Saturday, July 16, 2011

Rotten Tomatoes for Music Reviews?

Here is an interview with Matt Atchity of Rotten Tomatoes, the online movie review site:

What if there was an online site where people could rate music? Is that a stupid idea? Is there one out there already? Or are sales figures a good proxy? What about online reviews? The best place to look I know of is the customer reviews on Amazon. I like to see people talking about music. The only trouble with reviews of recordings is that the performance is the focus, not the work itself. The mainstream media reviews new pop releases, but I have a feeling that the punches are pulled. Annoying a big star is not going to help your career! The nice thing about the Amazon customer reviews is that you can look at them in different ways. The reviews with the highest approval ratings are featured, but it is quite interesting to click on the one-star reviews. The "most helpful" of these will come up first. Here is an excerpt from the top one-star review of Lady Gaga's latest:
The album starts off well enough with "Marry the Night", which is an all right song if one is into the club scene and doesn't care to appreciate an artist's singing abilities. The title track is a given and I admit I'm quite fond of it. However, after that the album goes down hill at a rate I could not have anticipated. The endless thumping on every single track was overwhelming to say the least, and the ballads were so lack luster I'm not sure what purpose they served. In short, this is not the type of album I would expect a proven artist to deliver so early in her career. Born this Way seems to be more about the artist's ego than anything else... It seems Lady Gaga's fame (i.e. being strange) is more important to her than showcasing her musical abilities.
 Well, that's a lot more interesting than the cliched emptiness of the mainstream reviews that were calling it an "instant classic" (now there's a contradiction in terms!) or "high-concept pop brilliance". The mark of poor reviewing in my mind is the use of empty generalities like those.

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