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Friday, February 03, 2006

Pazz and Jop poll

The Village Voice Pazz and Jop poll results are in, and I'm sad that my song of the year, Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together," is too low at #19 on the singles poll.

The song is like a gardenia: I'm afraid if I touch it, I'll ruin the beauty.

But can I say one thing about the magnificent second verse?

I can’t sleep at night
When you are on my mind
Bobby Womack's on the radio
Singing to me, 'If You Think You’re Lonely Now...'
Wait a minute this is too deep
I gotta change the station
So I turn the dial tryin' to catch a break
And then I hear Babyface
'I Only Think Of You' and it's breakin' my heart
I'm tryin' to keep it together but I'm falling apart.

Quoting Bobby Womack's "If You Think You're Lonely Now" and Babyface's "Two Occasions" is pure genius. Heartsick singer looks to radio for consolation. Things fall apart. She picks up the fragments into her own song. The intertextuality would be cheap if Mariah didn't have such a talent for phrasing and modulation. The Jadakiss/Styles remix is good, too.

The Mariah misplacement is my only semi-intense feeling about the poll, although it's worth noting that Madonna's self-referential quotation of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" in "Hung Up" isn't as cool as the Bobby Womack-Babyface fragments, and it placed #7 on the singles list. I just don't get Kelly Clarkson's appeal.

This year, 795 critics participated in the poll. Kanye West's "Gold Digger," where the Jamie Foxx/Ray Charles sample is used to great effect, received 145 mentions from critics, although not every critic sent in a singles list. West's Late Registration received 227 mentions and won the album poll. I like how every critic's ballot is available online (for example, here's Ann Powers' ballot). Consensus voting is a flawed system whereby the most cited album can come out on top, even if it's not always a top-5 choice on a list. A vote for an out-there choice makes it less likely that such a vote will be registered in the meta-discussion of the poll, say, in Robert Christgau's loooooong essay about the results. I've never finished reading a Christgau exegesis in any year, even when I cared deeply about the results. Printing a full list of cited entries and making everyone's ballot available for viewing is a nice way of acknowledging less popular work.


Blogger Ben on Fri Feb 03, 12:11:00 PM:
In defense of Pazz & Jop's methodology, their unique system of point allocation (each reviewer is awarded 100 points that they can more or less dole out to albums as they please) allows them to find albums that are not mentioned by many reviewers, but which are highly rated when they are mentioned. The VV has actually copyrighted the algorithm for this, if memory serves--it's called PassionPulse or Intensitron or something.
Blogger Jeff'y on Sun Feb 05, 10:55:00 AM:
That sounds very much like (what this Wikipedia article calls) cumulative voting. I'd like to say that I'm surprised that the U.S. Patent Office would allow for the copyright of something so basic, but I'm not.

I'd also like to say that I'm surprised that the Village Voice would employ a more progressive voting algorithm than what we use in U.S. elections, but again, I'm not.