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2019 by the Numbers

One last post regarding music from 2019 before moving on to the new year and new decade. This post is more for the music nerds where I will break down what I listened to by genre and score. There will be nerdy charts and everything. I put these together more out of my own curiosity since I have listened to more music this year than any previous year and I wanted to see what it would look like when it was a little more organized rather than my messy spreadsheets where I track this stuff. But I think I’ve rambled on enough so the drop cap doesn’t look weird. So on to the numbers!

Genre Breakdown

Below is a table and graph showing all of the new albums I listened to broken down into five general umbrella genres:

GenreNumber
Folk/Country79
Hip-hop91
Rock (indie/alternative/pop-punk/etc.)266
Pop/Other (electronic/experimental/jazz/etc.)169
Heavy (metal/hardcore/industrial/etc.)460

For those who don’t want to do the math, those numbers add up to 1065 new releases from 2019. Now I know that some of these categories are a little broad, the Pop and Heavy ones especially. But this was a good way to organize things for my purposes. For example, some people might not like that I grouped jazz in with the pop music, but I listened to so little jazz this year, that it didn’t make sense to give it its own category and Pop/Other was the only umbrella category where it would fit. These numbers are based on what I perceived the music to be, so there might be some differences of opinion on where certain artists should be placed. There might be an “alternative” artist I put in Pop/Other or a hard rock band I put in Heavy.

Now to address the elephant in the room, that big blue piece of the pie that represents Heavy music. When it makes up over 40% of the data it seems like I might be giving it preferential treatment. And I will admit that I am a big heavy music fan, but it’s not something I listen to excessively on any given day. So I chalk this up to a couple reasons. Over the past couple years I’ve developed a taste for genres like doom metal, stoner rock, and traditional metal. This led me to several sources where I can find a lot of the heavy music releases for any given week, and the underground for these genres is just absolutely thriving. I’m sure there’s a lot to be found in the worlds of underground hip-hop, electronic, and independent rock artists, I just don’t know where to find all that information. Maybe over time that piece of the pie will shrink a bit.

One more quick note while we’re talking about everything here, I also try to keep track of albums made by women or groups prominently featuring women. This year my final count was 150 albums out of 1065. That’s 14% of all new releases I listened to. Now, that number will likely be different for every person based on your listening tastes and habits, and the fact that a majority of the albums I listened to were from very male-centric heavy genres probably plays into this as well. The number might not be 100% accurate either because I might have overlooked a group or two. But the number is still pretty eye opening.

Score Breakdown

Moving on, below is a table and graph showing all the albums I listened to broken down into my five main scoring categories. Not everything I listen to gets a formal review (obviously), but I do still try to sort everything into these categories:

ScoreAlbums
Garbage (0.0-0.5)22
Bad (1.0-2.0)228
Meh (2.5-3.0)624
Good (3.5-4.0)183
Exceptional/Perfect (4.5/5.0)8

Once again we have a pretty clear elephant in the room and that’s the massive amount of albums scored “Meh.” And this really speaks to one of the main problems with music critique, and that’s the subjectivity of music in general. I’ll probably dedicate an entire post to this one day, but the bottom line is when you’re talking about movies or video games, it’s not hard to point out objective reasons why the particular item is good or bad. With music, it’s a lot harder. People have different tastes for different styles and artists. A lot of people will probably disagree with my scores for one reason or another.

But getting back to the massive “Meh” piece of the pie. This is pretty much any album that didn’t really make a big impression on me, good or bad. That’s not to say that the albums are necessarily boring, some of them actually have some great tracks on them, but as a whole don’t really represent anything particularly special or awful. And a big part of me putting an album there is thinking “there’s an audience for this, but I’m just not a part of it.” It’s not bad, it’s just not doing it for me, and that happens to be the majority of what I listen to.

Reviewed Albums

Of the 1065 new releases I listened to, I published reviews and scores for 55 of them. Below is a table showing how those scores broke down. There’s no fancy pie chart for this one:

ScoreFrequency
0.00
0.51
1.01
1.55
2.06
2.54
3.08
3.511
4.014
4.55
5.00

Okay, a few takeaways from this table. First and foremost: yes, the majority of my published scores fall into the 3.5-4.5 range. The simple reason for this is that I, like a lot of other people, enjoy talking about stuff I like more than stuff I don’t like. It’s also a lot easier to tell you why I like something than why something is only kinda “meh” to me. That will become easier as time goes on, so I imagine this breakdown will change in future years. Second takeaway is that I gave no perfect scores this year. There were a couple instances where an album came very, very close, but that score is reserved for the best of the best and there can be no question in my mind that the album deserves it. And nothing I listened to this year quite made the cut.

I could break all of this down into finer data like genre breakdowns within each scoring category and how many albums by women are in each genre, but I think things have gotten nerdy enough for now. Maybe I’ll break it down more in future years. But that’s what 2019 looked like for me, let’s see what 2020 brings.

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