…in which McNutt tackles dumb music


Law #53 of the Intertubes: if it crashes a website, it’s usually worth your time to investigate.

Yesterday’s URL-wrecking phenemoneon: Virgil Griffith’s analysis of SAT scores and musical tastes. If you recognize that name, it’s because Griffith is the creator of WikiScanner, that magical tool which traces anoymous Wikipedia editors to their original sources and uncovers hilarious examples of companies messing with their own business and other related shenanigans. For his latest act – which destroyed access to his website today – the 25-year-old Caltech grad student turned his eye and keyboard to the world of music.

As the Wall Street Journal writes, “Griffith used aggregated Facebook data about the favorite bands and books among students of various colleges and plotted them against the average SAT scores at those schools, creating a tongue-in-cheek statistical look at taste and intelligence.”

Pitchfork rightfully took the time to point out the scholarly problems with Griffith’s approach, and even the author himself makes no claims that this is an any way scientific. Still, it’s great fodder for armchair psychorockists like myself. If you’re anything like me, the full chart (check it out here) inspires the following thoughts:

  • Beethoven and Sufjan, sure, but why the hell are all these smart people still listening to the Counting Crows?
  • Who the hell are Guster?
  • There’s something appropriate about seeing bands like AC/DC and Coldplay smack dab in the middle.
  • Apparently emo does more than make you sad; it makes you stupid.
  • You’d think that the Family-Guy-watching, beer-guzzling frat boys that listen to Journey non-ironically these days would put the band closer to the stupid end of the spectrum than they actually are.
  • Kanye West is totally the smartest rapper. But I could have told you that without science.
  • What’s with all the white space between Beethoven and all the “rock and roll” to his left? Moreover, why is there nothing above him? Do supergeniuses not listen to music? Are they happy?

All fun aside, I think the findings actually say a lot about the role that upbringing and class play in our musical taste (note how almost all hip hop and R&B is shoved into the left side of the graph). I’d say more about this, but I just (finally) started reading Carl Wilson’s awesome entry in the 33 1/3 series, Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of  Taste and I’d be remiss if I stole my own thunder from the inevitable blog post I have to write about it once I’m done. So all in due time, dear readers…


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