In today’s music landscape, albums are reviewed almost as fast as they’re released. Twitter fingers get cracking and a project is boiled down to a 140-character blurb sometimes even before a complete listen. While anyone’s opinion can be shared by simply pressing send, professional criticism is still a focal part of the album release timeline but these reviews seem to be less about the music and more about how much of a reaction they can elicit from both artists and readers.
This February following the release of The Life of Pablo, Kanye West tweeted at Pitchfork that “the album is a 30 out of 10,” even though he had received a nine out of ten and earned a best new music distinction, a rare feat for a rap album. More recently, Pitchfork seemingly overlooked Post Malone’s Stoney album rating it a 4.5 out of ten, a score so comically low that it resembles the 1.6 they gave to Childish Gambino’s Camp back in 2011.
Pitchfork, the album is a 30 out of 10
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 15, 2016
— Pitchfork (@pitchfork) December 15, 2016
It is in no way productive to drag a 21-year-old man over the coals for creating the music he wanted to create. Because of this, his brand takes a hit to some degree because some writer wanted to “Go Flex” a false sense of cultural elitism just because of the platform he or she was given. This happens time and time again and it’s about time that something is done about it.
Here are two easy ways to change the review culture to make it less problematic for everyone involved.
First, stop using the word “best.” That word signifies objectivity which is absolutely impossible to achieve. Instead, replace it with the word “favorite.” Someone’s opinion is less likely to be attacked than a publication implicitly saying that their list is the authority on which albums are good or not. Complex was criticized heavily by saying SremmLife was the third “best” album of 2015 but if they said that it was their third favorite album, how can you argue that? It resonated with them more than a lot of albums so it’s not up for debate.
Second, focus on stuff you like or don’t focus on it at all. Instead of giving an entire album a low score, highlight tracks that stand out. There’s bound to be at least one on a number of projects that are given low scores. In Post Malone’s case, a song like “Big Lie” has hit potential so a publication can write a blurb that focuses on that as opposed to bringing down an whole album that people like.
Some might think that that this way of thinking is reflective of the “everyone’s a winner” mentality, but here’s the thing: ultimately, there are no winners or losers. Make the music you want to make if you’re an artist, listen to the music you want to listen to if you’re a consumer. The only reviews we truly need are those with head bobs, various arm movements, and the almighty “stank face.”