THE WOOF 200 FOR 1993
PART TWO: OMG! WHAT THE HELL AM I EVEN DOING?!
In my previous post I dropped the rather staggering number of 595 songs which I had under consideration for the Woof 200 for 1993. As preposterous as it seems, I could have actually gone higher, but at some point I just had to pull the plug on the research end of things and get around to listening to the damned stuff. By itself, 595 was an awfully big hill to climb and as I look over the list of contenders my mind starts to spin at the prospect of delivering a countdown that is in any way meaningful. Let’s face it, these songs are going on 23 years old and most of them have been living in my brain in some form or another for most of that time. They’ve been through a lot. So how did I even get here and where exactly am I going? Let’s dig a little.
The website http://lyrics.wikia.com/ lists 2,660 entries in the category “Albums released in 1993”, which was the most comprehensive list I could find online. Many of these were singles, or compilations, or albums so far outside of my listening comfort zone that they don’t even register, but I wanted you to get some sort of idea of just how mammoth this stupid idea was to begin with. My personal collection boasts some 244 albums from that year (again with assorted singles and oddities), which while impressive, is a mere 9% of what was roughly available. Consider then that I’m counting down 200 songs and you already see problem one, namely that about 20% of the stuff that I ACTUALLY OWN won’t be good enough to make the cut. And that’s assuming that I only pick 1 song per album of the ones that DO cut the mustard, which I can assure you is not the case. Since I also went online and spun some other classic (and not-so-classic) albums from the time, as well as grabbing stray top 40 singles that I would never have actually bought, that 20% starts to climb even higher. Basically, there’s too much music and this project is fucked. Not that it will stop me.
Math aside, there are other hurdles which have proved equally as troubling. As stated above, a lot of time has passed since the tunes were birthed unto the world and my history with each is varied. In compiling my previous Woof 200’s (as well as the impending 2015 version), I never had to confront the “then vs now” dilemma. My feelings on those songs were all recently formed and thus, uncompromised. But what of 1993? Much of the stuff that will make the countdown will do so based on the fact that it has been burned into my brain for the last two decades even if I find some of it not quite as glorious today. Certain songs from Sheryl Crow’s debut album Tuesday Night Music Club (“Leaving Las Vegas” and “All I Wanna Do” to be specific) really grate on me now and I can’t see myself giving them a place in the final 200 as a result. Seems kind of unfair, since I liked them well enough back in the day, but thems the breaks. At the same time the newer stuff I “discovered” in the last year or so of doing research may gain an unfair advantage based solely on the fact that they’re still fresh to me. There’s at least two tracks currently muscling their way into top 25 contention that I didn’t know at all until 6 months ago, one of which is from a band I didn’t know even EXISTED until about 3 years ago. In the end I’ve eased my own weird guilt about this issue by gently reminding myself that this countdown is ultimately meaningless and nobody gives a rat’s ass about whatever qualifiers I put to it. That seemed to help.
595 though, that’s a huge ass number, although it’s somewhat artificially inflated by my need to be “comprehensive”. I pulled a lot of songs from albums I hardly ever listen to because I really wanted to give them a fair chance. The problem with a project like this though is once you do that you start to really appreciate things you didn’t give enough attention to previously. There are any number of albums from 1993 that got so lost in the shuffle back in the day that listening to them now is like discovering a brand new artist (the band Altered State has fallen into that category here). There are also plenty of examples of well-known artists whose work at the time I just wasn’t tuned into. I’m stunned at how much I’ve enjoyed Robert Plant’s Fate Of Nations album, not because I don’t like Robert Plant, but simply because his solo work has always sort of just passed right through me. I hear it, I enjoy it, but it never really stays with me. Attentive listening has changed that quite a bit. Repetition breeds familiarity which leads to appreciation which causes great consternation when trying to pare 595 down to 200. Just scanning the list now I see so many songs that have no shot in hell at making the countdown but which I really want to point out. It takes so little for a song to stick out for me: a single guitar riff, a memorable lyric, hell, I can latch onto a song based solely on how the singer delivers one or two specific notes. “Oooh, that was cool. I like the way they sang that” is something that I’ve thought on plenty of occasions. So just what the hell am I supposed to do with all that? The solution is somewhat clunky, but in the end I think it’s the best possible way to keep me from losing my ever loving mind.
Looking over what currently constitutes my top 25 I see that the vast majority of songs there are what I would label as “mildly obscure”. By that I mean that they were not hits in the traditional sense (chart placement, radio airplay, existence in the pop culture zeitgeist), even if a lot of them might be from artists that most casual music fans are otherwise aware of. Lots of “I’ve heard of them but I can’t say as though I know this song” kind of things. In addition there’s more than a few tracks from artists I suspect most of my readers will have no clue about. As I’ve stated before on this blog I chalk that up more to my love of generic hard rock than some sort of wiser-than-thou hipster mentality. I mention these things as a way of reassuring myself that the final 200 will cover the ground I really hope deserves covering, namely highlighting stuff that people who read this might never have given a chance, as opposed to just rolling out a list of the 200 biggest hits of the year. If you’ve followed any of the previous Woof 200’s you’re probably already expecting that. The difference here is that there is a much greater chance for more mainstream stuff to climb onto the countdown since I was much more aware of said mainstream in 1993 than I am in 2015. And while I won’t be excluding anything merely *because* it was wildly known and doesn’t need any push from me, I feeling like ignoring them completely is a bit disingenuous as well. Again, that reeks to me of a “yeah, I know the hits, but I’m really into this other stuff because I’m not a slave to public opinion” hipsterism, which I loathe. All of which is a roundabout way of saying that I have to acknowledge the fact that I listened to some stuff in 1993 that belongs on the list, but I’m not sure how to do it.
Wait, what? Lemme explain. Take hip-hop for example. It is not a form of music I generally enjoy. Isolated tracks here and there will find their way into my liking, but when it comes to a list like this I really don’t know where the hell to put them. Comparing songs across genres is always a bitch, but it’s even harder for me when said song is outside of the genres I usually enjoy. Just listening to my playlists as I worked through this project I was always taken aback when these outlier songs came up. The thought “this is so different do I actually even like it or am I just confused by the contrast” has popped into my brain on more than one occasion. It’s a legit problem. I’m hoping to judge everything on its own merit (according to my ears), but that really gets clouded when I’ve expanded the pool to cover so much stuff. Which brings me to the clunky solution I mentioned earlier. As a lead-in to the Woof 200, I’m planning a couple of mini-countdowns for the genres for which I had a fair number of contenders but couldn’t squeeze onto the big list. Hip-hop, country, *real* heavy metal, this is the stuff that I’m talking about. Call them Honorable Mentions if you will. If I deemed a song from one of these genres worthy of the overall Woof 200 then I’ll leave them there to get their due. Otherwise I’ll drop them into the categorized HM’s and move on.
So that’s one way to trim some of the fat without completely disregarding good stuff. Of course there are still plenty of tunes that I’ve been enjoying during the binge-listen phase which won’t make the grade either way. I briefly gave thought to actually compiling a 1-500 ranking and then listing 201-500 as one giant Honorable Mention list, but the thought of pouring through that much musical minutiae was too much for even *my* obsessive compulsive list making heart to take. That said, I already had a solid 1-300 ranking done before I started adding other songs to the consideration pile, so filtering out the category HM’s from above, I’m reasonably sure I can pull together an overall Honorable Mention list covering 201-300. Not that anybody needs that, but it’ll make me feel better, always a priority in my thinking.
So there you go. A 1500+ word apology for why this project is so big and unlikely to be completed in a reasonable timeframe or to anyone’s satisfaction (least of all mine). Or if not an apology than at least an attempted justification for the carnage that is about to come. To quote one of my top 10 tunes of the year, “no one said it was gonna be easy”.