Further proof that “Alternative” means nothing…

Andrew Bayer Is Dreaming of China pointed me to the website of WFNX (Boston), where they’re currently showing a list of “The Top 500 Ever” Alternative songs. As Andrew says:

Teen Spirit was #1 – shock and surprise – followed by Closer and then Blister in the Sun, if you’ll believe it. How Soon Is Now, which was ALWAYS #1 when they did this in the mid ’90s, dropped to #6, and they put Should I Stay Or Should I Go at #7. Huh? THAT’s the top Clash song of all time?

I’m not even gonna quibble about the order of the songs. What I want to know is: what is the criteria for “alternative”? Roxy Music’s 1976 hit “Love Is the Drug” (#340)? David Bowie’s 1969 Top 5 UK hit “Space Oddity” (#46)? “One Love” by Bob Marley and the Wailers from 1977 (#36)?

“Rock” is a big genre. (Rock could probably be classed as a sub-genre of “Pop” or “Popular” Music, which is distinguished from “Classical” and maybe “Folk/Ethnic” and “Liturgical”.) Rock has plenty of sub-genres — Reggae, Singer/Songwriter, Electronica, Folk-rock, Dance, Hard, Britpop — which overlap with its historical periods — Glam, Punk, New Wave, Grunge, College, Psychedelic, Hair-bands.

This selection of “Alternative” songs — which span five decades, major labels, indie labels, top ten hits, album cuts, acoustic songs, electronic cuts, cover versions — have absolutely nothing to unite them and are therefore meaningless as a classification. I wish the appellation would just disappear forever.

(There is one thing I did notice while looking through the list: with the exception of Bob Marley — 4 songs — and Lenny Kravitz — 3 songs — this is a very white list…)