Written by 4:30 am Audiophile • 4 Comments

Do Music Lists Provide Anything Meaningful?

Paul Wilson wonders about how useful “best of” song lists really are…

As one of the founders of the Carolina Audio Society, one of my personal goals was the sharing of favorite music among members. Not only will such music be heard at CAS sponsored events, new music previously unheard from someone you know possibly carries a little more weight than from someone you don’t. Our efforts in this area have a way to go but all said, I firmly believe an audio society offers a great opportunity to learn about new music. 

TheTop100SongsSmallFormat.jpgThat is one of an audiophile’s manifest goals, is it not, discover new music? Let’s face it, any of our favorite tracks become old and tired eventually – hence the interest in something new. We need to continually hear new music on our systems for any number of reasons. Clearly, the obvious one is we simply like new music. Secondary to that is the curiosity in how something previously unheard sounds on our system – almost a verification of system sonics. 

the absolute sound” (tas) began publishing “HP’s Super List” (tas founder Harry Pearson) several decades ago. HP would categorize his favorite music into genres with the intention of giving readers an insight into the music he most enjoyed.  In modern times, Jonathan Valin carries the list forward, most recently with new additions to the list published in April of 2018. 

There are, of course, other lists of music. Rolling Stone Magazine regularly has the “Top 100” or “Top 500” of some classification, maybe Rock and Roll, R&B, Rap or Pop influenced tracks. These lists usually show up on the Internet from time to time in any number of places. I almost always scroll through all hundred or more selections and oftentimes find myself in disagreement with their choice for number one. I feel certain I am not alone in such practices. 

AR-sonofrs.jpgLists such as these allow all music lovers, not just audiophiles, a means to remember music long forgotten, discover something not previously heard, and of course, my favorite, develop my own personal list. I find myself curiously thinking something like “you have this song in the top five and not this one? I laughingly wonder who develops these lists and why I wasn’t consulted for the top five or ten “best of” tracks. Because certainly, if I liked these songs, and not these other songs, doesn’t everyone feel the same way?  

It does, however, raise a legitimate question. When one of these lists is read, and the reader disagrees with some measure of, I don’t know, the top five, ten or twenty songs, does the list therefore have any value or is it a waste of time because of a difference of opinion? It stands to reason that not every music enthusiast will be in total agreement with any of these compilations. In fact, put two music lovers in the same room and ask them to name the best five songs ever recorded and the answers might wildly vary. Just like the foods we enjoy and the cars we drive, variety is what helps further commerce and allows each of us some degree of individuality. 

While there are lists of songs appearing at various places and at various times, it certainly does not mean any of them are absolutely comprehensive. If I really like R&B and I find myself scrolling a Heavy Metal list, what good will that really do for me? Okay, sure, I suppose with a little searching, finding a list of almost any genre is possible. Still, however, the question remains, are these lists of any value, particularly if I wholeheartedly disagree with the content? 


Sometimes, when I look at music lists with hundreds of selections, I find typically myself quickly disinterested. Quite often, I will not recognize some portion of reconciled music. Historically, the difficulty in procuring and evaluating so many songs (or albums) I didn’t know was more involved than what interested me. I found myself thinking “why can’t the list be maybe half as long?” Because the longer the list, the more searching and evaluation is required. Any song previously heard made the list easier to judge its worthiness. 

Streaming services such as Tidal and now Qobuz will almost certainly make evaluations much easier. Taking a list such as the tas Super List and checking out a selection on Tidal should make things pretty simple. This is one step beyond the finding new music benefit that streaming already offers. Having a preexisting list also removes much of the guesswork that finding new music on a streaming site requires. Personally, I see having access to millions of songs sometimes makes finding new music decidedly more difficult. Having a list of songs to check out gives a starting point, thus making the process simpler. 


Lists of music are not substantially different than lists of anything else. They are a simplified way for readers to agree or disagree with someone else’s slecctions and, perhaps, develop their own list. I tried to come up with a list of my own top ten all time favorites but could not. I found myself not wanting to discount some songs in favor of including others. So I’ll just keep adding to my “Five Star List,” which now has about a hundred and fifty songs. Maybe the rest of these lists might be better served for nostalgic or curiosity purposes than anything else. At the end of the day, lists of greatest all time songs simply gives the reader something new and different to consider. Maybe that is their greatest gift. 

Here’s a question. The linked list of Rolling Stone’s 500 All Time Greatest Songs has Bob Dylan, “Like A Rolling Stone” as the greatest song ever. Do you agree with that? I don’t. Ask me which one IS my favorite of all time? Hmm, gotta think about that. Maybe I should look for a list of…

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