Rock Criticism 101: Learning to bash others properly
You're ugly and your momma's fat.
There see how easy it is to be a critic? At least that's most people's
perception of the job, but I've always seen it a little differently.
Being a critic may be easy, but being a good critic is another story.
It's basically effortless to rant about how much something sucks, or to
say enough good things about your favourite artist. It's those who are
able to find the balance between these two extremes by being honest and
objective that succeed as talented and trustworthy critics.
Think of the worst album you've ever heard, or the worst movie you've
ever seen. Despite the initial shudder of horror you experience remembering,
say, Excess Baggage starring Alicia Sliverstone (I still wonder
what the hell Benicio DelToro was thinking), try to think of any redeeming
qualities the movie may have had (hmm... Alicia's and Benicio's moms probably
liked it) and to consider what audience it was intended for.
Keeping these things in mind is important for any qualified critic, as
any really good critic has two essential qualities: honesty and an objective,
As easy as it may be to write a scathing review of the new Matchbox 20
CD just because you've always hated the band, a good critic would arguably
put themselves into the shoes of an Everclear fan and would try to look
at the album from their perspective.
This does not mean that a great critic only finds the good in the bad,
for it's just as important for critics to find the bad in the good. The
key is simply to be objective and to take a similar approach to a review
as one would take on an essay. This means: gather a thesis for the review,
and then back it up with evidence. Research the artist and their back-catalogue
and try to see how the record fits in to the sphere of their career so
You can't argue that critics don't have power; magazines like Rolling
Stone and SPIN arguably have the puppet-master might to make or break
People love to bitch about critics. The main claim is that critics are
artists who didn't "make it big" and now sit in a tiny cubicle
rocking back and forth in the fetal position and bitterly bash those artists
who have managed to get even the tiniest sliver of the mainstream pie.
It's probably correct to assume that many critics wish they had the talent
of the filmmakers and bands they pass judgment on, but then, who doesn't?
It's not fair to presume that all negative criticism stems from personal
The bottom line is that critics are most often music fans who review music
because they love it. Let's face it: reviewing CDs for a living pays in
breadcrumbs (or, if you work for The Gazette, well... let's not
even go there) and only dedication could keep you going to back to such
a glamour-less job.