Monday, December 28, 2009

Top 100 of the '00s: By the Numbers

Songs 10 through 1 of the Top 100 of the '00s are now posted, completing the countdown. I'll wait while you go check it out.

Thanks for coming back. I thought it might be interesting to share some information about the list itself, so here goes.

The Song Selection Process
I thought very hard about the 2000s and spent a lot of time looking through my iTunes as sorted by year. From there I created a four-part ballot for my voters.

Part one: A list of 30 songs. Voters were asked to pick their top 15.
Part two: Either/or options (eg. The Killers' Mr. Brightside or Somebody Told Me?).
Part three: A list of artists for whom I couldn't settle on a single song. Voters were asked to fill in the blank.
Part four: Open nominations.

The hope of all of this was to see some consensus among voters. For the most part, that happened. Because I limited the list to one-song-per-artist, it created some interesting conundrums. For example, Coldplay's Clocks and Viva La Vida both received three votes apiece. My solution was to write both song names on a scrap of paper, conceal one in each hand, and have my wife choose left or right. It was very scientific.

Yes, this is a very biased way to do things seeing as how I picked all of the initial songs and artists, but don't forget part four, where voters wrote in nominations. In fact many of the songs that made the list came from this section. ALSO, some of the songs and artists that I initially provided ended up not making the list because interest just wasn't there.

Every song that got at least two votes made the list. That accounted for 80 of the 100. For the final 20, I chose from a list of about 50 nominees, mostly considering diversity (in both race of the artist and style) and cultural impact on the Aughts (which is an admittedly subjective criteria). I tried to spread out the final 20 evenly among the voters, but somehow I ended up with a few more than everyone else (hey, it's MY blog).

The Ranking
Easy enough. The more votes a song got the higher it was ranked. For songs that received the same number of votes, I had no interest in trying to determine a hierarchy, so I just ranked them alphabetically. This holds true through the whole list except for in the top five where I did some slight juggling (Get Ur Freak On at number 2 felt too high).

The Omissions
As you peruse the list you may be thinking more about what's missing than what's actually there. For example, country music is woefully underrepresented. Nothing against country, but this is a pop blog primarily, and unlike the '80s (Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers) and '90s (Garth Brooks, Shania Twain), the '00s did not feature country stars who crossed over into the pop mainstream, at least not until this year. Sorry Miley and Taylor, you were a little bit late to be fully considered.

Also, you might ask about the absence of critical favorites like Beck, Wilco, and Radiohead. I initially intended to include them because they did such fine work in the '00s. I was even set with a song from each of them (Girl, You Never Know, and Idioteque, if you were wondering) when I realized that all three artists were more significant in the '90s than the '00s. These artists' '00s work was solid, for sure, but they didn't do anything to equal or surpass earlier achievements. And that was the kicker. So even though Idioteque is probably (though not definitely) a better song than Bleeding Love, the latter is the summit for Leona Lewis, but the former is not the apex for Radiohead. The few pre-'00s established artists who did make the list (such as U2, Green Day, Loretta Lynn, "Weird Al") all had to pass this test.

Statistical Breakdowns
I've become more and more statistics-minded lately. Not sure why that is, but it's kind of fun to look at how the numbers played out in various categories and see what we can learn from that.

Genre: We mentioned the dearth of country, but how did other styles fair? Well, I didn't care to break rock down into its sub categories (hard, metal, emo, indie, etc) so that ends up consuming 50% of the songs on the list. The other half broke down as follows: 20% pop and 30% hip hop/R & B. Though the latter was less than a third of the list, it dominated the top 10, taking 7 of the top 10 spots (including the TOP FOUR!).

Race: Unfortunately, much like whites dominate every other aspect of American culture, they also dominated this list. Only 23% of the artists on the list were people of color. Then again, 80% of my voters were white, proving once again that I need less white friends.

Gender: Despite being 50.7% of the U.S. population, women are responsible for only 33% of the list. If only Hillary had gotten the nomination...

Year: Here are the number of songs from each year of the decade. 2000 (4), 2001 (10), 2002 (8), 2003 (18), 2004 (15), 2005 (14), 2006 (8), 2007 (10), 2008 (10), 2009 (2). If we're going by these numbers, it's obvious that the decade peaked from 2003 - 2005. Four of our top 10 come from those years, including numbers one and two. So, yeah, I think it's safe to say that the middle of the decade ruled.

Dominance of the '00s
Finally, we look at who, despite the one-song-per-artist rule, managed to assert themselves.

Justin Timberlake is the '00s king. He had 2 songs in serious contention, Cry Me a River and SexyBack (each had three votes the latter won the "pick-a-hand" contest) and two other deserving choices (Rock Your Body and Like I Love You), PLUS his appearances in Dick In a Box (#71), Where Is the Love (#28), and Bye Bye Bye (#5). Jay-Z was right behind him with 99 Problems (#60) plus guest appearances on Umbrella (#69) and Crazy In Love (#6). Jack White (#s 89 and 78) and Ben Gibbard (#s 30 and 13) both snuck in two songs as well.

What about writers and producers? They had no limit on their appearances on the list, and four strong entities emerged as the preeminent hitmakers and trendsetters of the '00s.

First, the Swedes. Max Martin and Cheiron Studios gave us lots of late-'90s hits by the likes of Britney, Backstreet Boys, and *NSYNC, and he continued that into the '00s. Martin co-wrote two list songs, Kelly Clarkson's Since U Been Gone (#8) and Katy Perry's I Kissed a Girl (#21), and his colleague Andreas Carlsson was partly responsible for Bye Bye Bye (#5).

Next, there's Dr.Dre, a '90s force who quietly stayed on our minds with hits like Mary J. Blige's Family Affair (#29) and 50 Cent's In Da Club (#48), not to mention his non-list (but still very influential) work with Eminem in the early part of the decade.

Then we have Timbaland, who gives us two list songs, SexyBack (where his distinctive repeated "Yeah!" makes the song) and Get Ur Freak On (#3). Besides his great work with Justin Timberlake (he also did Cry Me a River) and Missy Elliot, Tim also gave us some great Aaliyah songs (Try Again), Jay-Z's Dirt Off Your Shoulders, Nelly Furtado's Promiscuous and Say It Right, to name a few.

And let's consider the Neptunes (Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo) who gave us two list songs (Hollaback Girl at #42 and Hot In Herrre at #6), made their mark performing as N*E*R*D , and wrote/produced a murderer's row of hits. Here are some of them: Britney's I'm a Slave 4 U, Kelis' Milkshake, Snoop's Beautiful, Common's Universal Mind Control, No Doubt's Hella Good, *NSYNC's Girlfriend, Usher's U Don't Have 2 Call, Fabolous' Young'un (Holla Back), Pharrell's Frontin', the aforementioned JT hits Rock Your Body and Like I Love You, and Mystikal's Shake Ya Ass. They also introduced us to Clipse and Kenna, and recruited Minneapolis' Spymob as their backing band. I give them an A+ for the decade, and the award for Most Influential of the Aughts.

And finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the huge factor TV and movies played in our music listening. The '00s were more like the '80s in that respect. Songs from movies became close to our hearts (Garden State, Slumdog Millionaire), TV shows created pop superstars (Leona Lewis. Kelly Clarkson), and commercials became an acceptable method of getting your music to a very very wide audience (Ting Tings, Phoenix, Feist). TV and movies are the new radio.

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That's it for my expert analysis. I hope you enjoyed reading the list as much as I enjoyed putting it together. I'll see you in 10 years.

1 comment:

Dave said...

What a refreshing list (the top 100 of the '00s). I've stumbled across way too many best-of lists which are exercises in showing off indie cred with no acknowledgement that occasionally a mass radio audience picks a gem. Thanks for the list!


P.S. Feel free to check out my own list at http://davesmusicdatabase.blogspot.com/2010/01/my-top-100-songs-of-2000-2009.html