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The year's most noteworthy lists are getting less worthy

December 31, 2012

It’s New Year’s Day, and that snowball-like pelting sound you hear around your head is the noise generated from an estimated 2.2 million “year in review” compilations that the media bombard us with at this time of year so they can put it on autopilot over the holidays, instead of having to enterprise any original content.

Now before I go any further, there is bound to be some wise guy out there who will point out that I myself produce a year-ender, which is essentially a cheap rehash of everything I have already written over the past 12 months. Understood. However in my defense, I would say that this is contractual, not consensual.

And whereas I get things over and done with all at once, there is a disturbing media trend of hauling out the year-end content earlier and earlier in the year. Year-end retrospectives are becoming something like Christmas advertising, hitting the airwaves about 10 minutes after Halloween.

For example, the Washington Post released its “most notable deaths of 2012” some time around Thanksgiving, and I felt so bad for anyone of any standing who had the bad timing to die in December, since it was too late to make the list.

And this isn’t to mention that the very existence of a 2012 death list in the first place is more alarming than I can say. “... And, coming up after the break, we’ll be reliving the top suicides of 2012, so you won’t want to miss that.”

There’s a “Top Everything,” now. Most notable photos of the past year, biggest financial stories, hottest pop culture developments. Even the “most overused word” of 2012 (“trending”).

Then there’s the annual Post “What’s In/What’s Out” list, which has become so esoteric that no one outside of SoHo has any idea what it’s talking about. That, or it adopts this eerie time capsule feeling; Bangs are in? Great, I have so missed 1972.

The real culprit here is classic rock radio stations, which have been doing the year’s best playlist for at least 30 years. Or they used to, when the year could be counted upon to produce enough decent music to fill a weekend.

That’s no longer the case obviously, so at some point they transitioned to THE BEST CLASSIC ROCK SONGS OF ALL TIME.

There are many problems with this, the most obvious being that they aren’t making classic rock anymore, so in theory the best songs of all time in 2012 should be exactly the same as the best songs of 2011.

But that would destroy the suspense, so now we all sit on the edge of our seats to see what the No. 1 Song of All Time will be. For 20 years it was always “Stairway to Heaven,” but that got to be too predictable, so now STH is always #2, while #1 is an annual rotation of about six songs along the lines of “Satisfaction” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Sometimes, to generate controversy I suppose, they throw something totally ignorant in the top spot like “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” but most of us see through that.

And also, there are bound to be embarrassing moments best not discussed — like having to slot “He Can’t Love You” by Michael “One Hit” Stanley ahead of Bruce Springsteen’s “Rosalita” on the grounds that you have to spread out the Boss’ hits instead of lumping them together toward the top.

I’m assuming these lists are compiled by women, because no two men could sit down and finish the job in less than 24 years. To guys, the universal order is less dependent on the Higgs Boson than it is on the definitive answer to the question, “Which is a better rock ’n roll song, ‘Hold on Loosely’ by 38 Special, or ‘Headknocker’ by Foreigner.

Which is totally stupid. It’s ‘Headknocker,’ obviously.
Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at timr@herald-mail.com.

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