Robert Christgau's Five Favorite Pazz & Jop Essays

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In 1971, the Voice hosted what music editor Robert Christgau then dubbed "the first and last annual Pazz & Jop Critics Poll," receiving 84 ballots (of which only 39 came from what he described as "legitimate critics," or "human beings with more access to print media than a lonely attack on Led Zeppelin III in a high school newspaper in Minnesota, which was one credential proferred") and splitting the results across two music sections. Who's Next won by a wide margin, its 540 points easily topping Sticky Fingers's 332 and Every Picture Tells a Story's 319. The prominence of legacy artists led Christgau to complain of a "creeping auterism" by which "fave raves of yore... are trotted out like so many Frank Tashlins to receive a great art award for their annual wheeze."

Three years later, however, the poll returned, trimmed down to just 24 voters, with Court and Spark by Joni Mitchell (the last female winner for nearly two decades) just barely topping Steely Dan's Pretzel Logic, Randy Newman's Good Old Boys, and Stevie Wonder's Fulfillingness' First Finale, though Gladys Knight and the Pips, Al Green, and Bruce Springsteen all might have contended had they not released their respective LPs too late in the year.

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View this year's full Village Voice Pazz & Jop music critics' poll.
In 1977, punk rock crashed the poll, with Television's Marquee Moon, The Ramones's Rocket to Russia, and Nevermind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols all placing in the top five, and after "Rapper's Delight" tied for 22nd in Pazz's inaugural singles poll in 1979, hip-hop got its first victory when Kurtis Blow's "The Breaks" topped Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" one year later.

Although the Clash became the first act to win multiple album titles (first 1980's London Calling, then 1981's Sandinista!), Bob Dylan's four wins (1975's The Basement Tapes, 1997's Time Out of Mind, 2001's Love and Theft, and 2006's Modern Times) put him into the lead until this year, when Kanye West's Yeezus gave him his fourth title in only eight albums.

To dig deeper here are five essays hand-picked by Christgau himself.

On the next page, "New Wave Hegemony and the Bebop Question," a review of the music of 1978, published in January ,1979.


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