Are negative reviews important or just a nuisance?

Do music journalists really give us what they really think?

Music taste can only be determined by the individual, for that individual. Subjectivity creates the notions of “good” or “bad” music for a person. This is beautiful. Though one may disagree with another’s taste, they find value in that they can be confident in their own specific taste that is right for them.
That being said, the subjectivity of music taste is vitally important because it allows us to hear both sides of the story. We can hear all sorts of differing opinions of a work from people with differing experiences and beliefs. We may not agree with every opinion we hear, but we form a basis for why we love the music that we love based on our agreements/disagreements with any other person’s opinion.

In the light of this arises the question: why do music reviews today from the major music websites feature only optimistic, ‘let’s-just-tell-only-what’s-good-about-the-record’ assessments?

If a music critic is optimistic, that should be admired, because he is willing to give any record its fair chance; but today it is arguable music reviews from Rollingstone, The Guardian, Billboard, The New York and LA Times offer hugely neutered if not zero negative comments on new album releases.
Negative feedback should never be given with malicious intent. It is valuable feedback when it can be an honest appraisal of a work to provoke actions by the artists to better their artform and to keep that artist’s audience willing to consciously question what they hear. The critic giving harsh comments may be right or wrong, but whichever the case, his opinion is still valuable and should be questioned by the reader itself.
Music journalists should praise artists for their achievements on a record, but they should also be willing to expose the artists’ shortcomings for the sake of their own honesty.

What progress has ever been made without upset? A critic’s job is to challenge its reader.

For the sake of better music, critics should be more open to discussing the highs and lows of a work, while still maintaining a professionalism and respect for the artist as another human being.

Rollingstone’s review of Taylor Swift’s album “1989” is written entirely descriptive and positive. After closely inspecting it, the reader can easily determine there are ZERO comments that are negative about the album. The record may be a 10/10, it may be a 1/10; but whichever the case it is a record made by a human who, like every other human, makes mistakes.
Rollingstone’s optimistic portrayal of the record is at first warming but ultimately just a romanticism of the work. They fail to mention any cases in which the album could be unsatisfying. Maybe “1989” is just that good that there isn’t anything bad to be said about it. Maybe Rollingstone just doesn’t want to paint themselves as elitist ‘taste-maker’ cynics because they know that attitude doesn’t appeal to the broadest audience possible.
Who knows? You decide. Take a look for yourself here: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/albumreviews/taylor-swift-1989-20141024
The New York Times’ review of “1989” proves to be better. The author takes on the same optimistic tone and provides the ups of the record as well as the context in which it was made. Though the review in some cases opts to, instead of saying something positive or negative, take a politically correct route by simply describing the tracks for what they literally are.

The most negative comment in the entire article was: “…the songs where she sounds the least jaded — “How You Get the Girl,” “Welcome to New York” — are among the least effective.”

It’s just difficult to imagine that’s how the reviewer really feels about those tracks. ‘Least effective?’ What could that possibly mean? Why are they the least effective? Did the author absolutely loathe those tracks but use that phrase ‘least effective’ to avoid offending Swift’s fans? Or does the author actually really think those tracks are very valuable, but just not up to par with the rest of the record? You can decide here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/26/arts/music/taylor-swift-1989-new-album-review.html?_r=0
The Guardian’s review nearly seems like a paraphrased version of the New York Times’. The content and message is nearly exactly the same. If there is criticism, it is neutered. It either tells the pros of the record or merely describes it. http://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/oct/24/taylor-swift-1989-review

Here are some more reviews of “1989” from big names with virtually identical content:

http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/6289405/taylor-swift-1989-album-review
http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/music/la-et-ms-review-taylor-swift-smooths-out-the-wrinkles-on-sleek-1989-20141027-story.html
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/cdreviews/11181928/Taylor-Swift-1989-review-full-of-American-fizz.html
The New York Daily News becomes a little closer to an ideal review. It is an outright negative review, but that is not what makes it a better review. It’s the fact that it has a boldness to acknowledge the negatives without watering them down. One could argue though this review doesn’t acknowledge the positives enough of “1989”; which in all honesty it doesn’t. It’s very cynical. This review should be admired by their courage to say what was wrong with the album, but at the same time, that sense of looking at the music with an optimistic lens apparent in the previous reviews is needed here to provide more credibility to the author. http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music/taylor-swift-1989-album-review-article-1.1984691

Overall, does giving criticism in today’s music era need to be less politically correct? Does it need to be less about facts and more about ideas? Will it, in the long run, facilitate artistic growth? Do reviews need to take account for the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ qualities of a record with equal consideration?

Or is criticism just a waste of time that only causes unneeded hate? Should the public even care this much about music? You decide.

What Music is to SoKnox

Music nourishes the soul.

Hard hearts crumble in the face of genuine, gorgeous music. This is because music is of the soul; it cannot be created without it.

Music is the beat of a human heart and the temperature of their state of mind. Harmony, rhythm, and the poetry that goes with it all are children of emotions. Music comes out of the body because it’s the only way to express what cannot be expressed with the natural outlets we were born with. An emotion overwhelms us to such a point where it becomes impossible to not create something to scare the demon out.
Music becomes an anesthesia, it diverts any and all outside harm from reaching you while you are playing it. It is some piece of Heaven we get blessed with before we ever die. It exists as an optimistic force that keeps people alive.

When people have nothing, they can still have music.

Music is water, when water is not there. Music is a friend, when friends abandon. Music is a lover, when love is cold. It’s consistently as omnipresent as God Himself.

The voice we were given is our most wonderful instrument. It’s perfectly individual and whenever our mouths open we can be blessed with music at anytime we need. This is important because every person, aside from their culture, has felt music. It is such a divine force that it can better describe the world solely in harmony than any spoken language.

It reflects all so that it can soothe and teach all.

The melody is the human soul moving in the toils of living, the rhythm is that movement, and the ever-encompassing harmony is the world around them. Is this not true of all music?

Its transcendence occurs in its tear-jerking accuracy of the world. When music captivates us, we realize all at once the world’s sobering realities; yet when we are creating that statement through means of an instrument we feel empowered above all creation. The grand satire is to be reflecting the cold actuality of life when making music even though only God can state “What Is” the actuality of life.

When you claim “What Is” with your music, for that moment you feel like you are God. You have transcended all chains of your humanly form for that single climax of music.

That’s why it shatters us, because for a short, short moment we can see things out of the Creator’s eyes.

Do Americans appreciate music as much as they used to?

Today, Americans listen to anything they want.

For no cost.

Mediums such as Spotify, YouTube, and their peer companies allow free access to nearly all of recorded musical history and this has been gradually becoming the precedent for future generations of music fans.

Accessibility to all music has its pros and cons. The ability to hear diverse sounds that one might never be turned onto otherwise is the most substantial advantage. Others include the power to play music when and where ever the user desires. These prove to be heavenly features modern mediums provide us.

But is complete accessibility always beneficial for a listener? Does it affect how much they appreciate music as art?

With the ability to listen to any track, the notion of the album becomes, in terms of the broad scope of listners, irrelevant. Listener’s over the years have been conditioned, by their all-encompassing accessibility, to not desire to comprehend an artist’s work in full. When it’s easy to listen to what we want, and when we succumb to our “need” of instant gratification, we tend to satisfy ourselves with that specific hit we love, for a means of our entertainment.

Entertainment holds quite a warm place in the human heart, but does entertainment always reflect a mature view of human emotion? The point I try to make is that modern media attempts to place “value” on works that entertain, and entertain only, rather than works that affect the human soul as pieces of art.

The oversaturated online libraries within easy reach allow a sense of urgency that make listeners forget what it’s like to just sit down alone by a fireplace with a glass of wine, spinning their favorite record in its entirety, being covered all over by the atmosphere of that artist they love and filled with a sense of emotional value.

Sentimental moments such as those never have the oppurtunity to occur today because the listener had already listened to some of that artist’s hits along with irritating commericals on the car ride home from work.

Do Americans not appreciate music as much today because they aren’t willing to give themselves over to the full experience that the art was intended to create? Do Americans not want to sit alone in a musical atmosphere for forty-ish minutes and reflect on their ideas every once in a while?

If modern Americans do not care about music as much as former generations, would it be because cheap entertainment has become more prominent than expressive musical artistry in the majority of casual listeners’ daily lives? Ask yourself, does the top 40 in general over the past decade reflect intentions of appeasing the human urge to instantly gratify themselves on the aesthetic values of music or does it reflect intentions of providing a deep human to human connection based in a marriage of both the aeshetic and contential values?

Maybe, if previous generations cared more, it was because they purchased and actually owned their music. They could access the art that meant something to them by paying with money that they worked for. The art possessed not only an emotional value, but a specific monetary value. People, because they had paid for it, made more conscious efforts to enjoy and analyze the record and “get their money’s worth” so to speak. This, as the listener’s record collection grew, would be a basis for which music they thought was valuable and why they did or didn’t.

Paying for the music drives the urge to give more attention to the art that was just bought. Whether the attention is positive or negative, the listener, for the sake of knowing the value of what they purchased, actively listens to the work.

From the listener’s perspective, music being free and omnipresent is something truly divine; but what listeners cannot see is the ways in which powerful artists financially lose resources to create better work, the ways valuable sentimental moments become less and less likely to occur, and the ways commercial media, that romanticises well-produced, yet mediocre “appeasements” of shallow sentiment, devalues credible artwork.