Lists by Committees and Hipster Beards

Father John Misty Guardian music writer Dorian Lynskey took exception to me joking on Twitter that his album of the year was stereotypically Guardian. It was that picture of Josh Tillman’s archetypal hipster beard that did it.

I know it was a cheap shot, but…

I do recognise the Guardian’s end-of-year list is very diverse in terms of gender and ethnicity, but the top ten in particular is starting to look rather samey in terms of actual music. Aside from the odd exception like jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington it’s very heavy with introspective confessional singer-songwriters where the music takes second place to the subject matter of the lyrics. Now I’m sure they’re all worthy records; nothing I’ve heard has been unlistenably bad, and one or two (for example Joanna Newsom) sound interesting enough to investigate further.

But many other genres exist that are unrepresented save perhaps for a token in the lower reaches of the list.

This might be another example of the weakness of the list-by-committee approach I’ve criticised in the past. All the more eclectic individual choices get squeezed out by the majority consensus, which in this case seems to coalesce around those confessional singer-songwriters.  Perhaps they should use E Pluribus Hugo next year?

This entry was posted in Music Opinion and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Lists by Committees and Hipster Beards

  1. PaulE says:

    The aggregated lists are effectively a poll where only an elite can vote … An odd thing for the Grauniad to endorse :-)
    Mind you, when they do open it up to a poll, if they aren’t pleased with some people’s responses, then they disqualify those votes.

  2. Tim Hall says:

    There *will* an angry blog post about that later today….

  3. Carole says:

    I saw that The Guardian was doing an Albums Of The Year list but I didn’t bother looking at it, for the simple reason that I just knew it would be stuffed with oh-so-achingly-fashionable, hipsterish and much-hyped names.

    Let’s face it, most of the music writers on The Graun are only really interested in what is going to make them look “cool”, whatever that might mean. The Graun’s rock and pop music coverage is really only about getting clicks from a certain demographic these days, it appears to me, and I doubt that either you or I will ever be in that group.

    Also, sorry, Tim, but I cannot agree with you about Joanna Newsom. It is her voice, I find her totally unlistenable. Her voice is like fingernails running down a blackboard.

  4. Tim Hall says:

    Yep, I do get the impression that The Graun is targetting the 25-45 age group, and the message they send to anyone older than that is “It’s not for us”.

    Both Ian Gittins’ sneering dismissals of Steve Hackett and Kimg Crimson, and the impending demise of Readers Recommend can be seen in that context.

  5. Carole says:

    There is nothing polite that I can post about Ian Gittins, so I won’t post anything.

  6. Tim Hall says:

    The Guardian really needs more people like Dom Lawson, who lives and breathes music, and doesn’t give a four letter word about being “cool”.

  7. PaulE says:

    It is a shame that trying to be young and cool means excluding people who do not qualify. Fashion can be very elitist.

  8. Tim Hall says:

    Those of us who have been though our mid-life crises and come out the other side understand that the world doesn’t revolve around our generation’s music, but our music is still as valid and relevant as anyone else’s.

    The 40-something hipsters have yet to reach this stage of enlightenment. In their minds they’re still as they were when they were 17 and started reading the NME.

  9. PaulE says:

    I might also suggest that the concept of “a generation’s music” is disintegrating.
    The Beatles stopped recording before I was born, but their music going onto streaming services (which are apparently favoured by the young) is newsworthy.