Newest Review: ... that you listen to the album before. It is useful to read other reviews of the same album you listened to. It doesn't matter weather y... more
The Blind Reading The Deaf
How To Write A Good Music Review
Member Name: plipplop
How To Write A Good Music Review
Advantages: Music is fab.
Disadvantages: But it's not like a bottle of shampoo, OK?
Of all the categories on this here opinion site, I tend to think that music reviews are probably the hardest to write. It's bizarre, really, when you think that there probably isn't a soul in the world who doesn't like and own some form of music. This is, perhaps, the problem. When the bored and penniless reviewer sits down to write something, he/she almost certainly sticks a CD on to listen to and has the startling brainwave that he/she could write a review of that very CD. It's downhill from there.
It's easy to describe how you relate to something you can see or touch. Everyone has a perception of what "orange plastic" might look like or indeed what "strong black coffee" might taste like. But when it comes to describing or relating to the sound of music, many reviewers seem to come unstuck. I couldn't profess to be an expert in this arena, but I know what I like, and more importantly what I DON'T like and I thought this might be just the slightest bit useful. Let's see.
Cards on the table, I don't like track-by-track music reviews. OK, that's an understatement. I HATE them. I don't mean to offend anyone, but just what purpose does the writer think this might fulfil? Few people review a book chapter by chapter, a film scene by scene or a theatre show act by act, so why this insistence on reviewing an album track by track by track? For me, it's lazy, ineffectual reviewing. It's reviewing by numbers. (I can say these things. I've written track-by-track reviews in the past and I know I was being lazy and shite.) There may be exceptions; I could foresee a case for this approach with a greatest hits collection, for example, whereby the relevance and history of the track might need to be explored. But even then, I think there are better ways to do it.
There's more opinion pollution to come, too. I don't see the point of quoting lyrics either. In small doses, this can add value, for example, if there is something particularly clever, funny or moving that demonstrates the songwriter's talents. Otherwise, it's just filler, often laid down as some kind of weird testament to the writer's admiration for the artist(s). I have to say that I'm not sure that many song-writers would be moved by endless passages of their lyrics simply being copied and pasted into a random website review. Nope, there's no value here, either.
Another firm un-favourite is opinion without justification. This isn't unique to music reviews, by any stretch of the imagination, but I would argue that it's more common here than anywhere. Passages like "I love this record so much, it's so totally cool and I could play it, like, totally every morning" may up your word count, but the attention ticker's going the other way. Dare I suggest that you point out why you like/dislike something so much? It's not hard. You could consider how the music makes you feel, for starters. "I love this record so much, it's so totally cool and I could play it, like, totally every morning. It's really energetic and fast and really lifts my mood" is already a bit of an improvement and all for the sake of ten more words.
So if these things are the kind of content that turns me off, what makes me switch on? Well, here are a few ideas.
I like to understand the relevance of something. Is this a new album or a classic? Was it an early or established release? Who produced it and was this out of the ordinary? Was this released at a crucial time in the artist's career? What RELEVANCE does this album have at the time you're writing the review?
I like to understand the COHERENCE of the album. How does it all hang together? Are we talking one or two top tracks or a complete disc of classics? If the artist was trying to say something does it work? (So if, for example, somebody is trying to appeal more to a certain market, how successful is this?) Sometimes, musicians have wacky moments where they indulge themselves terribly in something that's actually not terribly good. Is that the case here or is it groundbreaking and exciting? For greatest hits collections, I'm always keen to see what you think in terms of how complete the collection is or whether it's all a bit premature.
The EXPERIENCE of music is hugely important. How does this music make you feel? Are you uplifted or depressed? When would you listen to this music and who with? Can you stand a whole album or maybe a couple of selected tracks at a time? I often buy albums where five or six songs are probably enough; and that's fine for me, but some listeners want something a bit more substantial, a longer listening experience, if that makes sense. I do think there is merit in understanding any special attachment you may have to this music also. It's useful to know, for example, that this is your favourite album from your teenaged years. That might mean I won't connect to it in the same way, you see.
If it's something that makes you tick, the COMPETENCE of the music is relevant too. How skilful is this? Don't be tempted to start getting all technical if this isn't your field, though. It's perfectly acceptable to say things in your own terms. If the music sounds tinny, disjointed and badly arranged then say so; you don't need to talk about tone, pitch and rhythm if you're not comfortable with those terms.
In the absence of the track-by-track diatribe, I'd much rather hear about your favourite/least favourite songs. I'm not saying that you shouldn't mention individual tracks at all - far from it. I tend to think that if you can consider some particular highs and/or lows, your overall perception of the album is probably that bit more rounded and therefore more useful to a reviewer. Suggestions for improvement are totally relevant, too. What could the artist have done better? What would you like to see next time? Let's not fool ourselves into thinking that Madonna is driven by what she reads on Dooyoo, but it's all good stuff, right?
And so to the final taboo. Do you tell the audience the price and where you bought the CD from? My answer would probably be no. I can't see the point. Anyone who is even remotely web-savvy can go use a search engine the same as you or I and in a few months' time I'll bet the going rate has changed anyway. I wouldn't say this information was useless but it is timebound so don't lose too much sleep about it.
That's it, really. I guess the trouble is that music is quite a personal thing, which means that writing about it is quite a personal thing, too, which is fine. So what's the perfect music to accompany navel gazing then.........?
Summary: A few thought with which to bore you senseless