About ten days ago we created a minor storm in a miniature tea cup. Having posted a blog that contained a gig review and critique of a new and upcoming pop singer, we concluded that she had good songs, a great voice but at this particular show didn’t quite get to our emotional core. The blog went on to suggest that this was like much modern pop music. We considered the piece to be a reasonably balanced, honest and fairly positive reflection of a satisfactorily and pleasing show but nothing more.
Soon after the blog was uploaded we received a number of somewhat hilarious insults from an anonymous fan on the comments section of the blog. This was followed by the manager of the artist tweeting “Blogs that don't have nice things to say don't say them at all. What is the point?” A little while later the artist herself put a quote from Jay Z on her blog. “I’m like, fuck critics, you can kiss my whole ass hole if you don’t like ma lyrics you can press fast forwarrrrd.” We’re not sure if these comments were aimed at this blog, but irrespective of our suspicion that they were, they raise an interesting question. First should music bloggers have a role as critics, and secondly what is the value of music criticism in general?
Our view is very much that in our new society bloggers do have a role to play. Amateur journalism may often have its downfalls – the lack of quality in the writing, the poor editing and production for example, but as in any medium, including professional journalism, there’s some great stuff, some okay stuff and some terrible stuff.
Some people (as typified by the “What’s the point,” question above) suggest that the music bloggers role is only to promote music that they like. There are many great (and some not so great) blogs out there that simply do just this. They are a valuable and vibrant resource for music fans around the world.
However there are good reasons why this blog does not fully adopt this approach. Although virtually all new songs we post (in streaming / download or video form) we love, we also attend many gigs and listen to many albums – we’re incredibly passionate these things. Because of our passion we like to communicate to our readership our thoughts, feelings and analysis of some of these shows and records. We spend a huge amount of cash on travelling to gigs, gig tickets, records and CD’s and the reality is that not every single show and not every single album purchased will be superb. Sometimes as a fan we can feel a little let down or just non-plussed.
A music critic or bloggers role is to act as a sieve – shaking the good out from the average, to make it easier for the public to make decisions about purchasing or consumption. Since the online revolution there is so much music to be discovered it’s easy to become lost. A trusted critic or blogger can guide you, pointing you in the direction of good stuff, warning you of the bad.
What is good and bad is a matter of taste – it’s always a difficult one to call. But if a blogger or critic has a depth knowledge of their subject, plenty of experience of it, is honest and is prepared to be as objective as they can (everyone will always have some degree of bias, no matter how hard they try to be objective) then their critiques can often be trusted. Of course some bloggers may be self-proclaimed experts and shouldn’t be making such claims, but the truth will out and respect and readership will soon be lost for such blogs.
Not many people like to receive or read negative feedback about themselves, but in any genre, from cinema, to art, to music, critics and bloggers are needed to help guide the public to what they believe to be positive or negative. We live in a country that values freedom of speech. If the point of blogs is only to say nice things, then that very right may as well be consigned to the dustbin.