Monday, January 22, 2018

Listmakers of a feather

It’s a bit lonely having your year-end list shifted three weeks forward from everyone else’s. While others made their lists for the actual end of the year, I always give myself until the Oscar nominations are announced to clean up the stragglers among movies I haven’t seen. It’s a system that suits me, and most years I actually wish I had longer, given the movies that still haven’t opened here yet. (By the end, exhaustion takes care of that wish.) But it means by the time I get to publishing the results, others have already mentally moved on.

So I’ve felt a kind of kinship to see Australians – or at least, Australian DJs – geeking out over forming a different kind of top ten at the same time I’m forming mine. Obsessiveness loves company, amirite?

Today has been the deadline for the Hottest 100 for the Australian radio station called Triple J, which I guess is headquartered in Sydney but bills itself as a national radio station, as many of the stations do. It plays what I would have once called “alternative” music, but is now probably better described as “not pop” music, which covers a number of different subgenres that we may charitably characterize as mildly subversive.

And apparently, these guys are as psyched about music as I am about movies.

In time for Australian Day this weekend, they will count down the 100 best songs of 2017, according to the DJs themselves, the listeners, the prime minister and whatever kangaroos can be bothered submitting their picks. I'm only slightly exaggerating, as the DJs reported that 2.1 million votes had been cast -- not insignificant in a country of only 20 million people, many of whom presumably have no interesting in mildly subversive "not pop" music.

I scoffed at this a little bit at first, as one does when they think their own is the dominant pursuit. "What do individual songs possibly have on an entire movies?" I thought. I also caught myself wondering how release dates were determined, since some of these presumably would have come from albums that came out in 2016. Of course, I deal with a variation of that in terms of movie release dates, but because of my tunnel vision it still seemed scoff-worthy.

But then I realized: Obsessiveness is obsessiveness, and we see kindred spirits in one another.

So it was really fun listening to the DJs talk about agonizing over their top ten, or commiserating that they had to work on theirs, that it was a sacred duty made more difficult by the impossibility of choosing. They'd also play call-in messages from listeners, who described the exquisite pain of trying to cut one of their babies and bump it down into the 11th slot.

It's what I'm doing now, and the fact that it's songs instead of movies doesn't make it any less squirm-inducingly delightful.

The other thing I should mention is that this used to be me. When I was in my teenage years, I was super into Top 40 radio in the U.S. In fact, my list obsessiveness did not originate with movies, but rather, a monthly top 15 I used to record on a sketch pad where I otherwise did drawings. I had a very specific method for this. The #1 and #2 slot each month were reserved for my favorite two songs that had not yet charted. These were the cream of the crop of the new. Slots #3 and #4 were for the best two returning songs, and a great song could sometime entrench itself there for months. Slots #5 through whatever were for the best of the other new songs, and that whatever was left over through #15 were the returning songs that were losing steam. I did this for at least two or three years and I absolutely loved it. Hope those sketch pads are still out there somewhere, in fact.

So there may not be a ton of others still working on their movie lists -- though I know of at least one other -- but I've got kindred spirits crunching the numbers and sweating it out and giving each of the songs that comprised the soundtrack of their last year one last listen.

I know the feeling. 

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