5 Questions About the Pitchfork People’s List

08/10/2012 2:30 PM |


This week, Pitchfork launched the voting mechanism for what they are calling, “The People’s List,” a massive reader’s poll that will determine the best albums released from 1996 to 2011 (the site’s lifespan) according to their audience’s popular whims. Voting will continue until noon on August 17th.

While Pitchfork has been doing reader’s polls for a while, as addendum to their own DECREES OF EDITORIAL AUTHORITY, this is the famously comment-free site’s most prominent stab at letting the world have its say. A say that will then be endlessly dissected on the Internet to figure out “what it all means????”

I’ve got some questions already….

How Cynical Are We Going to Be About This Thing?

It doesn’t take long in the introduction post for this cynicism prevention measure: “We’ll start by asking you to answer a few questions about who you are and the music you generally listen to. This information is optional. However, these answers will be kept confidential and will only be used for analyzing poll results.” So, that would seem to immediately exclude the most cynical response, that they are just looking for demographic info to better sell advertisers. But even if there’s no hedging, no, “well we didn’t sell your actual naaaaaames” shenanigans, the site still has to be salivating over this much self-provided information about their most devoted readers, right? Or maybe they just want to know? ( Why am I like this? Why can’t I just trust people?)

Is the Average Voter Exactly Who We Think it Is?

If I close my eyes and think of the typical Pitchfork reader/prospective poll voter, it’s basically me. White, male, living in a city, working in some sort of vaguely creative pursuit, getting old-ish but still on the young side of the spectrum (right???). But is that just a stereotype? Has the readership skewed younger in recent years with all these Internet-y trends they’ve covered? More female? Is music criticism not something kids use or need at all? What portion of the voting public is from outside of the United States? (i.e., does Pitchfork translate?) The demo breakdowns that come with this poll could be its most interesting aspect. Or it could be exactly what we thought all along.

To What Extent Can the Results Be Trusted?

Pitchfork generates Internet grumbling with the intensity of a thousand white-hot suns. So, to what extent will the grumblers try to revenge themselves by sabotaging the veracity of its shiny new poll? Lists of the best albums to troll it with are trickling out already. (Of the picks at that link, Dane Cook’s Harmful if Swallowed and Now That’s What I Call Music! vol. 24, are the most inspired.) But will the results be noticeably skewed? (I’m guessing the sheer shame of telling Pitchfork you like Nickelback, connected to your real Google account will be too great for it to be statistically significant.)

What Are We Going to Learn From This?

I dunno. That Pitchfork readers like the albums that Pitchfork has covered for the last 16 years, but not all of them. That given the chance to finally make their perfect list, the readers in aggregate would actually come up with a less diverse and interesting one. (ding ding ding)

So What’s the Odds-On Favorite?

It’s going to be OK Computer, right? A critical sacred cow that, in relation to Radiohead’s later work, seems weirdly populist too. The editors, if doing the voting, might go with Kid A as the more-challenging choice, or even go for an attention-grabbing non-Radiohead left-turn, but I can’t see the people doing that en masse. The only record that maaaaaaybe has an outside #1 chance in my opinion could be Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, which has only grown in esteem and influence over the years. I’d squeal in delight if If Your Feeling Sinister or I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One shocked the world, but they will not. I bet you all the money that it is not a rap album.