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When does a sub-genre become significant enough that a representative album is universally recognized as essential?
How many albums can be truly essential within a genre (or for an artist) before the list for that genre (or artist) struggles under the weight of redundancy?
I've used Woody Guthrie as a cutoff number, but I've also noted that #674 takes in the entire top 200 for the 70s. So then, I've looked at the subsequent decades and noted that the average all-time rank for a 200th album is about 1123. (By the way, Guthrie fell 53 places this year. An end of decade anomaly?)
So, a canon of 1100+ albums? Really? 674 albums? Seriously? Clearly, it isn't about arbitrary numbers. But what then? Is it historical impact, or is it sheer aesthetic? Is wide more important than deep?
Way too many questions. I'm trying to answer this one: What number of albums should comprise the modern music canon?
And this one. If an album is proclaimed canonical, should that designation be based on shared criteria?
For me to see something as 'Canon' it has to be something truly unique and different than any other album. Also, it has to sound just as good ten years after it's release as it does on the day of the release. My personal canon is probably around 300 albums, but if you include types of music I don't like and regions of the world I'm not familiar with, probably more around 700-800. (And that's if you only count the recording era.)
Although I think you shouldn't think of things in terms of 'Canon', because when you do, you start seeing less known music as automatically inferior to more established music.
To me there are three reasons for an album to be considered a classic/ part of canon:
01. The Album is high quality.
02. The Album is influential.
03. The album brings something unique to the table.
There are some albums that I don't think are particularly outstanding that are still undeniable classics. I may think Whatever They Say I Am, That's What I'm Not is ridiculously overrated, but I would be a fool to deny that it's entrenched itself in rock canon, especially with the British crowd.
For me, 500 has always been the magic number. If an album isn't in the top 500, it's considered minor. That's why I got so mad when Summerteeth dropped out of the top 500 albums at the end of 2009; an album I consider a classic became a non-classic with one update.
And to answer your question, a sub-genre is only important to me if it is clearly set apart from other genres; that's why I never saw the value of "Brit-Pop" as a genre; to me it was just Alternative Rock made in England, not it's own genre.