How the Top 100 Countdown Works (or, ‘Know Your Role, Part Deux’)

It seems we have once again reached a point where the matter of how the Top 100 Soul/R&B songs list was compiled needs to be addressed.

I began this series of posts because I wanted us, the SB Team, to be able to write about songs we personally enjoy and to give the readers an idea of our musical perspective. It was intended to be fun, a mere supplement to the mandated updating and other features that we generate for the site. Technically, I should probably overlook the voices of dissent in recent comments, but after much internal discussion, it was decided that perhaps I should defend my team and our methods, and shine some light on the situation before it gets ugly.

I'm fully capable of getting ugly, but we don't want that, do we?

My understanding of a comment like "This should be number one" or "This should be in the Top 10" is more or less a reader expressing his/her love for that selection. We don't have a problem with this in the least. When it becomes: "These rankings just lost all credibility," as was asserted on the recent Sam Cooke post, we take exception. A response like that carries with it a subtext of entitlement, as if this website and the editors of this site are to defer to the whims of every single person that comes through the door like an indentured servant.

The following were not a criteria when ranking/compiling this list:

  • Historical significance or importance.
  • Sales / chart-ranking.
  • Impact.
  • General popularity.

So, maybe that's why some songs that are considered classics are ranked so "low". While I have a great deal of reverence and respect for Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come", as a listener, it's not something I would play everyday. It's a great song, but not a fave. We can totally respect a song without it being a favorite and understand the difference. Frankly, we will not base this list on what we as listeners (and for that matter, Black people) are trained to or expected to like. Welcome to SoulBounce.

Something else that needs to be pointed out: There's a misconception that this list is somehow ranked from worst to best. Like, if a song is on the lower side of half, then it's a crappy song. Newsflash: In a list of 100, there's virtually no such thing as a "low" ranking. The fact that the song is being counted at all should matter most.

Another thing. You'd be surprised to know that no single editor of this site is 100% pleased with the outcome of this list. We're a team, not a monolith. Everything was done democratically. There was surprise. There was compromise. Oftentimes, we completely agree with your complaints, but guess what? We stand by our work.

So, I apologize if the intent of this list was misconstrued, or doesn't meet your individual expectations. Perhaps a time will come when we countdown classics for the sake of classics, but today is not that day. Telling us that we've lost credibility because we don't rank a song the way you think it should be ranked is like telling me my favorite book should be Roots when it's The Coldest Winter Ever. Again I stress, OUR LIST. 

More than likely, I'll have to reiterate this message in the coming weeks, as we'll have amassed more readers that haven't been subjected to my side-eye but need to similarly have their spirits reorganized. If you want to have a rant session, the feedback of this post would be where and when to do it. Otherwise, let go and let God.


10 Responses

  1. VERY well stated. Love the Roots/CWE comparison. I had to hold Auntie back from commenting on that post. She's in time out right now.
    I would think the thing that would be the most important is that so many of the seminal songs in the history of soul music have made the list thus far. I think everyone that had any say-so in this list are in their 20s and 30s. The fact that they would recognize the importance of songs that likely came out before they were a twinkle in their parents' eyes says a hell of a lot. If that ain't credibility I don't know what is. Be glad that we don't have to be tortured with BS like Love In This Club on this list. This is a list of REAL SOUL music that we'll likely still be listening to years from now. Appreciate it for that.
    With that being said, Aunt Viv will show her entire arse if Bilal is not all up and through the Top 10 and Erro, Janet and Dwele are. *snicker* Just sayin.

  2. ummmm NOVA when is your personal site coming back????

  3. From someone who just enjoys the little piece of sunshine that you lay on me (and us) on the daily, this list could be numbered A-Z for all I care...
    It is just about the music, right?

  4. I would think that the fact that first of all, it is YOUR list, not the commenters' list; should outweigh any complaints. The fact that you have even done something like this is to be commended. I have enjoyed the countdown so far, and while I may not agree with where some songs have been placed, it is good to know that they are even included in the countdown at all. Thankfully, I haven't seen much (if any) of what is considered "R&B" on the radio today on this list.
    Keep up the good work; can't wait to continue forward to #1.

  5. As a list junkie I completely approve of everything you wrote here. Enjoying the whole site a lot, in fact.

  6. I was the one who wrote that the list had "lost all credibility", a statement I regret after reading your explanation of how the list serves to function. Lists ALWAYS spark debate. That's one of the things that they're intended to do, especially on a forum such as this. It generates debate. That's a GOOD thing. Although you do seem a bit sensitive to the criticism I think that's part of what makes rankings like this fun.
    Nonetheless, your site is awesome and I read it every day. Please keep up the fantastic work!

  7. Lots of sites & publications try to issue comprehensive lists that summarize a genre, often times to benefit from the attention the inevitable beef brings. I think readers are so conditioned by these that any list is immediately seen as a quantitative ranking and they've responded accordingly. Maybe if they weren't numbered? (although the numbers are really unimportant)
    The SB 100 is more interesting because it's just "Stuff We Like" without the pressure of being a definitive analysis. It's yielding many "I forgot about that" moments and puts certain songs in a different and broader context than they're usually considered.
    But yeah, I hope you really are ready for more squawking as you close in on the top 10.

  8. And just by virtue of being a website that's pretty well done, your voice is assumed to be an authoritative one and folks can't resist taking shots at that. So says the commenter who works for a major media company.

  9. nOva baby, just take the commentary as: a) proof that folks are reading and listening to the wonderful info your staff posts here, and b) confirmation that people really do give a damn about this culture and this music.
    You ain't never gonna make alla da cuzzins happy alla da time, so just keep doing what you do and letting us sort out the rest. I can talk about Butta for posting anything remotely Ashanti-related on this site, and still love her! LOL And I know that I have caught more than one side-eye for some of the offerings I've given listeners in my various Soul Sanctuary Radio playlists. Still, we press on...and more often than not, the people love what we do. When they don't, we just hope that they'll continue to tune in and learn something.

  10. Your list is your list, but understand that ranking "A Change is Gonna Come," one of the deepest songs of the 20th century, in the bottom half of your list is going to spark controversy.
    Erik Greene
    Author, “Our Uncle Sam: The Sam Cooke Story From His Family's Perspective”