Marek Jeziński (Nicolaus Copernicus University, Poland)


The paper aims at examining hits lists and charts as canons in popular music. A canon is a sacralisation of values, manifested as music taste and opinions concerning songs, artists and media broadcasts rated as the most important by a given milieu. Journalists, by giving the best grades to selected albums, or artists sacralise and provide them canonical status. The media plays the main role in the process of negotiation on the body of canons by the opinion-forming sites or radio/TV programs, and the well-respected journalists by expressing their comments on music may have a considerable impact on a group of their followers.

I discuss the above using the instance of one of the hits list aired on Polish Radio, namely, Lista Przebojów Programu 3 (The Hits List of Polish Radio Program 3) which turned canonical itself at the beginning of the 21st century. It was the most popular radio program of the 80s., shaping music taste of Polish intelligentsia and elevating popularity of some artists (Polish rock bands as Maanam, Perfect, Republika, Lady Pank in the early 80s). Also, the program promoted niche Western performers who became more popular in Poland than in the West (Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil, The Waterboys). As a result, the Hits List became a special kind of media institution creating canons and reproducing hegemonic discourse concerning popular music. Radio presenters and music journalists effectively influenced the reception of music not only aesthetically but also in axiological way imposing socially shared definitions of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ music.

Interestingly, in the internet era, the new media serves as a means for the formation of the 80s nostalgia. It is manifested as the canonization of music of the era and certain radio programs, e.g., ‘Lista Przebojów Programu 3’, ‘Romantycy Muzyki Rockowej’, ‘Trójka pod Księżycem’. Thus, social media sites, fan-pages, etc. perform significant integrative and exclusive functions indicating songs, records, and artists which are presented as the most important, the best, and the sacred.