If in a poll, 70 people out of 100 say they like a thing, that is a fact. It is equally fact, that 30 other people either do not like that same thing or are indifferent; and one fact cannot rob another fact of its ‘factness’. – Obinna Agwu.
I was casually browsing through my TL a couple of days ago, as I often do, when I happened upon a tweet that simply echoed the title of this piece: “What qualifies people to do music reviews?” The tweet immediately commanded my attention because of its familiarity. It is the one question that is a common factor in the comments section of nearly all the music reviews I’ve read on notable entertainment blogs this year (and I’m not just talking about my reviews). This question cracks me up every time because of the terrible weight of stupidity it encapsulates.
First, what is a review? A review is simply the author’s OPINION about a particular subject. That’s all. So, in that sense, we can adjust the title of this piece to read: “What qualifies people to have an opinion about an album?” The answer to the above question is so simple it’s embarrassing to write, but I’ll try. Well, buying (or downloading) an album and listening to the whole album at least once, qualifies anyone to have an opinion of the album, as long as this opinion does not deprive the next person of his or hers.
Meanwhile, on further probing, I discovered another tweet by the same person behind the one I mentioned earlier, which read: “If you don’t like the album, shut up, we don’t want to hear you.” yet, same person’s TL was dripping with her favourable opinion (review) and lofty praise for the said album. So I also ask, what qualifies that fellow to decide that the said album is a masterpiece? Your guess is probably as good as mine. But let me take the liberty to state what I believe to be key attributes of a good review.
For starters, no single album review, no matter what the author’s “qualification” is, is the absolute TRUTH about that album. In fact, a review tells us as much about the reviewer as it does the reviewed work. So, any review that tries to pass itself off as the absolute TRUTH, is a sham.
Following from the above, no album review is objective, none. So, by their very nature, all album reviews are subjective, and it’s a good thing. Therefore, the best a review can hope for is to be an absolute, true representation of the author’s views on the album.
Furthermore, no album review should attempt to predict the commercial success or otherwise of the reviewed work. A review is not a forecast; it’s only a review.
Any review that meets the criteria enumerated above, is a valid review in my estimation, and so is every other dissenting opinion.
Recently I watched an episode of Oprah’s Master Class with the world acclaimed music business legend and Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr, and in the course of the program he made an intriguing comment about The Temptations’ hit single ‘Cloud Nine’, off their 1969 album of same title. Berry clearly stated that he didn’t want to release the song, at the time, because he believed it was a ‘drug record’. However, because his was a rather democratic company, his lieutenants (who mostly liked the song) prevailed and the song was released and eventually won a Grammy for “Best Rhythm and Blues Group Performance, Vocal or instrumental”, which was, incidentally, the first Grammy to come to Motown. Interestingly though, the Grammy didn’t change Berry’s mind as he still maintained in that interview, and I quote, “I still think it’s a drug record.” Question: Is Berry a hater? Please answer in the comments section or on your TL.
In rapping up this rant, and to make my point clearer to those who still don’t get it, I’ll put it this way: The same thing that qualifies an Arsenal fan – though he/she never kicked a ball before, nor has coaching experience – to criticize Arsene Wenger sometimes; the same thing that qualifies you – though you have never been President of a country at any time nor possess a Doctorate in macro/micro economics – to criticize GEJ; that, is the same thing that qualifies me, and you, to review any music we listen to. Whether it’s 140 characters on twitter, or a thousand-word article on a blog, or your response in the comments section of the same blog; your opinion is your review, and you are entitled to your opinion just as much as I am entitled to mine; questioning this, is lunacy. So speak, and let speak. And as for the question: Why Reviews? Well, why not?