...a.k.a. The Man in the Mirror Manifesto: Whitney Pastorek answers the biggest questions from readers of her weekly music column

By Whitney Pastorek
Updated October 24, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

Your Chart Flashback questions answered!

What is this column?
This is Chart Flashback, in which we flash back to the top 10 singles off Billboard‘s Hot 100 for this week in whatever year strikes our fancy.

How do we know what year is striking our fancy?
I take into consideration the mix of songs, the general entertainment value of the artists involved, as well as how many stories I can think of to tell about my childhood.

But why did you pick these 10 songs to review from that year? These are most certainly not the best 10 songs of that year. You are an idiot!
The answer is easy: Because these are the songs on the chart. I did not pick these songs. I just picked the chart. And yes, mostly I am an idiot.

But these songs suck.
I have some bad news: It’s actually all your fault. These songs are the top 10 singles played on radio and bought in stores during the week in question, and therefore all of you who were alive at the time had a hand in their selection and subsequent place in American history. Don’t like ’em? Wanna grumble about it? Maybe start with the man in the mirror, and ask him to change his ways. No message could be any clearer: If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make that change. Na-na naa, na-naa na, na naa na-naa.

Sometimes I feel like you aren’t taking this very seriously.
Which part?

All of it.
You’re going to have to be more specific.

Okay, like when you gave Huey Lewis and the News an A.
Right. That. To be fair, ”Power of Love” only received an A-. And you know, I’m sure if you wanted to get real technical about it, that’s too high. But why should I get technical about it? It’s a fun song. I have good memories of it. I listen to it today and it makes me smile. Most bands working today should be so talented, to write that song. I don’t regret that grade at all, and I can’t wait for ”Stuck With You” to pop up someday so I can drop a big fat A+ on it.

But see! There! Right there! You have such horrible taste in music!
Look. First of all, that’s not a question. But second of all, are you really going to get pissy about this? It’s music, not string theory, and I firmly believe that music’s place in society is to make us happy. So if a song makes me happy, I’m going to say so.

What qualifies you for this job, anyway?
I love music. I was raised in a family of musicians, and instead of being given the instrumental skills of my relatives, I was bequeathed a love of pop music and a scary-good memory of songs and song lyrics. Which is not as cool as being a concert violinist, but at least I’ve figured out a way to get paid for it. I also like to think my tastes are pretty broad, and my standards are pretty forgiving. Not that I’m soft — I just like to give things the benefit of the doubt.

Yeah, but sometimes you give really low grades to songs that are awesome, and that makes me sad.
Music is subjective, people! There is possibly no other art form so difficult to quantify, and one man’s Clay Aiken is often another man’s ear-bleeding brain torture. So who are we to say? In the case of Chart Flashback, I happen to be the MC on the mike. But the good news is, there’s always room for you to disagree in the comments section.

I like making comments. I especially like to use the comment space to tell everyone else that they suck just as bad as the music, and to suggest that Whitney go find a job at Seventeen, because that’s where a juvenile mind like hers belongs. Is this okay?
Well, yes and no. It is definitely okay to comment — I love hearing everyone’s memories; I love reading discussions about the relative merits of disco; I look forward every week to the one dude who comes on to make mental comparisons between me and Paris Hilton. But here’s where I’m going to get a little cranky:

The Chart Flashback comment boards should be a place for sharing memories, having productive discussions, and baselessly insulting Whitney ONLY. They are NOT a place for Flashbackers to turn on each other and call each other names and judge one another harshly for liking/not liking certain types of music. I know this is asking a lot, but I dream of a comment board where everyone’s opinion is welcome, we understand that music is subjective (see above), and we do not allow ourselves to become the lowest-common-denominator troll people we are all so capable of becoming, if we’re not careful.