Saturday, March 25, 2006

Best Song of the 21st Century

(Ed. note: I had a lot of time on my hands this afternoon when I wrote this entry.)

This month's Esquire Magazine has a feature that tries to determine the best song of the 21st Century (so far). The grid used in determining the song - a single elimination grid that pits 32 songs against each other - is also found on their website here. The object is to play along with the magazine and see if your choice matches theirs. It is a fun game and if you have 5 minutes you should check it out.

I admire their ambition, but like anything that tries to determine the "best" of something, it is flawed. What makes something the best? In this case, I think it is commercial success or maybe the "catchiest" songs, not necessarily based on the artistic merit (perhaps the reason songs from artists like System of a Down and Maroon 5 are listed instead of, say, the Shins, Emmilou Harris, or Wilco).

And how did Esquire get the list down to these 32 songs? (Do they really believe a song like John Mayer's "Daughters" is a better song than, say, Kelly Clarkson's "Since You've Been Gone"? -- Sure, "Gone" is a bubblegum pop anthem from a top-40 princess, but I'll bet people will be listening to that song long after "Daughters" is a faded memory. If you like Mayers, why not "No Such Thing"? which I bet most people would agree is a far better song.) How about Madonna's "Music" or Justin Timberlake? Dave Matthews? No Doubt? Mary J. Blige? Alan Jackson or Toby Keith over Gretchen Wilson?

There are two ways to go about playing the game: you could choose songs based on your own personal like/dislike, or you could try to imagine which of the songs, regardless of your personal opinion of them, will sort-of "stand the test of time." (For example, Sheryl Crow's "Soak Up the Sun" is a featured song; I'm personally sick of it but I think it will probably be remembered long after Beck's "The Golden Age" will be; therefore, I would vote for Sheryl over Beck for this game, even though I think Beck's song is better.)

However, using this system I couldn't pit the two songs against each other anyway. Some of the pairings are very hard -- it is tough to choose "Somebody Told Me" vs. "Feel Good Inc." because I like both of them; just as it is hard to choose "Get Ur Freak On" vs. "Best of You" because personally they're both crap.

I suppose you could over-analyze this exercise like I have, or you could just have fun with it.

By the start of round four, after some painful choices, I was down to four songs: "Float On", "Crazy in Love", "Hey Ya" and "Beautiful Day" (a song that, by the way, was released in late summer 2000 so technically from the last century so probably shouldn't be on this list to begin with).

In the end, I chose "Hey Ya" by Outkast for two reasons: I think it is the best of my four finalists, and because I think it is the only one of my final 4 that my hypothetical grandkids might hear on a radio in 2050. Turns out, only 5% of the people agreed with me. For those of you who will play along, I won't give away the current winner.

Curious to see how others voted. Gimme a shout-out and let me know.


Rob said...

Came down to American Idiot and Float On. Considering I've listened to Float On about two hundred times (my kids request it daily) and still can't stop singing along to it, it's a winner.

sarah said...

Well mine came down to Lose Yourself and American Idiot - chosen on my preferences. American Idiot won out - I only did the wee quizzy thing a minute ago but do not ask me who my other top 4 were - must be memorable songs!