The music journalism hall of shame thread

Roshman

Well-known member
Obviously this might be a sensitive topic as many of you have your own blogs / contribute your own articles but I feel that as a whole, good / decent music journalism is practically non-existent. I've seen it been discussed to a degree in individual genre topics but I feel it needs its own thread.

Reviews, Interviews, Press releases disguised as "articles" and the ever dreaded "Think Piece"

So post away, name and shame or just discuss what grinds your gears.
 

Roshman

Well-known member
KmB7b.png


http://www.dazeddigital.com/music/article/13294/1/east-london-2012-elijah-butterz-skilliam-film

not the first dump interview Elijahs been involved with either. The "I love Grime aka Skeng Daddy" one is a classic. Glad Skilliam gave this one all the effort it deserved.
 
Last edited:

Elijah

Butterz
Well something has to get 5 stars. Rating system out of 5 is pretty limiting.

Then again rating music sucks in general.
 

SecondLine

Well-known member
oof, I'm gonna live in fear of finding one of mine in here now, I'm sure there are some prime candidates floating around, thanks guys for upping the anxiety levels just slightly
 

Roshman

Well-known member
My main gripes with the current state of music journalism is how impersonal most of it is and the lack of preparation or effort put into reviews and interviews. Also it seems that the barrier to entry / the quality of writing for glorified tumblr blogs or online magazines is at rock bottom.

Compare music journalism with game journalism for example. While the two may be dissimilar in the way we interact with them they can effect us in the same way. Every time we listen to music how we feel or what we think is usually very personal to us, it's a unique experience to every person. However looking across at an expanse of music reviews you could replace the author name with any other journalist and you wouldn't even know it. There's no personal hook, nothing "real" to latch onto. Most reviews descend into, "how many references to other / more obscure artists can I fit in to show I know what I'm talking about" Or "Let me show you how good/shit my vocabulary is by describing the track to you" in a post-radiorip-straight-to-youtube world where actually hearing the track would surely serve me better. Obviously I'm not asking for more "I listened to Burial for the first time and it made remember..." sob stories. I'm sure there are enough of those as it is, I'm just saying injecting a bit of personality into writing isn't hard but I guess people just find it exposing. However if you're worried about revealing something about yourself in such a subjective industry then, in my eyes, you're doomed to mediocrity.

Also humour is virtually non-existent, partially due to the impersonal problem. As an abstract example, here's a review of a niche game about being a lady written by the brilliant John Walker. Stripping away the subject matter, it's the personal point of view and sarcastic humour that make it a funny engaging read about an otherwise dull subject matter. Also to note, the subject matter is clearly nothing headline grabbing, but the article was written anyway.

Covering news or releases by big artists quickly to get hits shouldn't be the priority or the thing that draws your readers to your blog, instead it should be the quality of content.

Journalism should go hand in hand with investigation but, as discussed some time ago whilst I was but a lurker on this forum, due the culture of press-releases and promotion journalists just have to open their email in the morning and transform any number of the press releases into an "article" with very little effort.

One of the simplest form of investigation is the interview yet as we've already seen it can be done so badly that it will deliver bland, uninteresting results that could potential lead to both parties looking like Elijah in a chair idiots.

Here is, what I believe is, one of the best interviews in recent memory. It starts off with the standard motive of trying to promote an album before release but naturally becomes something more and steers its way around other revealing topics that rightful lead to every other blog linking to it. This didn't even seem that difficult, its not even like the interviewer displayed any sign of in-depth background investigation before the interview, but its done well.
(Obviously the Blackdown interviews go without saying as great bits of reading)

If I can find out the information retrieved from an interview from another done 6 months back what is the point? Original, subject specific questions aren't hard to conjure if the research is done properly. A great example of this within the realm of music journalism is Nardwar.


Very well researched, unique style, gets great answers from everyone he interviews and certainly nothing you'll find anywhere else.
 

continuum

smugpolice
Agree with most of that. Most music journalism is nothing more than perfunctory currently. There are exceptions but generally nothing new or exciting is written that changes what you do.

I do, however, like the photo of Elijah sitting in a chair.
 

Leo

Well-known member
A great example of this within the realm of music journalism is Nardwar....Very well researched, unique style, gets great answers from everyone he interviews and certainly nothing you'll find anywhere else.

Nardwar has lots of great interviews...obviously, part of it is done for a laugh but he knows his shit. the one with drake is cool.
 

e/y

Well-known member
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>i don't get why music reviewers still use their entire 200 words to describe what a single sounds like. this is techno and it's not 1970</p>— objekt (@keinobjekt) <a href="https://twitter.com/keinobjekt/status/180033193074888704" data-datetime="2012-03-14T20:50:32+00:00">March 14, 2012</a></blockquote>
<script src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>better would be a hardwax description, stream, and 200 words of intelligent opinion on the release</p>— objekt (@keinobjekt) <a href="https://twitter.com/keinobjekt/status/180033434142519299" data-datetime="2012-03-14T20:51:30+00:00">March 14, 2012</a></blockquote>
<script src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
 

SecondLine

Well-known member
Regarding filling reviews w/ description - I'm a bit conflicted, I agree with your practical point that writers no longer actually need to enlighten people as to 'how the music sounds'

and yet I don't think description-of-the-music-itself is really simply a case of giving people a 'taster' of something they can check out on youtube. some of my favourite music writing describes things so vividly or unusually that it can actually make me hear the music differently. As you say music journalism is a massively subjective world, and I guess regardless of how the writer chooses to tackle their subject you're really learning as much about their own subjectivity as you are the music in question - and it's getting a window onto different perspectives that helps to enrich your experience of music rather than let it fossilise

so yeah when I write reviews I often dive in with the musical description. I think what's lacking in a lot of music writing atm is actually a lack of zoomed-in listening, a tendency to listen to things distractedly & then pick out their familiar or expected aspects instead of really trying to get under the skin of how something might be working in a slightly new/unusual way (guess you could widen this out into an indictment of youtube-facilitated listening habits but I won't). For me getting your hands dirty trying to articulate precisely how something is working sonically can be a way of forcing that kind of engagement. Obviously descriptions can just be plain lazy/cliched though, and often are

Also Roshman, talking about personality in writing, I'm reminded of this paper I was reading last week about the move in the music press from 'polyglottism' (multiple distinct voices vying for attention throughout a mag) towards 'branding' (a single unified editorial tone, lends itself well to media partnerships and bland boosterism) - http://jou.sagepub.com/content/2/1/23.short - don't think it's a free access paper though unfortunately

one last thing - was struck by how fucking rare an in-depth profile piece like this one - http://www.residentadvisor.net/feature.aspx?1545 - is in the dance music press, or online music writing at all these days. Not a seth troxler fan but the piece is a pleasure to read, if at points a little too narrative leaning for my tastes
 

stephenk

Well-known member
and yet I don't think description-of-the-music-itself is really simply a case of giving people a 'taster' of something they can check out on youtube. some of my favourite music writing describes things so vividly or unusually that it can actually make me hear the music differently.

yeah
like kodwo eshun or some of the more insane 20jazzfunkgreats writeups. and there's a pitchfork review of jan jelinek where the reviewer compares his lp to rolling naked on freshly washed egyptian cotton sheets. that sort of thing sticks with me.

the thing i'd object to about that tweet is
there are a lot of fluff and filler records that you will probably end up having to review if you're a journalist.
like between the really great ones and the really horrible ones, there are thousands of just average ones.
records that are so uninspiring you end up having to describe what's going on because it's otherwise impossible to fill the 200 words.

hardwax, as a highly selective boutique store, can afford to write one-line descriptions. because it's so heavily curated it's rare you'll find a dud record on their site, and because they're not dealing with the glut of like ALL dance music, or ALL electronic music.
 

e/y

Well-known member
Obviously descriptions can just be plain lazy/cliched though, and often are

well that's the problem that I have - so often it will be like "and there's a big kick drum here, and the the synth comes in, and then there's this, and then that, etc", which to me seems quite pointless because it is very surface and obvious and doesn't give me any particular insight or an interesting angle on a piece of music, especially as it can often take up space at the expense of saying something actually interesting about a record.

I love it when a review has writing as you describe it - sometimes it feels almost as exciting as hearing the music itself (not to flatter you, but your description of Levon Vincent's DJing style was like that), but I think it's quite a rare thing now.


there are a lot of fluff and filler records that you will probably end up having to review if you're a journalist.
like between the really great ones and the really horrible ones, there are thousands of just average ones.
records that are so uninspiring you end up having to describe what's going on because it's otherwise impossible to fill the 200 words.

that's true, but then what's really the point of reviewing average / dull records when you could listen to them once, put them aside, and focus your energy on reviewing something more interesting? I know that's probably not very realistic - in my short stint doing (probably really awful) music reviews in university I very rarely had the chance to review interesting releases, but then you look at a site like LWE, and it seems like they only cover stuff that their writers think is either good or bad enough to get coverage.
 
Last edited:

Leo

Well-known member
i sometimes get tired of going to a site or magazine and reading nothing but positive reviews. some seem to love everything, 90% of the reviews on resident advisor, for example, seem to be either 3.5 or 4 (out of 5). maybe it's a matter of there are so many new releases out there that they don't want to waste space on bad records, which i understand. or maybe they don't want to offend labels that advertise and send them promos.
 

SecondLine

Well-known member
i sometimes get tired of going to a site or magazine and reading nothing but positive reviews. some seem to love everything, 90% of the reviews on resident advisor, for example, seem to be either 3.5 or 4 (out of 5). maybe it's a matter of there are so many new releases out there that they don't want to waste space on bad records, which i understand. or maybe they don't want to offend labels that advertise and send them promos.

yep this is a real problem that ought to be addressed more frequently I think. At that critical beats talk a while back kode9 asked joe muggs whether he saw the role of music journalism to be one of affirmation or critique. muggs said something along the lines of 'well, if you're doing a regular column and you choose not to feature a record that's high profile, there's an implied criticism there, so there's no need to write explicitly negative reviews'

but this to me seems like a cop out...these days I get the feeling writers see these as their only two options: affirmation or omission (myself included, feel uncomfortable submitting more than about 30% negative reviews to most publications, starts to feel like you're treading on too many toes). But then who wants to review a load of records they don't like or are utterly indifferent about? And there's no denying that music journalism has a different role in the internet age and it ought to change its m.o. accordingly
 
Point 3 of that mnml msgs souffle post from last year is v good on this:

These days, almost without exception, what we have is a bunch of wannabes who are so starry-eyed from getting tweet highfives from the artists that they love, and so addicted to the promo .zip files they receive, and so utterly compromised through their cosy relations with promo, that they either cannot and/or do not ever say anything critical. The surface effects of this are subtle, but the long term implications might be profound: no critical horizon, no contextual frame
 

rrrivero

Well-known member
there's so much shit to listen to these days, why waste people's time with reviewing boring uninspiring music. What do I care what some pitchfork diva feels about the new Lana Del Rey album, I want a journalist to be somebody who spends a large chunk of his or her time actually listening to music and picking out the gems, instead of giving unneeded attention to something they think is boring and not worth listening to.

As for describing songs, yeah that can be tedious, especially when boomkat does it, though describing records in an inventive insightful fashion can enhance the whole listening experience if it makes you look at the music from a different angle. It's also fun when you read up on the record you just listened to and find out somebody had the same kind of experience you did.

And yeah, humour seems to be a scarce resource in electronic music journalism. It all seems a bit pompous these days, which is why I enjoy reading something like Dave Quam's blog, because it's really down to earth, whilst still retaining an air of profundity owing to Dave's extensive knowledge of anything that makes your ass shake. And of course the recommendations are great.
 
Last edited:
What concerns me is what the logical end point would be if the only two options a critic has is positivity and silence. Those hoping that the dull and derivative will just sink due to lack of exposure are misguided, I think. A piece of music is subjective enough to always find support from SOMEWHERE, and if you are prevented from being negative about it, the basic POINT of criticism (shielding your ears, and formerly your wallet, from trash) disintegrates. The listener / consumer will just be flooded with messages telling you everything is awesome. Debate dies, or gets outsourced to blogs and message boards, where standards are less than professional [no intended slight on dissensus, should add!]

I think why you hate a record is potentially just as interesting as why you love it. Because one reason I read music journalism is for a sensitive insight into the way music affects ppl. I think that's what is missing from the very technical or contextual focus of a lot of criticism now (describing the track, influences). That stuff is useful and interesting, but doesn't quite capture the vital aspect of criticism, which is providing examples of people's aesthetic interest in the things around them.
 
Top