Monday, November 15, 2010

The critic does have a place...

...but I still don't understand why this was ever the case (in bold -- ed.):

In the information age, the relationship between professional critic and reader has become so complex and frayed that it’s difficult for either party to know what is expected, or what to expect, from the other. That used to be a pretty simple exchange. Back in the day, the very fact that one had earned a position as a critic at an organ capable of reaching the entire country was de facto proof of one’s value as an analyst.
I don't understand what it is about being a critic at a major media outlet that makes one's opinion on something so subjective as music (or, for that matter, books and film) any more valuable than anyone else's. Critics are only human just like the rest of us and are going to have their own likes and dislikes. I don't know for sure if that was ever taken into account to any significant extent, but if it wasn't, it should have been. You know what I think about certain bands. Would it make any sense at all, for example, for me to review a Rascal Flatts album? There's no way I could do that with an unbiased ear. I think this would probably be the gist of my review:

"I suppose as a pop album this might be good. But as a country record it blows. Go buy you some George Strait or Jamey Johnson."

Of course there's the flip side of the unbiased critic, the gushing fanboy -- "OMG this album rulz! If you don't like it your a hater!" And I'm sure there are some of those on or the like that "Authorized Critics" would love for us to think are the majority of music fans posting reviews. But as I've said before, for many if not most albums whose reviews I've read on, the reviews have been pretty well-thought-out. Yeah, they're from fans of the bands in question, but so what? I'd argue this gives them that much more credibility. Fans have expectations too, and any honest fan will call the artist out if those expectations are not met. I don't understand what's so difficult to comprehend about any of this. And I don't understand why there was any "relationship" between a critic and a fan to begin with. It's just always struck me as another kind of elitism: "Listen to me. My tastes are refined and diverse."

Sure they are. I'm sure fans of most new "country" would say the same thing.

"I like a lot of music, from Carrie Underwood to Metallica. The black album* totally pwned."

"Mm. So what's your opinion of Iron Maiden? How about Lefty Frizzell?"


*Nothing against the Black Album, btw. Despite its difference from early Metallica I still really like it. It's just that the album was the band's most successful and the one a lot of music fans would probably think of when Metallica is mentioned. I wouldn't be surprised if it was the sole Metallica album in many people's music collections. You know how a lot of folks' tastes are -- a mile wide and an inch deep. Somehow I don't think the Authorized Critic is THAT much different.)