Reviewing Music Isn’t A Waste Of Time

My morning face.

When I checked my Twitter yesterday morning, there were some Tweets floating around on my timeline which I disagreed with.

Well. That’s basically removed my sole reason for existence.

kevo says music is far more taste-oriented than literature or film. From the context, I take “taste” to be personal preference, without justification. Now, what kevo states may or may not be true. However, is it a good reason for not critiquing music? Why do people read reviews in the first place? Music certainly is taste-oriented, and there’s a huge variety of music out there, which makes finding music matching your tastes difficult. It could be argued this makes critiquing music more important. I suspect many people read music reviews solely to find new artists and songs. Then there are people who read reviews so they can gain insight of the songs. While this is affected by taste to some extent, it is still possible to appreciate well or poorly done sections that are pointed out by people with differing taste. I subscribe to both reasons; I read some review sites to find new artists, and I read others to increase my understanding.

His following statement, “different people like different stuff”, can be applied to any art form, for example anime. Just look at the range of opinions in the anime blogosphere. Does different people liking “different stuff” somehow invalidate their critiques? As long as they’re backed up by solid reasoning, I don’t think so.

Flawfinder agrees with kevo, claiming there’s “not much objective stuff” to support people’s viewpoints. I’ll interpret that as he means that there isn’t a set of criteria to assess works like there is in literature, where you can evaluate the dialogue, characterisation or plot progression. But I would argue that there are similar criteria for music. In music reviews, we can consider an artist’s tone, pitch, harmonies, diction, phrasing, vibrato, instrument choice, dynamics, transitions, mixing, album coherence etcetera. Furthermore, you can also analyse the lyrical content for themes and symbolism (if you’re not me). I think the problem is that it’s not always easy to analyse a piece, and people have trouble saying more than “I don’t know much about music, but I know what I like.” (Sometimes this applies to me.)

Finally, an important question is “Why do I review music?”. I think I do it because it deepens my own appreciation of the songs, and it allows me to pass on that appreciation to, and discuss with, others (wow, cheeeeesy). Through reviewing, I’ve also improved my abilities to identify aspects of songs which I judge to be good or bad. I know I’m just an average reviewer and I’m sure there’s more competent people out there who can articulate their viewpoints far better than I can. However, I believe well-expressed musical criticism still has worth, as does criticism of other art forms.

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33 Responses to Reviewing Music Isn’t A Waste Of Time

  1. Artemis says:

    I think most people just don’t know -how- to critique music, and so there’s no way for them to judge tone, pitch, tone, harmonies, etc. I certainly agree with kevo (and you) that music is up to personal taste, but as you said, so is everything else. Reviewing an anime is considered more objective I suppose because people are generally more used to having the capability of judging things such as artwork, animation, story, or pacing. Music on the other hand uses an entirely different language since these above things generally don’t generally come into the equation… or if they do, they do so in completely separate ways. Lacking the language to be able to fluently discuss these factors, I suspect that many people who only review things they can see on screen are therefore inclined to believe that reviewing music is either impossible, pointless, or both.

    • Alex says:

      Yeah, it’s hard to judge a critique when you lack familiarity in that area. Heck, it’s taken me quite a while to be able to judge tone and stuff, and I consider myself fairly musical. The point about language is good as well. Especially if you’re from an English-focused background, you already have the language to discuss your anime, book etc. Music, on the other hand, is a bit more difficult to describe (well, you can by using music theory, but that’s beyond me), and when you don’t have the language framework and don’t know much about the subject, it becomes difficult to critique and assess that critique.

  2. froggykun says:

    You tell ’em, Alex! If anything, musical taste is actually more objective than other art forms. If music composition doesn’t follow the established rules and harmonies, it sounds dissonant. Plus, I think it’s easy for pretty much anyone to tell the difference between an amateur beginning to learn an instrument and a professional.

    I can see what Kevo is saying too, of course. When it comes to pop music in particular, listeners have a tendency to associate the music with the emotional or social context they heard the song in, so the song’s value is less in how it succeeds artistically and more in what meaning the listener reads into it. My brother tells me that music appreciation courses tend to neglect pop music, probably because its effect is so difficult to pin down. Structurally and musically, a pop song is usually too simple to be worth studying in much depth. So most critique becomes less about what the song is doing on a technical level and more about the listener’s identity. It becomes easy to faff on about a whole lot of nothing, in other words.

    Nevertheless, the willingness to learn through music is a great thing to have, and while I can’t say I’m into J-Pop, I appreciate what you and the folks at Anime Instrumentality do. Perhaps it’s because of my relative disinterest in popular music as a whole, but I end up learning some interesting things about how J-Pop works from people who obviously care and who have put a lot of thought into discovering why some songs in the genre work for them and others don’t. It’s a worthy ambition to have.

    • Alex says:

      Thank you🙂 . I’m reluctant to say music is more objective though. Well, partly because I don’t think I have a really solid grasp on the meaning of “objective”, but partly because I don’t think music does have to follow established rules. More like guidelines, maybe, which you can go against if you know what you are doing. For example, in a music class a few years ago I briefly learnt about the “Petrushka chord”, which is a C chord simultaneously on an F# (I don’t know if you’ve got a musical background, but it clashes horribly). Using this in most songs would be a big no-no because of the clashing notes, but it worked fine in the composition. (This might be a crap example though. Petrushka is a neoclassical piece, while I’m mostly discussing more pop music). I’m sure there’s similar examples of “going against the guidelines” in literature as well, although I can’t think of any off the top of my head.

      You’re right, pop music is often simpler than other forms of music. You make an interesting point too, about the social context. I’m probably not in the norm for (J-Pop) listeners, because I judge my music almost completely within the context of the song, not with its related anime etc. You made a comment over on Just Another Heaven which said “…I like songs that give me fond memories of my favourite anime”. Actually, before you mentioned it, I hadn’t really thought about that. However, now I consider that, it reminds me of my cousin squeeing over One Direction – she likes their music for the band (equivalent to liking for the anime), not for their music on its own.

      Heh, glad you feel you’ve learnt something. Thanks for commenting!

    • gedata says:

      “You tell ‘em, Alex! If anything, musical taste is actually more objective than other art forms. If music composition doesn’t follow the established rules and harmonies, it sounds dissonant”

      But that assumes that viewers are willing to distinguish between that which is composed well and that which isn’t. I’m willing to bet that most would claim that pieces they don’t like “just aren’t for them” rather then make specific critical calls.

      • froggykun says:

        I oversimplified my argument. In basic terms, though, certain chords will sound pleasant to anyone, regardless of what culture they come from, just like people can usually tell when a picture is in proportion or when the frame rates in an animation sequence are high. You don’t need an education to be able to make those sorts of judgments.

        Music doesn’t always follow the rules, though, and I wouldn’t argue that it’s not objective at all, but assuming you are trained, I’d say it’s easier to pick out the specific techniques and notes the song is using than it is to identify what works and what doesn’t in an anime.

        It gets tricky when a lot of popular music deliberately sounds dissonant because that’s what makes them sound catchy. In that case, “It’s not for me” is an easy defence to fall back onto. But I think where people will generally agree on what parts dissonant and what parts sound harmonious. Often, they just don’t know why. In that case, tastes aside, music critique is useful because it helps you come to a better understanding of the piece.

  3. Silvachief says:

    I don’t have any real experience or knowledge with which to back up this comment but I think you’re absolutely right. Every single art form out there has criteria with which it can be critiqued. The fact that many people stop analyzing music beyond their own personal taste does not change that. It’s entirely possible to appreciate the quality of the song without actually liking it, which is in itself a huge point supporting your argument. My own critique only goes as far as noting lines that I expect to rhyme not rhyming, that thereby impact negatively on my enjoyment of a song.

    I, for one, dislike death metal. I can’t stand screaming in my songs. However, I recognize that other people -do- like it and i’m sure that within that genre there are songs that are simply better than others. Taste and critique are two very different ideas.

    • Alex says:

      It’s definitely possible to appreciate a song without liking it. It’s also possible to analyse music outside your own taste. Just because you dislike a song, it doesn’t mean you can’t see the good and bad aspects of its execution.

      • True. I didn’t know in which I could comment. There were so many comments by the time I wanted to comment D:

        My perspective goes into the subjective route, because it all depends on how the person appreciates the rhythm, instruments, voice, easygoing sound, structure, etc. By making a review you show what’s your way of prefering music but doesn’t mean everyone will agree on it. Even so there are other good things obtained from review sites like discovering new artists, new albums, new webpages(:P), etc.

        And for the example that Alex is saying I think Austin from Just Another Heaven is similar to it. He does reviews not based on his musical taste and still sees good and bad aspects of it.

  4. rikuo06 says:

    Dismissive opinions like that are exactly why we need more music critics! You’ll show ’em!

  5. TPAB~ says:

    I’ll be completely honest. Reviewing music isn’t really BS, but it’s definitely hard to critic it. After all, it’s all subjective. Everything about music is subjective. You said there is an actual measuring stick like an artist’s tone, pitch, harmonies, diction, phrasing, vibrato, instrument choice, dynamics, transitions, mixing, album coherence etcetera but this can only be judge solely on your subjective interpretation of it. Right?
    You may like an artist’s tone but if it’s a song about f*cking chickens then it’s hard to argue about the song being good. Instrument of choice is odd. So you can distinctly tell when a guitar solo should be placed in a song and tell that a percussion doesn’t work and you can easily point out another instrument instead?
    Dissecting the lyrics and the rhythm as two separate piece is also something I have trouble with. So the song is about a heartwarming retelling of the holocaust, but the rhythm is abysmal. How can I properly tell people the rhythm actually sucks when the song is about ethnic cleansing.
    Reviewing music is hard. I don’t think it’s stupid but the beauty of a music review is how a song relates to you and the experience it has given you. It’s something hard to do when you must approach it technically, artistically and passionately understanding the purpose of the song, the singer’s emotions behind it and a lot of other stuff I seriously cannot discern.

    I dunno. I just suck at music review, I guess.

    • Artemis says:

      “You said there is an actual measuring stick like an artist’s tone, pitch, harmonies, diction, phrasing, vibrato, instrument choice, dynamics, transitions, mixing, album coherence etcetera but this can only be judge solely on your subjective interpretation of it. Right?”

      I don’t think this is an invalid argument (I personally disagree with it, but that’s besides the point), but if you’re going with this argument to begin with, then wouldn’t you also therefore have to say that absolutely everything as far as entertainment goes is subjective? If an artist’s tone, pitch, harmonies, etc. is all subjective interpretation, then so is the animation quality, pacing, etc. of any given anime. I’m not going to have a debate about whether or not every single thing comes down to subjective opinion (a little deep for me at this time of night), but I will say that it seems pretty unfair to state that anime, for example, can be judged with at least some objectivity but that music can’t be. That’d be a huge double standard.

      • TPAB~ says:

        I never said anime is critiqued objectively. I don’t believe that. Nothing is objective but for me, music is different. There is no “good” or “bad” in music. I just think that it’s easier to discern the elements of an anime like the animation, the story, and all the fixings. I can personally say that its easy to point some elements out. I mostly thank the amount of time needed for form some thought on the matter For a music review, the whole technical stuff, the artist’s intentions, the symbolism and thematic gestures, and the overall listening experience is harder to critic. In my experience, relating an anime to another is helpful but music reviews don’t seem to go that way for me. You can point out a singer’s style but the thing that makes it a good song is ultimately decided on how you perceive it. I tried my hand at dissecting music myself. I can honestly say I’m not good at it. The technical stuff is easy since the rhyme and meter and lyrical progression is simple to process but some chorus work aren’t as great as others. Some lyrics are dull, some have loud instrumentals that you often have to consider and the ultimate question of “is it good?” comes to mind, I can’t really tell. More importantly, how is a music bad? For anime, you have thirteen/twenty five episodes to figure it out as you judge now to later. For music, I dunno. You can judge the verse to the lyrics? The artist’s long intro to the short cut chorus? The wrong use of instrumentals in a certain line over the overall thematic progression of the piece? I guess I just don’t judge myself to critic a music impartially much more so than others. Plus, I often think that you don’t have to review music. I didn’t really develop a taste for music because of a review of it. I listen to it myself. Three/Five minutes isn’t a loss.

        I guess you can just chalk it up to me not really understanding music and that I agree with the kevo but not with the BS part but with music being a harder thing to critic than other media.🙂

    • Alex says:

      Well, Artemis snuck in before me, but I’ll just put my (similar) two cents in as well.

      Reviewing music isn’t really BS, but it’s definitely hard to critic it. After all, it’s all subjective. Everything about music is subjective. You said there is an actual measuring stick like an artist’s tone, pitch, harmonies, diction, phrasing, vibrato, instrument choice, dynamics, transitions, mixing, album coherence etcetera but this can only be judge solely on your subjective interpretation of it. Right?

      Sometimes, music is hard to critique, and yes, it is subjective. I think you’ve misinterpreted me though. I’m not trying to say there is a definite measuring stick for these criteria. What I’m trying to say is that there are criteria for which you can assess music. These criteria are similar to the ones you use when reviewing anime, such as story, pacing, dialogue, art, animation etc. In music you use pitch, dynamics etc. You are correct in saying that my judgement of these categories is subjective. However, when anyone critiques art, aren’t their critiques subjective as well? Like a review of a book, where you might comment on a character’s development, music also has “guidelines” for quality of tone etc. However, in both cases, how “good” the development/tone is depends on the reviewer, not some definite standard.

      You may like an artist’s tone but if it’s a song about f*cking chickens then it’s hard to argue about the song being good. Instrument of choice is odd. So you can distinctly tell when a guitar solo should be placed in a song and tell that a percussion doesn’t work and you can easily point out another instrument instead?

      This and your next paragraph are similar, so I’ll address them both at once. Like other media, a single song can have categories where it does well, and categories where it doesn’t do as well. An anime might have fantastic characters, but incredibly sluggish pacing. In an anime review, you would discuss them both. You can do this as well in a music review. So the tone is good. Comment on that then! Afterwards, you can also say how the lyrics are lame as hell. I don’t think there’s any reason why you can’t discuss both the strengths and weaknesses. Regarding the instrument choice, I think yes, sometimes you can tell when an instrument is out of place. For example, in my recent review of FictionJunction’s album Elemental, I commented on Toki no Mukou Maboroshi no Sora‘s flute sounding silly and out of place in the verse. It’s all my opinion of course, so is every review I write. Maybe a more extreme hypothetical example would be having a peaceful folk song with only an acoustic guitar and vocalist, then suddenly introducing dubstep and bass drops in the bridge. I could imagine that the dubstep change would feel jarring and odd.

      I don’t think it’s stupid but the beauty of a music review is how a song relates to you and the experience it has given you.

      If that’s how you feel, that’s perfectly fine. I lean towards reading slightly more “technical” reviews, but if you enjoy reading about experiences, that’s okay too.

      Thanks for commenting, and providing an alternative viewpoint. Hopefully I made some of my arguments a little clearer.

      • TPAB~ says:

        Again, I mean no offense. I never said I judge anime objectively. You people introduced that argument like I’m some kind of anime reviewing freak. I am sorry in advance because I don’t participate in a lot of these comment thingys on other blogs but I just wanted to add more insight on what kevo said. For an anime, you can instantly tell that sluggish pacing is bad and interesting characters are good. Sluggish pacing can kill an anime’s story because you can judge the now to the later. The pacing wasn’t this sluggish before so what the F, right?
        For music, a slow intro can’t be immediately bad. Even if the entire song is composed of only one word (yes, such a song exist), the question of is it “bad” or “good” isn’t as simple as deciding whether an anime with an okay pace that turns sluggish is considered “bad”. For that, you’d have to write up how it was “good” or “bad” on how you perceive it which makes music reviews tricky. I mean, a bad tone. I know artists that actually cut their pitch on high notes and some that just f*cking fumble when they can’t reach a high note. Okay, that’s a bad thing. I’ll comment on that. So, is the song good or bad? Can I really say a song is good or bad over all the things that are considered? Even if there is an objective measuring stick to music, I don’t think you can utilize it in a satisfying manner that would help you decide if a song is good or bad. All the technical stuff counters the artistic stuff, and it just makes it hard to critic music. I mean, for me atleast.

        Also that peaceful folk song being turned into a dubstep. How is that bad exactly? It is jarring and odd but can you really say its “good” or “bad”? Some people might perceive the dubstep approach as a daring new take on genre mixing. There’s so much levels to a music review that I honestly can’t grasp.
        This is just my honest opinion though.🙂

        • Alex says:

          In this comment I’ll reply to both your comment to Artemis and your comment to me.

          Again, I mean no offense.

          No offence taken, I think you’ve been polite throughout🙂 .

          I never said I judge anime objectively. You people introduced that argument like I’m some kind of anime reviewing freak.

          I don’t think I said that you judge anime objectively. When I bring anime into my argument, it’s to show that the way music is reviewed is no different to the way anime is reviewed.
          Now, onto my counter-arguments.

          …for me, music is different. There is no “good” or “bad” in music.

          I disagree here. I think we first have to define what “good” or “bad” is. I would define these as
          Good: having desirable or positive qualities
          Bad: not good; having undesirable or negative qualities
          Assuming you agree with those definitions, they imply that “good” or “bad” are personal things. So when I judge as song to be good or bad, I judge it to my own standards, instead of some global music standard. While many people may agree with my reasoning why a song is good or bad, it’s still subjective of course. I don’t think this is unusual when you compare it to other forms of reviews. To take anime as an example, some people might praise the characters for certain reasons, while others might say they are stereotyped or poorly written. Or to follow with my folk/dubstep example from before, some people might say that this is a daring new approach, while some might say it’s weird and off-putting. All those views are valid. Basically what I’m trying to get at is that good or bad is up to you, but you can still justify why you think it’s good or bad by using similar subjective reasons as you would when discussing an anime or other art form. Maybe you could argue there’s no “good” or “bad” in art, but I think that’s beyond me.
          (Btw when I say “you would discuss blah blah in an anime” in my comments, I don’t mean to target you in particular. I’m using “you” as a general term for a reviewer. Except when I’m actually referring to you.)

          For an anime, you can instantly tell that sluggish pacing is bad […] For music, a slow intro can’t be immediately bad. Even if the entire song is composed of only one word (yes, such a song exist), the question of is it “bad” or “good” isn’t as simple as deciding whether an anime with an okay pace that turns sluggish is considered “bad”. I mean, a bad tone. I know artists that actually cut their pitch on high notes and some that just f*cking fumble when they can’t reach a high note. Okay, that’s a bad thing. I’ll comment on that. So, is the song good or bad? Can I really say a song is good or bad over all the things that are considered?

          Your argument is flawed in a few ways here. First, I think the comparison is poor. For one thing, you cannot judge pacing “instantly” as it’s something that happens over time. Similarly, a music reviewer would decide whether a slow intro works in the context of the whole song or section of the song. I don’t think there is an overall standard for pacing, and neither is there for intro speeds. Both have to be evaluated in context.

          Second, (and related to the first), I think your examples are getting too specific for judging overall song quality. When judging music (or other art forms), you wouldn’t base your critique of the whole solely on one factor (eg bad tone). You’d also take into account other factors I’ve mentioned, such as arrangement, harmonisation etc. This is similar to a review of a different media like anime, where you’d base your overall judgement on characters, plot, pacing etc. However, the way each factor affects overall song quality might change for each song depending on how well they’re executed and the importance you place on each factor. How the factors add up is different for each reviewer, but this is the same for reviews of any art form.

          Now, when you mention “bad tone”, you go against your argument that there is no good or bad in music. Putting that contradiction aside, deciding whether a song is good or bad (from my previously established definitions) is similar to what I said in the above paragraph. Yes, I think you can decide, but it’s up to you how you prioritise one criteria over another.

          A few other things:

          I just think that it’s easier to discern the elements of an anime

          All the technical stuff counters the artistic stuff, and it just makes it hard to critic music.

          I don’t think these reasons like these are actually relevant to the argument. The first two seem to be more how you have trouble critiquing music, not whether there is a point to critiquing music overall. The third reason is why you don’t feel a need to read music reviews. However, I don’t think it is a reason for not reviewing music. Some people feel they get something out of reading them, and to be honest, I think as long as the reviewer themself gets something out of it, then the review has a point.

          Plus, I often think that you don’t have to review music. I didn’t really develop a taste for music because of a review of it. I listen to it myself.

          I didn’t get into anime because people reviewed it, but I read anime reviews because it gives me a greater appreciation of the techniques and such that are used.

          Thanks again for taking the time to elaborate on your viewpoint, and being polite.

          • TPAB~ says:

            good. I’m glad my comments aren’t offending you. I am actually liking this back and forth because I am still doing baby steps on actual music reviews and I just can’t seem to work it out. My comment is really how I perceive a music review and I just can’t really think of a satisfying approach to it.

            I guess that’s the whole problem with a music approach. For me, personally, anime can lean directly only one of two ways. Good and Bad. All the components are judged and given the proper comment but then when you ask me if an anime is good or bad, I can tell you exactly which parts makes this particular anime good but the overall components combined makes it bad. It doesn’t go that way for music. As much as I can say that I hate the intro of a music, there aren’t enough things for me to process to back my statement. So I really think music is more subjective than any other form of media. Or art. You can define good or bad in anime and I can certainly tell you how in as many words as I can but when you ask me if a music is good or bad, I can’t tell you why. I like it personally, my taste in music is in tune with the song or something like that. It’s not as definitive as when you ask me about anime. So when I go to a music review, I will just say a music is good/bad because that’s how I perceive it and basically, I just emphasize on how it appealed to me which is a more subjective approach than when you talk about characters development or consistency in pacing. Yknow.

            Ok, you have to watch the entire anime first before you can tell if a pacing is sluggish. You compare the first half to the second half and track the growth of the pace. Did it improve at the end or not? That’s how I instantly judge pacing. I’m sorry. I confuse myself too sometimes.
            Now for an intro, how exactly do you tell if it fits a song or not? Can you please, and really this is for my own progress in reviewing music, tell me how you can evaluate the context of the song as it stands on its own without any comparison to other songs and relying solely on the overall musical appeal of a song?

            Again, I’m sorry. You said in your earlier comment that if the “tone” is good then comment on it. Ok then you tell how it affects the music overall. My question is how? How can you tell that the tone is bad based on the overall appeal of the song. The artist might’ve done this intentionally. Are you solely basing on your own preference in music so say that the tone is bad on the overall music? Yeah, you judge the other things but can it definitively say the song is good or bad? I seriously ask this a lot when I tackle music reviews because everything depends on your interpretation of the song and how you perceive which quite frankly is different for all people.

            Wait. You put one criteria ahead of the other. How can you tell if this certain criteria has more importance in a song. Also, all the answers you’re giving is basically going to the point that a music review is subjective….which is kinda my first comment.

            Wait, now you’re throwing away all the technical and artistic stuff and basically saying to me that “music reviews are fun and some people read them”? I can honestly tell that elements of an anime makes it overall good or bad. And yes, I am speaking from experience when I say music review is hard and I do think critiquing music isn’t really that important when everyone perceive music differently. I dunno. What do you think?

            Yes. Exactly, which is why I am asking all these questions. The criteria for judging music, a more substantial approach to music and the technicality and artistic methods involved because I can easily say this music is awesome and it has such great value but how I defend that is purely my subjective stand on it and not really how the entire structure of the song was dissected and critiqued methodically.🙂

          • Alex says:

            …when you ask me if an anime is good or bad, I can tell you exactly which parts makes this particular anime good but the overall components combined makes it bad. It doesn’t go that way for music.

            I see what you’re getting at, but still, I think this is more how you have trouble going about music reviewing. I don’t have this problem.

            Now for an intro, how exactly do you tell if it fits a song or not?

            I think the intro often sets up a kind of theme which runs in the song somewhere. For example, in Nephilim, the quiet intro sets up the chord progression and playing style of the verse, even though it contrasts with the loud chorus which immediately follows it. However, the key word is “often”. There’s such a wide range of introductory styles and techniques that I don’t want to say there’s a set way of doing an introduction properly. While many songs might be judged in one way, a different song might use different techniques and so I’d judge it differently.

            Can you please, and really this is for my own progress in reviewing music, tell me how you can evaluate the context of the song as it stands on its own without any comparison to other songs and relying solely on the overall musical appeal of a song?

            First, when referring to context, I meant how one element of a song contributes to the whole song, not how the whole song relates to a different song.
            I don’t think I said anywhere that I evaluate one song without any comparisons. I might compare an artist’s vocal performance in one of their songs to their vocals in a different song. However, some things I can judge without knowing anything about an artist, for example I doubt I’d ever say that having a nasal voice was good.

            How can you tell that the tone is bad based on the overall appeal of the song.

            We might be having a misunderstanding here. By “tone”, I meant vocal quality, not overall tone of the song. Sorry, I don’t think I ever specifically mentioned that, so I apologise if you got the wrong idea.
            I don’t base my evaluation of (vocal) tone on the appeal of the song, I base the appeal of the song on my evaluation of tone (among other things). As I’ve said in previous comments, I judge the tone by my personal standards. This leads onto my next point.

            Are you solely basing on your own preference in music so say that the tone is bad on the overall music? Yeah, you judge the other things but can it definitively say the song is good or bad?

            Am I basing my evaluation of tone by my own preferences? Yes. Can I definitively say a song is good or bad? Yes. Now, those are based upon my own opinion, but this is exactly the same as in any other review of any other art form. To give an example, for a certain anime, you might say its slow pacing is bad, and factor that into whether you judge an anime overall as good or bad, along with things like logical plot progression etc. However, whether slow pacing is bad is just your own opinion. In the case of music or in the case of anime, I think opinions are valid, but importantly it’s how they are expressed.

            How can you tell if this certain criteria has more importance in a song.

            Again, depends on the song. Let’s say there’s a song with a guitar solo which is mixed very quietly. If the notes weren’t played cleanly (which I probably would consider bad), it’s likely that I wouldn’t weight the messiness of the playing as much as I would it the solo was mixed loudly. Similarly, maybe a reviewer wouldn’t place as much emphasis on characterisation in a review of a fast-paced, plot-driven action movie.

            Wait, now you’re throwing away all the technical and artistic stuff and basically saying to me that “music reviews are fun and some people read them”?

            I think you’ve misinterpreted me. Did you mean my “Some people feel they get something out of reading them” sentence in the last comment? Some people think music reviews are fun, but my intention behind “get something out of it” was that people get more understanding and appreciation of the song.

            Also, all the answers you’re giving is basically going to the point that a music review is subjective….which is kinda my first comment.

            Okay. I think this is the key disagreement in our whole argument. You seem to think there’s not as much point to a music review because it’s more subjective than other art forms such as anime. I’ve already tried to argue that while a music review is subjective, it’s no different to a review of anime or other art. Clearly you’re not convinced. Unfortunately, I’ve already given my best arguments, so if they haven’t swayed you yet, I don’t know what else to say.

            ***

            I really appreciate you adding your viewpoint, because I’m sure many people share your views. Obviously, I’ve failed to convince you, and I don’t feel there’s anything extra I can offer to the discussion. Thanks for spending the time debating with me. I think we’ll just have to disagree on music critiquing.

  6. kyoycz says:

    My opinion is that you can obviously review music in an objective manner, but the subjective opinions are what should make or break someone’s interest in a piece of music – just because something is composed “properly” doesn’t make it more or less enjoyable. While I’m not quite the “I don’t know much about music, but I know what I like” type person, I just don’t enjoy overanalyzing music or describing it in overly abstract terms that just results in sounding like pretentious wankery (the main reason I don’t read a lot of professional music reviews is to avoid this). I can listen to something and say why it is that I like it, what it is that I don’t find interesting, etc, but I’d prefer to keep it in the simplest terms possible.

    • Alex says:

      My opinion is that you can obviously review music in an objective manner…

      Sorry, I’m not too good with some of these things. What exactly do you mean by an “objective manner”?

      …the subjective opinions are what should make or break someone’s interest in a piece of music…

      Yeah, of course. Everyone has different opinions on what makes a song work for them. Still, it’s possible to say why you like a certain part of the song.

      …I just don’t enjoy overanalyzing music or describing it in overly abstract terms that just results in sounding like pretentious wankery.

      Haha in some reviews the analysis gets lost in the description. (Shiiiiit I’m sure I’ve done that before looool). Anyway, thanks for commenting🙂

      • kyoycz says:

        By “objective manner” I just mean evaluating based on what makes music composition “correct,” I suppose. Via sort of things pretty much everyone else has mentioned by now.

  7. Overlord-G says:

    I have little to say regarding this topic other than the following: Every single form of entertainment on Earth is legible to being praised and/or bashed. If a person can get paid to critique Barbie dolls, why should music be treated differently? The rhythms, beats, tones and especially the lyrics/main message of the song can be discussed and be just as relevant as a show. After all, I know some people who would take music over an entire episode of a show if they had to pick one over the other. Music has a powerful effect on people’s souls and is an important part of human existence.

  8. I love music critics. I mostly use them for filtering the crap.
    When you learn about what a critic like and dislike and what genre they review you can relate to your own taste and make finding new music much easier.

    No need to be objective. Once you can gauge how a critic think it’s easy to judge what they do and use the information. Also it’s interesting to ear different opinions on music structures and all.

    • Alex says:

      Fair enough. If you use music criticism for “filtering through the crap”, which I’m sure many people do, then all you have to do is work out the way they judge songs and the importance they place on the different aspects. As you say, then you can relate it to your own tastes and decide if it’s worth getting.
      Thanks for commenting🙂

  9. jstorming says:

    Music reviewing is a hot and contentious mode of criticism partly because people’s music tastes are just so darn personal sometimes. People get defensive when their favorite song or artist gets shot down by someone. People also tend to praise others for having “good taste” if their music preferences align. Music, as with all art forms, is intentionally emotional evocative. Not everyone’s going to react the same way, which is why evaluating it can be difficult. Literature, which is more commonly done, is sometimes a challenge too, especially if you get personally attached to a work. I dislike having to pick apart a poem or novel that’s dear to me, but there is value in many kinds of readings, from the analytical and the emotively reactive.
    Tl;dr Reviewing music is really hard, which is the reason why people should keep doing it. Kudos to you.

    • Alex says:

      Thanks! Some people do react to music criticism really personally, and take it as an affront (I think I’m more detached than most but I still feel a bit sad when one of my favourite artists is bashed haha). I’m not whether people react more or less personally to music than different art forms though.
      It is also difficult to critique something you’re fond of, as you mentioned. I know I always feel reluctant to point out “blah blah could have been done better because…” in a song that I adore. Just part of the job though I suppose, but if you can do it then I reckon you’re on the way to becoming a better reviewer.
      But yeah, I think there are value in music reviews. At my level, I wouldn’t consider it as “intellectual” as an in-depth anime analysis, but I still think it can help you appreciate a song or its techniques more.

  10. shiizumi says:

    Reading reviews helps me to understand more about the subject of the review and it also helps me to gain other people’s insights about it. Whether it be on anime or movie reviews. Reviews often serve as a filter for me on which show to watch and all.

    Actually I don’t read that much music reviews, sorry. But I have to agree with you that reviewing it is TOTALLY not a waste of time. Every reviews are subjective even though there are some objective criteria in which they are based. There are a lot of people who appreciate music reviewers and as long as they are there… You’re good!🙂

    By the way, I like anime music (dunno if I should call it as J-song or whut). I like it for the melody and the emotional and social context I heard the song in. I haven’t, actually, know the meaning of their lyrics. I just love listening to them.

    • Alex says:

      Thanks for the comment!
      You don’t have to say sorry for not reading music reviews ^_^ , I mean they’re not for everyone and people have different interests with regards to what type of reviews they like to read and stuff.

      I haven’t, actually, know the meaning of their lyrics.

      Hehehehehe… I don’t look at the lyrics most of the time as well😀

  11. Tay says:

    As someone who doesn’t really know a whole lot about music in a technical sense, I’ve put the strictly “objective” aspects of the music on the backburner and put more focus on my personal response to the music, the atmosphere, emotions, etc. It may sound like a waste of time to some people, but I think it’s fun and really freeing to articulate those thoughts and get in touch with my emotions, especially if it means it might influence someone else to try the music.

    I’ve always seen reviews as helpful before getting into music or a new release. It’s true that everyone will have a different opinion about different music, but even if you don’t agree with the person, you can still say, “Hey, maybe I should listen to this myself.”

    • Alex says:

      Thanks for commenting. I think music reviews can be pretty helpful for getting people to discover new artists. And while someone like me doesn’t find the emotional content quite as important, music can strongly affect many people’s emotions, so I wouldn’t say it’s useless or anything.

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