Home > Uncategorized > Your Favorite Music, by Letter

Your Favorite Music, by Letter

Hint: Take them as a group, not as their solo acts

I don’t have a lot of money to spend on music, and I’m always hesitant to drop $15 into an album I’m not sure I’ll like, so I tend to visit our public library’s CD collection fairly often. They have a good range of classics along with a good selection of newer material, so I can try out albums or artists before I decide I want to pony up the full amount. Like any good library, the collection is properly ordered and cataloged alphabetically, and I was browsing earlier today, I wondered: what if I were headed to jail to serve a life sentence (don’t ask why), and I was allowed to take all the music available under just one letter[1]–and only that letter–with me to prison? And what if all the songs in that collection would be played at random, so I wouldn’t be able to control what came up (this way, you can’t just pick your favorite group and ignore the rest)? Which letter would I pick?[2]

I thought about this for a good 20 minutes as I walked around, and here are some observations I made:

  • The middle pack of letters–from about G or H through N or O–is in serious trouble. Each letter will have at least one good artist (L has Led Zeppelin, e.g.), but its slim pickings up and down.
  • M is sneaky bad: you might first think, “Oh, M is a popular letter, I’m sure it would be great,” but then you look closer and begin to recoil in horror: Madonna, Metallica, Dave Matthews Band[3], John Mayer, Matchbox 20. Friends don’t let friends pick M.
  • N is the most 90s letter of them all: you got Nirvana, No Doubt, N’Sync, Nine Inch Nails, Ninety-Eight Degrees (numbers get spelled out), NOFX, New Found Glory, and all those “NOW” Best Pop of the Year compilations. I could never pick this letter for many reasons, the most important being I would be stuck with Nickelback and would live in constant anxiety that their songs would come up and ruin my day–like a kid playing eternally with a broken jack-in-the-box.
  • F wins the alliteration award: Foo Fighters, Franz Ferdinand, Fleet Foxes, and–wait for it–Five for Fighting. Seriously, no other letter came close. And I already feel like I’m missing a couple.
  • You would assume T would perform pretty well–it’s a big name letter–but there are very few T artists out there.
  • Because you want to be efficient and not be stuck with too many bad choices clogging up your playlist, W makes a very tantalizing pick. W is small but has a solid starting lineup: Tom Waits, White Stripes, The Who, Weezer, and Wilco. Plus you throw in some Warped Tour compilations and a Woodstock anthology or two, and you have a strong though small collection. If you could somehow talk your way into another small letter, V isn’t half bad either, relative to its size. Van Halen, Vampire Weekend, Velvet Underground, and any Eddie Vedder solo albums.
  • S is pretty well stocked–Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, the Strokes. But for every Social Distortion or The Smiths you have, you also have an Ashlee Simpson, a Britney Spears, and a Jessica Simpson. And a Sixpence None the Richer. And a Smashmouth. You know what, I’ve already talked myself out of S.
  • A has a few great bands–AC/DC, Arcade Fire, Avett Brothers–but it’s remarkably small. Sorry A, just not enough there.
  • My top choice: B. You already get the #1 draft pick (The Beatles) along with another Top Ten group (The Beach Boys) followed by other key role players: Bon Jovi, David Bowie, Beastie Boys. There are a lot of artists that you would never choose as your Top 10 but that can show up as a fantastic nostalgia throw-back (“Wow, this list has Boyz to Men and Backstreet Boys and Ben Folds Five?!”). Plus, there are a few emerging indie bands that project to age well: Band of Horses, Beruit, Broken Social Scene. B, in my mind, wins by a strong margin.[3]
So which letter would you choose?
[1] The letter refers either to the first word in a group’s name or a solo artist’s last name–hence, “Paul Simon” and “Simon & Garfunkel” go under “S,” while “The Killers” go under “K.” Some artists’s names seem to break this rule–Bon Jovi is under B, not J–though this is rare. Also, remember that because you get all the music under the letter, artists with larger collections will be worth more.
[2] Also, this music is under “Rock,” which basically covers anything not country, jazz, rap, hip-hop, or world music. And remember: it’s not a music store, so it’s mainly well-known stuff with a few lesser-known artists of the last few years.
[3] You could make the case that this should be cataloged as D, not M (Ben Folds Five is under B). I’ll buy that.
[4] Also, B is the reason you couldn’t organize this list the way iTunes does, according to the artists first name. Then you would have to keep The Beatles and Beach Boys and add Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and Billy Joel, and by this time, you’ve gone from Miami Heat circa 2010 to Dream Team circa 1992, dropping 40 points on opponents and the third quarter and simply making an embarrassment of the whole competition.
Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Cody
    January 10, 2012 at 1:05 am

    Every letter will have at least 20x more bad than good. I reject your anti-S argument, therefore. In any case, it’s immaterial because the answer is obviously C. Chipmunks, The. Case closed.

  2. Meredith
    February 15, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    It’s been fun catching up on your blog posts……this one makes me laugh. Remember the days when you would walk in the pouring down rain in shorts and a t-shirt to Fred Meyers to pick up the lastest cd? I thought you were crazy!
    Looks like your love for music is still alive!

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