As the end of the year approaches, it’s time to engage in every music geek’s favorite annual activity: compiling a year-end list. Whether it’s for a Facebook status, a Tumblr post, or publication on an esteemed music blog, year-end lists are the best way to tell the world of your favorite albums that came out over the last 12 months. Seems like a fairly simple task, doesn’t it? Just make a list of the albums you listened to the most and enjoyed the best, right?
Year-end lists aren’t about what music you enjoy, they’re about proving to the world what a refined cultural palate you have! You want to show off your eclectic musical tastes and passion for new music so that the world respects your opinion above all others. Since this can be a daunting task, we’ve put together a checklist to go through before finalizing your year-end list. Follow these guidelines and you’ll be creating lists like a regular John Cusack in High Fidelity.
Make Sure Your List Is Race, Age, and Gender-Balanced
Diversity is key. You don’t want your list looking like the audience at a Wilco concert. Make sure you’ve got a perfect balance of all races, ages, and genders. To calculate this, assign numbers to each artist based on their ethnicity, gender, and age, granting anyone in the minority a .34 advantage. Then, divide any cisgendered male artists by 1.18. Once that is done, find the median age of the artists, compensate for the highest and lowest samples using the standard Jensen’s inequality model where X = the number of albums on your list. So in this case, plug it into this model:
Or, should you prefer reverse the inequality where φ concave:
Remember, music fans! Equality holds if and only if or φ is linear.
Include at Least One Album from Every Genre
Remember, you’re trying to seem like a well-cultured, sophisticated music listener here. You can’t just have ten rock albums or ten rap albums, lest you be pigeonholed as some sort of simpleton. Include at least one album from each genre of music—a trendy black metal band you heard on NPR, a non-traditional country singer, an indie rock buzz band you caught #killingit at SXSW. But don’t just stop there. You need albums representing all micro-genres: Celtic folktronica, chill-gothwave, asexual glamashups, Mormon speed house, instrumental DIYacht rock, acid violence, military marching metal, and so on.
Throw in a Legacy Artist
Did an iconic artist re-issue a classic album this year with two previously unreleased tracks? Were there any deluxe anniversary editions of albums by Bob Dylan or Neil Young or Leonard Cohen? Stick one of those on the list in between a couple of young buzzbands so that people read it and say, “Oh wow I had no idea this person was such a music historian. They’re single-handedly making classics relevant again in this cool new context!”
Make Sure None of the Artists on Your List Got Publicly Shamed This Year
Perhaps you liked an artist’s music this year, but has that artist been ruled “Not OK” by the court of internet outrage? Did this artist do or say something either in or out of the context of their music that people might have construed as “bad?” Did a pop star culturally appropriate something? Was a band’s name interpreted as offensive by one or more persons? Did a male artist use the P-word (p-ssy) in his lyrics? Did an artist get in an argument on Twitter with a music blogger or another artist or try to voice their opinions in any small way? Do a quick Google search of the artist’s name + “problematic.” If it returns any results, leave this person off the list, lest you also be put in the Problem Attic with them.
Add International Artists
Think of your year-end list like your Instagram account. You don’t want to be posting 20 photos in a row from the same Starbucks, right? You want people to think you’re a seasoned world traveller. Add a few artists you heard on Pandora’s World Music station. Then people will see your list and remember what a globetrotter you are. “Ooh, I’ll bet they discovered that artist while backpacking through Thailand,” people will say.
Don’t Repeat Artists from Previous Year-End Lists
Sure, you liked a band’s debut album. But that was two whole years ago. They are so over now. You want to show off your ever-evolving tastes, so make sure you’re not including any artists you’ve previously praised. That way, when someone else includes that album on their list, you can throw subtle shade by saying, “Oh, was that album good? I loved their first album but stopped following them a while ago.”
Put Paul’s Band on There
Let’s be honest, Paul’s band sucks. We all hate Paul’s band. But it’s like, ugh, if you don’t put him on there, he’s gonna be all weird to you at the Christmas party and you’ll have to be like, “Oh did I forget to put your album on? I must’ve totally forgot it came out this year because I’ve listened to it so much that it felt like longer!” And since Paul’s mom is friends with your mom, your mom is gonna call you and read you the riot act about how Linda was very upset that you didn’t include Paul’s album. Not worth it. Better just stick Paul’s album on there at the bottom.
Make an Album Up
As far as year-end lists go, obscurity is key. So we’ll let you in on a little tip: Make an album up! It’s the best way to make sure your tastes are completely original. Just invent something, anything. No one has to know. In fact, most people will be so equally desperate to seem knowledgeable that they’ll go along with it and pretend they’ve heard of this album too. Imagine all the new friends you'll make bonding over this total lie!
No Foo Fighters
None at all.
Ignore Top 40 Releases
Sure, you may have loved that hit mega-selling album and listened to it every day, but so did the rest of the world. You don’t want to show up to the party wearing the same shirt as everyone else. Ignore popular albums at all costs. If possible, compile a list of other year-end lists, add all of their entries to an Excel spreadsheet, use it to calculate what albums are the most popular, and adjust for the curve by adding prominence to bestselling records. Then, once you’ve got the raw data, convert it to a Gaussian function using the concave quadratic formula. Exclude any entries at the top of the bell curve. This shouldn’t take more than two or three hours. Very worth your time.
On Second Thought, Include Some Top 40 Releases
Actually, you probably should throw people a curveball by including some hit albums. Then people will see the entry and say, "Dang, here I was writing off these pop stars like some vacuous mass-produced nonsense created by a marketing team, but this person has taken the time to look deeper into this pop star's soul and found a deeper meaning that I did not know existed. What a remarkable poptimist!"
Sneak a Demo on There
To show how In The Know you are about new music, include a brand new band’s demo. Preface this entry by saying “I know this is cheating but…” And whenever possible, casually hint at how much longer you’ve liked this band than anyone else.
Go Against the Grain by Including an Unpopular Album
Drop a bombshell in there, something no one would suspect. Give people a reason to spit their coffee out. Make them say, “What?!? That album? But it got such bad reviews! No one liked it. Wow, this person must think about music in a way that most people don’t.”
That's it! Just follow those 13 easy rules to determine what your favorite music was this year. You will officially have the correct opinion and no one else's will matter. Happy listing, music fans!
Dan Ozzi is on Twitter and would LOVE to guide you through your list-making process! - @danozzi