The Top Ten Reasons why Top Ten Lists Suck

At this time of year we can expect to be flooded with a deluge of opinion and arbitrary ranking in the name of definitively listing the “Best of” or perhaps the “Top Ten” (or twenty, or even more ridiculously, the Top 100) of the year. I can honestly say I expected to see a few more of these lists by now, especially since this is 2010 and the “Top Ten of 2010” makes for a catchy title to draw in the huddled masses, yearning to be spoon-fed the latest in correct opinions. I have always had a love/hate relationship with such lists. I rarely agree with them, and when I do, I rarely feel satisfied or vindicated to see my favorites on such a list, especially if they are in the company of things that suck. Yes, I said it. These lists are often filled with a heavy dose of what we call here in my head “the suck”.

You may ask, ”Why hate on these lists?” Well, you didn’t ask but let me tell you anyway, with a quick list that is compiled and ranked arbitrarily.

Top Ten Reasons Why Top Ten Lists Suck.

10. Which way do you read them? Does it start with the very best and then trail off with lesser choices or more dramatically do you start at the bottom and work yourself up to numero uno? There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the way these things are done. I believe for the sake of dramatic tension, most people usually start with 10 and work their way down to 1, but come on, either way this is a little unfair to the middle range. Don’t most people start at 10 with good intentions and then just sneak down to see who made it to first place?

9. They are arbitrary. As far as I know there is no definitive standard for what qualifies something as being The Best. Don’t you have to set some sort of standard? Otherwise our writer is just arbitrarily listing things based on their own opinion. That might be cool if you respected that person’s opinion as an expert in the field such as maybe Danny Carey, the drummer for TOOL ranking the 10 Best Drum Solos of 2010. I would read that list. But even then, Danny Carey hasn’t heard every drum solo that year, so then it is just the Top 10 Drum Solos that Danny Carey Heard in 2010 (and honestly most of those would probably be drum solos by Danny Carey) so therefore biased. Also most people who compile Top Ten lists are just guys who contribute to magazines and newspapers with opinions and few credentials (like maybe a degree in English or a year working at a record store) to back them up.

8. They are uninteresting. I mean most Top 10 lists are just lists and almost by definition pared down and uninteresting. It is hard to make a list of anything really humorous or entertaining? Read a grocery list. Unless someone lists a popular personal lubricant after a phallic vegetable there aren’t many laughs to be found there. I mean only one guy makes a Top Ten list that can get a good knee-slapping laugh out of me and that is Mr. David Letterman and even then, his writers are a little hit and miss with the format.

7. No one usually cares about 7 through 4. In fact, I will be surprised if you even read down this far. The middle part is usually nice safe choices or filler. It is just a couple of more lines to get you closer to number one. All most readers of these lists really care about is who is at the bottom and who is at the top. Alternatively, if your choice is going to be somewhat controversial then slip it the middle spots, as most of the readership probably won’t even see it there.

6. Lists just give hipsters, fanboys or professional appreciators something to argue about. Read the forum or comments section under any of these lists and you are likely to see raging flame wars that may not be extinguished until at least late January. Imagine the way the guys in High Fidelity filled their days arguing, but none of these guys look like John Cusack and probably few of them are funny. These lists are full of obscure choices meant to beef up the ego of the writer and make the reader wonder what they are missing. Rarely will you see a list of popular choices made by “the people” and when you do, they make you wonder just who are “the people” and why do I care what they like?

5. F**k You! Cee Lo Green. I don’t care what you are ranking if this isn’t on your list this year then you are doing it wrong. I think in 2010 this is on more Top 10 lists than there probably are lists. In fact, somewhere out there is a list with ten numbered spots and this song is in every single one of them. Right or wrong, this has to be on the list this year.

4. When making a list of those things that are best in a year, there are two times of the year that will be neglected. They are the beginning of the year and the very last few weeks of the year. Anything that was released in January or February has been long forgotten by the time the lists are being compiled. In fact, people have very short memories and lots of these lists are lists of things that were popular in only the last few months of the year. Nothing released in the last three weeks of December will ever make it on the lists. They won’t even make it on the next year’s lists. This leads into to the next entry on my list:

3. There is a very small window in which anyone actually cares to read these lists. Usually, you see them compiled in early December and people might care enough to still be reading them into the first few weeks of January. That is a pretty short shelf-life.

2. There are too many lists. Every magazine, fan website, hipster with a blog will have at least some sort of list up. It may be the Top Ten Artists or Top Ten Tracks, maybe the Top Ten Movies or TV Moments, even to the purely ridiculous like the Top Ten Reasons Why Top Ten Lists Suck. Nah, no one would do that last one!

1. History has shown that these lists just don’t matter. Whoever makes number one this year may never be heard from again and movies or music that are generally unappreciated in the years they are released sometimes become cult classics or legendary favorites in the years and decades to follow.

My point is: who cares about someone else’s “Best of Anything”. Make your own. Use a list as a starting point in exploration or not. Grab up albums that sound good to you. Go see as many movies as you can. Take the word of people you trust and not just something you read on a website unless I wrote it. Make your own lists and don’t expect them to be definitive. Make them changeable and able to grow with the breadth of your experience. Rank it any way you like and keep adding to it every day. Your list is likely to be the only one you really agree with. In the end, your list is the only one that really matters.

(c) Sean Murphy All rights reserved. Sean is a hipster, fan boy, professional appreciator and compiler of Top Ten Lists living in Moore.

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