Shame on me for focusing on the Grammys and not adding my two cents or less about that other music industry phenom that insiders mostly care about: the Village Voice’s annual Pazz and Jop poll. Though I did vote in it (and admittedly got quoted twice there), I didn’t have high hopes for it this time. Other than losing Chuck Eddy and Robert “the Dean” Christgau, a number of writers said that because of these loses (and related changes at the Voice), they weren’t going to participate in it any more. But just like the Grammys, I was pleasantly surprised by P&J.
Christgau had been the defining voice of the Pazz poll for decades now, not just starting and shaping it but also providing a wide-ranging look at the year-gone-by each time. As such, I didn’t envy music editor Rob Harvilla for having to take up the work and getting credit or blame for keeping the poll going, especially since the new rival Idolator poll had beat it to the punch by a few weeks. Just like in the Idolator main essay, Harvilla took the time to stick his tongue out at his new nemesis, which is understandable since he had to address it and also try to say “we’re still the best and we’re still gonna run this poll.” He also addressed the issue of Christgau’s absence by thanking him for all his work but also saying that a new era was happening now, which might sound kind of conceited but again is understandable since he has to now stake his own turf.
The measure of how well he did that was reflected in the essays that were used for Pazz. By now, Simon Reynolds and Greg Tate can generate good, thoughtful essays in their sleep but luckily it hasn’t come to that. In addition to their always-fine work, there were more mini-essays than there had been in years, opening up the field to more opinions and voices- I reckon there was about 20 pages worth if you have the time to go through them.
Another interesting measure is the numbers for both polls. While last year’s Pazz poll had nearly 800 voters, this year had just under 500- my math’s bad but I figure that it’s about 60 percent of what it was last time. The numbers for Idolator were almost equal to the Pazz voting for this year with about 300 voters picking only one poll or the other to vote in which left less than 200 voters like me joining both camps. What’s going to be interesting to see is how these numbers shift and balance out in the years to come. Pazz will definitely be around and knowing Idolator polling boss Michaelangelo Matos, he’ll keep his poll going for as long as he’s got a pulse (and even after that, he’ll find a way).
Also, take a gander at how artists did in each of the polls. In the Idolator poll, newer/younger artists fared better: TV on the Radio, Peter, Bjorn & John, Beirut, Girl Talk, Destroyer. In the Pazz poll, the older and more established artists fared better: Dylan won with a slight lead while the top 20 included Waits, Springsteen, Dixie Chicks and almost had Ornette too. Coincidence?
As I said, I’d glad that both polls exist and I’ll keep voting in them as long as I’m asked to. Wouldn’t it be nice to think though that each side would learn something from the other one to improve their work though (i.e. reviving the reissue category)? At this point, that might be as likely as Bush embracing Iran though…
Muchas gracias to Eric Broome for his extensive P&J numbers crunching- HE knows his math.