Choire Sicha posted a guest column on Jason Kottke’s blog concerning his shifting evaluation of PJ Harvey’s most recent recording, White Chalk; “Back in September, Pitchfork gave White Chalk a 6.8, and I would have given it a worse score even as recently as December,” but now he regards it as her best.
If one needed empirical data to enrich this exercise, looking back at the yearly awards should provide more than enough. The short timeline for these awards, and the manipulative tactics that media corporations deploy to attract profit-making recognition becloud the deliberative judgment that ought to inform critical judgment. I wrote a burdensome-lyu-long essay on the year 1980 in music, comparing what was good with what got Grammys; I have another semi-post in a draft somewhere, looking at 1979, but it’s a lot of effort, and I’m not sure what it clarifies.
[What might be fun would be to open the comments (thank you, WordPress, for providing robust comment spam filtering!) for discussion of a particular year’s cultural production. I’d be inclined to highlight 1983 at first, since that was 25 years ago. We could give retrospective Grammys, Oscars, and other prizes with the benefit of having twenty-five years of criticism separating us from the hype.]
But to get back to at least one of the subjects at hand, I recently cued up my copy of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, and marvelled at it just as much as I used to back in olden times. That’s one extremely strong album. Wow, was that a great album! Much as I’ve dismissed the “record album” as an artificial construct for which contemporary artistic nostalgia is misplaced, Ziggy just plain works — even if “It Ain’t Easy” was a late addition, and “Suffragette City” belongs before (rather than after) “Ziggy Stardust.” If we get to a retrospective awards ceremony for 1972, it’ll take some strong lobbying to displace Ziggy from my ballot.