Opinions can be a tricky thing. We all have them–in fact, we are all entitled to them. However, that doesn’t mean an opinion is correct. The issue of theism is an easy example of this issue. Because science cannot convincingly prove or disprove the existence of God, holding to either extreme is considered an “opinion.” However, since the two conclusions are logically exclusive, they can’t both be true. Eventually, one must be true and the other false.

But this blog post isn’t being written to explore the philosophical ramifications of Pascal’s Wager or Schrödinger’s cat. Quite the opposite, in fact: I simply want to share an entertaining and helpful discovery I’ve made toward answering the question, “What’s your favorite _____?”

The discovery I’ve made is this: look at the evidence.

I’ve always struggled with such questions. When asked my favorite movie, I often just begin listing off a few dozen films from many different genres and decades. Back in January, around the release of American Beauty/American Psycho, the absolutepunk.net community blew up with discussions of everyone’s top 10 favorite Fall Out Boy songs. Determined to make a definitive list, I dug through the band’s entire discography twice through, making notes on each song. By the time I gave up, I’d narrowed down the list to my top, erm, SIXTY tracks.

Picking favorites is hard.

I always fail. I always end up with superfluous, unyielding lists. Ask me for a favorite song by an artist and I’ll give you two full albums. It’s helpless.

That all changed this week, when I finally thought of a convenient way to figure out my favorite songs. In hindsight, the solution is comedically simple: look at the evidence. I’ve been using the same iTunes collection for nearly 5 years. I expanded my ‘Top 25 Most Played’ playlist to include the top 200 songs. Then I went through and collected (in a separate playlist) the top song per artist included in the list. This ranged across 35 different artists, maxed out by The Reign of Kindo and trickling down to a more recent obsession, Wolves at the Gate.

Rhythm, Chord & Melody

When I compiled these favorites, there was a peace that came with it. There was no stress involved with picking the right choice. Breathe. Look at the evidence. It’s all there in the numbers. I didn’t have to worry about picking “better” songs, making more prestigious choices. Instead, I just trusted the evidence in front of me, clearly stating to me, “Chase, these are your favorites.”

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Now, this list isn’t perfect. Not all of my music-listening occurs through iTunes. These numbers are skewed toward newer releases, ever since my speakers blew out in my car, which forced me to listen to my iPod more than CD’s. Take my favorite band, Thrice, for example: I listened to most of their pre-2010 discography physically, but digitally thereafter, meaning the band’s 2011 album Major/Minor appears nearly track-for-track in my top 200. The top song was “Disarmed”, just a notch above “Treading Paper.” (I’m also pretty sure that many plays of “Red Sky” were lost from my iPod not syncing correctly on one occasion.) Does this mean “Disarmed” is my favorite song from my favorite band? I doubt I’d ever be able to choose a song, and thereby stick to my decision. But who cares? Look at the numbers.

There are some anomalies in the list, too. “Alone Down Here” by the SpacePimps and “The Love Inside” by Laura Hackett Park both made the list even though I’ve spent very little time listening to those artists as a whole; those are just two songs that I’ve listened to on repeat (and repeat and repeat). Similarly, “Bloom” by Between the Buried and Me made the cut because, from its parent album, that’s the song I’ve most often shown other people.

Meanwhile, picking a top song from each artist was often a toss-up, as most of my music-listening is done in full albums. The top 200 songs are dominated by 16 albums where most of the tracks are represented (…evidently my favorite 16~ albums ever?). One of those albums is Fall Out Boy’s Folie à Deux, and I actually expected “27” to take the top spot. Instead, there was a tie for the most played song, leaving me to basically flip a coin between “The (Shipped) Gold Standard” and “America’s Suitehearts.” (I chose the former, as the latter had such a high mark because it often appears when I’d do shuffles. I guess I do have a favorite FOB song after!)

Before I post pictures of the final two playlists (each capable of fitting onto an 80 minute CD), I’ve got one final remark about how they turned out. On a less technical note, I’m just amazed at how fun these playlists have been to listen to! (What’s funny is, by listening to these playlists in isolation, I’m inadvertently cementing the play counts and making sure other songs don’t overtake these…which I suppose is called sabotage?) Part 2, for example, begins with Canadian worship band Starfield’s “Filled with your Glory,” which somehow seamlessly flows into British thrash metal band Sylosis’ “Fear the World” before miraculously making a smooth transition into Fall Out Boy. Could this be true? It’s so strange, so unlike any playlist that I would purposefully piece together, and yet it is all so very ME. There’s nothing about these songs that doesn’t scream, “Chase! Alexander! Tremaine!” Even though there are some glaring absences and some surprising results here, it’s all an incredible example of what my taste in music truly looks like on a practical level, with all of my preferences and idiosyncrasies laid out with no filter or barrier. You can see that Michael W. Smith and Barry Manilow are my favorite artists I’ve held onto since childhood. You can see how I’ve dealt with homesickness by singing along to The Receiving End of Sirens’ “Pale Blue Dot” over and over. You can see that I love at least one country artist and three metal artists. You can see my massive bias towards Thrice, as frontman Dustin Kensrue makes 4 appearances (Thrice, his solo work, with The Modern Post, and a guest appearance on Ascend the Hill’s “Even When I’m At My Darkest”). I’ve always wondered what album or playlist I could hand to someone that would be the most certifiably “me”…and now I’ve found it.

Part 1:

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Part 2:

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Now, for those of you who have actually read through to the end of this blog, indulge me for a moment as a conclude by widening my topic’s scope once again. When we speak of our opinions…are we looking at the evidence?

For example, do I think I’m a safe driver, yet I keep getting into wrecks? Do I think I’m a great listener, yet I always do most of the talking in conversations? Do I say I love my parents, yet all I do is argue with them? (To be fair, that last one is a question I often need to ask myself.) We are all entitled to opinions, but we might do a much better job heralding that entitlement by grounding our opinions in evidence.

Now, go make yourself a playlist!