In many of the article I’ve written here, the concept of musical criticism comes up a great deal purely in reference to artists. Yet not the concept of musical criticism itself. One reason that’s important to realize is that the subject is generally almost too vast in scope to discuss in depth. Of course modern musical criticism drew out of literary criticism-a practice that existed for centuries before there was a music industry. Literary criticism was generally divided into two separate schools-a liberal and a conservative one. Therefore right from the start,the criticism of cultural offerings has been inherently political in nature. Of course over the years the views on how close the personal and political ethics really are have changed heavily over the years. Now maybe its easy to understand how difficult a subject this is to broach. So all I can do is double back yet again on my old standby mode of discussion of these matters: draw from personal experience.
Speaking for myself I can say that my enjoyment of music was completely diversified and guiltless between the ages of 3 and 12. It might be for a lot of people. In general soul,jazz,funk and all combinations in between were the music’s I was most exposed to. At the same time I loved almost everything that was heard,in many cases still do. I still accept “We Built This City On Rock ‘N Roll” and “Rock Me Amadeus” without any irony, with genuine love and zero 80’s music intolerance so stereotypical of my particular generation. My own personal experience with any critical thought of my own happened when my father played me Harry Connick Jr singing “If I Only Had A Brain”. Today I admire and respect Harry’s devotion to funky New Orleans jazz,especially his singing. Though some of my thoughts on this related to my appreciation of “If I Only Had A Brain” in the context of Ray Bolger in The Wizard Of Oz, even at 8 years old when I heard it I didn’t enjoy Harry’s interpretation at all. Then I didn’t know any descriptive words to explain this. Today I’d say I found his vocal take of the song overly effected, which is a typical critics word really.
It was during my adolescence that,as with most people I’m sure that any interest at all in the critical assessment of others developed. Of course in was in the mid 1990’s- a time of enforced critical negativity. And one either towed that line or were shunned by the world. At the age of 15 for example I was still deeply interested in synth pop and New Wave. For the first time ever though, when I went to a music store and talked to anyone who worked their for example,I felt enormous guilt in mentioning this because…all one had to do was look in a magazine to see the adulation and worship leveled by critics to the likes of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden or Courtney Love’s Hole to see where the pendulum of musical criticism had swung. Personally I was moved by cleaner musical sounds. Noisy sometimes maybe, but a more instrumental elegance. From that time on I notice that music lovers of all ages have accepted rawness,noise and “simplicity” as the highest standard of music. Only with the advent of the internet did I notice any return to a more balanced and well rounded level of musical criticism.
In 2003 I discovered Amazon.com, which allowed for customer reviews of the media they offered-including music in all formats available. Though my first Amazon profile succumbed to a computer virus, the second one I have has continued to thrive to the point where its part of the sites Top 1000 Reviewers column-perhaps not a big deal for some, but meaning much to myself. I’ve learned a lot from reading the opinions of music critics over the years-both what to do and what not to do. I’ll admit freely that my opinion on the 1990’s alternative music scene embodies the most ugly stereotype of closed minded music critics. It should be said however that I do state this opinion mainly to point out the arrogance and pretentiousness of that decade-especially when overt negativity and violence is projected in the given music. Even in anger, I feel music functions best with a level of sensitivity and caring. And would say the same for any undeservedly musically self righteous musical decade-regardless of the high quality of some of the music itself. So its critics I am criticizing as opposed to the music. More people should do that and many now do thankfully. All musical art comes from a sometimes difficult process and doesn’t deserve to be beaten down too harshly. By focusing primarily on music I enjoy on Amazon in terms of my reviews there than what I dislike, my emotional attitude towards music pretty much speaks for itself.