Dec 032016



As you probably know, part of our year-end LISTMANIA series involves re-posting year-end lists of the best metal releases as selected by what I call “big platform” web sites and print zines, i.e., publications that reach numbers of readers vastly in excess of those reached by sites like ours that are more exclusively focused on metal, and in our case the more extreme variants of the genre.

In recent days Stereogum posted its list of “The Best 50 Albums of 2016“. This isn’t a “metal only” list. It’s an impossible comparison of apples to oranges, identifying and ranking albums across a wide range of musical genres. I suppose in that respect it’s like the musical equivalent of the Westminster Dog Show.

In past years, Stereogum has posted a separate list of the year’s best metal albums, and I assume we’ll see that list eventually. It will be much more relevant to most of you (and me) than this one, not only because it’s limited to metal but also because it’s usually compiled by the tasteful guys responsible for Stereogum’s monthly Black Market column.

Nevertheless, I’m writing about this list because it will probably be more widely read than the metal-only list and because it sheds some light on how the perspectives of mainstream culture about metal are being shaped by mass media.

I’m not going to wear out my fingers typing the names of 50 albums. To see the complete list, go here:

What I will do is identify the metal albums on the list — there are only two, which I guess tells you something about how Stereogum perceives its audience — plus two more of interest to myself (recorded by legends whom the Grim Reaper took from us this year), as well as the album that Stereogum says is the best album of the year across all musical genres that it covers:

49. Kvelertak – Nattesferd
34. Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker
25. Cobalt – Slow Forever
5.   David Bowie – Blackstar
1.   Beyoncé – Lemonade

  17 Responses to “LISTMANIA 2016: STEREOGUM’S LIST OF THE BEST 50 ALBUMS OF 2016”

  1. As a matter of fact, I don’t know if you remember, but IMHO Beyoncé’s album suffered seriously from The Very Serious Album Review Syndrome. Really, I thought I was reading essays about “Grapes of Wrath” or “War and Peace” and instead it was Beyoncé.
    That’s how things go in today’s music world, I know – another example of TVSARS: Radiohead – but don’t you think these magazines are really going too far?
    At least they put my n°1 album of the year (Cobalt) in their list.

    • I read an otherwise serious music person (who will remain nameless, partly because I’ve forgotten the full name) proclaim that “Lemonade” was “probably the best work of art of this century.” The fact that we’re only 16 years into this century and the fact that–I suspect–this person had a fairly limited knowledge of all areas of art made me weep for art criticism in general.

      Don’t get me wrong–even though I’m not a huge pop aficionado, I think Beyonce knows how to write a pop song and, from what I understand, puts on quite a live show, but I think she, like 99.9% of popular music, including metal, will be forgotten long before the century is out. (Although it’s kind of fun to try to guess what pop music might hit the 100-year mark in terms of being well known. The Beatles and Bowie might have a shot, but it’s a bit premature to put Beyonce in that rarefied company.)

  2. How very democratic of them in a list of 50 best to have the metal albums at 49 and 25. Stereogum: “You know, it’s a little transparent having Kvelertak at 50, make it 49. That looks more inclusive… Should we change Cobalt to 24? No? Ok.”

  3. The obsession over Beyonce is something I will never understand, and I am grateful for that.

    • Yeah. And every single other pop-star of whom I don’t know the name.
      Does number 1 mean “best”, or “best-selling”?
      Or simply “will sell more magazines if printed on the front cover”.

      • See, for the longest time I was trying to judge Pop music by the standards of Rock and Metal.

        After all, it seemed pretty self-evident to me that writing your own songs, producing original music, doing it all yourself to reflect your own beliefs and to make your own statement, was the be all and end all in all music.

        And while I still DO think that in a lot of ways, I have realised that not all musical styles celebrate those same things… or, at least, not in the same way.

        Whereas Rock and Metal are all about the collaboration between band members, Pop music (and, I suppose, a lot of Hip-Hop and Dance music) tend to be more about collaboration between singers and producers (often multiple producers), to the extent where a single album can have multiple songwriters and producers credited to it.

        Which, of course, means it CLEARLY works very differently to the traditional Rock/Metal paradigm (though, even there, the use of collaborating songwriters, etc, was more common “back in the day”) and so it doesn’t feel right to judge it by the same standards.

        Yes, it can be very easy to get on your high horse about the “integrity” and honesty of the Rock/Metal way of doing things (often in an incredibly conceited way), but I think the metric for judging the “best” Pop Music (though I may be wrong about it) IS about what best captures the zeitgeist. Not just what gets the most exposure (marketing obviously has a lot to do with that) but what actually reflects the time it’s being made. Which is why I can sort of see the Beyonce thing, even if the overall appeal escapes me.

        I guess, in some ways, the “Best” Pop music of the year actually translates to the most “relevant” Pop music of the year. If that makes sense.

        • I think you nailed it Andy. I remember John Cobbet of Hammers of Misfortune saying that Katy Perry “is not music, is lifestyle marketing”. And that’s fine with me: I totally agree that today – or maybe not just today – pop is meant the capture the zeitgeist, as you perfectly say.
          I should point out that I haven’t listened to a note of Beyoncè’s album. I could care less.
          I guess what really drives me nuts is what has become an habit now, what I called The SERIOUS Review: name-dropping everyone from Plato to Freud to Marx to Jean Paul Sartre and you’re talking about Lana Del Rey. I read an actual article like that.

        • While craftsmanship should be the most praiseworthy aspect, at least in our universe, it obviously ain’t in the pop-scene.

          A question that’s been “riding me” for decades (not that I’ve bothered reflecting on it other than formulating the question itself) is; does the most popular pop (pleonastic due to ridiculous genre name) capture the zeitgeist, or is the zeitgeist more or less created by said marketing?
          In the ’90s, I witnessed radio shows market singles as “best sold”, whereas they in reality became best-sellers after airing. Give something enough attention and manipulate the masses by force feeding it into their minds, and the sheep will buy the concept.

          • EDIT: They may have been singles that had already sold well in UK or the US, but I know for sure that they were more or less unknown in Norway when first introduced through misleading PR.

          • “does the most popular pop capture the zeitgeist, or is the zeitgeist more or less created by said marketing”

            It does both…art reflects the world we live in, but it also influences it

        • Good point about the difference between metal (and a lot of rock) and pop music, with metal a collaboration between band members, and pop a connection between singers and producers. But I think there is a more insidious difference, in that pop music is often created first in the imaginations of corporate marketers (not artists), who then search for singers/dancers with the right “look” to fit what they have in mind for the masses. It sounds conceited but pop music is for people who don’t want to think too much, who take what they’re fed, and in that sense it is actually a negative force in society because it keeps people stupid. I don’t think pop music reflects the zeitgeist of society, society accepts what the corporations give them, and adapt their tastes to what is made available. Thank goodness metal and pop are different. Having gotten on my “high horse”, I am not wholly against pop music, as I think there is some that has integrity. But not the kind of commercial drivel that gets on year end lists. That simply reflects commercial marketing. Having said all this, I have never heard a Beyonce song, so what do I know?!

          • You reflect my own impression.
            But as I’m only an outsider to pop with no wish to gain higher insight, it remains an impression at best.

          • I might be on the same high horse as you, but I’ld like to provide a little historical context. I think artists like – who else? – The Beatles are a prime case of zetigeist influencing them and being shaped by them at the same time. They reflected their times but at the same time created a “photograph” of said times with their own personal vibe all over it (Sgt. Pepper being the main case).
            When we talk about singers-producers, we should keep in mind that in the latter category we can find people like Phil Spector, Holland-Dozier-Holland and many more, people who, maybe given the distance provided by history, I consider high-quality authors of dozens of – there’s no other word for it – classics in popular music.
            Maybe time will tell if whatever producer Lady Gaga or Beyoncé is working with will go down in history like those.
            Maybe we get the feeling that today pop is shallow – after all is targeted to pre-teens – but maybe in the 70s there were guys like us saying the same thing – without NCS, sadly – about The Ronettes or whatever.

  4. Oh, and since no one’s done it yet: Something something Gorgus something “so-called metal site” or whatever it was.

    • For future reference, in case I’m not around to post it, the exact quote was:

      “[INSERT BAND]”? That’s laughable! Gorguts put out the best METAL album this year – don’t deny it. Stop trying to be different – you’re only appealing to hipsters. Have fun with that. I thought i’d found a credible metal music site to frequent. Apparently not – laters!

  5. I do not agree that different standards should be used for pop compared to metal, or any other genre either. The references would differ, of course, but the standard must always be ones own emotional and (perhaps to a lesser degree) intellectual response to what one is hearing.

    Personally I think it’s misguided to attach a concept like “integrity” for the trivial act of keeping the creation of a work of art within people gathered under the same name (in reference to the artist/producer model vs band model). The intent and talent of the parties involved is all that matters. Use of multiple producers need not be a inpediment to a unified and truly powerful vision. Fever Ray is a great example of this.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.