There’s a point of near-madness that occurs when I undertake one of our articles, like this month’s cover story, based on a comprehensive poll of musicians and JT contributors. It usually occurs on a sunny Sunday afternoon, when I’m holed up inside counting votes for “Ko Ko,” then I realize that some voters have spelled it “Ko-Ko,” with a hyphen, which throws a wrench into my search-and-tally method. I recount. Uh-oh. Others have opted to list it as a single word. Re-recount. So which one should be printed? My Real Book says no hyphen, yet this nearby reissue LP is pro-hyphen. Also, what the hell am I doing with my life?
Arduous as they may be, I feel immense gratification after they’re completed, whether year-end critics’ polls or roundups of classic tenor LPs. On an editorial level they’re fun to read and they disseminate useful insights culled from experts; on a commercial level they tend to do well at the newsstand. Long before BuzzFeed began its inanity, list-based articles were a coup for magazine publishers. We can put sexy sell lines on the cover—with words like “special” and “collectible” and, in this case, “essential.” And a number! Media consultants tell us you love numbers. Anyway, my sense of satisfaction is at once superficial, like I’ve finished cleaning out a storage unit or filing a tax return, and near-spiritual, like I’ve made meaning out of something vast and uncontrollable. Writing should always create that sensation, but in these instances the feeling is less self-serving, as if I’ve worked for the greater good.