Watergate. The 1919 Black Sox. Pitchfork’s People’s List.
Scandals, all. Well, that last one’s not a scandal to anyone except this guy.
Pitchfork asked its readers to name their favorite albums during the influential music site’s 15-year history. Slate writer Jody Rosen used the “s” word in describing it. Why? Two words: white guys.
White guys dominated the list, both as voters and performers. Women were noticeably absent. So were minorities, excluding Kanye West.
Anyone who has attended Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago knows the site’s core audience are young white guys, even as the festival has added more hip-hop acts. I’m surprised men counted for 88 percent of the list’s voters, but not that they represented a majority. Just a guess, but I don’t think more women voting would have knocked Radiohead, Arcade Fire, or Mr. West from their lofty perches.
The issues stated above do not constitute a scandal, at least not the dictionary definition. People like what they like. The site has hundreds of thousands of readers, if not more, and only around 28,000 people participated in the list, leaving it far from comprehensive. Nor was it meant to be. The list will garner page views and glean demographic info for both the site and the list’s main advertiser, Converse.
One thing I did find interesting about the list, though also not surprising, was the relationship between albums deemed Best New Music or given scores applicable to a Best New Music tag (8.0 or higher) and the opinions of voters. By my count, 47 of the top 50 albums received an 8.0 score or better.
The three exceptions: the White Stripes’ Elephant (6.9), Daft Punk’s Discovery (6.4), and Beck’s Sea Change (6.9). All three are artists that don’t need a Pitchfork seal of approval to sell a boatload of records. Pitchfork has celebrated all three artists on other albums.
What the correlation between the people’s list and Best New Albums means is probably left to a “deep” thinker like Chuck Klosterman to discern. Klosterman’s not here to bloviate so I will … Perhaps, once a tastemaker declares an album as worthwhile it becomes easier for others to value that album, and thus use it as an example of their own great taste. In this way, site readers become like walking billboards for the site, sort of like someone does when they wear a T-shirt with a brand name on it. Or another way of viewing it: Pitchfork says an album is great, therefore it is. End of discussion. It’s almost like mind control.
If that makes no sense, don’t blame me. Blame Riff Raff. I’ve spent two hours tonight watching his videos. My conclusion: The People’s List is not ready for Riff Raff.