Pazz & Jop Stats II: Calculating Enthuasiasm, Hipness, Metalism, And, Uh, Kvltosis


Pazz & Jop’s album chart is officially ranked by points: Each voter has 100 to hand out, with no album receiving more than 30 or less than 5. There are, of course, a bunch of ways to turn that mass of music data into revealing lists. Here are four of them.


The quick-pick voting method is to just give each album 10 points and not worry about fine distinctions, but almost two-thirds of the voters were a bit more discriminating. If we take the average points-per-vote for each album (ignoring those with fewer than 10 votes, so that the averages have some heft to them), we get something we can loosely call Enthusiasm. This metric produces an extremely different list from the point ranking. Kanye still makes the top 10, but 5 albums from the top 20 by points drop out of the top 50 by enthusiasm. The top 5 by enthusiasm: Agalloch, Band of Horses, Radio Dept., Ty Segall, and The-Dream. The people who liked these albums really liked them. The big enthusiasm loser is Kid Cudi, whose 7.2 points/vote means that his voters actually went out of their way to give him fewer points!


Almost every voter fills out his or her 10 album slots, but many don’t bother voting for singles. It has been suggested that an album-centric view of the world tends to be more common among older voters, and that the presence or absence of singles votes on a ballot is thus indicative of some kind of modern, youthful vigor or openness. To measure this, I retabulated the album poll with each vote prorated according to the number of singles votes the vote cast: full credit if they filled out all 10 singles, the vote disregarded entirely if they filled out none, and partial ballots weighted proportionately. I then divided these weighted point-totals by the regular point-totals to get a ratio for each album that I’ve glibly labeled Hipness. This is a pretty crude metric, and yet here, too, the results are rather intriguing. At the top we find four artists (Ke$ha, The-Dream, Warpaint, and Yelawolf) whose voters all filled out their singles ballots completely. At the other end, we find 71-year-old gospel singer Mavis Staples, who got more than two-thirds of her points from people who didn’t vote for singles. Scan the list and I think you’ll agree that it’s measuring something.


The poll data doesn’t include genre information, which is too bad. I happen to have a good source of data about metal (I also run this), so I’ve gone through and tagged all the metal albums anybody voted for. This allows me to do another retabulation in which each album vote is prorated by the number of metal albums that voter picked. The Metalism list thus shows not just the metal albums themselves, but the albums that people who like metal liked. Unsurprisingly, most of these records are metal (Agalloch, Enslaved, Kylesa, Ludicra, Kvelertak, Triptykon, High on Fire, and Alcest–there’s a perfectly good introduction to the current state of metal for you), but Grinderman makes #9, the ubiquitous Kanye manages #10 by even this ranking, and Swans make #12.


This one is almost too abstruse to explain, but I’ll do it anyway. After I tabulate the poll, I use the results to assign each voter a Centricity rating that measures how close their votes came to matching the winning poll consensus. For Kvltosis, I then retabulate the poll using each voter’s centricity score to weight each of their votes. This produces a bizarre list you may have to stare at for a little bit to make any sense of, but the general idea is that high kvltosis identifies cult-favorite albums whose support came from people who were otherwise far from the poll’s center, and low kvltosis identifies relatively overlooked albums whose support came from closest to the center of the poll. The regular poll winners tend to end up towards the bottom of this list, but they aren’t alone down there. According to this measure, the cult favorites of the year were Sun City Girls, Agalloch again, and Band of Horses, and the most overlooked mainstream artists were Curren$y, Drake, and Hot Chip. Whether you consider either of these things to be value judgments, you’ll have to decide for yourself.

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