Britney Spears's brand new Britney Jean likely won't crop up on any notable album-of-the-year lists. That's in part because it's, by most critical accounts, a rather dreadful record; one takedown, by Vulture's Jody Rosen, calls Spears "antimatter in a belly shirt" and "[maybe] the most boring person on the planet," and that's one of the kinder ones.
But Britney Jean probably never had much of a shot to begin with, because the major lists have already been published, in more than a few instances.
Consider the record's release date: November 29. That was last week. When the big publications start unveiling their year-end lists at the very start of December (thus finalizing them the week or two prior), virtually any album released between mid-November and New Years Day lands in a critical dead zone.
And so it's been in 2013. SPIN's refreshingly unpredictable list arrived Monday, as did Paste Magazine's. The next day, Stereogum and Rolling Stone followed suit. So did NME and Buzzfeed (if you count the first of presumably several genre-based lists). The AV Club's picks arrived yesterday. Today's date, recall, is December 6. Even by recent standards, that's mighty early, and critics have noticed:
So, my best (favorite) albums of 2013 list isn't going up until mid-December, which is like May 2014 in music-media time.— Steven Hyden (@Steven_Hyden) December 4, 2013
Can't wait to see all of your best albums of December 2013 lists.— Dave Segal (@editaurus) December 5, 2013
We all know we compile the lists well in advance, but come on, it's not a race.— Andrew Ryce (@andrewryce) December 4, 2013
Perhaps the collision of the start of December and the first week back from Thanksgiving made for too convenient timing to ignore. Then there's the promise of a lengthier December vacation, for critics and publicists alike. But also, of course, it has become a race.
And it hasn't always been this way. As recently as 2005, SPIN published its list on December 31, in the weaning hours of the year (though the print issue was out by then); Pitchfork did the same. And just a decade ago, a December release for a big record wasn't all but unheard of. That month in 2003, for instance, saw the arrival of The Diary of Alicia Keys, Ryan Adams' Love Is Hell Pt 2, Ruben Studdard's Soulful (remember—this was 2003). Such timing today seems a prehistoric relic.
So what's the solution? Ban December album releases altogether (these days there are fewer and fewer)? Push the lists forward until they land on Halloween? Tabs Out Podcast, a noise- and experimental-focused podcast (which kindly inspired this headline), prompts a better idea. Just rename the damn lists:
Top 11 Months To Release Music If You Want It Listed On A Year End List.— Tabs Out Podcast (@tabsout) December 2, 2013
Humbly, then, we invite publications (the few that haven't already gone live with their picks) to employ more precise language. In that spirit, what are your favorite albums of the first 11 months of 2013?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.