WHAT IS THE POINT OF MUSIC CRITICISM???
MetalSucks devotee and The Number of the Blog scribe Alex P wrote a really interesting piece on music criticism over the holidays that I’ve been thinking about ever since I read it. Among the topics eloquently tackled; what is the place of music criticism? what makes a good critic versus a bad one? when is an author credible? what happens when music critics over-think and over-analyze? Here’s an excerpt:
The credibility of rock critics is often called into question, both of the individuals and of the discipline. For the individuals, credibility comes down to how frequently one hands out lavish praise, and for what artists. In metal someone praising the ingenuity of Bring Me the Horizon will quickly get laughed out (whether or not this is a good thing is a separate issue). The obvious cure becomes to be selective in one’s praises, but obviously a dishonest critic isn’t one worth trusting. I tend not to follow the opinions of critics who like only such bands as are safe to like, and I tend to disregard a music critic if his reviews perfectly match the general consensus in every case. Criticism isn’t, as I practice it, about being a universal tastemaker: it’s about exposing people with similar affinities to yours to music they’d enjoy, and to a certain extent it’s also about being a crotchety old man.
As a rule I also won’t follow writers who are trying to position themselves as scholarly (though there are some exceptions). Fuck English Lit class: last I checked this was supposed to be Rock ‘n’ Roll, a supposedly dangerous, adolescent and boorish realm. Intellectualizing rock music very often ends in total failure, since critics are generally trying to ascribe higher emotions to a form of art that more often than not can only be achieved on a primal reptile-brained level. There are ways to review music without simply talking about it, but whenever I see purple prose I can tell that the reviewer could think of nothing to say.
The emphasis added is mine, because I tend to approach my role as a “music critic” (whatever that means) in the same way. I don’t ever expect my word to be final; I’m merely expressing my personal taste. I’m sure there are people who think, “Oh, Vince Neilstein likes this? I usually like his recommendations… I’ll give it a try,” and I’m sure there equally as many people who think, “Oh, Vince Neilstein likes this? It probably blows. Skip.” All I can do is write down my thoughts and hope that people realize they’re just opinions, not stated fact; obviously this isn’t always the result, as a quick glance at the comments of any post on MS will tell you.
So, what is the role of a music journalist? What makes a music critic good and what makes one bad? I highly recommend you read Alex P’s editorial before chiming in below.