Friday, August 07, 2009

So You Wanna Be a Rock 'n Roll Critic?

Let's start with some existintial questions:

Why write review albums? Why read album reviews? What is the raison d'etre of music criticism? Is it a soapbox on which the writer spouts his or her opinions, thoughts, and philosophies? Is it a survivor's guide, providing the readers with trustworthy advice? Is it an encylopedia, providing information? Is it affirmation, or a conversation starter, or merely entertainment?

The answer is yes.

When I started as an unprofessional music critic nearly 6 years ago, I flew by the seat of my pants, with no flight plan, or air traffic control. Everything I learned about being a music critic, I learned from reading album reviews by other music critics. In fact, that's how every music critic learns. It's an incestuous process, but one with a clear logic to it.

Indeed, as I have continued to work at my craft over those 6 years, a clear pattern and set of rules emerged. I had been following them unconsciously, and my fellow music critics were doing the same. I realized that if I could categorize and summarize patterns and rules of the music writing business into lessons, it might be of great benefit to humankind.

So, every Friday for the next 10 weeks, school will be in session. At the end, you, too, will be a highly-respected and emotionally-fulfilled music critic. I'm calling it So You Wanna Be A Rock 'n Roll Critic, and I hope you're ready to learn.


Anonymous said...

Oh, I'm intrigued. You are a very good reviewer, I've found.

In my other life I have had occasion to assign reviews to trainees and interns. One of my tricks is to give them albums or DVDs that are really bad, but I tell them that they must be honest without saying anything negative. Because I know they'll hate the album, so the easiest thing is to trash it. With my brief, they have to struggle and find something constructive to say. The results have been interesting. Euphemisms, generalities and outright lies (the latter are easily spotted, of course).

Paul Allen said...

That's a really smart approach. You're right, it's super easy to be all negative about something. Or all positive for that matter. Constructive or insightful commentary takes the real work!