Below is my Best CDs of the 1990s list. I never kidded myself for a second that I could produce a definitive review – if I can’t even convince myself that the list is as good as I’d like it, I can hardly fault others for disagreeing here and there, can I?
In the end I wound up deciding on a Top 25 list, and I also offered comments on 25 more honorable mentions. The whole thing, top to bottom, is something like 10 pages worth of reviewing, analysis, and self-defense. I even employed multiple methodologies. First, I tried laying it out by a “connoisseurship” model – that is, I made my own estimates based on my own sense of how things qualitatively met the criteria I established for the project. Then I played a little game where I weighted each criterion and then rated each entry mathematically, thereby generating a quantitative estimate. This had the effect of making me seriously reconsider my initial rankings (for instance, it forced me to give Pearl Jam more credit than I really wanted to – see below for more on that).
Then I sent the list to some friends whose opinions I respect and invited criticism (which I got, in spades – thanks, Greg). That forced some more noodling. Then I set about writing and justifying my picks, and that ALSO led to some revision (if I have a hard time justifying its place in the Top 25, that could mean I’m over-relying on my “like” reflex). Read more