The list requires a suspension of disbelief, and frankly, it’s exactly what we need
By Paul Marszalek
WXPN’s 2020 All-Time Greatest Songs Countdown is a ridiculous mess. It is also awesome.
The station kicked things off last week with Booker T’s “Time is Tight” and will return to the countdown to play the remaining 100 starting Thursday morning at 8.
XPN is presenting the countdown as having been voted on by listeners, allowing them to submit 10 songs – their favorite getting 10 points, second getting 9 points, etc. Interesting methodology, and as soon as Rudy Giuliani finds out, he’ll be busting out the Just for Men and booking Four Seasons Total Landscaping.
There is definite evidence that listeners were involved. Some insufferable musicologist – the type of listener you try to avoid at station events – managed to get XPN to bite on his vote for David Sylvian’s nine and a half-minute long “I Surrender.” I know that this listener is annoying because I own all the David Sylvian albums and the Japan albums. If he had clue, he would have voted for “Taking the Veil” or “Silver Moon” featuring Robert Fripp!
See what you’ve done XPN? You’ve got me all riled up! And that’s the point.
Look, we all know how this list came about: A few hundred listeners chime in; the programming staff downloads a copy of the XPN library. Add a little THC, and stir.
How else would you explain the inclusion of John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” and Kermit the Frog’s “Rainbow Connection?”
The Countdown regularly winks at us with the inclusion of shark-jumping tracks like “The French Inhaler” by Warren Zevon — and even outright trolls us with “Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K. 467: II. Andante” by Friedrich Gulda, Vienna Philharmonic & Claudio Abbado.
These self-owns are important. They’re genuinely fun and they stop the musicologists dead in their tracks – reminding us that this is all in good fun. They also reinforce the idea that music discovery doesn’t always have to be about new songs.
The stunt is simple: Create a week of “you can’t do that on the radio” with format-busting songs, train-wreck segues and weird curveballs that create what we used to call “water-cooler talk.”
In the end, the Countdown gives the WXPN audience a well-timed, desperately needed gift — an escape. They’ll return the favor at pledge time.