Every single week, some forty, fifty albums are released. I subscribe to Napster and they alone will feature 10 to 20 of these. Every single week. Plus, so many singles and EPs are released as to be uncountable. Everyone wants to be a star. The role of music critics in this age of every increasing quantity is somewhat unsure, however. Many smart-alecs on the web that even frequent the popular review sites and blogs appear to only do so to criticise the very point of music critiscm. Such as, 'people that rate albums are lame'. Such as, 'I don't want anybody to tell me what to listen to'. The role of the music critic is certainly not to tell anybody what to listen to. It never was, even going back to the birth of popular music critiscm in the 60's. Read any of Paul Williams 'Crawdaddy' articles for proof. It was passion that led to the original music critics. In the years, this gave way to 'professional' music reviewers. There is, in reality, no such thing. We all know opinions about music are 90% subjective, no matter what internet reviewing behemoth George Starostin and his strange cult of followers may tell us.
What I propose however, in this age of 'ILike', in this age of numerous music sites also masquerading as social networks is that some opinions can perhaps still be trusted more than others. I personally go back to college. This girl proclaimed her love for INXS. She had exactly one INXS album, which she also maintained, was clearly their best. Now, that was back in the dark-ages. In this internet friendly world, she would be able to proclaim her love of INXS and that album for all to see. Some would follow her, many would not. In a completely subjective world, is her opinion therefore as 'valid', is a loose sense of the word, as valid as someone who is Australian, has followed INXS since they first crawled out of the swamp, has every single and album and also has a huge collection of, let's say, 2000 other albums by a wide variety of artists? Well, who would YOU trust? The problem in this day and age is, often, we don't know which is which.
We now have journalists writing for the NME who admit to not knowing the David Bowie catalogue of classic albums he released in the early seventies, but who the NME still send out to interview Morrissey. The result was rather unfortunate. The NME were, of course, all out to proclaim Morrissey, their greatest musical patriot, as a racist. Morrissey tore strips off the reviewer because of his apparent inability to have any knowledge of musical history whatsoever. This same journalist has also written articles for national newspapers. The NME, even despite of their ever decreasing circulation figures, still have weight. The brand name rules. I don't know how Pitchfork, arguably the greatest online reviewing site, got their visitors and reputation. I bet it involved advertising and money, somehow. As well as Pitchfork, we have literally thousands of reviewing sites. I'm up there, fourth or so on Google under the search term 'album reviews', but i've never pretended to be professional and the very title of my site, 'adriandenning.co.uk' precludes me from popular acceptance. I don't have a trendy, 'brand' name. I also don't pretend that i'm a professional writer. I have never claimed to be and any cursory look at virtually any of my reviews will tell you, i'm clearly NOT a professional writer. There are two sides of the brain. The mathematical generally will not also be great at English. My forte, so to speak, is mathematical and computers. Therefore, almost naturally, I am crap at English writing. Indeed, the George Starostin I mentioned earlier? He is Russian and writes better English than me. I have Twitter contributors, that whilst, happy to post on blogs etc singing my praises, have never ever, described me as a 'good' writer. In this age of internet democracy, ever descreasing standards of English writing, is perhaps, inevitable.
Still, back to the point. The music critic is dead, apparently. We all know that. Whilst the New York Times have clued up reviewers writing excellent reviews ( i say this as an Englishman who has never been to America, let alone bought an edition of The New York Times ) and also the British press, who often, let in the local employment agency trainee to write their reviews, seemingly. Someone who has little to no knowledge of music and will praise whatever they are told to praise. There is also in England the old brigade of former NME writers, now often having sold out their soul to the devil to write for politically correct publications and writing in the barest of 'sameness' methods. Where has the passion gone? Now, me, for better or worse, normally worse, I'm critisced for writing passionately. It doesn't make sense. Surely, something is good or not. I believe such an opinion is utter crap and the way everybody follows the opinion of everybody else somehow, I feel, backs me up on this. There is a site, rateyourmusic.com, that collates ratings and reviews from thousands of visitors and contributors. Yet, even there, in that strange musical place of democracy, exists bias. Metal fans apparently, from looking at rateyourmusic.com, have a very high opinion of 'their' music. Well, metal fans always did. So, end of year 'rateyourmusic' polls inevitably feature a very high proportion of apparently great metal albums.
'In Rainbows' by Radiohead revealed to me everything I suspected and confirms in some peoples eyes the death of the music critic but to me it does absolutely to opposite, if you are sensibly looking in the right places. The earliest reviews came out on the web, day of release. We all had short notice. Very non-commital reviews. Someone noticed the tone of these were generally positive. The NME inevitably got on the act, their readers almost uniformly praising the album. Suddenly, the more respected national newspapers are also calling the album a stunner. Suddenly, every single web-site will do nothing but say the album is excellent, because, after all, what happens if you go against the grain? Well, you apparently loose credibility. I've personally criticised albums where i've found not a single bad review anywhere on the web. Think of all the millions of webpages. Apparently, i'm the only person who thinks 'Sign Of The Times' by Prince was a rubbish album and that 'Exile On Main Street' by The Rolling Stones was one of their artistic nadirs. People call me crazy. Everybody else says these albums are great. The Prince album is one I can seriously argue with people about. The last two songs last about twenty minutes and are formless jams. What are we supposed to do, ignore them and go with the grain? Music critics do that, so do everybody else. We are no more guilty, if i'm putting myself in the music critics corner, of subscribing to the hype and general populace as anybody else.
We are all as bad as each other. Some of us live and breathe music. Others don't. Yet, the internet seemingly gives us all an equal voice, whether you have 5000 albums and have listened to 5000 others or if you have 200 albums and fancy yourself as an NME reviewer, even though, in ten years time, you'll be an estate agent listening to Simply Red. In essence, although there seemingly is no 'right or wrong' in ways we view music, surely those that put their career on the line for it, or sacrifice personal free-time to tell others what they think, not for a 'publication' but purely for their own enjoyment, albeit on the web, should have some sort of respect? I'm a one man band and something of an idiot if I wanted to appear professional or to make any money, but that wasn't the point. I just want to be like John Peel. I just don't have a radio show or a legal right to play music anywhere at all to a public audience. I don't deserve respect or demand it. One person writing in is enough, who says I got them to buy an album they love. That's why I do this. Everybody has someone influencing them. The only people that discover things without anybody influencing them are the people that form the bands themselves. Even then? Well, not really. Don't believe the hype and especially don't believe the all high and mighty that pretend their views are better than yours. They aren't.