Filed under: Features,Internets,Not Your Average,The Unkut Opinion,Vote Or Die
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
With all the talk of the music industry in being decline, print media on it’s last legs and the so-called ‘power of blogs’, it seems that the art of music criticism is also at a cross roads of sorts. Now that Pruane can make a name for himself as a pop-culture reviewer, who gives a crap what some college graduate thinks about the latest El-P CD?
Rafi Kam from the Internets Celebrities agrees: “I think the idea of critic as a profession is absolutely on the way out. Everyone can publish their reviews now and there’s more supply than demand.” This reflects the “Me too!” that Comments Section Culture has delivered us. Pen a review of a new record online and there’s a good chance that several of your visitors will write their own reviews in your comment section, since eveybody can Rapidshare the retail version the same day that you do. And thanks to Metacritic and their ilk, we can now have dozens of reviews assembled for us and assigned an exact numerical score, eliminating the need to even read a single sentence while trying to decide if it’s worth shelling out $60 for WiiPoopSportzPonyz 2. Trying to order a DVD on the internets? Even Amazon rams ‘Readers’ reviews down you’re throat. Did I ask what Billy from Wyoming thought of Eraserhead? Then again, is he any less qualified to tell the world that he thinks a movie sucks just because he hasn’t written a thesis on the collected works of Jim Jarmusch?
Another casualty of the declining influence of magazines is the lack of a definite authority on rap. There was once a time when a ‘Four Mic’ review in The Source could make or break a new album, while ego trip were known for their take-no-prisoners approach to LP analysis. It’s now more important to be the first site with the review than to offer any particular insight or critical ear. Byron Crawford‘s track-by-track reviews work thanks to his gift for snarky one-liners, but if you copped rap CD’s based on his recommendations alone you’d only have spent $20 last year. And yet there are a number of hip-hop blogs dedicated to reviewing literally every new rap record to released, so surely someone cares how Johnny Punchclock rates the latest post-Dilla Detroit rap phenom?
Thun from T.R.O.Y. offers a more open-minded interpretation: “I trust the first 100 pages of the NYC phone book to write legitimate reviews of rap CD’s more than any of the established print magazines, so I’m kind of okay where things are going. The Source magazine used to be literally the one source for all opinions and memes and idiots would just echo whatever they said, for years. Now people can voice their opinions and have them Twittered across the globe. The potential for creating rich, incisive commentary is greater – does it work in practice? Probably not. It’s not the new media that’s the problem, it’s the attitude of certain commentators who feel the need to just brain-fart their ideas out in real time with little to no discretion.”
Well-written and original music criticism is an art unto itself, and it’s been said that critics such as Robert Christgau deliver music analysis that is “dense with ideas and allusions, first-person confessions and invective, highbrow references and slang”. Chairman Mao, O-Dub and Dave Thompkins are three rap critics that spring to mind as having attained that level of slang editorial mastery, but who should we look to for impeccable taste and creative prose now? Or should we just download everything and decide for ourselves what’s worth shelling out cash for?
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