Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Music Crits too tolerant? What's Indie? Informed opinions? Target audiences?

A post by Mike Barthel on Idolator yesterday, which starts off asking why it is Metacritic's average scores for records is higher than they are for movies, then proceeds to guess it has something to do with a indie mentality: "The indie audience and the critics that spring from it have become so catholic in their tastes that they can see the good in almost anything that's not bad on a very basic technical level." (My highlights).

And the piece kind of sprawls from there, taking in questions of how one can write about music without knowing enough "to have an informed opinion" with an "audience for my review" that "would be people that are highly informed".

The comments are all over the place too, but I liked Matos' point: I'd rather read a critic who's actually made an effort to understand something and then dismissed it gleefully and with malice aforethought (...) than "are you kidding?" disdain for something the writer plainly isn't getting."

If I had more time, I'd join in on the debate, and there may be some points, either made by Mike or in the comments, that I'm missing here.

But if there was one thing I'd hope would come out of the poptimist/rockist debate, whichever side you were on, it was that people would stop having such hangups with genres. And they're back at it here. Broad taste is defined purely by genre, as one commenter says "
But I see kids with everything from Modest Mouse to Jack Johnson to Ciara to Trace Adkins to Mastodon. There's a healthy mix (...)".

One who calls himself RaptorAvatar is on to something: "Even if you're like me and know that you're partial to a certain set of values that often crystallize most readily in indie rock, chances are that you have at least an ethos-level sense that you should maybe listen to "Year of The Gentleman (...)" (=Ne-Yo's latest, my comment).

Only I'd add to his "indie rock", jazz, rap, pop, r&b... See, what I've found over the years is that the values and expressions I seek and like - not only in music but in literature and films as well - are not confined to one genre specifically (though I may concur that some values, which RA touches on, are probably more likely to be found in one genre over another). Similarly, what I don't like in music can be found in alomost every genre as well. E.g. indie as a genre does not in and of itself express one coherent set of values, nor do indie bands and musicians express them equally well. The same goes for any other genre.

Before I'm labeled as a relativist here, let me just say in one respect, one can claim that my taste is actually very narrow in that I know exactly which kinds of values, expressions etc. I like and dislike -
though music has a way of surprising you sometimes.

This, I maintain, is what gives me the right to have an opinion on almost anything I want to write about. What I take the time, and money, to write about is another matter all together.

(A belated and retro-influenced Songs of the Week will appear shortly).

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