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Thursday, February 09, 2006

The State of Music Criticism Is...

...pretty much the same as the state of all other forms of media.

But maybe it's in danger of becoming useless, and if so, Tiny Mix Tapes has a good essay up on its usefulness. Actually that's not at all what the essay's about, but that's how I'd like to see it used, and that description gets me around saying phrases like "contemporary critical paradigms," which I was tempted to do.

This article, by sponge, is actually a belated response to a disastrous one published last summer at Cokemachineglow. The TMT article does a good job handling most of my complaints, but a few remain. The biggest problem with Amir Nezar's article (among many) is his general smugness. To stick with his "Crossfire" theme, he's the Tucker Carlson in this operation:

When I’ve called out reviewers in other publications for making baseless assertions I have honest-to-god heard a response that goes, “Well, experiencing music is a subjective thing,” and I have responded every time with the question, “Is Britney Spears a great music artist?”

A more interesting question would be whether or not Britney Spears's music is good, because it is, after all, possible to have little repsect for Brit's talents and still think that "Toxic" has impressive production. It's also possible to enter such a discussion without being either a complete relativist or a smirker.

Nezar also fails at living up to his own standards. He writes, "Reviews from even reputable online publications often spend in excess of 60% of the review detailing years of history before even beginning to get to evaluation." Really? You've got measured data on this? And you also have a sampling of people who think these reviews are good?

And, don't forget: you think the only job of a critic is to determine if something is good or bad?

Nezar also uses plenty of "those instances" and "most often" phrases without specific examples. If his basic point is that poorly-done reviews aren't good, then, yeah, but he seems to be getting at a general state of affairs without pinning anyone or anyplace down.

One last thing, I want to thank sponge at TMT for pointing out the flaw in this dichotomy: "Music criticism ought to be first concerned with the objective fact, the music itself, and secondly whether or not its relation to other things (history, tradition, cliché, etc.) makes it better or worse."

It seems like a convenient time to remind everyone to be reading Fire Joe Morgan in case you ever decide to use or not use stats in your writing.


Blogger Ian said...

I seriously couldn't read the CMG article past the first two paragraphs. They contain enough bullshit, and bullshit which takes huge leaps in assuming what music criticism is and does, to boot, that I'll have to take your word on the rest of it.

The TMT one I only had the willpower to gloss over for now, but at least it seemed like something I could disagree with civilly (if I happen to disagree) rather than something that gives me a headache.

9:50 PM  

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