The Pitchfork 500

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The Pitchfork 500: Our Guide to the Greatest Songs from Punk to the Present is a book compiling the greatest songs from 1977 to 2006, published in 2008 by Pitchfork Media. The book focuses on specific genres including indie rock, hip-hop, electronic, pop, metal, and experimental underground. The book is broken down into 9 chronological periods, each period beginning with a description of the music scene before the featured artists, and how those artists changed the music scene.[1] Time described the book as having "42 critics to cover 30 years of music, from 1977 punk to 2006 crunk, and all the starry-eyed, acoustic acts in between."[2]

Critical reception[edit]

The book received attention and criticism from mainstream and alternative media. TIME commented that the book's record reviews "have been pleasantly stripped of their supercilious phrases" and that "its tributes to popular songs are exquisite" but concluded, "the project comes off like a personal message that High Fidelity's Rob Gordon might obsessively attach to a mix-tape."[2] The Washington City Paper called it Pitchfork's "boomer-like shot at print-based respectability, a coffee-table book..."[3] Under the Radar gave the book a 7/10 rating, noting that Pitchfork "has emerged as arguably the preeminent music criticism source of its time while fashioning itself into a multimedia powerhouse".[4]

On the other hand, the Houston Press criticized the book for what it saw as its unwarranted disregard for Latin, country, funk, soul, and classic rock, opining that Pitchfork's "school of criticism has always relied more on trendy perceptions than actual musical merit and song structure."[5] And Time Out Chicago called the book "a slow, meandering walk through the arbitrary tastes of the site’s editors and authors" and "a wasted opportunity".[6]


Prince and Talking Heads had the most songs featured on the list with four each. The Cure, the Clash, New Order, OutKast, Pavement, Pixies, Radiohead, and the Smiths received three spots each. 38 bands and artists had two songs listed. Björk is featured three times: twice in solo work, and once in Icelandic pop group the Sugarcubes. The surviving members of Joy Division have five total when coupled with their work as New Order.

Brian Eno features once as a performer, twice as co-writer (David Bowie's "Heroes" and Talking Heads' "Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)"), four times as a producer (Talking Heads' "Memories Can't Wait" and "Born Under Punches", U2's "Bad" and Devo's "Mongoloid"), and two entries are cover versions of his songs (Bauhaus' "Third Uncle" and Uilab's "St. Elmo's Fire").

The 1977–1979 period had the most songs on the list with 66, and 1997–1999 had the fewest with 38.











  1. ^ [1] Archived February 27, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b Claire Suddath, "The Skimmer: The Pitchfork 500", TIME, November 26, 2008.
  3. ^ Matthew Siblo, "Rank Bullshit: Pitchfork's list to end all lists should, in fact, end all lists." Washington City Paper, December 18, 2009.
  4. ^ Evan Rytlewski, "Reviews", Under the Radar, November 1, 2008.
  5. ^ John Nova Lomax, "Get Lit: The Pitchfork 500", Houston Press, November 12, 2008.
  6. ^ Jonathan Messinger, "Books: The Pitchfork 500", Time Out Chicago, November 17, 2008.