Why The FADER Made A Ranked Tracks List This Year

Our list of the year’s 116 best songs isn’t definitive. Here’s why we tried anyway.

December 09, 2014

Not everyone loves year-end lists. They're all just "the same high-profile records in different order," goes the typical argument against. The FADER has always set out to do not what everyone else is doing, so for the past 15 years we have not published a ranked year-end list. Instead of comparing the value of any release to the next, we looked for creative ways to champion the stuff we liked. In practice, this strategy amounted to weirdly photoshopped lists of inside jokes and micro trends, and personal essays about the songs that made us cry. We still think it's important to talk about music anecdotally, which is why we've already shared our favorite personal moments and why we'll still make a big list of Listmania jokes this year. But writing about ourselves isn't all of our job, and with a bigger and more diverse editorial squad than ever, this year was the time to challenge ourselves to produce something bigger, too. Our list of the year's 116 best songs isn't definitive, but no list is. We just wanted to show real love for a year of music. Here's why we did it with a list:

Because for the first time ever, we actually could. In 2014, FADER has an international crew of freelance contributors and a bigger editorial staff than ever. Back in 2010, when I started working here, we were a newsroom of five people pulling endless double shifts, and everyone did everything. So, if I'm being honest, I don't think we opted out of making a massive year-end list in the past because we 100 percent thought it was wrong to make them. We just didn't have the bandwidth.

And we knew ours would be different than other people's. We weren't aiming for objectivity here. This wasn't unanimously voted on; it's not an average of opinions. We just put everything into three groups together, then ranked those into sub-groups, then went back and re-ranked a bunch of stuff. The goal was to celebrate individual people's taste, and FADER's unique position between the mainstream and the weirdest shit. (This year, Sam Smith got a cover, and so did Ratking.) I don't love Florida Georgia Line but Duncan does, just as much as Ruth cares about Holly Herndon. To make this sing, we recruited writers who've written for FADER forever (Sam Hockley-Smith) and ones who never had before (Briana Younger). Who's to say for sure, but I'm guessing that Ricky Blaze, Becky G, Snootie Wild, and Eddy Kenzo won't make the cut at Pitchfork this year.

Because it was a strange year and we want to remember it. 2014 didn't have many universally beloved albums, but it had a lot of small breakthroughs. These days, a Twitter co-sign or an engaging, Vine-worthy personality counts for more than any major label push, and listener data drives what your mom hears on the radio. This puts Nico and Vinz on equal footing with Ricky Eat Acid's Bandcamp pages, and gets Drake's SoundCloud loosies nominated for Grammys. Two years from now—or millions of internet news cycles away—we hope this list might serve as some kind of historical shorthand of what the hell happened. "Like, it is a bunch of viral hip-hop and then Sam Smith and Lana Del Rey and Florida Georgia Line. Is this what Gen Z is into?" asked a newspaper critic on Twitter. Yes.

And because we owed it to you, even if it's not perfect. If you've been hanging out here all year, clicking around our stories about how SoundCloud is changing or why Migos are the best or who Drake is talking to right now, creating a semi-comprehensive yearbook is the very least we could do for you in return. It's our first time, so maybe we fucked things up a little bit. We wrote about Bleachers instead of Taylor Swift and rudely snubbed Miranda Lambert, SD, and "I Luh Ya Papi." There's no way we gave YG enough credit. Of the 25 people who contributed writing, 12 were women, which isn't ideal but it's getting somewhere. Ultimately, this is meant to be fun to read and fun to listen to. We did it because we care about these songs, and y'all.

Lead image: @ilovemakonnen

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Why The FADER Made A Ranked Tracks List This Year