From the Archives: Five Most Questionable Pazz & Jop Winners

(Results up to 2002, obviously out-lamed several times since.)

01:  Gangsta’s Paradise (welcome to the happy music) Total tripe!!!
02:  Eternal’s 1st hit (straight music rip off of the 23rd psalm) unbelievable, God- you are owed royalties!
03:  Anything by Feargal Sharky (recorded while gargling through an air fan)
04:  Anything RnB from L.a (not enough vocals please add another school choir)
05:  Modern vocal latin pop house – Shakira-Lopez-aGuileera-Martin (Ricky not Steve) all the same equally lame.

Wait, hang on! Feargal wasn’t on MTV.
HANDLE:  supadoopa
CITY:  Beijing China
Monday, June 10, 2002 at 10:56:02 (PDT)

01:  “Live 1966” / Bob Dylan / #3 album, 1998
02:  “Let it Blurt” / Lester Bangs / tied for #16 single, 1979
03:  “O Superman” / Laurie Anderson / #1 single, 1980
04:  “Freeway of Love” / Aretha Franklin / #2 single, 1985
05:  Everybody in the top ten singles list except for Public Enemy, 1989

1) Best REISSUE. Not 3rd best album. 2) A joke nomination that’s funny until you realize it’s ranked higher than Gang of Four’s “At Home he’s a Tourist” and Sugarhill Gang’s “Rappers’ Delight”. Makes Wesley Willis sound like Al Green. 3) Pink Floyd=”bad” art rock. This=”good” art rock. Me=confused. 4) Like the ’76 Mustang II, the ’85 Aretha was a sad attempt to rework a classic American icon for changed times. Hindsight is 20/20, but I still think “The Show/La Di Da Di” deserved this spot. 5) Great. The most incendiary, classic hip-hop song of the late ’80s is a richly deserved #1 but it’s trailed by novelty dance cheese (where IS Young M.C. these days?) and two lukewarm efforts from rock acts (Tom Petty and the Stones) that could and did do better. Then again, maybe 1989 in general was just a lame year for singles.
HANDLE:  Nate Patrin
CITY:  St. Paul, MN

01:  “Gangsta’s Paradise”/Coolio/1994
02:  “The Rockafeller Skank”/Fatboy Slim/1998
03:  Live Through This/Hole/1994
04:  Graceland/Paul Simon/1987
05:  3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Blah Blah/Arrested Development/1992

Arrested Development’s been an obvious choice and still serves as a shining example of mainstream critics projecting relevance on a group that had little but filled a niche they were looking for. Too bad it didn’t work out, folks. The Paul Simon and Hole albums are both fine, but immensely overrated. Fatboy Slim’s a dullard, always has been, and Coolio is the Christopher Cross of hip-hop.
HANDLE:  Captain Doctor

01:  “Babes In Slutland,” Mac Knife and the Sluts (best EP, 1984)
02:  Escarole Armpit (best local band, 1976)
03:  Hokey-Dokey! The Untamed Spirit: original field recordings from the first golden era of hokey-doke, 1933-1939 (best reissue, 1999)
04:  “Everyday Is Not a Noun,” Merlin Olsen (best single, 1998)
05:  The Secret Life of Plants, Shills, and Red Herrings / Garland Busch (best album, 1974)

There was nothing really BAD about these records/acts – the Olsen single in particular struck an emotional chord within me, and I voted for it – but given all the hype, their actual music was undistinguished. (I do want to say something on behalf of “C’Mon N’ Ride It,” however: not only is it one of the best things ever to win Pazz & Jop, its victory was a rare instance of P&J actually catching a trend on the rise: dirty South, bass, bounce, whoot music – whatever it is, it’s still a big part of music’s creative future. As opposed to that year’s LP winner, Odelay, which I’ll bet many voters THOUGHT was a harbinger. I’m guessing that most voters thought of “C’Mon N’ Ride It” as a good song but of no historic significance.)
HANDLE:  Frank Kogan
CITY:  Denver

01:  3 Years, 5 Months, and 2 Days in the Life of…, Arrested Development, 1992
02:  3 Feet High and Rising, De La Soul, 1989
03:  Graceland, Paul Simon, 1986
04:  The Dean’s List, 1971-1998
05:  “MMMBop,” Hanson, 1997

1) What happened? 2) Valiant, with samples. 3) The triumph of the daily newspaper critics, just as Little Creatures had been the triumph of the alternative newsweekly critics. 4) How come it took so many years for Robert Christgau to let us see as deep into the poll results as into his manly annual 60+? Give me 100, no more no less! And individual ballots only, including Bob’s. 5) Not even cute.
HANDLE:  Jeff Pike
CITY:  Seattle

01:  SQUEEZING OUT SPARKS, Graham Parker (1979)
02:  LITTLE CREATURES, Talking Heads (1985)
03:  “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick,” Ian Dury (1979)/”The Breaks,” Kurtis Blow (1980)/”O Superman,” Laurie Anderson (1981)
04:  “Gangsta’s Paradise,” Coolio (1995)
05:  “C’mon N’ Ride It (The Train),” Quad City DJs (1996)

My list is redundant after Scott’s–I don’t really remember the two of us discussing some of these records, but I guess we must have compared notes somewhere along the way. One of the first dozen new wave records I ever bought was by Graham Parker…THE UP ESCALATOR! I remember trying very hard to like it, and sort of succeeding with the Bruce Springsteen collaboration; working backwards from there, Parker’s more famous earlier albums required pretty much the same amount of effort. Without checking, I can’t remember a song off LITTLE CREATURES. I bought it five years ago and played it once. “Home,” which I know from WALL STREET, must be on there–that one’s not bad, but the Talking Heads’ decade-long hold on critics was always completely baffling to me. Ian Dury, Kurtis Blow, and Laurie Anderson are three novelties that go right past me. Rap’s another thing I came late to, and some of the early stuff that’s so revered–“The Breaks,” especially, which I heard for the first time in a long while on the radio last month–sounds really tame to me next to the best of what came much later. I was immersed in X, Black Flag, and the Cramps in 1981, and I think my reaction to hearing “O Superman” after having read all the fuss about it was something on the order of Beavis & Butt-head confronted by a Bjork video. “Gangsta’s Paradise” was simply a big letdown after “Fantastic Voyage,” my favourite single of 1994 (#3 in Pazz & Jop but behind “Seether,” another unsolvable mystery), and the choo-choo song is pure seventh-inning-stretch. Some winners I’ve never heard: CAR WHEELS ON A GRAVEL ROAD, TIME OUT OF MIND, TO BRING YOU MY LOVE. From what I have heard of P.J. Harvey, she might have been a contender. I haven’t heard much of PLAY, RAGGED GLORY, 3 FEET HIGH AND RISING, or the Arrested Development album, either, but “Porcelain,” “Over and Over,” “Eye Know” (I think it was “Eye Know” that I liked), and “People Everyday” would be enough to keep them off the list no matter what. Even SANDINISTA! gets a pass because of “Police on My Back”; one great song on a triple-album and I’m happy. And I think WHO’S NEXT was an excellent inaugural winner–EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY or LED ZEPPELIN IV might have been better choices, but song-for-song, I’m glad it finished ahead of STICKY FINGERS, THERE’S A RIOT GOIN’ ON, or anything else on the ’71 list.
HANDLE:  Phil Dellio
CITY:  Toronto

01:  SQUEEZING OUT SPARKS / Graham Parker / ’79
02:  “Sign O’ The Times” / Prince / ’87 (single)
03:  “Gangsta’s Paradise” / Coolio / ’95 (single)
04:  SANDINISTA! / the Clash / ’81
05:  “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick” / Ian Dury / 1979 (single)

All of the above I actually like, to varying degrees, but none of them make much sense to me as poll-toppers, especially in light of the competition in the given years. (i.e., SANDINISTA better than WILD GIFT?) Runners-up: “C’mon Ride It” (Quad City DJs), IMPERIAL BEDROOM (Elvis Costello), and GRACELAND (Paul Simon). Never heard: Lucinda Williams or the Arrested Development album (I like the singles just fine, though).
HANDLE:  scott
CITY:  toronto

01:  3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life of… / Arrested Development / 1992
02:  “Pop Muzik” / M / 1979 (no. 2 single)
03:  Odelay / Beck / 1996
04:  Who’s Next / The Who / 1971
05:  “You Oughta Know” / Alanis Morrissette / 1995 (no. 3 single)

The problem I have with this category is that it’s so geek-specific and that it’s so obviously narrow. Of COURSE everyone’s gonna say Arrested Development–we might as well not even BOTHER saying it at this point (except it’s completely, totally true). Why not “most overrated canonical albums” or “worst year-end poll and/or Grammy winner”–broader, more interesting to see what folks’ll pull out of their hats? Anyway, some annotation: 2: Number one was Ian Dury’s “Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick”/”Reasons to Be Cheerful Pt. 3,” a great single that didn’t necessarily deserve to win (“Good Times” came out that year, finishing in a tie for 16th, which is its approximate position on my ALL-TIME list), but who fucking remembers the runner-up, “Pop Muzik”–or cares to? In the year of The Score it was folly to act as if Odelay was the most important or best record (even if I wound up liking Imperial Teen and the Ocean of Sound soundtrack better that year). Does anyone who isn’t a secret opera-lover still think Who’s Next is a classic anymore? As Chuck Eddy noted in Stairway to Hell, the reason everyone owns it is there’s four unimpeachable masterpieces surrounded by filler, filler, filler. (And how the fuck did There’s a Riot Goin’ On–my hands-down favorite album ever and easily one of the greatest ever made by any estimation–wind up THIRTIETH?!?! God, I hate white people sometimes….) “You Oughta Know” really is every bit as rank as those of us who couldn’t stand it then thought–I’m sure a lot of 14-year-old girls were inspired by Pat Benatar, too, but suck is suck, folks, whether in a movie theater or on the radio.
HANDLE: Michaelangelo Matos
CITY:  Manhattan

01:  3 Years, 5 Days & 2 months In the Life Of, Arrested Development, 1992
02:  Imperial Bedroom, Elvis Costello, 1982
03:  Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, Lucinda Williams, 1998
04:  “Groove Is In The Heart”, Deee-Lite, 1990
05:  “C’mon & Ride It (The Train)”, Quad City DJs, 1996

I doubt that *any* of the people who voted for Arrested Development still listen to that record regularly. #1 and # 2 are the only ones I genuinely dislike. The other ones are just sort of eh… decent but nowhere near good enough for #1’s.
HANDLE:  Patrick
CITY:  Montreal, Quebec

01:  3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days In The Life of – Arrested Development, 1992
02:  O Superman/Walk The Dog – Laurie Anderson, 1981
03:  Imperial Bedroom – Elvis Costello, 1982
04:  Ragged Glory – Neil Young, 1991
05:  Fight The Power – Public Enemy, 89

Honorables: Liz Phair – Exile In Guyville 94, PJ Harvey – To Bring You My Love 96, Clash – Sandinista! 81, Talking Heads – Little Creatures 85, Deee-Lite – Groove Is In The Heart 90
HANDLE:  Tom Lane
CITY:  Marina, CA

One thought on “From the Archives: Five Most Questionable Pazz & Jop Winners

  1. the Frank Kogan list !

    other thread: Blissed Out was widely read in my circle when it came out. Preserves that shouting-with-pamphlets style of the English music papers. I’ll have to find Jukebox Sonata, sounds promising.

    In Rip It Up, I love the stuff on PiL, Martin Rushent, The Residents, and especially the chapter on The Fall. So, free shrooms grew on vacant lots in Manchester? Explains a lot.

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