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What is the point of rating music?


pbone

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I recently watched Heckler, which ended up being kind of a whiny handkerchief for Jamie Kennedy save one bit, at the end, which essentially gave us the silver lining: that good criticism does exist, and it is very inspiring to those who are creative. Some thoughts about music criticism (pitchfork, cmg, rolling stone, whatever) got me thinking before and after that. I don't really have a thesis to give but just wanted to ask around for some experiences.

 

The idea that really struck me is that the silver lining from the good critics may not really even land on us plebians. If it's for the artists, why the {censored} are we reading it? Music criticism never lines up to our artistic barometer. Never. There is not a single person in the world whose musical tastes are 1:1 with pitchfork.com's. Some of my own personal favorites are absolute bombs in P4ks eyes. Given that they themselves are terrible {censored}ing critics (the latest Helio Sequence album scored a 6.8, there is only one bullet point of critique and it is ham fisted at best), their most marked social impact has been that they have been spreading music around to a lot of people, that they put on pitchfork fest every year. Specifically not that they are great, or even good, or even average, music critics.

 

So, what's the {censored}ing point? If music criticism hits the music audience the least, why haven't we just done away with the bull{censored} of trying to impart some collectively-subjective rating system on art? Do most critics understand the creative process at all? Hell, even Van Morrison, the darling of music critics worldwide, says that they have no idea what they're talking about.

 

What's your take? What's your experience?

 

 

edit: ron pol 21012

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I agree with you. Pitchfork reviews always appear to go in with the deliberate intent of finding something wrong with an album and shaming the artist. They actually have to audacity to pretty much tell the reader that what the artist is doing is wrong as though they understand the real motivations of the band/person.

Overall the way it's done is very tabloid-esque and disrespectful to those who put a lot of effort into what they do. Ok, effort alone doesn't make for good music nor is all music good or worth listening to...but P4K know the sway and audience they have and it seems they just like to {censored} people over from time to time.

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Good criticism is insightful, it gives you a perspective on the music you might not have otherwise considered.

 

Bad criticism is typically obsessed with "ratings" 100 best whatever, most underrated, most overrated, 4/10 ect.

 

Music criticism in general is often shockingly bad, I love reading good film criticism though.

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The thing about stuff like Pitchfork, Allmusic, or Rolling Stone is that you're getting the opinions of a wide range of nearly anonymous reviewers that have their own subjective opinion that also has to be filtered through the editors and fit the tastes of the publication.

 

It's funny how you can look back and Rolling Stone often has two wildly different reviews for albums over the years. They will be like a 2 star review of a Led Zeppelin album in 1970 complaining about how they're derivative showoffs or something, than a 5 star review for the reissue in 2000 about how the album was a milestone that changed the world. Neither review would be totally inaccurate either...

 

I think a good reviewer is someone who has a wide body of work and definite personality that can give you a decent context of what their review even means. Lester Bangs or Robert Cristgau come to mind. They aren't objective by a long shot, but you can definitely ascertain from their personality and number past reviews what any certain review means to you.

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its for people that dont really appreciate music. the average person thinks of an album like they do the latest batman/ die hard/ julia roberts, etc idiot movie. theyll enjoy it for a few hours and never think about it again.

they rely on these reviews to tell them how their money is best spent. they deserve what they get.

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Music criticism is not for the artists or musicians IMHO. It's for people who have no time or patience to listen to an album and create an opinion of their own. The biggest problem I have with music reviews is a critic's lack of knowledge and understanding of what it takes to make music. This article covers a lot of ground about their shortcomings and what they should change (even mentions the awesome J. Tillman a.k.a. Father John Misty firing back at a Pitchfork reviewer):

http://consequenceofsound.net/2012/06/nod-your-head-knowing-your-elbow-from-an-arpeggio/

As far as a rating system goes, it's a simplistic way to illustrate the review's overall opinion for the extremely impatient, so it's basically worthless.

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I don't really read much music criticism because most of it is poorly written, in my opinion. There's so much crazy fanboy hyperbole and bitchy snipefests. It seems most critics don't even understand keys or harmonic structure or anything that would provide a deeper analysis or greater appreciation of the work.

On the other hand, I used to read alot of film criticim when I was younger (and still do when I have time) and alot of it is very useful and offers a greater understanding of films, their techniques, as well as their place in the world and in history. And it doesn't have to be dry, super intellectual academic writing either. Pauline Kael's reviews are so rewarding. Many of her more critical reviews actually wring enlightenment and meaning from utter hackwork. In other instances, she can really open your eyes to what you're missing in a great film you didn't look deep enough into the first time you saw it. And I find alot of film critics have something of this kind of ability.

I think the practice of criticism can be a good thing, as long as the critics are good at what they do.

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Music criticism is not for the artists or musicians IMHO. It's for people who have no time or patience to listen to an album and create an opinion of their own. The biggest problem I have with music reviews is a critic's lack of knowledge and understanding of what it takes to make music. This article covers a lot of ground about their shortcomings and what they should change (even mentions the awesome J. Tillman a.k.a. Father John Misty firing back at a Pitchfork reviewer):




As far as a rating system goes, it's a simplistic way to illustrate the review's overall opinion for the extremely impatient, so it's basically worthless.

 

 

FWIW, I think that this article is completely missing the point. Misty doesn't place the onus of knowing musical theory on the listener--which, for some reason, the writer of the article does--but instead decries the Pitchfork reviewer for what was, in essence, kind of a dumb point.

 

But meanwhile the author of the article says this:

 

 

These days, a healthy population of fans have very little time or patience. Asking them to understand Dorian modes, ii-V-I progressions, paradiddles, or other techniques could inspire or push them toward one of their other bazillion musical options. There

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Music criticism
never
lines up to our artistic barometer. Never. There is not a single person in the world whose musical tastes are 1:1 with pitchfork.com's. Some of my own personal favorites are absolute bombs in P4ks eyes. Given that they themselves are terrible {censored}ing critics (the latest Helio Sequence album scored a 6.8, there is only one bullet point of critique and it is ham fisted at best), their most marked social impact has been that they have been spreading music around to a lot of people, that they put on pitchfork fest every year. Specifically
not
that they are great, or even good, or even average, music critics.


So, what's the {censored}ing point? If music criticism hits the music audience the least, why haven't we just done away with the bull{censored} of trying to impart some collectively-subjective rating system on art? Do most critics understand the creative process
at all
? Hell, even Van Morrison, the darling of music critics worldwide, says that they have no idea what they're talking about.

 

 

There is no point. Every end of year poll, every Rolling Stone 100 Best Songs to {censored} Your Trophy Wife To List, every tedious Greatest Band of the 1980s List, every album review etc etc is a zero entity as far as I am concerned. The music journalism I like comes from the past. Nick Kent and Charles Shaar Murray are the obvious two from the UK because they did go and investigate the subjects they wrote about (Kent's piece on meeting Brian Wilson is {censored}ing superb). Lester Bangs came from a different angle but the love of music came through, even with albums he hated (to my mind, Bangs was at least the equal of Charles Bukowski and definitely exceeded him most of the time).

 

Somewhere around the mid 1990s, the quality of journalistic output dipped in the NME. The record reviews tailed off and the interviews themselves died.

 

But there is another angle. To wit:

 

 

Do most plebs understand the artistic process might be a better question.

 

 

 

Do most critics understand the creative process at all?

 

 

It's not something that can be called 'the'. It's personal. It's unique. The way some people talk about it, the creative process is some linear thing. Critics don't need to understand it nor do most of them bother to try to understand it nor do they even need to {censored}ing understand it. Music critics piss off fans and musicians alike because those fans and musicians simply don't realise that one person's opinion really doesn't matter a {censored}. It's like going to Youtube, seeing some comment that pisses you off, and you end up having some long back and forth argument with some demented {censored}wit teenager. Music criticism is exactly the same as online debates: it's up to you whether you let one different opinion get to you or not.

 

{censored} quoting Van Morrison too. Miserable old bastard.

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