The Charts: Classic Or Dud

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Not the music in 'the charts' but just, you know, 'the charts'? Do you think it's a good or a bad thing that a weekly list exists tabulating the best-selling singles and albums in the country each week (or best-selling and most-played in America)? Do you follow what's at number one, or in the Top 10? Do you, like me, find yourself unable to shake off a sense that somehow it matters...? Would it be possible to have a chart that wasn't as totally wedded to commerce - and I'm talking again about methodology here not the music in the Top 40?

Tom, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

the charts are classic, they always have been and they always will be. they document the present (and therefore the past too) perfectly. this is what people are buying, this is the sound of the high street

gareth, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

i think the charts suck, cos here it's based largely on radio play, not sales. but i like some of the music.

di, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

Message Board Crossover Event!

Tom, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

uk charts based on sales not radio play (yes yes, i know radio play influences sales, but the actual charts are sales based)

gareth, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

My love of the charts definitely stems from childhood - my parents weren't big music listeners so I got pretty much all my music from the radio, and the Top 40 countdown on Sunday was the big music event of the week in that sense.

I think I'd go along with what people are hinting at on the other thread - being in the charts gives a song a chance of being a public thing, a public event, in a way I still find exciting. So Solid Crew and their activities, nasty and otherwise, are a big public issue because their records get to number one, not vice versa. (Maybe a definition of "novelty record" is a record which sets out deliberately to do this?)

Tom, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

The charts are not for me. I don't give a damn what is in the charts and never have. It is impossible to escape the charts anyway. Just turn on the radio. Or just go into a pub. The concept of the charts sucks. I don't care what most people listen to, read or watch in the cinema. And as I said before I can't escape it anyway. Reading the papers, seeing the commercials is enough. I am not as anti-charts as I was a couple of years ago where I thought whatever is in the charts is crap. Now I simply don't care anymore at all. There is occasionally good music in the charts but there is much more and much more challenging/interesting not in the charts.

alex in mainhattan, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

Forgot a word (bold) in that last post: "there is much more and much more challenging/interesting musicnot in the charts". Oh I forgot to say, the charts are dud.

alex in mainhattan, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

I have no 'real' feeling about the charts. I haven't heard the radio in nearly three years and I have little to no idea what people outside of my circle of friends or on a few websites (like this one) and a rare critic or two listen to or think about any music. Even when I listened to the radio (last time was when I lived in St. Louis, owned a car, and didn't have a tape player in it) I didn't really pay attention to the charts. I basically listened to the R&B/Hip Hop Jams station, the oldies station and the college radio station (when I could get it and it wasn't something wretched like indie rock or brit-pop). I was aware that some of the R&B songs were hits (they told me) and I was aware that Eminem was selling well (hard to ignore even for me) but that was about the extant of it.

Part of the reason for the laisse faire "the charts don't matter" attitude on the US side is the shadow of payola and absolutely venal and cynical way the Billboard and Big 5 record companies operate here. It hard to place a great deal of significance on the success of something that is largely only successful because the EVP of Time- Warner decided it should be and payed some 100s of 1000s of dollars to ensure that every Jane, Dick and Spot would hear it. Which doesn't mean that records that chart are bad, but the fact of a record charting is no indication of quality of any sort. It's just marketing.

A chart that wasn't wedded to sales sounds good, but I have no idea how it would be accomplished unless it was something like a weekly Pazz & Jop thing. Given the corruptibility of many critics and the ridiculous amounts money the Big 5 (or is it 4 now) are willing to throw around, I doubt if even that would change much.

Alex in SF, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

i like chart following because it's main place i'm likely to be Ambushed by Unexpected [whatevah]. If you GO to a show or BUY a record, you've sort of already pre-researched yr response a bit. Jukeboxes ought to be good for this too, but they're often not. And when friends say "listen to this" you like it cuz you like the friend, so there's no real chance of BEING SURPRISED.

Sometimes you get this from support groups (i mean at rockshows, not 12-step). And from use of music in soundtracks, where you suddenly realise how brilliant a song is you always had no feelings abt: viz 'Heart of the Sunrise' in the trailer to Buffalo 66.

mark s, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

1. The need to
2. rank
3. things in
4. lists is an
5. impulse fit only for the
6. anally-retentive
7. petit-bourgeoise.
8. The urge to do this with
9. music is
10. despicably dud.

Momus, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

to be honest any radio OUGHT to be like this, but unless you just spin the dial at random it isn't: eg i used to love john peel, till i can of drained him of possible novelty, i think -> suddenly i recognised everything he was going to play, even when i'd never heard it before, and it lost savour (he had become a predictable bore)

i have also gone off chart-following for long times at a stretch, mind you

given what i'm getting from it the corruption aspect is actually irrelevant, to me

mark s, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

6. anally-retentive
7. petit-bourgeoise


the british way of life!

brute, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

the other thing i like is that the top twenty is like a FORUM FOR DISCUSSION (and or squabble) between art moments, which started out in life not in contest with one another. This is something avant garde scenes can never adequately mimic, with their earnest self-policing ways: a kind of instantaneous juxtaposition-clash random discourse thread

(haha momus has just moved to the ONLY COUNTRY WHERE HIS RECORDS HAVE EVAH CHARTED!!)

mark s, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

Thinking more about what I was saying above - the 'public event' thing is a bit of a swizz because I'm not actually interested in what A.N.Listener is listening to (and nobody listens to everything in the chart, argument#1 against the coercion/corruption attack) except to the extent that they want to talk about it. But the kind of people who want to talk about music don't usually want to talk about chart music so I get frustrated.

Which means there must be something else about the charts I like (aside from liking some of the music in it) - I think Mark gets near it. Chart music is ubiquitous - you don't choose to listen to it, often, other than choosing to turn on your radio. This means that your response to the music is pretty much unfiltered - you're responding to the sound of a record, not at all to your own presience or coolness or good sense in finding it, not to the difficulty of tracking it down. And I like that.

The thing that annoys me about the actual mechanics of the chart is that it only goes halfway - if you're going to have a sales-based chart then you should say how many copies each record has sold, too.

Tom, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

At 10. It's murder, in with a bullet.
9. Mountains, the highest climber this week!!!!
8. The respiratory system! A breathtaking climb of 26 places!
7. A polyps at the bottom of the Indian Ocean is at 7!!!!!!
6. A new entry for dental glue!!!
5. They're back! Feather quills and bicycle spokes!!!!!!!!
4. The unstoppable sound of geysers!!!
3. A very large media corporation exploiting morons. And climbing to...
2. ...number 2 this week, where we find 'A cure for Alzheimer's'!!!
and the one you've been waiting for, yes, for the fourth week in a row, it's
1. Post-coital fear of death!!!!! at number one in the hot, hot, hot double-column municipal sales chart!!!
Tune in next week for more of the totally unquantifiable and the greatly incommensurate!!!!!!!
And remember, always buy things that other people are buying, at the same time.

Momus, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

my dad is not really interested at all in music... but he is tranfixed by any chart, sales based, democratic or purely arbitrary. we used to watch countdown together religiously.

dad is also a big sports fan, he's out watching a footy game tonight so i can't ask him why he likes music charts so much. but i have an idea that there are competition aspects common to sport and charts that keep him hooked. watching countdown (or the footy ladder?), you barrack for your songs, anticipating what will come next, chuffed when it's something you like. there are also reviled enemy songs... indignantly you ask "who buys this shit?". it's fun.

minna, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

You want the ILE thread Momus.

Buying things other people are buying at the same time is CLASSIC because it gives a (potential at least) social dimension to consumption, duh. I mean there is the argument that buying things in general is Dud and I sympathise but I don't see anyone here stopping.

Tom, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

Minna that is a v.interesting point - I've followed the football season this year for the first time ever pretty much and I soon realised that the reason I was doing it is that I wanted the Premiership to work like a POP CHART, which it almost does. With no team loyalties it was the general tensions and reversals and rivalries that appealed, the league as a whole rather than the league seen through the prism of, say, Liverpool and how they're doing.

Tom, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

Personally I find buying singles purely on the basis of chart position - and yes, I know people who do - as sad as people buying music solely because it's obscure. Nonetheless I think listening to the charts is classick: how else will you learn about (certain) bands?

nathalie, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

Well, Tom, as Karl Marx pointed out, there's already plenty of social context in consumption. I'm buying what someone else made. That builds a strong social relationship between me, the maker and all the middlemen in the distribution chain.

What you're talking about is conformity.

Momus, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

no it isn't momus

mark s, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

Unfortunately, I'm not sure if America even has an equivalent sort of chart countdown anymore (is Casey Kasem still doing his thing?) This means that the most likely context you are going to hear chart music in this country is surrounded by other similar music which naturally limits the surprise aspect in any music. If there was a more diverse format I'd image I'd do more what you were referring to (at least a little bit--I can stomach ads for only so long). . . but I can't imagine an non-radio equivalent in the US either (twirling nobs on radio is exactly a prescription for novelty here). Having friends with random taste is probably the closest thing I can think of.

I'm not attacking the charts, btw Tom, but I am definitely suspicious about the way in which they work. I'm very curious about chart music (one of the reason I starting reading FT 2-3 years was because I enjoyed reading more about the songs I was listening to at the time). Most of the time these days though, I'm just unwilling to endure commercials and djs to enjoy listening to 3 minutes of music.

For the record, I am suspicious that anything is ever really unfiltered. After all the charts and pop radio themselves are a in themselves a context and there is a certain populist-"cool" inherent in them.

Alex in SF, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

I'm interested Momus in how you reconcile your appeals to individualism here with your airy assumption of a historical 'we' that sorts the 'giants' out from the 'little men' on the Suede thread. There's a tendency among people who care about 'taste' (another petit-bourgeoise obsession, just like lists) to affect a horror of conformity in the present day and then fall swooning into its embrace once it's been validated by posterity.

But Mark S is right - I'm not talking about conformity. I'm talking about the charts as a -basically arbitrary - set of readymade discussion-objects, just like Ethan's 15 great songs are except with the added bonus that the discussion can't become a discussion about Ethan.

I think there are basically 2 kinds of conversation you can have about music -

1. "That new Momus album is great!" "Really, I've not heard it, tell me about it"

2. "That new Streets album is great!" "Yeah it is, what do you like best about it?" (or "No it's risible mockney nonsense FITE!")

The existence of The Charts mean more type-2 conversations can happen. But both conversations are great which is part of why I would be horrified if I ever only listened to the charts and nothing else.

Tom, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

I don't think it is 'really unfiltered' to be honest, I think it's filtered in a different way.

Tom, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

why can't a dicussion of the top ten become a discussion about ethan? for some of us he is lizard no.3

mark s, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

I agree with your conversations thing. I just wish there was a better way to get more people to hear a greater variety of music. Then everyone could have conversations about Momus (or whomever).

Lizard?

Alex in SF, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

reptiles rule the world alex: we robots are battling to overthrow them and establish a new order

mark s, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

Oh. That makes perfect sense. Thanks for explaining.

Alex in SF, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

I resist the idea that things being sledgehammered into my consciousness by bully corporations with big advertising spend is 'opening my mind' in any way.

I've never heard of Streets, I can only assume the reason you think people are likely to have an opinion of them is that they're being hammered down everybody's gullet in Britain just now.

When you were in France last week, Tom, did you notice what was in the French charts? Is it any more or less socially significant for you, as an Englishman in Paris, to know that Murat's new album has just gone into the Top 10 there as to know Streets are at 8 in the UK?

I like fruit. Does my enjoyment of grapefruit change because they are currently outsold by bananas? Does the success of bananas make it more likely that I will 'open my mind to the unexpected' by trying a banana just to see what the fuss is about, discuss bananas with people in the check-out queue, or -- alarming possibility -- does the success of bananas mean that there's no shelf-space left (in your local 'Chart Formatted' Our Price of fruit) for those 'minority interest', 'difficult', 'bitter' citrus fruits?

How can I be sure the 'success' of bananas isn't just due to a dumping deal between Dole and grocers? And are there any grocers left, people who know fruit and stock a wide variety of it, or do I have to go to a supermarket chain (recently merged with a big pharmaceuticals concern)?

As the Napoleon of Bolton once put it: 'My mind it ain't so open that anything could crawl right in'.

Momus, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

i can link you to a diagram if you like

mark s, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

Of the lizard war? That would be wonderful. As a human caught in this war of MONSTERS, I need as much info as I can get.

Alex in SF, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

(haha my p=plan worked perfectly)

mark s, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

there are no humans alex, only gods and monsters

mark s, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

Momus I've scanned the thread again and I can't see any mention of open-mindedness at all. Nobody's saying you're closed-minded for thinking the charts are a dud, that's not the argument we've been having.

How the music gets into the charts isn't that important to me - hence my "vaguely arbitrary" above. The shelf-space argument becomes increasingly irrelevant the more music delivery systems move to spaceless forms, though.

France? We were in a rented farmhouse in the middle of Normandy, not in a city - I did go into a record shop in Rouen when I got the opportunity but was swiftly hustled out by my horrified companions. But we listened to the hip-hop chart on a local station, it was mostly American stuff but not all. In general though yeah, if I was in another country and talking with people there about pop music I'd take the charts as an example.

For instance - when I was in Hamburg last month the guy showing me around started talking about music, and the first question he asked was, what's big in Britain at the moment? And I told him and asked what was big in Germany. It's the quickest way of establishing yr common and uncommon ground with a stranger, and then you can spin off into more interesting places - we ended up talking about Fischer-Z of all bands!

(I'd be interested to see what you think of the Streets actually. I think - well, I hope - you'd be impressed with his obvious verbal gifts and I suspect you'd be apalled at the stuff he chooses to celebrate using them: he's the new poet laureate of Brutishness.)

Tom, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

Good Lord! That is a big lizard. They sure grow 'em big in Athens.

Alex in SF, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

If you want those minority/awkward/bitter citrus fruits don't you just go to 'Rough Fruit' or 'Selectafruit' rather than 'Our Fruit'? Or order it from the worldwidefruit? Whenever I enter a rec shop - even yr corporate fruitsellers rather than yr specialist greengrocer - I'm overwhelmed by the amount of choice available - much more music than I cld ever hear in one lifetime.

Andrew L, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

And sickly looking American night shift workers. . . I think we're slaves to either the Gods or the Monsters.

Alex in SF, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

I'm far less interested in what people are buying than what they think about what they're buying. Thus, the charts are dud, because they encourage the illusion that ranking music by sales is some sort of critical process. It isn't. I think the charts tend to allow most people to avoid deep criticism or real engagement in favor of a false connection to other listeners. The charts are content- less sound bites where we need content-filled essays.

(Note, however, that I do like some of the music that appears on the charts; there's just no causal relationship. I couldn't tell you what's on the charts right now if you paid me.)

J, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

I don't think the charts do encourage any kind of illusions about a 'critical process', though if as Nathalie says there really are people who buy records just because they're in the charts this may be happening.

Actually no, thinking about it you;re right - like any other vector of music delivery there's a danger the vector can replace as well as encourage discussion. "It's in the charts it must be good" = "It's in The Wire it must be good" = no substitute for experience.

Tom, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

i'm just chuckling at the idea of momus liking the streets.

gareth, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

The existence of The Charts mean more type-2 conversations can happen.
(The type 2 conversation is the one where both know the record.)

But this is charts logic again. Tom you somehow imply that the more people talk about a record (both know) the better it is. I don't think so. Music in the charts must be chart-compatible (and not unfiltered at all Mark, someone only listening to charts would never have got to known VU) and in most of the times it is prefabricated bullshit for a mass-audience. Talking about this kind of stuff with strangers is obviously an extremely superficial affair. And just all right to get a conversation going (as you said yourself Tom) and not more. But we don't bloody need the charts to start to talk to each other. We could as well talk of the weather. I find conversations with people who like and obviously know the same non-charts music as me like in many threads in ILM much more rewarding.

alex in mainhattan, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

Is Momus a geezer or a div? (can someone explain "div" to me? It sounds like a fantastic put-down)

Tim, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

a div is someone who is stupid

gareth, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

I'm not saying that the more people who know the record the better it is - there's no implication of quality at all. In fact most of the ppl who are brought together and led into discussion via the charts are brought together by their OPPOSITION to the charts - if you say "all Top 40 is shit" and somebody else says "yeah I agree" then phew, common ground is available. You're right about type-2 conversations not needing to be about chart music and the thing which makes this more possible - the internet - occupies a massively higher place in my affections than the charts.

Tom, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

Talking about this kind of stuff with strangers is obviously an extremely superficial affair.

But it's not, Alex, and ILM is proof! The level of discourse on a thread about Britney is pretty much the same as the level of discourse on a thread about Cornelius, or Pavement! (Actually slightly higher since there tends to be less simple listing-of-songs on chartmusic threads (cos the charts are already a list) than on established bands threads).

Tom, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

but the danger is the mistakes and delusions and complacencies *i* might be prey to, not those of some mythical 12-CD-buying conformist brutish "public" (what i find weird in momus's — or indeed g.gosset's — crit of enforced conformity is that they so much SHARE the most pernicious assumption of the thing they claim to be against, which is the existence of this vast threatening mob of passive zombified controlled stupidos) ie there is 12-foot lizards, there is 12-CD owning robots, and then there is MOMUS (or indeed me) human and cultured and free of all cliche. But actually I am not intrinsically different to the lizards OR the robots: or rather, if I insist that I am, that I have edumacated into a different space which must never be invaded by lizard-robot error, then I am actually accepting and affirming what I pose myself as battling.

mark s, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

I can't imagine all chart music being bad. But claiming it is and closing your ears to it seems like it is. Saying that is basically trying to opt out of pop culture (which is itself an impossibility) and put oneself either in a critical dead end (independent music=only music which matters. . .inherent contradiction is of course that independent music must feed off chart music and vice-versa to survive) or constantly in the position of discovering good chart music only after its pop-cultural life has expired (it is no longer pop, now I can like it) thus listening to/liking it only when it has achieved critical acceptability.

Alex in SF, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

Tom, the 'open-minded' thing was what I thought Mark meant by being 'ambushed by the unexpected'. I think Eno once said something similar about the value of radio using the same argument. It's a way to shuffle the pack, the I Ching of musics and contexts. I don't buy this because radio, and more so the charts, are not random and context-shattering but reflect corporate interests and the movements of the more conformist consumers.

I think you hit the nail on the head with your comment about 'vectors' obstructing the view, though. At the risk of sounding pedantic, this reminds me of Marx's concept of reification : the tendency to treat complex abstract relationships as concrete things.

A 'chart position' comes to seem like a real thing, perhaps even the most important attribute of the piece of music it attaches to. And yet what is it? A weird amalgam of statistics about the music's availability, the amount of money spent on its promotion, the relationship of its (meaningless, as Tom also points out, without exact figures) sales with those of other, different records around it, selling to different people for different reasons. All this abstract stuff comes to seem, thanks to endless repetition, like a unitary, 'real' thing. One world, one operating system!

Yet, as Jay points out, we never know if people were disappointed with their piece of plastic when they got it home, if they played it beyond next week, if they remembered it in a year, if they missed out on a better experience by buying this instead of something else. Those are things we only learn from personal testimony.

Andreas Gursky has taken a lot of photos which try to capture the reifying tendency of capitalism: the Hong Kong stock exchange floor, a display of trainers, a gridlike office building with people at each lit window. The irony is that the global flux of human activity, like shifts in musical taste and sensibility, really can't be represented in photos or numbers. I guess it's heroic, in a silly way, even to try.

Momus, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

edumacated = edumacated myself

the idea that the DICUSSION of eg VU is free of pre-fabricated ideas is manifest nonsense: cf julio's continual anger at the uncritical tolerence (here, or in the wire) of eg the stooges => the unquestioned assumption that stooges are culturally superior to say oasis => that the process by which the "superior culture" actually TAKES is in fact sidestepped, and all you get is black turtleneckers congratulating each other on their superiority, with no evidence that it obtains

mark s, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

I would like to congratulate all the other people who own black turtlenecks on having very hot necks.

Alex in SF, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

My black turtleneck got LOST! I think it was swiped by a lizard.

Tom, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

It's okay Tom, I still think you have a very hot neck. ;)

Alex in SF, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

ha!

, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

bugger!

, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

ILM Caption Competition!

Tom, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

Momus, do you really believe that the chart is entirely decided upon by the 12' lizards pop music sub committee?

RickyT, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

gareth's hair is currently on show at the barnet museum!!

mark s, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

I don't care what you say, Clarence, that boy will not stay on that little hook.

Alex in SF, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

4. The unstoppable sound of geysers!!!

HA HA geysers need excitement HA HA HA!!

Sarah, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

I like the football team mentality of wanting a song to do well. COME ON X-PRESS 2........OH YEAH.

Ronan, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

I love the idea of charts because I love the idea of their being a #1 song, the idea of a consensus opinion on the best song of the moment and all the fun of being a dissenter from that consensus. and I love the trail of #1 hits going back into The Shadows of the past, like a album full of snapshots of kids dressed up in goofy party clothes and bad haircuts, grinning madly for the camera doing the latest and the greatest version of the wa-watusi.

fritz, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

I wake up to this chaos!

When young, I listened to dear ol' Casey Kasem religiously and even hand created some charts in 1983 or so. This ceased after a while. I have no idea about what the singles charts have been in the last few years, probably more. Album charts I see more often, just. It's enough to know that Creed keep selling, so never mind.

Ned Raggett, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

The idea of the charts is so much better than the reality of the charts: it's a dream of consensus where the reality is of pluralism stifled by an illusion of consensus.

Tom's OTM about "The Wire" btw; I just think that the charts are more susceptible to false critical consciousness.

J, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

I like the football team mentality of wanting a song to do well.

Yes, but sports can be also taken seriously and critically as opposed mindlessly. I can get behind mindlessness somewhat, but only if it's conscious mindlessness, y'know?

J, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

i think we're all clever enough here to seperate the wheat from the shaft

jeffrey vincent poter, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

There seems to be an odd notion about that people who buy singles are unaware of what they are buying (cf being disappointed when they get it home). Surely the reason people buy singles is because they know what it sounds like and want to be able to hear it whenever they can (of course their relationship to it can change, and they play it out).

Pete, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

charts = classic. It's how you know what music to avoid at all costs.

Ron, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

this acceptance of charts as a powerful entity (good or bad) is not a worldwide phenomenon. i am amazed at how much stock the british place in the charts -- there is great concern whenever two popular groups release singles at the same time (who will win?), and greater concern at trying to discern what will be the number one single over christmas. there is even discussion over a particular song's placement in the charts or its relative merits compared to other charted songs. as was pointed out by somebody (i forget who it was) it's much like a football ladder.

in canada, nobody cares about the charts. the only chart that ever has any effect on people is the muchmusic (our mtv) music video charts, and that's all horribly rigged and not a real representation of _music_ anyway. in canada and the united states, the singles market is practically dead. it's all album sales here, though that doesn't stop anyone from shelling out the cash for the album when they're only really interested in 'the hit' (one thing i find despicable about north american consumers). although this may be the case, we still have regular top 40 charts here (and they're dreadful, anybody like creed?) but i think rigged just enough to give a slightly broader spectrum of music a chance. i haven't looked at a u.k. chart in months but it's pretty dire fluff. you poor souls.

what i lovelovelove! about the u.k. and its approach to charts and radio play is that the english appear to be very fickle and transitory in their taste. one day a particular song will be big, hit #1 and be played to death. then it will be completely forgotten and the next song(s) will take the stage. in a more singles-based market this makes a lot of sense. this kind of forced turnover happens everywhere as a result of record company machinations, but in the u.k. there is such a complete, utter purge of everything not- quite-current the level of the listener. the british as people (it would seem) are far more interested in having a bit of fun and dancing to a nice little pop song and then forgetting about it and going on to the next thing. in canada people have a more 'go-down- with-the-ship' mentality ... we never quite get rid of this awful chart music -- it hangs over us like a grotesque 4/4 marionette with a narcoleptic puppeteer.

why do i like the u.k. chart system if i don't like the music? i'm not a big fan of chart pop at all, but i would rather hear up-to-the- minute pointless fluff then slightly dated pointless fluff. i also love listening to the current trends in mainstream production and hearing how underground influences are seeping into the mainstream (like when two-step beats started appearing in more standard pop). the best thing for me, however, is that once a song has outlived its usefulness in u.k. chart land i'll NEVER HAVE TO HEAR IT AGAIN.

turn on the radio in canada and you're still bombarded with early 90's bryan adams, 80's zz top, wall-era pink floyd (*shudder*), rush, supertramp, foreigner and god knows whatever else. so many people here have not changed their hairstyle since 1985. believe it. it's gross, and for some reason, liking this awful, dated music and hair is a source of pride for many canadians. must be the french influence there.

enjoy your charts. if it's transitory commercial music not made for a lifetime of listening, we must assimilate whatever cultural or technological relevance it may have and MOVE ON. in that respect the u.k. has the most darwinist chart system on earth and for that i love it.

fields of salmon, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

Something no ones mentioned was how important the charts were as a means of access to a wider media and also how indicative it was of a scene breaking from the underground to the overground.

Now that music is everywhere it's difficult to remember what a thrill it was to hear 'your' little secret breaking into the charts, thereby (theoretically) guaranteeing access to Radio 1, TOTP etc.

I remember the shock and the excitement when Bomb the Bass and S Express were suddenly appearing from nowhere into the top 5, it was the clearest expression that a change was taking place in our culture.

Ironically the charts are probably more accurate now than they have been in the 50 years they going but they've never been less interesting as a phenonemon.

Billy Dods, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

well put!

fields of salmon, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

Fields of Salmon is dead right. The charts are irrelevant in the US because they are fixed and never change. This also maybe accounts for the US/UK music crit schism between tradition/novelty (that and the fact that the UK has no indigenous music heheh).

At this point, a Most Downloaded chart would be the most interesting, I think.

Ben Williams, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

Interesting theory, but who'd cop to it, Ben;>?

I happily download music I like, but I doubt the RIAA would suddenly say, "All those who don't buy the CDs raise your hands".....

Since today's US charts seem to be ruled by Limp Bizkit and such ilk, I wonder whether it's really a matter of personal taste....or is it more that a group of people decided to buy an album, just because the charts call it popular?

Despair for fellow independent thinkers....

Nichole Graham, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

it's a very tricky situation:

the "charts" constitute the average person's main method of exposure to music, by hearing the songs on radio and in clubs. in that respect, people do buy the limp bizkit album because simply because it's on the chart. can we really fault that? if there are no other avenues for music to be presented, can we blame someone for making what they think is an informed choice?

unfortunately, the charts are rigged. who buys the records? young people, and a lot of them aren't actually buying that crap. there's thousands and thousands of sweaty kids getting down right now to some angular indie rock band in the american midwest. i've never heard of this band, but maybe they'll show up on jade tree in a year or two. how do all those sales on college campuses and record shops figure into the charts? they don't. same with the amazing new house music we've not heard of yet that's getting people really high at clubs. people are out there loving new stuff. people love music and they're curious about it. but there's no reflection of this in mainstream charts because it's a three-ringed circus of record companies, radio stations and media conglomerates.

it's sad to me, but i guess not everyone finds music as important as we do. i guess most people don't think about the politics of music enough to really concern themselves with whether or not the charts are accurate. can we really fault people for being ordinary?

fields of salmon, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

Surely the reason people buy singles is because they know what it sounds like and want to be able to hear it whenever they can

Pete talks utter nonsense here. And this the reason I wuv the charts.

Graham, Friday, 5 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

the anti-chart args here are also all args for not buying or reading newspapers
i don't buy any of these args, they're too often based on vague assumptions about other non-present people, generalised and a bit insulting: BUT ALSO I DON'T BUY OR READ NEWSPAPERS EVER BECAUSE THEY ARE STUPID RUBBISH. Ahem. Is this not somewhat contradictory of you mark s?

So I was thinking about that. Obviously reading the Guardian every day doesn't make Momus a conformist, anymore than listening to the charts every week makes me one. So what exactly is it abt a newspaper that fills me with the same kind of rage that he feels towards the charts?

The only thing I came up with was this: I'm a working writer, and just arbitrarily exposing myself to someone else's agenda — random to ME but yes, perhaps not to them — can be very extremely derailing and distracting; I get annoyed at things that just happen along (the current events that "everyone"s talking about") and then can't focus on what I'm really trying to work on. So I deliberately DON'T read newspapers: and I rationalise this self-cocooning by telling myself that I'm missing nothing, because it's ALL peabrained halfbaked cliche anyway — what the fuck could I possibly learn from it? And I don't have to read it to know it.

Momus is a working musician: possibly quite a lot of anti-chart arguers here are. Maybe working musicians hate the thing I like about the charts — the intrusion of the unexpected, finding you like something you would prefer to hate, because it fucks with your head exactly where you have to be careful about what you let in. Creativity is about being selectively closed-minded: not a bad thing so much as an unavoidable thing. I try to manage and play with my prejudices — when I'm aware of them — so that they push me in unexpected ways. (So yeah, the fickle swiftness of the UK charts IS a bonus there: it's kind of a handy map of "Things a lot of people think they like which they probably won't for long" => I quiz myself: Do I? Could I?)

Right, I'm off to buy some anadin extra, some coffee and the paper. For the Guardian Guide you clowns: Television is where it's really at!

mark s, Saturday, 6 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

"the thing I like about the charts — the intrusion of the unexpected, finding you like something you would prefer to hate, because it fucks with your head exactly where you have to be careful about what you let in."

The US charts are the exact opposite of this. They are everything you know already. You don't even have to look at them to know what's there.

Ben Williams, Saturday, 6 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

it's the bbc radio one uk top 40 chart rundown!! hurrah!! back at 7.oo!!

mark s, Sunday, 7 April 2002 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

six years pass...

listening to this on iplayer now
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/documentaries/riseandfallofthecharts.shtml

Yentl vs Predator (blueski), Sunday, 7 December 2008 12:47 (ten years ago) link

ten years pass...

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