I’ve made my stance clear when it comes down to “grading” music – I don’t like it. Grades for me are ultimately meaningless, in essence being the true “box” we assign to music. I keep them around mostly for organizational purposes, but I rarely stick to a certain grade (whether it be numerical or alphabetical) for an extensive amount of time.
However, there is one grade I care about, mostly because I personally feel as if it is a special grade to keep in consideration. I’m of course referring to the classic “10/10” grade, or if you want to use other comparisons – 5 stars, A+, Two Guns Way Up, The best damn thing I ever done heard…..okay no one actually uses that last one, but you get the picture.
To be fair, I’m actually referring to two grades – 10/10 and 0/10 (or whatever else you want to use). Since this is a personal blog post however, I will say that I am refuting the notion of a “0/10”, mostly because I have thankfully enough never actually heard an album that was so awful that I had nothing good to say about it. Actually, to me there seems to be a point where some music gets so bad that it often borderlines on parody or falls into the “it’s so bad it’s good category” anyway. Again, just my thoughts on that.
Anyway, back to the main topic – 10/10, the cream of the crop, the ceiling for music. What constitutes this grade varies amongst people, and to be honest I’m not 100% sure on what I personally think defines that grade either. Some people look at these songs or albums from a historical context (or rather, judging its impact). For example, while I have heard many people say that Red Headed Stranger wasn’t quite their absolute favorite Willie Nelson album, it’s still a “10” in their minds because, let’s face it, the impact it had for his career was huge.
There’s also people who save that special ranking for an artist’s best piece of work, whether it be a song or an album. For example, I saw some people say that Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free wasn’t quite as good as Southeastern. Therefore, Something More Than Free couldn’t be held in that same top regard that Southeastern was (instead of say, deeming both albums within the top echelon).
If you’re like me, you just go with the piece of work that resonates with YOU the most, regardless of how others view it. Throughout the entire history of this blog, there’s one album that I feel holds up to that top spot, and that’s Dave Cobb’s Southern Family project from last year. I know that others didn’t feel the same way, and I know that no other blogger named it as their #1. I don’t care though. It’s an album that resonated with ME.
Now there’s tons of albums that resonate with me. Many did last year and so far, I’ve had some do the same this year. So why am I so stingy about that top spot? Well, like I said, it all comes to personal perspective, and while I think personal enjoyment affects my ranking, I also think “impact” does as well. No, I’m not talking about commercial impact, but rather how that work impacted me the first time I heard it or what (or how) it made me feel when I first heard it.
Prior to this blog’s launch, I heard an album by Gretchen Peters known as Blackbirds. Now, for as much as I’ve praised Southern Family on this blog, Blackbirds holds up even better, going so far as to be one of my favorite albums of all time. It was released in February of 2015, and I first heard it in June of that same year. Now, for those who have heard this album (and for those who haven’t, you can still pay attention), you know how dark and dreary it is, so to hear it in the summertime was probably not the best decision ever. That being said, I’ll never forget the night I heard it and how blown away I was by the album. I must have listened to it at least a dozen or more times that next day. It didn’t boil down to any concrete, specific answer, I just knew that this was a special album, much like I knew Southern Family was when I first heard it.
I don’t necessarily have a list of perfect albums lying around, and I don’t have any set qualities works of music have to match in order to attain that status. For me, it all boils down to the feeling of the work. Much like music in general, there is no right or wrong way to interpret it, but that’s my point of view. What do you all think though? What truly defines that perfect album (or song) for you?