bunch! For shame! How To Disappear Completely is a masterpiece.


Sonny Bunch August 23, 2012 at 11:16 am

Fact: Radiohead is the most overrated band of the Pitchfork era.


SkinsFanPG August 23, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Fact: Sonny Bunch is the most overrated blogger of the internet era.
I kid, I kid. Seriously though, Radiohead is amazing, and Kid A is a masterpiece.


Llewop Sirk August 23, 2012 at 1:50 pm

First, ” it’s heartbreaking in its oblivious philistinism” is my favorite phrase of the day.

And also, you might enjoy this, re: Pitchfork, particularly the part about Kid A. Pitchfork loves Radiohead, because Radiohead made Pitchfork:


Sonny Bunch August 23, 2012 at 1:51 pm

I see what you did there, “Sirk.”


Dubya August 23, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Fantastic article on Pitchfork. Worth the half hour it took me to read it.


Joe August 23, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Oh, but the liberal angst is so delicious.


Bugg August 23, 2012 at 9:49 pm

Only idiots demand that something singular and subjective comply with PC idiocy. Doesn’t seem this dipshit is demanding Darius Rucker, a black country star, or gay Rob Halford of metal legends Judas Priest, get any love from these guys. He should go back to wearing out his REM cassette.


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