I subscribe to Alternative Press magazine. It's always a fun read for me because it's (mostly) very informative about all music that is considered "alternative". And even though a lot of the "alternative" acts they cover are more "main stream", I enjoy reading the magazine. For the most part, it is well written, intelligent and fair.
For the most part.
There have been times that I have read articles (not specifically published in the aforementioned periodical) and have felt a slight burn in my chest. No, it's not heartburn, wise guy. It's the burn you feel when you realize someone stole something from you that you never really had. Or when you fail a test that you were certain you didn't study for. I'm angry and I don't know why.
If I feel this way when I read an article, that means the writer had done their job. What is the writers job, you ask? To evoke an emotion. It pissed me off and made me think. Even if what I think is that the writer is a fucking moron and has no idea what he's talking about, that is the best thing the writer could have done. The words the writer chose were perfect. They made me feel like I wanted to burn down the building they wrote it in. It made me realize the art form of word-craft is just as valid of an art form as painting, acting, music or...writing?
Wait a minute. There are writers who review other writers? Sounds a little ridiculous when you read it a few times. Well, who reviews the reviewers?? Better yet, how did all these critics become so-called "authorities" on their chosen subject?? I'm not sure, but I can't recall hearing of a university that offered "Criticism" as a major concentrate or as a minor to Journalism. See! You thought I'd forget about Journalism. I almost did. Well, these "authorities" MUST have created something of importance within the genre they review. By the way they write at times you would think this important "creation" may or may not have altered the course of the art or the culture that surrounds it, right? In almost every case, the answer is no.
Have these the writer's, been criticized? Oh for sure. Probably A LOT. I hear that writing teachers can be BRUTAL with that red correcting pen. So what we are dealing with is a hyper-tense, hyper-critical, emotional wreck with a pen and a pissed off outlook that probably thinks that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs didn't rip off The Plasmatics because they don't know who The Plasmatics are. (Never heard of The Plasmatics? Well...go ahead...we'll wait.)
Obviously this isn't every journalist, but for sake of argument this is who I think the stereotypical journalist is. Deal with it. So, we know who is sitting behind the computer and typing the review you are about to read, let me ask this question:
How is it that the opinion has become more powerful than the subject?
I've always wondered that. I decided to do some research. I hung out with my old pal Google and searched "quotes about reviewing". What do other artists think about reviews? I clicked on the first link and the first quote I read was by Iris Murdoch:
"A bad review is even less important than whether it is raining in Patagonia."
The second from Danielle Steele:
"A bad review is like baking a cake with all the best ingredients and having someone sit on it."
I didn't read on. These two pretty much sum up how I feel after I read any review. Well, mostly after I read a review about my band. Obviously good reviews are...well...good! It's always the bad reviews that sting. For me, reading reviews are hard. I'd like to say I stopped reading them, but I'd be lying. The whole reason you create is to get your feelings out and communicate them to others. Once you release it, your creation is immediately put on trial. It's in a court that's called "THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION." There is no single judge in this court. There are roughly 6,692,030,277 judges, give or take and they ALL think they have the correct opinion. That's a hell of a lot of judging. The neat thing is they can't ALL possibly tell you face to face what they think. 85% of them would be too scared to voice their real opinion and 10% would probably tell you but they wouldn't show up cause they have better things to do.
Of the remaining 5%, I would say that 2% are that "+/-" thing they always add to polls to make it fair. So that leaves roughly 3% of the world. Those are the people who tell you what they think. A lot. Whether you want them to or not. And they all have blogs. Just like me. :) The "creme de la creme" of this small percentage of world society end up going to school, studying journalism, moving to a city and writing for periodicals. An even a smaller percentage end up writing for music mags. So, in a perfect world, these writers are the best of the best of the BEST. You would hope they were honest and unbiased. You would hope they want to expose the world to bands that will change the world and make it a better place for you and me (we are the world!) I believe all music journalists want to do just that. Yes, all you writers out there: YOU truly are great writers and no one can ever take that away from you!
But there is no accounting for taste.
Just because someone is a brilliant writer doesn't mean they listen to good music. Or DOES it? A good word-smith can spin quite a tale. After they are done spinning these seemingly fine threads, they are woven together to create a beautiful "description blanket" that is soft, warm and comforting. These words are meant to make you feel like there is no doubt that you should buy the writer's subject item with little delay. Again, this is a writer doing their job to the best of their ability. A lot of times the reviewer is just reviewing what is assigned to them. I can always tell when a reviewer got an assignment he's excited about, though. They use SAT words. It's true what I've been told: If reviewers reviewed what they wanted to review, it would be worse than if artists reviewed other artists. So FTW right?(which shall, and will, always mean FUCK THE WORLD) Let's not read the reviews. We'll just listen to what our friends listen to so we don't get made fun of!
Maybe people should think for themselves.
There's an odd thought! Having an opinion that is your own and not someone else's? It sounds scary to some, difficult for others and mostly sounds like people telling me to fuck off through their computer screens. But it's fact. For all you music buffs, there is this brand new invention called "The Internet". I've been told it's EVERYWHERE and you can go and listen to acts on something called their Myspace or Purevolume pages and make your OWN opinion. I know for some people this is difficult to do, but if you're reading this blog, you probably have enough time to go check out a few bands. AND NOT SPECIFICALLY NEW BANDS! A lot of bands from "back in the day" are worth checking out. That's where all your favorite bands got inspiration from. Don't believe the hype machine that is created around modern acts. The talent pool is much shallower than it appears to be on the surface. Be cautious diving in head first; you might break your neck.
Most people are afraid to speak their true feelings. Most people in the music industry are, at least. No one wants to "start any waves". Maybe it's good that people who aren't musicians are calling out all these holier-than-thou-rock-star-types who think that just by adding their name to a product or cause that they are "changing the world." How many times have you seen Bono doing a press conference about this cause or that charity? Hundreds. How many times have you seen Bono in a field in Africa planting seeds? Never. Well, maybe once years ago. But last 10 years? No chance. If dudes in bands were writing reviews, they'd all be trying to get on each other's tours so it would be a suck-up fest.
My grandpa used to say to me, "Son, opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one and think's it's everyone else's that stinks!" I originally started this post with full intentions of ripping apart journalists for spouting their garbage all over print and online outlets throughout the world. But I can't. I suppose we, as artists, need it. That burn I feel inspires me to work harder. It should inspire other artists to do the same. If it makes you shut down and feel awful, remember that feeling when you tear someone else's art apart. Especially behind someone's back. We all do it. And to you journalists and columnists out there, one request: be fair. Don't shade something as being "cool" when you and everyone else know that it totally sucks. Just say it sucks. You won't get fired. You might actually get a raise and an editor's position in a few years.
Then you can hire me.