Landslides and Backsides
Nearly 500 individuals participated in the Village Voice‘s 2012 Pazz & Jop poll, selecting their top ten albums and assigning a total of 100 points among them, with no album receiving more than thirty points or less than five. As I predicted not too long ago—though it wasn’t much of a prediction—Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange won, and won by a landslide. Ocean (1952 points) had a 501-point lead over second place Kendrick Lamar (1451) and an 828-point lead over third-place Fiona Apple (1124). Furthermore, he led the way in mentions: 170 in total, with Lamar garnering 125 and Apple 101. From there it’s a significant drop; Japandroids come in fourth with seventy-three mentions but an impressive 908 points, Miguel with 751 points and sixty-nine mentions.
Compared with last year’s Pazz & Jop—where Tune-Yards eked out a win over Harvey by 165 points and a mere six mentions—Ocean’s victory seems significant. But one need only go back to 2010 when Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy clobbered everyone with 3250 points and 266 mentions to remember that as sizable as Ocean’s win is, it has to be thought about in context; with almost 500 critics casting a ballot, less than half would have put Ocean in the top ten, while West impressively did just that. This list interested me for other reasons, too. Comparing the Pazz & Jop’s top twenty-five to Metacritic’s less formulaic and autonomous compilation yields interesting, though not terribly surprising, results. Only two albums in their respective top tens differs (Miguel and Beach House in P&J, Alt-J and Jack White on Metacritic), and their top twenty-five in general contains few differences.
But what I found most interesting about Pazz & Jop was what it didn’t include, and how that syncs with my own choices. My number one choice—Jens Lekman’s I Know What Love Isn’t—supposedly got thirteen mentions* while De La Soul received zero. Most everything else on my best-of made it, all the way down to Kanye West’s substandard label sampler. 492 entrants, 1365 albums mentioned, and not one of them was De La Soul. Either I’m crazy in thinking the album has merit—a decent amount of it—or everyone else is missing the boat. Hard to say everyone is crazy but you, though it’s hard to digest, for example, that two of the three Guided By Voices albums appeared.
By the same token, well more than half the total entries only received one mention—a figure I could have calculated but got too lazy to do around 700-something—making the list a cornucopia of idiosyncrasy, and by the looks of it just about anyone who can reasonably stretch the term ‘rock critic’ can send in a ballot. So maybe I’ll stop whining and write in next year. You should, too.
You can see the Pazz & Jop albums and singles poll results, essays, and more here.
* I say supposedly because further investigation only shows eleven individuals who included it on their ballot.