by Lucca Soria
The model for finding new music, in the last ten years, has been reversed. Instead of readers blindly trusting what some popular critic has to say, they have the ability to sample the music themselves via YouTube, SoundCloud, Band Camp, and many other audio hosting sites. So why hasn’t the model for music criticism been entirely flipped?
I still check up on the big sites that post the raunchy reviews (the Pitchforks, Village Voices, blah blah), and I read the ones that are receiving less than average scores and subsequent writing that essentially make the argument of “here’s a clip of the actual music, but you shouldn’t listen to it and here’s 500 words telling you why,” when the role of the reviewer as a curator and “trustee” of music, in reality, has become irrelevant. Who honestly craves the musical guidance of some 25-year-old Colombia grad sitting in some minimalistic office building in NYC on his MacBook?
The reality of the artist-reviewer interaction boils down to: one person (the artist) is putting themselves and their work out to the world for enjoyment—for people to emotionally attach themselves to—and to bond with something that other people are bonding with; and the other person (the music journalist) is trying to figure out how to get page views, desperately relying on the work of other people to keep his or her job afloat. Because the artist now has many ways to project themselves directly to listeners, do music reviewers even have an argument when trying to comment on the objectivity of an album? Why don’t they just share the music they like and not talk about the music they don’t? It’s not like the world is on a music shortage.
This voicemail left by Ryan Adams, I think, displays the frustration often held back by artists in an attempt to save their own careers and bodies of work. You could listen to it thinking “oh what a cry baby,” but I think it’s really a shame that artists are reduced to defending their own music because some critic has to post a review online that undermines their work. It’s too easy for the critic to write a bad review, while it’s so hard and painstaking to actually create something for other people to enjoy.
Positivity, one way or another, should be the model for music criticism, especially considering the subjectivity of enjoying music and how easy it is to find exactly what you like.