I’ve given talks on this topic before. It usually goes much the same way: potted history of my life and work. How I got into this. A bit of a discussion around what is required of a review, how to do it, what to include, how to approach it. And then “war stories”. Followed by a few questions.
It was good to dust off the old chat this week – but it’s changed a lot, I found out. Because reviewing has changed. The biggest difference is that the reviewer is no longer first to the album. Hardly ever anyway. That used to be the real power of the review. You read it here first! Now that’s almost never the case. And if you think that means reviews don’t need to exist – that’s fine. I guess they don’t. They still can though. Some people enjoy reading about music even after they’ve heard the album. Some are reading for a recommendation. Others for a reaction, a response. All are valid – and you always get to choose. You get to choose whether you care about reviews or not. And how you process them. Or if you do.
But here’s the thing: if you are going to believe the positive reviews, and believe in them – you have to believe the negative ones too. You don’t like them, obviously. But they have just as much right to exist.
When I slag something off, write negatively about it, process it and decide it’s not for me, sometimes I write a huge amount of words, I argue (hopefully) passionately and explain the shortcomings. Other times I post a video link of an animal farting. Sometimes it’s the best piece of writing I have ever done…or it feels like that for a moment or two. Other times it’s very nearly the worst.
The same is true of rave reviews. Sometimes I put a lot of time and effort into it – and it comes out feeling pretty good too. I’m happy with it. Readers are. Other times I’ve simply said it was ‘good’ and that I ‘liked’ it. I haven’t been able to muster much more. That’s okay too. Or it’s not. I’m not saying I’m proud of it, but just as musicians struggle to hit it out of the park every time reviewers most certainly do too.
But you can’t go parading around the positive review as if it means something. All it really means is that your ego has been flattered.
You’re not going to parade around the negative one. Of course you’re not. That’s the one that has flattened your ego. And backed over it. And then driven forward. Reversed. Forward. Reversed again.
It hurts. But it has as much reason to exist as the rave review. It might have more…
It’s not for you to decide.
You have your friends and your family and your fellow musicians on your side. You have your fans. You have the support network. (Maybe you have some advertising too). And they’re all there telling you you’re great. Sometimes the critic is there too. Or his or her words are. They’re cheering you on as well.
Other times they’re not.
Whenever I write a review slamming someone the most boring complaint and criticism is that I cannot write.