I’m of the sort that relates to someone like writer Chuck Eddy, who argues that “rock criticism is not a particularly predictive genre, and trying to guess where music will go five or 10 or 20 years down the line is generally a fool’s game.” I’m no doubt a fool — just ask my past girlfriends, teachers, friends, and/or postmen — but when it comes to writing about music, I prefer to weigh in on hindsight. It’s not that I’m lazy, or lack a sharp ear, it’s that I let things soak.
I know damn well there’s an arsenal of readymade favorites loitering behind each click every morning I wake up. I’m privy to the loudest of buzz bands and the quietest of unknowns. I’m fluent in several genres. It’s just difficult to try and encapsulate exactly what something is when I don’t feel I’ve fully understood it all. For me, it’s all about feelings, and only when I’ve had that emotional experience, whether good or bad, do I feel comfortable taking that interaction to the next level.
David Byrne says it best in his latest book, How Music Works, as he writes: “You can’t touch music — it exists only at the moment it is being apprehended — and yet it can profoundly alter how we view the world and our place in it. Music can get us through difficult patches in our lives by changing not only how we feel about ourselves, but also how we feel about everything outside ourselves. It’s powerful stuff.”
True, but it’s also highly temperate stuff. Some might argue that’s always been the case, but it feels like the shifts in today’s musical climate are not only radical but murky and cumulous. Think of it this way: How many genre labels do we really need to tear off before we’ve wrung punk dry? What the hell does dance even mean anymore? And, most importantly, who the hell reset the weights on rock ‘n’ roll? My answers to all of these questions are amicable at best and that’s after years of pondering them.
That’s why I have no qualms about assessing the past. Any History student, graduate, or dropout recognizes that in order to better grasp tomorrow, one must understand what happened yesterday. The past is a tangible artifact, after all. This universal ideology best explains why we’ve decided to set aside what we feel are the hundred greatest songs ever. It’s a polarizing project, no doubt, but one that sheds light on past lessons to instruct us toward a stronger tomorrow.
Two years ago, we put together a similar list, only for albums. If you recall, I insisted that “lists have become synonymous with identity,” and that our top album picks “summarize[d] where we [stood] with our views on music.” I’d like to think — actually, I know — we’ve changed for the better since then. Our collective minds are different, we’re listening to a wider spectrum of artists, and we’re a little more hip to certain facets that were alien to us back in 2010.
Altogether, we’re an entirely different publication. New voices and unique facilities like Aux.Out. or Rock It Out! Blog have reconfigured our inner wiring and transitioned our own future. So, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity on an illustrative project like this, and what’s more illuminating than songs. Whereas albums make a statement about the artist, it’s their individual tracks that we make our own.
Circling back to Byrne’s digression, the best in music should move and inform us: emotionally, physically, or spiritually. The truly memorable stuff influences change. Whether it hits us instantaneously or it takes years to apply, these are tracks worthy of everyone’s time and patience. They may not foretell where things are heading next, but they’ll undoubtedly offer some context as to what the hell’s going on today. Or, just prove once and for all I truly am the fool on the hill.
I’m willing to bet on the former.
p.s. – A great many thanks to our dedicated readers for keeping us alive five years and counting. We’re forever grateful and couldn’t be more happy to write for you. Just wait ’til you see what we’ve got in store for the next five.