Friday, July 3, 2009
Music Criticism Crisis
I recently read an essay by David Hajdu, a music critic for The New Republic and an associate professor at Columbia's graduate journalism school.
The essay was not specific to music, but rather to arts criticism. A critique of criticism of sorts, but also a speculation of where arts criticism may be headed. You can read it here, but here is one highlight:
Quoting an anonymous critic: "The world of music writing is becoming a lot like high school. Writers do not write about music so much anymore. Their job is to look cool and to align themselves with the right albums at the right time so that they're not belittled or kicked out of the cool club. I think that has really become a problem. People are afraid. There's this fear that you could hurt your career or your image if you go out on a limb and say, 'I don't like The Hold Steady or Arcade Fire.' So, for various reasons, people have decided to focus on the positive and be of good service to the readers."
Unnerving. But it seems about right, doesn't it? Of course one of the most popular sources of music criticism these days is Pitchfork, known for scathing remarks and dolling out few album reviews that score above a 7. And according to an article in Slate magazine, the site is provoking on purpose. Check it out here.
Going by Hajdu's rubric though, it doesn't seem like Pitchfork provides criticism any more real than these others. They are simply creating a new cool club.
In other news, I have a new favorite Brazilian artist (a favorite among many): Marcio Local
His new album Marcio Local Says Don Day Don Dree Don Don is worth a listen just for the opportunity to say the title. But if you need another reason,
He who doesn't like samba isn't a good guy.
He's rotten in the head or sick in the feet.