This story in today’s New York Times discusses a new music-critics poll hosted by the New York blog Idolator, a music-oriented spinoff of Gawker. The project, overseen by one-time Reader contributor Michaelangelo Matos, is seeking the opinions (i.e., top-ten lists) from some 1,200 music journalists. The new poll, Jackin’ Pop, was conceived as a challenge to Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop Poll, which lost much of its credibility this fall, when the paper dismissed longtime critic and poll “poobah” Robert Christgau. Idolator tried to enlist Christgau to run the show, but he declined—although he will contribute his list and comments to the new poll, as well as the old Voice poll, which will continue under the direction of the paper’s current music editor, Rob Harvilla.
I understand the impulse to create a new forum now that the Voice looks so stupid and clueless. But I don’t see a mass exodus of the old guard from Pazz & Jop happening anytime soon, especially when Christgau says he’s still going to contribute. Now we have two competing critics polls, but isn’t one enough? Most of us get some kind of begrudging kick from compiling these lists—Reader music writers will be submitting their top-fives soon—but the Internet has made the whole enterprise feel like overkill. What was good, even noble, about the Voice poll was that it aimed for a critical consensus, even if the consensus was sometimes mediocre. The zillion lists that will pop up on the Web over the next month or two (and I’ll surely produce a top-40 list for this blog) start to look like a comprehensive catalog of every album released the previous year, which makes the utility of lists questionable. And it looks like those lists are only going to keep propagating more lists.
Being that the Idolator is a Web-only publication, I suspect that some veteran critics won’t be involved in Jackin’ Pop—more out of laziness that anything else—and I’ll bet that if it does take root it will skew more toward younger bands; I doubt the new Yusuf album will turn up anywhere. My ego will probably guarantee my participation, if only to make sure Olivia Block gets represented, but I still yearn for the days when too much information was just that, not the current mental detonation every new Web page threatens to create.