Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Trouble with Reviewing

Even reviewers will agree that there are inherent problems with reviewing works of art (such as heavy metal albums). First, there's such a thing as "slow growers," albums that are good, but that take a while for listeners to understand. The more you listen to it, the more awesome you realize it is. It's always hard to admit when this happens, because it means your initial impression was off the mark.

But in order to "stay relevant" in the contemporary media landscape, you've got to be talking about what's current. There aren't enough people who want to read a review of an album that came out two or three years ago. And yet sometimes it takes that long to understand and appreciate an album, to "incorporate" an album. I like this term "incorporate" because it means to take into the body. A great album becomes a part of you; it is incorporated into your view of the world. This isn't something that necessarily happens overnight. This is especially true of lyrical content, which often requires more reflection than the immediate auditory response to the music.

Therefore, reviewing is really more of a recording of one's impressions of a cultural work of art (such as a heavy metal album). These impressions can be useful, but they're really only the first stages in working out how that album is going to become a part of you. So, for me, reviews on this site will really be more about sharing my initial impressions. I won't give albums a score or a rank. Often, I will probably not even discuss them holistically, but rather pick out one or two elements that have me thinking. So, while I often have strong opinions, they are based on this early exposure to the music and should not be seen as final judgments. That's why blogs are great: you get to see the thinking process as it occurs.

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