Critics name the year's best albums – but are they right?
As we publish HMV's Poll of Polls on 2010's critically acclaimed music, Kunal Dutta notes the gap between the pundits and the punters
Sunday 26 December 2010
Money can't buy you love, goes the song (well, almost). So it would seem with the HMV Poll of Polls, published here exclusively today. The survey – based not on how much fans are prepared to spend on the albums of 2010 but on how much the critics loved them – appears to confirm that the gulf between punters and pundits is as wide as ever.
Tomorrow The Suburbs by the Canadian rock band Arcade Fire will be crowned best album of 2010 by critics from more than 30 magazines, national newspapers and websites.
A scan of the rest of the HMV list confirms it is a world away from the radio charts and popular demand for mega-sellers such as Susan Boyle, Taylor Swift or the Black Eyed Peas, all notable by their absence from the list.
Indeed, at number 49, Take That's Progress barely scrapes into the Top 50, despite shifting 1.5 million copies since its release last month, dwarfing most entries on the poll of polls.
Half of the acts in this year's top 10 have sold 25,000 records or fewer. Aerial Pink's Before Today, at number 10, has sold just 5,000 copies to date. The same is true over the past decade. In truth, while critical acclaim can lead to a surge in sales for some bands, almost as often it has been the commercial kiss of death. The runner-up in the 2010 Poll of Polls, the fifth studio album by the US rock band The National, High Violet, sold just 70,000 copies.
Many reviewers tend to judge albums after just a couple of listens, said the IoS music critic Simmy Richman. "To create a poll based on their knee-jerk reactions is to seriously skewer the results: the albums that reviewers rave about will rarely be the same as those they actually listen to most in private. The Arcade Fire album is good, but is it the best album of the year? Not by a long chalk."
1. Arcade Fire
The Suburbs; 195,000 sales
2. The National
High Violet; 70,000
3. LCD Soundsystem
This Is Happening; 40,000
4. Beach House
Teen Dream; 20,000
5. Janelle Monáe
The ArchAndroid; 20,000
6. Vampire Weekend
Odd Blood; 25,000
Plastic Beach; 280,000
10. Ariel Pink
Before Today; 5,000
11. Kanye West
My Beautiful Dark, Twisted Fantasy; 50,000
12. Joanna Newsom
Have One on Me; 30,000
13. Gil Scott-Heron
I'm New Here; 30,000
14. Sleigh Bells
Total Life Forever; 65,000
Becoming a Jackal; 20,000
17. Laura Marling
I Speak Because I Can; 115,000
18. These New Puritans
19. The Black Keys
Halcyon Digest; 10,000
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