Best five (5) albums ever – Objective standards

With the rise of Facebook an old preteen habbit has again surfaced among tweens and thirty-somethings: the making and sharing of lists of (among others) favourite things; Five best actors, Five best books et cetera. Usually, these lists are nothing more than vehicles of an aspired image and in many cases it is doubtful that the listed books are actually read (Kafka and Tolstoy in the same list as Harry P.?) A lot of these lists are formed on the basis of personal taste, but they are rarely presented as such. It’s never ‘the five albums I personally like’, no it’s ‘the BEST five albums ever’. It’s possible to set some easy rules for making such a ‘best and not personal favourite’ list. I will give you that list of rules.  You’re welcome.  (And what that list of ‘five best albums ever’ actually is… I’ll leave it up to you to bother your own circle of contacts with.)

1. A good album is diverse

Techno
Techno

A good album is like a good meal. Once in every while, you’re presented with different flavours, different textures. It’s one of the main differences between cuisine and fast food. Unfortunately, this rule means that all your Techno and Death Metal albums are out of the competition. An album that sort of sounds the same from beginning to end does not build up to anything, nor does it surprise you at any point. After one track it’s merely ‘there’. Remember: it’s not about (my) taste. It’s an objective standard.

Ringo
Ringo is an excellent drummer

2. A great album is recorded by excellent musicians.
It is not possible to make a ‘top 5′ album, when the band has to drag one of it’s members along… or when a crappy producer is hired. Great music may sound like you could’ve played it yourself, but believe me: you couldn’t. This rule -surprisingly- also means that Ringo is an excellent drummer after all. Who knew?

tigermilk
Good, not great

3. Ending up high in the charts is not a factor, but decent sales are.
I’m guessing there will be no debate over the fact that Britney Spears has no place in a ‘Top five of best albums’ list. However, there are people that would make a case for, say ‘Tigermilk‘ by Belle and Sebastian. Sorry. A great album will by definition have more decent sales. Greatness will move -perhaps- not masses, but large quantities of people nonetheless. At the same time it can be argued that if an album is number one in a lot of charts, for a long, long time, it may be that the album is not great, but well-marketed.

4. A good album can be easy and simple, a great album -by definition-  is not.

It wasn't great then...
It wasn't great then...

This rule has a lot in common with the previous two. Successful producers as Stock, Aitken and Waterman (or even Justin Timberlake) make music that is as easy to the ear as a Whopper is to the tongue. sometimes you just feel slutty and you think you need it. but afterwards you feel defiled and empty. That sort of thing. You can never identify a great album at first play. You have to get used to it. A great album challenges you to hear many things you have never heard before.

5. Compilations don’t count

... and it isn't great here...
... and it isn't great here...

Personally I cannot think of a compilation album that I would rate ‘great’ anyway, but you never know. A compilation is exactly what it is called; compiled singles. That will never make a well-balanced album. Not even if you’re Genesis. A great album is by definition more than merely the sum of it’s songs added together. Something extra happens. Like mixing Coke with Mentos, but musical..

6. Great albums have inspired other -really good- albums

Nice styling though...
Nice styling though...

If you have a couple of really good (but not yet great) albums at home, go and find out who and what inspired those albums. Good chance you’ll end up listening to something truly great. A great album is the definitive work of a genre and a start of something (completely) new at the same time. Again, this is not an opinion, it’s an objective rule of thumb. You may like Coldplay, their albums are not great.

So there we are. Six easy rules to get you started on finally deciding what five albums are the absolutely top bestest in the entire history. Go and make your list.

(Oh, one more piece of advice.  if  ‘OK Computer’ isn’t on your list  you’re setting yourself up to be justly ridiculed by the world.)

ok computer

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