At the risk of using a word that is fairly meaningless at this point, I am pretty obsessed with my stats on iTunes. I've spent hours rating songs, listening to songs purely so they will have at least one play count, and I prayed a silent prayer to the open-source gods when I found Moody. Naturally, I was pretty excited when Lifehacker.com told me how to create a Best of 200_ smart playlist. Basically it shows the songs that were added during a given calendar year, rated higher than 3 out of 5, and played the most. Pretty simple and fairly objective.
The problem with this is three-fold. First, it may not accurately portray your favorite songs of the year. An okay song in a great album might get lots of play just because it is with great songs. It also often results in just a few artists being included for people like me, who tend to listen to albums rather than playlists or individual songs.
The second problem is simple, though it best shows how lame I am. Songs added at the end of the year will naturally be played fewer times that year than ones added in January. I actually thought about waiting until January to add some nerdcore I recently downloaded so that the data would reflect how much I liked it (thus the lameness).
The final problem is that... it pretty accurately portrays your favorite songs of the year. For example, do I want to admit that Katy Perry and Paramore are among the top 30 songs by play count? No, but that's what iTunes tells me. Fortunately I'm happy with the rest. So, without naming all the songs, the top artists of the year** (in order of their most played song) are:
- Zach Lost (best lyricist I've heard in a long time)
- Grace Potter & The Nocturnals (mind melting voice on Grace Potter)
- GLaDOS & Jonathan Coulton (Still Alive from the video game Portal - best song sung by a robot about cake this year. I said it.)
- Miranda Lambert (best country singer out there right now and one of the few I still listen to)
- Paramore (there's something about that artificially bright red hair)
- Danielle Ate the Sandwich (really rad singer-songwriter out of Ft. Collins who I found on YouTube)
- Erin Ivey (amazing urban folk artist out of Austin)
- Daniella Cotton (hard rocking lady I first heard at the Allgood Music Festival)
- Katy Perry (one song. shut it.)
- Ben Folds (this dude rocks. nothing else to say.)
- Duffy (equally mind-melting as Potter, but on the mellow end of the spectrum)
Lessons from this list? Well I clearly liked listening to women sing more than men. I'll bring that up with Freud later. Vampire Weekend, Fort Minor, and various male bands from the Rock Band 2 soundtrack were high on the list, but not enough to make the top 30 songs. My musical ego would also like to add that this list is fairly eclectic, with hip-hop, urban folk, soul, country, rock, robot, and pure ear candy all represented (among others).
So that's it. My objectively chosen top artists of 2008. If you're really interested in specific songs or albums just ask in the comments. I've been buying a lot of music in the last month, and since I will (hopefully) be employed in a fo'-real job after graduation there will probably be more contenders for next year. I might include those from December of this year since I bought several good albums in the last few weeks and grad school has made me a little crazy over externally valid data. But that's a question for 2009. Until then check out S. Vincent's top albums of the year and make your own smart playlist*** to share with the old El Beamo.
*Yeah, that sounded like a bit much to me too.
** Actually the second half of 2008. Technical difficulties led me to reload much of my music on June 6th.
*** My criteria: Added in 2008 (or since June 7), over 3 stars, not a video, and limited to 30 by most played. Of course you can tweak this for your list.