No Top Ten

Posted By on February 10, 2009

I didn’t come up with a Top 10 for 2008 because politics preoccupies me far more than music. Some music I heard left an impression, like Dylan’s latest Bootleg release, some John Zorn CDs and singles my kids turned me on to by Rihanna, Chris Brown, Katy Perry, Lil Wayne, even Kanye’s vocoderized latest. But putting together and ranking a Top 10 and pontificating about it and singles, let alone downloads, was too much effort. I say this with some regret because I’ve been rating music since 1970, when my top album was Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.” That I don’t care enough to concoct a Top 10 affirms that I’m growing old and music has morphed so much it’s impossible to keep up with in terms of genre, let alone format. The technology and business model have become more interesting than the content, and I’d rather apply my vocabulary to fresher fields.

Satellite radio brings me all the music I want, especially now that record companies don’t care (or have) enough to send me the very best, only compressed-data downloads access to which I have to arrange and negotiate for. Besides, writing for print media that still run “record reviews” never has been rewarding; one magazine I used to contribute to regularly actually reduced its rates in 2008, reducing motivation even more. I write book reviews these days for various “national” newspapers, which keeps my brain active. God knows how long that will last, but for now, at least, it’s more nourishing in pay and thought process. There isn’t much I can say about new music because a) I lack the energy to slog through new bands in bars like I did 20 and 30 years ago; b) new music is for newer people like my kids; and c) instantaneous media processing obviates the need for people my age to say—guess what—that good music from the dawn of rock through the ‘90s is still good. Redundancy is not the better part of valor.

I reviewed two albums this year: Bar Band Americanus by Charlie Pickett and Wee’s You Can Fly on My Aeroplane. The first is an anthology, the second a retro, deeply obscure reissue. Their tropes are well worn, the execution fine. I bought and listened to the new Guns N’ Roses—once was enough—out of some kind of loyalty to what used to be a promising, occasionally great band. But what could I write about it that would be more interesting than the facts surrounding its gestation? Where would I publish that anyway? Why, again, would I or, for that matter, anybody else care?

Since file sharing took hold, people swap music easily and no amount of record-company control will work. Couple that with the sampling available through on-line music purchase and you wonder what the remaining function of the critic is, other than reviewing shows. I have read good critics since I can remember and will continue to do so, in fields that interest me. I will also listen to new music as it passes by and occasionally go to a show. Ones I went to this year—Neil Diamond, Roger McGuinn/John Sebastian, Neil Diamond, Nine Inch Nails, Nick Lowe—were nostalgia trips, including NIN. I had no interest in festivals, rap revues, the Disney gang (though I think the Jonas Brothers are OK pop). Taylor Swift is my younger daughter’s latest fixation and she’s good. But interpreting her isn’t for me or up to me.

Politics has supplanted my interest in pop. Since mid-2007, I’ve followed the campaigns and was deeply pleased by the election. I continue to soak up political news and am engaged in “change” meetings the Obama campaign spawned. I think a true third force may emerge in politics via the Internet. Grounded in the notion of community, it will be independent of figurehead and/or candidate and serve as counterweight to traditional political mechanisms like Congress, the Cabinet and the Executive branch. I want to be part of that process. Music seems secondary.


8 Responses to “No Top Ten”

  1. I love you christopher brown

  2. I can\’t wait til he goes on tour again!!!! Im definitely in there!!! I hope they takin a break. They need time away

  3. Caiden Tate says:

    i love Lil Wayne!!

  4. i LOVE Taylor Swift SOOOOOOOOO much

  5. Kevin Hill says:

    i loveeee thiss songg soo muchh :] joee and demii and nickk are awsomeee:]

  6. Francis Shuckerow says:

    Wow Mr. Wolf, you are an amazing writer and I truly enjoy reading about your work.

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About the author

I'm a veteran critic and business writer who reads and listens and writes about music, books, hotels and travel. I've been in the business for many years and still enjoy it. My pride and joy is my book, Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories. Follow me on Twitter: