Bon Jovi, Alan Jackson, the Dixie Chicks, P!nk, and Blake Shelton.

Not all of these people released albums of original material in 2010, but they all made appearances on various Top 10 lists compiled by the Leader-Post‘s Jeff DeDekker, through their “Best of” albums. “[A] a number of lists – from a multitude of informed sources,” as DeDekker says.

How did they manage this feat? Well, some of the LP‘s “informed sources” chose Greatest Hits compilations from these artists as one of their ten favorite albums of the year.

This honestly never occurred to me. I don’t get around to buying a lot of Best Ofs these days, but when I do, I generally associate the music with the year each song was released then the year the actual compilation was put out. If I were to pull out Bon Jovi’s Greatest Hits, for example, even if the album was released this year, each of the songs still belong so specifically to their distinct times.

“Livin’ on a Prayer”, then, can’t be a 2010 track. No matter where it appears otherwise, its proper place is back in 1986 on Slippery When Wet.

A part of me recognizes that this is an arbitrary distinction to make. Albums can be recorded a long time before they’re released, and songs can be made years apart from one another. What winds up on the LP isn’t necessarily intended to be a cohesive unit. Plus, a lot of albums mostly made up of original material can feature material previously released on singles or EPs or tracks that have been rerecorded.

Claiming the higher ground in making these lists is also suspect, as these lists are great journalistic achievements. John Roderick, frontman for the Long Winters, recently wrote a column for the Seattle Weekly about the flaws inherent to these lists. “How can one released in January and one released in December compare to each other?” he says in one of his ten points. (“Top 10 Reasons I Hate Year-End Top-10 Lists” – Cute, right?)

Regardless, Top 10s are still useful, at least for looking back and getting an idea of where the culture was at for the year. For instance, if someone were to look at the upcoming results of the Pazz and Jop poll to see what 2010 was like in music, they’ll probably be able to see that critics really, really loved Kanye. On a personal level, I can look back at my list from 2005 and see that I was starting in my obsession for Okkervil River; that I still loved the New Pornographers; and that my crush on P.J. Harvey extended to her work on Marianne Faithful’s album from that year.

So then what’s the point of including Greatest Hits in your Top 10s? It’s music you’ve probably already heard; far too often, in the case of an artist like P!nk. Dropping a Best of into your list is unimaginative and creatively bankrupt, and pointless to boot. Why do it?