We all love a good list; it’s a quick, easy, and convenient way to organize information without starting every other paragraph with “Oh, and ALSO…”
But they need to be interesting, especially in this age of endless information bombarding you from all directions, plus a few more that haven’t been discovered yet. With thousands of blogs, articles, columns, and message board threads devoted to listing everything under the sun, you need to find a topic that will stand out in the crowd. Objective or not, funny or not, the point is to be intriguing and original.
In short, don’t write any of the following. Just, don’t. Thousands of people have already beaten you to these subjects, and you are all but guaranteed to surprise nobody and bore everybody.
10. Best Guitar Solos
The problem here is a lot of these lists are done by people who don’t play for a living, and unless you actually play compose and play guitar solos on a regular basis, chances are you have no real idea what constitutes a good one versus a bad one. More notes? Less notes? Slow and steady? Shredding at 70,000 miles an hour? To most of us, they all sound the same, mainly because most of us are listening with ten beers in our system. Pretty much everything sounds awesome at that point.
By the way, if you ask most real musicians, that question has a clear answer: “all of the above”. They all work in their own way; if a slow-rolling BB King solo tugs at your heartstrings, and a blistering Slayer shred makes you yell in righteous metal rage, then both have done their job. To put Metallica’s “One”, Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”, or Van Halen’s “Eruption” at the top of your list, as is often the case with bloggers and Rolling Stone magazine alike, is saying this one kind of music is better than the others simply because it’s faster and louder. And that ain’t right.
9. Best Rock Songs
What the Hell is “rock” anyway? At this point, virtually every form of music that isn’t classical opera or old-timey zydeco polka is called rock in some form or another. Country rock, alternative rock, modern rock, grunge rock, rock ‘n roll, punk rock, hard rock, soft rock (biggest oxymoron of all time), light rock (#2 biggest oxymoron of all time), Christian rock (#3 Bigg…you get the idea); how do you make a list based on one of the vaguest terms of all-time?
In addition, much like the solo list, the same songs top these lists over and over again. “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Stairway To Heaven,” “Freebird,” and any other song that gets played ad nauseum on mainstream radio vie for the top spot over and over again. We get it.
8. Greatest Presidents
Listing great Presidents is fairly objective, and also fairly predictable and dull. Why? Because there were only a handful of really good ones, and everybody knows this. Basically, the four guys on Mount Rushmore, plus FDR, are our greatest Presidents. Boom, done. JFK might get an honorable mention on some of these lists, but his term was cut short way too early and thus we’ll never know for sure.
Nobody else makes the top list; most don’t even come close. Show us any list that claims Millard Fillmore was one of our top five or ten Presidents, and we’ll show you a random angry commenter who read this, went to his blog, and vomited up a fake list just to make us look dumb.
7. Best Bands
It is almost impossible to get more vague than this. Listing bands? What kind of bands? Orchestras? Drunken German Oom-pa-pa bands? Do they count? And how many people need to be in a band for it to be a “band”? Nine Inch Nails, for the longest time, was one guy. The Foo Fighters started out as one guy. The White Stripes only had two people. Meanwhile, Slipknot has nine guys, half of which do little but bang on stuff. How is that a band and not a group of infants pounding on anything in sight because Mama took their ba-ba away?
Do any of the above questions matter? Not really, because for all the ambiguity behind just listing bands, this is yet another case where the same few groups get top billing every time. And (shock) they’re all classic rock bands you hear endlessly on the radio! Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Nirvana, Hendrix, Beatles, Stones, groups like that. Guess Count Basie and His Orchestra just didn’t try hard enough.
6. Best TV Shows
How many TV shows have been made since the invention of the medium? About 95 kajillionbillionmamillion, give or take. Most of them go absolutely nowhere, and many of the successful shows of older times did not age well. Howdy Doody was a huge hit back in the ‘50s, but nobody is going to put it on their lists because the titular character looks like something a demon-child constructed and then inserted into your nightmares.
No, most of the shows that top “best show” list are going to be alike: The Simpsons, Seinfeld, All In The Family, Gunsmoke, and others along that ilk. Longevity is the clue here; if a show hung around a really long time (or in the Simpsons case, continues to hang on even though it probably shouldn’t), then it’s one of the Best Ever. It also helps if the thing was in color: sorry, Honeymooners. Back to the moon with you.
5. Top Conspiracy Theories
There are a lot of conspiracy theories out there, and they’re rather interesting to read and discuss. There’s only one problem: they’re almost guaranteed to be BS. They make no sense, and there are just as many people devoted to debunking these ideas as there are people who swear by their validity.
And even if they’re ultimately not fiction, they can’t be proven, so why do people rank them? “JFK’s CIA-led assassination was interesting and all, but it doesn’t hold a CANDLE to the US having bin Laden in captivity for years and then finally killing him and going public just as Obama’s approval ratings really begin to slip!”
The only thing dumber than ranking conspiracy theories is putting Biggie/2Pac thing on the top. Yes, they were awesome rappers, but they were rappers. Not world leaders or international terrorists or world-renowned social rights activists. Rappers. Take them off your list now, and nobody gets hurt.
4. Best Scary Movies
With the exception of a couple films, scary movies are generally awful and forgettable. Why? Because 95% of them are sequels; actually, that’s too kind of a word. More like direct Xerox copies. It’s literally the same story every time; corny monster attacks, kills expandable characters, gets killed by the few remaining survivors, magically returns at least six more times to kill and die all over again. The few good films are basically the first in a given series, and the same ones will top Scary Movie lists until the end of time.
Oh, and speaking of sequels…
3. Worst Sequels
Star Wars. That is all.
Oh, you want more? Well, there really isn’t any more. Most sequels are made strictly for cash and are quickly forgotten about, and the few that live on are almost universally reviled by the list-making community. Such are the Star Wars sequels. Well, the prequels anyway. Which are technically sequels because they came after the first three movies. Which are actually the last three. So Star Wars 1-3, which top most of these awful sequel lists, are both sequels AND prequels, which would make Star Wars 2 and 3, which are actually 5 and 6, sequels to prequels AND prequels to sequels. And now I’m cross-eyed. In short, please don’t ever make Star Wars 7-9, Mr. Lucas. It’s confusing enough as it is.
Rounding out most of these lists are Godfather III and…that’s about it. Though if Cars 2 continues to tank the way it has been, we may have a new candidate for copycat list writers to bash until the end of time.
2. Best Cartoon Characters
At this point, you have probably realized why a lot of these list themes are overdone and useless: they’re either extremely subjective, or the same four or five entries top multiple lists time and again. Such is the idea of listing awesome cartoon characters. Any list that doesn’t stick Mickey, Bugs, or Homer Simpson at the top of their list is written by either a lying wannabe hipster who wants to show off how they like unpopular things, or the world’s biggest Huckleberry Hound fanboy.
A better approach here would be to list the best characters in a particular show. That way your list is far less generalized, you won’t feel as obligated to list the same people as everyone else, and you can finally solve the endless debates over whether Bugs was better than Daffy, or Bart was better than Homer, or Huckleberry was better than…um…well…Not-Huckleberry.
And that’s why ol’ Huck never tops a list.
1. Hottest Girls
If there is any more subjective list out there, we’d like to see it. “Here’s a list of fifty girls that are pretty!” These lists are little more than random name dumps of famous pretty girls, with no rhyme or reason. To just list hot girls like that is beyond boring and amateur; I did that when I was fifteen (Nikki Cox was #1, which is why she gets rewarded with her picture in my article). What’s Maxim’s excuse?
If you simply must list hot girls, find some kind of angle to separate yourself from the gaggle of Internet horndogs who are praying Vanessa Hudgens sees her name as #1 and e-mails them begging for a date. Hottest girls over the age of 70, for starters. Or maybe hottest girls who are actually guys (Madea’s dreamy). A little imagination can go a long way, especially if Madea or Barbara Bush stumble upon your list and get a quivering in your loins. Or, you can always pick a body part, like sexy lips.