The short story…
On January 30th, 2017, I copy-and-pasted the top 1000 best rated singles from RateYourMusic.com.
On February 3rd, I copy-and-pasted the top 1000 best rated albums from RateYourMusic.com. I’ve now made the commitment of listening to and reviewing all of these releases.
Now the long story…
Once upon a time, I met a good soul named Jonathan Bosco. Now this Bosco, as it turns out, acquired the 2008 list of Universe Publishing’s massive reference-book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. He then came up with the brilliant and slightly outlandish idea of spending as large chunk of his precious young adulthood to truck through 1001 full-length LPs one-by-one. And to him I say “Godspeed”; he will discover many terrific artists and develop music knowledge that most will forever be ignorant towards.
However, the idea did not personally interest me – at least not initially. While the challenge seemed fun and possibly occasionally rewarding, there was little doubt that the majority of the albums on that list would either bore or repulse me. Additionally, the time it would take to uncover the greats would hardly be justifiable, at least not by my hopelessly picky standards for music.
You see, Bosco has an open-mind. I don’t, so I have nothing to gain from browsing through a list not specifically catering to my heteronormative, hipster-wannabe standards.
So what’s a man to do?
The correct answer would be nothing. My best bet would be to focus squarely on my continued education that my wonderful mother and father are so humbly paying for. Why waste time on anything else? Such an activity would have made much more sense when I was a teen; when I had more time on my hands; when my tastes were still formative and open to experimentation; when I didn’t have either post-secondary education and part-time employment to occupy me.
But curiosity’s a bitch.
When Bosco was discussing with me his travails of having to go through the numbing onslaught of middlebrow 50s jazz, it inspired me to compare and contrast the flavours of music featured in 1001 Albums to RYM’s own (albeit constantly fluctuating and completely unprofessional) rankings. RYM, short for “Rate Your Music”, is an online destination for musical circlejerkers to rate, review, list, and defame music of all types. The site then tallies its members’ ratings and arranges them into lists (or “charts”, as they confusingly put it). Two of those lists are their 5000 best-rated albums and their top 5000 best-rated singles. Since I do not have the time or resources to experience all 10,000 of those assorted releases, I’ve instead extracted the first 1000 releases from the respected lists, with the intention of hopefully being capable of listening to all 2000 albums and singles.
RYM’s Top 1000 Albums
Compared to 1001 Albums, this list – while still having a fair amount of variety –caters to a more specific breed of listeners. RYM’s crowd is, for lack of better words, a massive sausage fest: its users are predominantly young and male neckbeards like myself; guys who spend far less time outdoors than the average human and who have picky preferences towards just about anything pop cultural, music especially. Naturally, this ilk of armchair critics are numerous and outspoken enough to provide enough contributions to a site like RYM to give me months-worth of albums to listen to and scrutinize.
With a male crowd like RYM’s, you’ll have some positives and negatives. In terms of positives, a list will have far less poorly aged albums of “historical significance” that would not appeal to modern, spoiled ears like my own. Instead, you have many records that have gained attention almost purely through word-of-mouth, which is hopefully suggestive of the music’s quality. Additionally, anyone eager to explore possibly overlooked records in the fields of classical, metal or prog would have this listing as a surprisingly abundant resource for discovering obscure new artists.
In terms of negatives, the list has…well, quite a lot of classical, metal and prog; so much that I’d be comfortable in saying that there should be more , particularly in the genre of world music (which is something that 1001 Albums covered rather sufficiently). Furthermore, a tally done by men will unfortunately leave out many female-centric releases, even revered classics like Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville (an undoubtedly sexist omission that is inexcusable on so many levels). At some time or another, I’d be glad to make a few entries of music that I’d think should have made RYM’s top 1000 because for the love of god, you’d think that it was curated by Return of Kings.
Anyways, before getting started, there are some things that need to be pointed out…
- I am not a music critic, a music expert, or even a writer. In all honesty, I’m just a manchild with way too much time on his hands who wants to expand his Spotify library. Do not regard these posts as referenceable or professional because they are neither, and please be patient with me when
- With the possible exception of a few concert recordings, I am not doing any live albums – only studio albums. For the average Deadhead, this would be an incomprehensible for me to have purposely filtered out what could very well be some of an artist’s best material but there are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, I plan on covering these albums chronologically and a lot of these live recordings were released in sometimes decades after their inception. While that may not sound like a big problem, one of my goals here is to observe the evolution of modern music; that’d be hard to pull off when you have multiple entries in Bob Dylan’s Bootleg series to interrupt the 2000s. Secondly, the live albums revered by RYM seem to be a gang of usual suspects (Hendrix especially, because record companies found that the best way to milk his dead body for decades would be through his live archives). If I want to have a more diverse plate of artists, covering only studio releases is the way to go. [I could do a list of live albums on the side, if I have the interest and energy]
- Any composition covered more than once will have its various doubles removed. Like I said, I’m not an expert – especially when it comes to classical music. While I’m sure that it’d be interesting to go through the list’s five renditions of Mozart’s Requiem and observe how nuanced each composer’s take is, I’d have neither the credentials nor the patience to attempt such a challenge.
- Any “album” that significantly exceeds the two-hour mark will also be removed. While I was initially delighted to see that the great operatic epic Tristan und Isolde included, which I have long yearned to listen to, it was quite a shock to discover that it would be a 5-hour listen. Life is so short and while a lot of these box sets that RYM call “albums” are probably terrific, life must go on. [The one album that will be an exception to this rule is 69 Love Songs, partly because I’ve already heard it and partly because it’s awesome]
- Being that I have excluded several albums from my list for the two reasons above, I added albums #1001 to #1027 to the list.
- No way in hell will this list be done anytime soon. This is for fun; I’m not getting paid for jack shit so I have no obligation to listen to approximately forty days of music in one sitting. Please be patient because there’ll be no deadline.
RYM’s Top 1000 Singles
Now this is an interesting list. Believe it or not, there was a time when people would pay money for a vinyl or a CD that contained only between one and two songs (plus maybe a few remixes that nobody would ever listen to). Nowadays, to keep the term relevant, the word “single” has seemingly come to refer to any song that is released either separately from an album or released in advance of an album. That includes, like, a ton of music.
So who’d ever guess that singles would so often go ignored by RYM voters? Honestly, the average number of votes per single is perhaps in the 500-range, and I’m probably overguessing it. And though RYM has certain mechanisms in place to prevent their lists from including releases with too few votes, you’ll still come buy singles that have maybe a few dozen votes. So if RYM’s top 1000 albums is disreputable, this one is a downright joke.
Nonetheless, it may very well be my favorite between the two lists. For starters, the amount of metal and prog is far less hefty; this gives me less guy-rock to force myself through and even more mainstream pop to enjoy. Also, since the single-format far outdates the album-format, I’m gonna cover a much broader timespan; the oldest single on the list is dated 1928 while the newest single is dated 2017 (it literally came out only a few weeks ago). That’s nearly 90 years of music for me to delve into so this singles-list will – more so than RYM’s album list – give me a great understanding of how popular music has evolved for the last century.
There is of course going to be some overlap between the two lists; great singles commonly come from great albums. Additionally, I had to remove some singles from the list that were double; singles ranked #101 to #103 were subsequently added.
And that’s all there needs to be said. Now the adventure begins…