One of my projects over this last month has been to make a list of my favorite 250 songs. (This list is now available on youtube and can be yours for the low, low price of 48 minutes and 13 seconds of your precious time.) As you may be able to guess, this was a pretty time-consuming project. Why, you may ask, would I choose to commit my time and effort to such an utterly pointless endeavor? Well, I happen to have quite an affinity for utterly pointless endeavors if they involve carefully organizing things into lists that will continue to exist in a tangible form after the project is finished. Some people knit or sew or do woodwork because they like their hobbies to produce tangible results; I make lists.

Part One: #250- #201

For the record, only pop songs are eligible for this list. That means that oldies, songs from musicals, and folk songs are all valid possibilities, but hymns and classical music are not. Current hits are eligible if I happen to like them, but very few songs from my own lifetime make the list. There are some, but not many. (A significant portion of the list consists of songs from the 1960s, and I noticed that the year 1967 in particular showed up quite a lot.) In order to be an available option for the list, a song must also have words; instrumentals aren’t allowed. These rules exist because certain types of music can only be judged according to different criteria. (This is especially true for hymns. It wouldn’t be possible to compare a hymn to a pop song according to a standard that takes into account the different things that make them “good”.) Christmas music, songs in languages I don’t know, or especially goofy songs are eligible, but tend not to do particularly well.  That may be less true of my current list than in previous years; I can think of five songs offhand that are in different languages and there might be more I’m forgetting. At least a couple are actually pretty high. Also, a Christmas song was #1 in January 2012, (and #14 this year) but I didn’t really think of that specifically as a Christmas song because it happened to be from the Doctor Who soundtrack, which placed it into yet another genre, and these genres kind of cancelled each other out and led me to treat it as a run-of-the-mill pop song.

Part Two: #200- #151

It is worth noting that my methodology for favorite-song-lists is very specific. It is necessary that I follow the exact same procedure every time I make such a list. The first step is to look through all of the music I own and write down the title of every song that I like enough that I believe it deserves a place on the list. Normally, the final list has one hundred songs rather than two hundred fifty, but the preliminary list always has a large surplus. Usually, it has somewhere between six hundred and seven hundred songs. This implies what the next step is: I must cut songs off the list until I’m down to the predetermined number. In theory, this step could be done fairly quickly, but I spread it out over the course of several days in order to ensure that a temporary mood doesn’t play too large of a role in this selection. Once I have my 100 or 250 songs chosen, the next step is to record a clip from each song and to save it onto my computer. These clips can be anywhere from five to twenty seconds, although I aim to get them as close to ten seconds as possible. Generally, the average length ends up being a bit higher than ten seconds. These clips can come from my favorite part of the song, from the very beginning of the song, from the title line, or from a place that just happens to be convenient to edit. That detail isn’t particularly important. Collecting these clips is the most time-consuming and least fun step, but the next step is the funnest.

Part Three: #150- #101

That’s when I put them in order. First, I sort them into three folders: A is for the songs that I really love and wish I could put at #1, B is for the songs that I really like, but not quite that much, and C is for the songs that I also like, but it wouldn’t make me extremely sad if they didn’t make it very high. Each of the three folders is then subdivided into three more folders, so I end up with A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, B3, C1, C2, and C3. At that point, any folders with ten or fewer songs can remain as they are, but any folders with more than ten songs must be further split. If I recall correctly, this time I ended up with some folders that had names that were seven characters long. Once all of the folders are manageably small, I can start editing the clips together into a longer audio file. I don’t put them all into one file, because that would be too long to work with easily. This time, I used ten files, each of which were about 25 songs long. Finally, I use these audio files as the music for a video which gives the number, title, artist’s name, and release date of each song. (I don’t include the artist and date if the song has many different versions and the version is not significant to the placement on the list. Generally, this is true of the folk songs. I also occasionally am unable to find this information and have to leave it out. In some cases, this could conceivably be because I was wrong about the title of the song.)The video editing process is my second least favorite step. It gets slightly tedious and it takes longer than you’d think. This time, it’s taken me probably about six or seven hours spread out over five days. To answer the questions you might have, yes, I do have more important things to do, and no, I don’t sleep. Not very much, anyway.

Part Four: #100- #51

If I knew more about music, it would be fascinating to analyze the patterns and similarities between my favorite songs. Since I don’t really know what I’m talking about, I probably shouldn’t say much about those observations. However, there is one simple pattern that’s very obvious. I apparently really, really like The Seekers, since they came in at #1, #2, #3, #4, #6, and ten other places farther down on the list,  plus two more songs that fall under the category of folk songs that I like regardless of the artist performing them. Lately, I have indeed become somewhat obsessed with The Seekers, as anyone who has seen my facebook profile or my tumblr page will tell you. (And this isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned them on my blog, either.) The Moody Blues made quite a few appearances in my top 50 as well, which is somewhat surprising since I don’t listen to The Moody Blues a whole lot. The Beatles didn’t do as well as usual if you judge based upon the top of the list, but in the entire list of 250, they certainly still had more songs than any other group. There also were a number of Monkees songs, which included #5, and this is noteworthy because The Monkees haven’t played a prominent role in my previous lists. To make a more general summary of the kinds of songs I like, I notice that the 1960s are disproportionately represented, and in particular, I saw the year 1967 quite a lot.

Part Five: #50- #1