The next time you open a copy of Spin magazine, there’s one thing you won’t be seeing: record reviews. That’s because the magazine’s editors have decided that they’ll no longer be devoting print editorial space to reviewing music. Instead, they’ll be tackling the difficult task of telling readers what to listen to via a new Twitter account: @SPINreviews.
And here’s what Spin’s senior editor Chris Weingarten had to say about it…
”The standard music review, once presented as an imperious edict, has increasingly frayed into a redundant, gratuitous novelty in an era of fewer and fewer actual music consumers. Tight security on major-label albums (and practically no security on indie-label albums) often means you’re downloading a leaked album the same day as your favorite magazine or website. The value of the average rock critic’s opinion has plummeted now that a working knowledge of Google can get you high-quality audio of practically any record, so you can listen and decide for yourself whether it’s worth a damn… Um, but don’t tell anyone we said that, okay?”
Essentially, Weingarten blames the relative ease of access to music for rendering the need for critical reviews obsolete. That, coupled with the proliferation in music sites and music review services, seems to have somewhat leveled the playing field in regards to the position of the critic in popular music.
But is that a good thing?
Sure, anyone with an email address and a cursory understanding of word processing can start a music blog (or film, or TV, or book blog), but it seems that having a voluble chorus of opinions on a piece of music doesn’t necessarily help clarify the relative merit of it. As Weingarten notes, users have greater access than ever before to listen to music before they decide to buy (if they decide to buy at all). What the critic brings, however, that a casual listen may not, is a wealth of knowledge about the positionality of the particular artist or song within a genre, or musical movement or historical moment. A good critic brings history and context to a piece of work that a cursory listen or 140 character Twitter post can’t.
So yes, I’m for critics and for the notion that some people have specialized knowledge that allows them to have not a more important viewpoint or perspective, but at the very least, a perspective worth checking out.
But what do you think? Is Twitter a strong enough medium for music criticism to thrive? Who do you trust when it comes to music reviews? [THR]