Favorite vs. Best Music

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Holden
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Favorite vs. Best Music

Post by Holden » Wed Apr 15, 2020 2:08 pm

Hello! I’m going to poss another question here: regardless of your opinions on the songs and albums themselves, what do you believe to be the objectively ‘best’ songs and albums in history to be?
For example, while my favorite album is Portishead’s Dummy, but I think that the objectively best album in history is indeed The Beach Boys’ Pets Sounds.
Additionally, while its not my favorite song, I do think that The Ronettes’ Be My Baby is the objectively best song ever.
So what do you think to be the best songs and albums ever, regardless of personal favorites?
"The better a singer's voice, the harder it is to believe what they're saying."

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PlasticRam
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Re: Favorite vs. Best Music

Post by PlasticRam » Wed Apr 15, 2020 2:21 pm

I have the same subjective and objective favorites.
I feel like that

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Re: Favorite vs. Best Music

Post by OttoSlade » Wed Apr 15, 2020 2:29 pm

I think Good Vibrations by the beach boys is the greatest song ever, followed closely by Sympathy for the Devil.

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Re: Favorite vs. Best Music

Post by Nick » Wed Apr 15, 2020 2:47 pm

I don't believe there is any difference between "objective" best and "subjective" best, because I don't believe there is any such thing as objective value judgments in music (and all of art for that matter).

The only things objective about an album like Revolver are the number of songs it has, the year it was released, the musicians who worked on it, etc. The "greatness" of the album is a subjective cultural belief that has no bearing in objective reality.

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Rob
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Re: Favorite vs. Best Music

Post by Rob » Wed Apr 15, 2020 2:56 pm

Although I wouldn't go as far as Nick in stating there is absolutely no objective measurement of art, I really can't quantify it in a way as strict as "the best ever". More than when we talk subjectively, I need clear criteria to measure "objectively the best album ever". For example, I have no idea why Pet Sounds is objectively the best there ever was. Based on what requirements?

However, there are albums and songs I can objectively see the the qualities of, but somehow fail to engage me. Pyramids by Frank Ocean is the one that I think of foremost here. I hear that is is special and a real achievement, but it doesn't evoke a single feeling in me.

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Re: Favorite vs. Best Music

Post by bonnielaurel » Wed Apr 15, 2020 7:50 pm

Some things are objective. Beethoven is better than Vanilla Ice. However there's a lot of subjectivity involved. If Pet Sounds is considered to be the best album that says a lot about the age, taste and background of the average critic. Many opinions are just what a lot of critics have said, but that still doesn't make it an objective fact.
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Re: Favorite vs. Best Music

Post by ArcadeFire » Wed Apr 15, 2020 9:54 pm

I've gotten into similar debates with friends over the years. For me, there are several albums and songs that if someone were to call it "the best", I wouldn't argue with them. I've used this site, for right or wrong, to govern how much support or objection I'd give to someone's opinion. For example, as the number 59 ranked album of all time, I would give no objection to someone calling Portishead - Dummy the best album of all time. It has clearly received enough critical love by enough sources to justify this claim (plus it's a great f'ing album). Whereas if someone claimed a lower ranked or *gasp* unranked album/song as "the best", I'd say something obnoxious like "you're perfectly free to like it, but you can't call it "the best"."

Similar arguments can be made for saying something is terrible vs. "I don't like it". I've gotten into many heated arguments over people calling Trout Mask Replica terrible (many of them with myself the first few times I listened to it).

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Re: Favorite vs. Best Music

Post by Hymie » Wed Apr 15, 2020 9:57 pm

Nick wrote:
Wed Apr 15, 2020 2:47 pm
I don't believe there is any difference between "objective" best and "subjective" best, because I don't believe there is any such thing as objective value judgments in music (and all of art for that matter).

The only things objective about an album like Revolver are the number of songs it has, the year it was released, the musicians who worked on it, etc. The "greatness" of the album is a subjective cultural belief that has no bearing in objective reality.
I agree 100%. Objectivity is only about facts.

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Re: Favorite vs. Best Music

Post by Hymie » Wed Apr 15, 2020 9:58 pm

bonnielaurel wrote:
Wed Apr 15, 2020 7:50 pm
Some things are objective. Beethoven is better than Vanilla Ice.
No, that's not an objective fact.

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Re: Favorite vs. Best Music

Post by Safetycat » Wed Apr 15, 2020 10:27 pm

Saying one piece of art is better "objectively" than another is a very difficult claim to make - because any qualities you list as being the factors that make that art better are things you personally value. Another person may not value those things in art, so how can that be truly objective?

We've already seen this discussion many times between, e.g., Hymie and the rest of the posters here around the subject of whether lyrics matter. They do for many of us, and many critics - but not to him.

Any appeal to AM's lists or critics just says that your subjective take is popular, and shared by many musical critics, who also are not examining art subjectively, as much as some would claim it.

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Re: Favorite vs. Best Music

Post by Safetycat » Wed Apr 15, 2020 10:35 pm

Here's a good example. I think The Decemberists' The Crane Wife is one of the best albums ever. I value its sense of drama, emotion and lyricism. I love the emotions it makes me feel. Currently it's ranked at 1400 on AM, a decent ranking that shows some support by critics for it being a good and worthwhile album, so my opinion is certainly not unreasonable if we judge these critics as a good baseline.

Someone else will hear Colin Meloy's vocals and throw the album in the trash, because his voice is not a good singing voice. They might value melody and singing skill, for example. There's 1399 albums ranked above it - how can I call it one of the best albums?

There's no real answer. I like what I like.

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Re: Favorite vs. Best Music

Post by StevieFan13 » Wed Apr 15, 2020 11:07 pm

Safetycat wrote:
Wed Apr 15, 2020 10:35 pm
Here's a good example. I think The Decemberists' The Crane Wife is one of the best albums ever. I value its sense of drama, emotion and lyricism. I love the emotions it makes me feel. Currently it's ranked at 1400 on AM, a decent ranking that shows some support by critics for it being a good and worthwhile album, so my opinion is certainly not unreasonable if we judge these critics as a good baseline.

Someone else will hear Colin Meloy's vocals and throw the album in the trash, because his voice is not a good singing voice. They might value melody and singing skill, for example. There's 1399 albums ranked above it - how can I call it one of the best albums?

There's no real answer. I like what I like.
Exactly. Last time I made a best of all time list, I had Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" somewhere in the 400-301 range. If we were taking critical consensus as objective fact, I'd be considered dead wrong. Similarly, if my pick for best song of all time had to line up with chart success, any answer other than "Old Town Road" would be incorrect.
Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand - Sir Duke (1976)

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Re: Favorite vs. Best Music

Post by Rocky Raccoon » Wed Apr 15, 2020 11:27 pm

Of course there's some objectivity in assessing art, this website's very existence is predicated on that fact, and it's how a lot of the same albums keep cropping up time after time on list after list. But of course there's also a considerable amount of subjectivity. It's the combination of the two that creates the diversity of the lists.
There have been objective criteria for valuing art for centuries, it's how a rational human being can say with certainty that "Schindler's List" is a better film than "Sharknado" (look it up if you've never heard of it), or the Mona Lisa is a better painting than my kid's refrigerator art, or "The Road Not Taken" is better than any Vogon poetry, or for the sake of this site, Pet Sounds is a better album than Playing With Fire.
While I listed "Let's Go Crazy" as the No. 1 song the last time I participated in an all-times song poll, that's the subjective side of my equation tipping the scales in it's favor, but objectively I recognize that while it's a great song worthy of praise for many reasons, there are certainly a number of other songs that are "better."
It sort of comes down to "the head vs. the heart" metaphorically, and everyone finds their own balance, for me it's about 70/30. So while it's fine to say "The music on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band doesn't really appeal to me, therefor I don't like it," saying "The music on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band doesn't really appeal to me, therefor it's bad," is ignorant.
There's plenty of music on the acclaimed list I don't like, but I wouldn't objectively say it's bad, because in most cases I recognize it's not.

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Re: Favorite vs. Best Music

Post by Safetycat » Thu Apr 16, 2020 12:02 am

Rocky Raccoon wrote:
Wed Apr 15, 2020 11:27 pm
So while it's fine to say "The music on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band doesn't really appeal to me, therefor I don't like it," saying "The music on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band doesn't really appeal to me, therefor it's bad," is ignorant.
I really like your point, Rocky, but I do want to zero in on this, because I think you're agreeing with me here. You can't make an objective judgement either way based on your subjective opinion of a piece.

I like SPLHCB but, for example, I hate Good Morning, Good Morning on that album because my mp3 version is mixed in a way that sounds awful to me (why are the horns so loud???). An enthusiast of, I don't know, My Bloody Valentine might enjoy it however because that mix has a shoe-gaze static-y sound to it.

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Re: Favorite vs. Best Music

Post by Safetycat » Thu Apr 16, 2020 12:09 am

Of course, I don't know if my position is very strong - after all, how do I explain the guilty feeling of "this isn't very good but I love it anyway" when I listen to Aqua or a boy band? Is it the knowledge that this stuff isn't popular or well-reviewed? Or do I recognise that there's something objectively bad about the work?

I just think it's a really interesting discussion!

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Holden
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Re: Favorite vs. Best Music

Post by Holden » Thu Apr 16, 2020 1:42 am

Okay, how a bout this, what is an album that you think is wrongly acclaimed?
"The better a singer's voice, the harder it is to believe what they're saying."

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Re: Favorite vs. Best Music

Post by Safetycat » Thu Apr 16, 2020 2:04 am

Ooh good question, I'll do a song instead because my album knowledge is bad.

Windowlicker would be my pick for something I think is overly-acclaimed. I do not get what critics see in it. There's a lot of other tracks in the top 1000 I don't like, but I can understand why they're there. But Windowlicker doesn't seem influential enough nor significant good enough for its placement.
Last edited by Safetycat on Thu Apr 16, 2020 2:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Favorite vs. Best Music

Post by prosecutorgodot » Thu Apr 16, 2020 2:04 am

I agree that objectivity in art criticism doesn't exist. However, I do get the urge to claim objectivity once in a while for the fun of trollin'. Unfortunately, I often don't act on the urge, for fear of zillions of people jumping down my throat taking it too seriously.

I've been thinking for the past few months that "Pure Comedy" is objectively the best song of the 2010s. It is so powerful and moving, that I don't think any human with a working brain can come away from the song feeling nothing.
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Rob
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Re: Favorite vs. Best Music

Post by Rob » Fri Apr 17, 2020 8:42 am

Holden wrote:
Thu Apr 16, 2020 1:42 am
Okay, how a bout this, what is an album that you think is wrongly acclaimed?
There is a surprisingly objective answer to this actually: Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols. "Wrongly acclaimed" is maybe not the best word for it, though. The thing with that one is that most reviews I have read of it seem to agree that is an uneven album and that it's status is maybe based on about half of it's songs. Of course, these are the songs that probably sum up the punk movement for many people and therefore the album is significant. Yet it is rather strange that something that is considered uneven is now #12 of all time here. It also goes to show that there is far more going on in all this list-making than objectivity. I think most acclaimed albums have more than just the music going for them (which is not a knock on the music).

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Re: Favorite vs. Best Music

Post by Zombeels » Tue Apr 21, 2020 6:08 am

To me the best song or best album ever would be the result of the knowledgeable general public. I use the word knowledgeable as many people in the general public just go for whatever are handed to them and then move on when the next flavour presents itself. For best album, the albums Pet Sounds, Revolver and OK Computer are always on the top of the many lists all over the internet and in print. I would also consider any of these to be the best album. Personally my favourite album is the Zombies - Oddesey & Oracle. For songs the variations for best song are more expanse. I've seen Hey Jude, (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction, Free Bird, Bohemian Rhapsody, Smells Like Teen Spirit, Like A Rolling Stone, A Day In The Life... I would never argue any of the songs being on the top of these list because these are well liked songs that have stood the test of time. my all time favourite song is not very well known and I'm sure if everyone heard it it would not be at the top of many lists. So yes there is a difference between the best songs and albums and your own personal favourite songs and albums.

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