Last month, Bro Jackson conducted our first pop culture item draft. The item? Best Song Ever. Fourteen drafters (13 men, one woman) drafted 14 rounds of awesome music. Check out the draft at these links: Round 1 / Round 2 / Round 3 / Round 4 / Round 5 / Round 6 / Round 7 / Round 8 / Round 9 / Round 10 / Round 11 / Round 12 / Round 13 / Round 14
Now that the draft has concluded, all we’re left with is good memories and the faint whiff of statistical musk. In an effort to launder our statistical bedspread, we’re putting our best brains on it and spitting back out a really awesome statistical analysis. We looked at all 196 songs and massaged out the important stuff. Check out the numbers. The numbers don’t lie.
Genres are tricky. Triphop indie grind and electro jazz fusion are probably both genres even though I just randomly strung words together like a drunken mad lib. Overall, I knew Bro Jackson writers rocked, but I didn’t know they rocked so much: 46 percent of the draft were rock songs, that wonderfully ambiguous genre that seems to include guitars and drums and . . . loudness.
Rap was the next biggest group, with 15 percent, and I think Bro writers are skewed more toward hip hop than any other genre. Throw 14 other randos together and have them pick their favorite songs and I’m guessing they would settle on a lot more crappy pop songs than we did. Only 5 percent were considered Pop, only a couple more than soul. In fact, blues, funk, r&b, rap, and soul, all traditionally African-American genres, made up almost 30 percent of the draft. Considering rock music started as the blending of blues and jazz, co-opted by White Americans, nearly three-quarters of the draft, genre-wise, stemmed out of African-American music.
It should also be noted that 6 percent of the draft picks were *ballads,* a special brand of torture propagated on the American people for decades now. Shame on us. Shame on all of us. — David Kallison
Country of origin
Where does the best music of all-time come from? You bet your ass it’s America, which is fitting on this here Independence Day. Seventy-one percent of the picks came from bands from the good ol’ U.S. of A. But we all knew that would happen. Predictably the Brits came in second at 19 percent. The Canadians, buoyed by Neil Young, the Band, Leonard Cohen, Arcade Fire,[ref]Yeah, yeah. I know the lead guy grew up in the Houston suburbs, but the band rose to prominence while being based out of Montreal.[/ref] and Snow (!) put in a typical Canadian finish of 4 percent even without help from Rush. Ireland made Bono proud with 2 percent.
Thanks to the collective snub of AC/DC, Australia wallowed at 1 percent with Wolfmother as the lone pick from Down Under. I’m embarrassed by this. France (Daft Punk) and Sweden (Refused) were the only other countries represented. Step your game up, rest of the world. —Blake Hurtik
MALE VS. FEMALE
I was the only girl drafting Best Songs Ever. One lady out of 14, a paltry 7 percent of all drafters. And indeed, 7 percent is EXACTLY how many of the 196 songs drafted that were performed by female-only acts.[ref]Bonnie Tyler, Amy Winehouse, Tracy Chapman, Mary J. Blige, Alanis Morrissette, Whitney Houston, Kelly Clarkson, Vitamin C, Aretha Franklin, Fiona Apple, Selena, Cynthia Fee (Golden Girls), Bikini Kill, En Vogue[/ref] Another 5 percent were acts that included both men and women.[ref]The B-52s, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Talking Heads, Quad City DJs, The White Stripes, Zack Attack[/ref] It should be noted though, that a disproportionate number of these picks were either jokes or auto-drafts,[ref]Vitamin C, Golden Girls, Zack Attack[/ref] thereby lowering still the number of people who seriously picked females as having sung the Best Song Ever, but overall that puts the percentage of female acts chosen in our draft at 9.5 percent.
That puts us *just* shy of the percentage of females acts chosen in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All-Time, which upon an eyeball analysis,[ref]Definitely not a precise analysis–I assumed The Family Stone included women but I might be wrong.[/ref] chose 11 percent boobies.[ref] Although it’s vaguely interesting that the percentage of female choices decreases as you get closer to number one–from 3 percent in the 401-500 chunk to just over 1 percent in the 1-100 chunk[/ref] It should be noted that there is not too much overlap between our female choices and Rolling Stone’s female choices[ref]Aretha, Amy Winhouse, the B-52’s, Tracy Chapman, The White Stripes, and Kelly Clarkson were the crossovers[/ref]
I went in to see if any of the drafters were more sympathetic to the female cause and came up with this:
Fantastico – 0/14
Fantasy Douche – 3/14 (Mary J, Gladys, Kelly Clarkson)
Eddie Strait – 2/14 (Alanis, Quad City DJs)
Blake Hurtik – 1/14 (White Stripes)
Ryan Moskal – 1/14 (Whitney Houston, although he wins the androgyny contest with 2/14 picks for Queen and Marilyn Manson)
Kat Gotsick – 2/14 (Bonnie Tyler, En Vogue)
Rumford Johnny – 3/14 (Amy Winehouse, Fiona Apple, Yeah Yeah Yeahs)
Ramon Ramirez – 2/14 (Aretha, Selena)
Rob Rich – 0/14
Andy O’Connor – 2/14 (B-52’s, “Golden Girls” theme – both autodrafts, both jokes. It’s safe to say Andy might not have chosen any ladies left to his own devices)
Chris Marler – 1/14 (Zack Attack, drunken joke pick)
David Kallison – 3/14 (Tracy Chapman, Bikini Kill, White Stripes)
Ken Griggs – 0/14
Josh Klein – 0/14
No one had more than a 20 percent Lady Roster and the average for each drafter was 10 percent, or one full female and a little extra. The surprises? The big lady champs were not me (the lady) but the Fantasy Football Guys, Douche and Rummy, and the “Mad Men” guy, Kallison. Another surprise? The most gentle, thoughtful soul in the draft (Ken Griggs[ref]also a fantasy football guy[/ref]) blanked the fairer sex in his draft. So really? No patterns anywhere, except for the fact that apparently, only one out of 10 women who sing for money puts out a good song. Wait, what? Stupid patriarchal oligarchy.
The cool game you can play with your friends–or if you’re Josh Klein, you probably play with yourself–is “Is it the singer or is it the song?” Here are the rules: imagine if any of the songs in our drafts had been sung by women instead of men, would they still have been chosen? I look at my own list and I think that anything by the Eagles or Pink Floyd or Run DMC or Bob Seger and probably “Have a Little Faith in Me” CANNOT have a female voice substituted in and still be the same song. “Hello Goodbye,” “Time for Me to Fly,” “No One is to Blame,” and “Let it Be?” Those could all be KILLED by ladies. — Kat Gotsick
Decade of release
Anytime anyone tries to rank or draft the best songs of all-time, the chief (and valid) complaint is that often the results skew to far backward.[ref]It’s the classic rock radio effect. “Classic rock,” no matter where you are in the U.S., pretty much ends with hair metal with some grunge thrown in, depending on your DJ’s taste.[/ref] But if the numbers show anything, it’s that we were at Bro Jackson are forward thinkers. Or nostalgic assholes. Most of us either grew up in or were in college in the 1990s, which explains how 27 percent of the songs selected came from that decade. The ’70s comes in at No. 2 with 21 percent. The ’80s and ’00s are about even at 18 and 16 percent, respectively. Most surprising to me, the ’60s had just 11 percent. Suck it, flower power.
Of note: Rumford Johnny picked a Leadbelly song that is a traditional and was recorded about a dozen times by the old bluesman, mostly pre-1950. So that didn’t exactly fit our “modern” criteria, but whatever. — Blake Hurtik
Billboard Hot 100
Popular music is not always good. Good music is not always popular. Age-old concepts made increasingly relevant as barriers to both listening and making music have all but disappeared in the last decade. The draft gave us the opportunity to analyze where the “best” songs charted. We chose the Billboard Hot 100 since it has existed the longest, since 1958, and tracks both radio play and sales (and later, streaming and digital downloads) — a good indication of the popularity of a song.
A full 12 percent of the draft class was a chart-topping song in America at one point. That’s quite impressive for such a diverse list. Unsurprisingly, out of the nine songs in the “Pop” genre, four were #1s, two peaked at #2, and another hit #3. There’s a reason pop songs are popular, it seems. More interestingly, four rap songs peaked at #1 while no country tunes even charted in the top 10. Take that, traditional America!
Fifty-eight songs were in the top 10 of the Hot 100 proving that even when pretentious writers have a fantasy song draft, popular music still prevails. Forty-eight percent of the songs drafted never made it to the Hot 100, which might seem like a large number, but remember that over half of the songs we chose out of all music from the 1950s on sold well enough to to chart. Interestingly, out of the 40 songs we chose from the last decade, a little over 30 prcent made the Hot 100 and only one was a #1. So it seems that abundant access to music has indeed splintered and diversified musical tastes. It is also probably true that only the more popular music from older generations has stuck around. Smaller “indie” bands of the 1970s are largely forgotten while the newest niche bands are still relevant. — David Kallison
MOST POPULAR ACTS
I specifically asked to analyze groups versus solo acts when considering what to write about in this column. I wanted to see if there was a preference for whether groups or solo acts put out better songs. The answer? Maybe a little, but not much. It’s a 60-40 split favoring groups. Not so much to say there since there isn’t a profound bias. But in the course of analyzing that dataset, I was interested to check out the most popular acts this particular group of dumbasses chose. Why am I calling them dumbasses? Because of all that GNR. Here’s the breakdown:
CHOSEN FIVE TIMES:
Michael Jackson[ref]Only if you count The Jackson Five, which I’m making a judgment call is a yes.[/ref]
CHOSEN FOUR TIMES:
* Jay-Z – I asterisk this act because it’s an existential dilemma if it’s “Jay-Z & Kanye” or Watch the Throne. Also, Jay-Z has a different collaborator on each pick.
CHOSEN THREE TIMES:
Guns n Roses
* Kanye West – same asterisk as Jay-Z
The Eagles (although “Desperado” was a joke auto-draft)
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
The White Stripes
Will Smith (“Gettin Jiggy” was an auto-draft)
Here are some surprises after looking over this list.
- A pop act tops the “most picked” list when virtually half the picks in the draft were drawn from the Rock genre.[ref]Yes, I realize it’s because of a tie-breaker. Even so.[/ref]
- I’ve never heard of Refused before, so I was a little surprised to see them show up twice.[ref]Or maybe what I mean is I’m surprised every time something appears that makes me remember I’m 47, not 27.[/ref]
- The fact that the Eagles were only chosen twice (and once on auto-draft), although I was FURTHER surprised to find that literally only one Eagles song (“Hotel California”) can be found on the Rolling Stone Top 500 list.
- Phil Collins? Phil Collins.
- I guess it’s most surprising that GNR is a most-picked act when they, of every act picked more than once is associated with such a narrow strip of temporal real estate (1987-1993). Six years. Even Refused, who I have famously never heard of, lasted a year longer than GNR. Even Arcade Fire, the newest of the multi-picked has been around for more than a decade. Even Led Zeppelin, who had a tragically short run, was around for a decade. GNR had six good years and everything since then has been a desperate attempt to recreate those six good years. Did they REALLY have that many great songs in so much less time than many other acts? Or is their shooting star status part of the appeal of their songs? Like a treasure cache of delicious truffles, we found them, we enjoyed them euphorically and then we could never find any more of them. It’s a mystery. — Kat Gotsick