Paris Hilton: Critics’ Fave? A Look At Amazon Users’ Top 10s

Year-end lists unashamedly plug Paris, High School Musical.

To truly call oneself a rock critic, one must be able to debate things like the geopolitical ramifications of Fergie’s “London Bridge,” write longwinded diatribes about “the dematerialization of the album into the celestial jukebox and other new media” and still find time to dismiss the new Black Keys single as little more than “Zeppelin-esque-detritus-masquerading-as-sharecropper’s-lament” (or something like that).

It never gets tougher for a critic or blogger than it does in December, when great minds turn toward the intricate, politically loaded construction of the annual “top 10″ lists. As previously explained here, to the seasoned music-head, compiling a list of your 10 favorite albums of the year is waaaay more complex than it should be: It’s the de facto way of establishing your cred among your peers; of displaying your brainy, eclectic and diverse tastes; and of proving — for all to see — just how cool you really are (see “Music Geek: The Politics Of The Top-10 List”).

Which is why you’ll sometimes stumble across some baffling year-end lists — ones filled with obscure Swedish noise-rock outfits and even more obscure hip-hop acts — posted on blogs that are read by a select few music cognoscenti. It’s the reason the longwinded Internet forum I Love Music gets overloaded with sessions debating the artistic worth of harp-sporting folk sprite Joanna Newsom’s Ys in relation to hard-hitting hip-hop duo the Clipse’s Hell Hath No Fury, and why that means the heartland rock of the Hold Steady’s Boys and Girls in America truly deserves to be ranked ahead of both on year-end lists.

Of course, it’s all fairly ridiculous — and nowhere is that more apparent than on the pages of Amazon.com, where millions of users cobble together top 10 lists of their own, populated with critically reviled acts like Brooke Hogan, Aly & AJ and (gulp) Paris Hilton. They’re lists completely devoid of pretense, context and — in some cases — what might seem to be common sense, often hastily thrown together in a matter of minutes. And as such, they’re a uniquely refreshing antidote to all the critic/blog hullabaloo: lists completely, truly rooted in reality, by the people and for the people.

We’ve collected some of our favorite lists here — largely unedited — and enjoyed e-mail exchanges with the people who made them, in order to understand their list-making techniques, and better comprehend the merits of the Cheetah Girls in relation to Danity Kane. Which, in its own way, is sort of like attempting to contextualize the subtle differences between the Pipettes to the Chalets, only in the realm of pop-music and with the addition of corporate backing/svengali-ish puppet-mastering.

Sorry — a little critic-speak snuck in there …

User Name: “Tinzsters”

“Top 10 albums of 2006:”

» Taylor Hicks – Taylor Hicks

Tinzsters says: “Great debut album with single ‘the Runaround.’ Will be out December 12″

» Gwen Stefani – The Sweet Escape

» Fantasia Barrino – Fantasia

» Ciara – The Evolution

» Katharine McPhee – TBA

“Her debut album will be out January 30, 2007!”

» Kellie Pickler – Small Town Girl

» Tim McGraw – Greatest Hits, Vol. 2

» Kenny Chesney – Live: Live Those Songs Again

“Great album featuring some of his latest hit songs. It’s like watching him in concert.”

» Christina Aguilera – Back to Basics

» Beyoncé – B’Day

Username: “Pop_Fan01″

“I don’t really take the reviews of what people say seriously ’cause most of the time people who say an album sucks haven’t even listened to it; they just have something against the artist. I think Paris Hilton is a perfect example: People wrote such mean things but the album’s hot and they just don’t like her. A top-10 list to me [is made up of] the albums I listen to all the way through, daily.”

“Check Out These Albums Now!!!!”

» Christina Aguilera – Back to Basics

“I always love Christina and this album was so hot. Vocally she has such power and range and the songs are fun and/or emotional!”

» Paris Hilton – Paris

“This is actually a really fun album. Very catchy and vocally she can out-sing Britney at least!”

» Jessica Simpson – A Public Affair

“This is Jessica’s fun album. Not many ballads like we know her for but a lot of ’80s sounding dance songs and the ballads that are on the album are beautiful!”

» Pink – I’m Not Dead

“Her last album didn’t thrill me but this album is really good there are the fun sarcastic songs and the deep vocally amazing songs. Pink is worth the money!”

» Danity Kane – Danity Kane

“I really like this CD and if you ask a lot of stores underestimated how well it would do and sold out the first day it came out!”

» Rihanna – A Girl Like Me

“I wasn’t feeling her first album too much but these songs are all good. ‘Final Goodbye’ is my fave.”

» Trina – Glamorest Life

“Trina can really rap and this CD has her biggest hit ‘Here We Go Again’ with Kelly Rowland.”

» Cassie – Cassie

“It’s been a long time since I’ve like any Bad Boy artist but their girls are hot!”

» Pussycat Dolls – PCD

“Nicole used to be in Eden’s Crush and she got another hit with this CD!”

» Madonna – Confessions on a Dance Floor

“This CD is my calorie burning CD!”

User Name: “Crazymoose777″

“Best Albums of 2006 … So Far:”

» Pink – I’m Not Dead

Crazymoose Says: “Pink’s best? Maybe. This album is good as a whole, but the standouts take it further. ‘U + Ur Hand’ and ‘Who Knew’ are great”

» Rihanna – A Girl Like Me

“I didn’t expect anything good to come from her but I was wrong. ‘SOS,’ ‘Unfaithful,’ ‘Final Goodbye,’ she has great songs.”

» Aly & AJ – Into the Rush

“OK, so it’s a re-release of a 2005 album, but this shows how good pop music was MIA in this year. Into the Rush is an amazing album, even better w/ these new songs (‘Chemicals React,’ ‘Never Far Behind.’)”

» Danity Kane – Danity Kane

“Awe … Girl groups are amazing. A very good debut album by five talented ladies.”

» Paris Hilton – Paris

“I know what your thinking, but once you listen to it, you’ll probably agree, it’s a solid debut.”

» The Cheetah Girls – The Cheetah Girls 2

“Raven Symone is amazing, and this soundtrack, much better than the first, is great, different genre songs. All very feel good songs with plenty o soul.”

» Shakira – Oral Fixation, Vol. 2

“Good songs by crazy Shakira.”

» Various artists – “High School Musical” soundtrack

“Awesome-ness for Disney fans and theater geeks the world over. Not the best vocals but the best songs.”

» Beyoncé – B’Day

» Justin Timberlake – FutureSex/LoveSounds

User Name: GWK1982

“I never pay much attention to what music critics recommend or what gets the most play on radio. I just like what I like, despite how popular or unpopular it is. I absolutely feel that music critics are too disconnected from what people really like. They’ll love anything that’s new or different even if it’s terrible. I like fresh sounding artists too, but just because something is unique, that doesn’t make it good.”

“Best Rock CDs of 2006:”

» Rob Zombie – Educated Horses

“Rob Zombie’s album got a lot of harsh criticism, but I think that’s just because he was trying something different. I felt the album was very solid and enjoyable all the way through, so it made my #1 spot.”

» Tool – 10,000 Days

“Tool’s album was terrific as well, and normally they are number 1 to me … but I felt that their newest album wasn’t quite as good as their last two. It was still an excellent CD with brilliant music, but I think it sounded like more of the same.”

» Lacuna Coil – Karmacode

» Godsmack – IV

“Then there were other bands who I love [like Godsmack], who ranked a little lower because their newest albums didn’t seem as good as some of their last.”

» Stone Sour – Come What(ever) May

“Then there are groups who I normally like, but don’t love, who ranked high on my list because their latest albums were a surprising step up from their last, [like] Stone Sour.”
» Breaking Benjamin – Phobia

» Audioslave – Revelations

» Evanescence – The Open Door

» Incubus – Light Grenades

» Deftones – Saturday Night Wrist

User Name: “Chingy’s #1 Fan!!!!!!! Lil Romeo #1 Fan Too!”

“Bizzest Albumz Of 2006:”

» Chingy – Hoodstar

» Beyoncé – B’Day

» Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere

» Justin Timberlake – FutureSex/LoveSounds

» Young Dro – Best Thang Smokin’

» Dem Franchise Boyz – On Top of Our Game

» Christina Aguilera – Back to Basics

» Rick Ross – Port of Miami

» DMX – Year of the Dog

» Jessica Simpson – A Public Affair

User Name: “D_Phillips: Film Fanatic and Librarian”

“I don’t really have a formula. Just a gut reaction to music. Every once in a while I’ll hear an album that will make me feel like jumping up and shouting ‘EUREKA!!’ because of some aspect that seems just to leap out into my brain. Albums like that I list. My list is actually a work in progress as the year isn’t quite over … It took me a couple of days of pondering and I’m still working on part of it — but overall I would say it will represent maybe a week of late night sessions with my computer and my notebook.”

“Greatest Music Albums Of 2006:”

» John Mayer – Continuum

“So musically audacious, Paul Simon was able to pull off this kind of thing and he didn’t do it better. John Mayer finds his voice and becomes the best singer songwriter of his generation.”

» John Legend – Once Again

“Wow. Breathtakingly wonderful soul from rising star John Legend. A breath of fresh air especially for male soul singers.”

» Keane – Under the Iron Sea

“Gorgeous melodies and soaring vocals make this album stand out. Truly beautiful.”

» Corinne Bailey Rae – Corinne Bailey Rae

“Lovely jazz inflected soul vocals and an impressive group of songs Rae either wrote or co-wrote.”

» Greg Laswell – Through Toledo

“Greg Laswell’s beautiful somber gravel voice is unique in pop music. Another terrific singer songwriter on the rise!”

» Ed Harcourt – Beautiful Lie

“The prolific Ed Harcourt turns out one of his best and most passionate albums yet. Incredibly beautiful and worth many listenings.”

» Guster – Ganging Up on the Sun

“This band needs to breakthrough to the big time. This is the band’s richest sounding album. Full of brilliant pop rock songwriting.”

» KT Tunstall – Eye to the Telescope

“Remarkable and mature debut from Tunstall with this lovely, beguiling showcase of her songwriting and vocal abilities.”

» Beck – The Information

“Beck’s tightest and most purposeful album yet. It seems more muted than the wonderful Guero but a closer listen shows how beautifully the whole thing is constructed.”

Username: “Violet – Music Maven”

“My Favorites Of The Year 2006:”

» Breaking Benjamin – Phobia

“Even from the day it came out I couldn’t stop listening, it was amazing, as they are live as well. Standout tracks include ‘You,’ ‘Topless’ and ‘Had Enough.’ ”

» Three Days Grace – One X

“The album is not overly different, but it is a great sophomore release for this band.”

» Stone Sour – Come What(ever) May

» Cradle of Filth – Thornography

“I am still unsure about how I feel about this album. It is one of the greats of 2006 though.”

» Evanescence – The Open Door

“There was so much hype leading up to this album. But it’s sad to say that this album was a letdown, it sounds WAY overproduced.”

» AFI – Decemberunderground

“Being a HUGE fan of Sing the Sorrow I was really looking forward to this album. But with its more catchy feel and the band’s new appearance I am more than turned off. This really is an album to avoid in 2006. After a few listens I grew bored.”

» Papa Roach – The Paramour Sessions

“I brought it for ‘To Be Loved’ and that is the only song I listen off of it. I have tried listening to other songs, but I just can’t seem to get into them.”

» Crossfade – Falling Away

“AVOID!!! I won this as a radio promo before the CD was released. And I don’t like the band anyways, but when they said I won a free CD I was like, ‘Ok I’ll check it out.’ But I have only listened to it once, because it is THAT bad. All the songs sound the same and he is crying about how bad his life is.”