“Minnesota Nice” - Why I don’t write negative reviews.
I mentioned in my introduction that I wouldn’t be posting negative reviews on PostInTheName. My justification when I wrote that was, and still is, that I don’t see a point in maintaining a blog with the purpose of telling people what not to listen to. I’ll be somewhat critical every now and then when I feel there’s merit, but I post these reviews to share what I think these bands have done right. People will find things they don’t like all on their own, and don’t need my help shining a light on any and every flaw on what is otherwise a good record. If someone really feels they need to be told what to hate and all the reasons why they should hate it, well, that’s what Pitchfork is for.
Another reason is that while I’m writing a review, I’m listening to that one album a lot. I don’t want to repeatedly listen to music I don’t care for any more than you do. But perhaps the most important reason I don’t post negative reviews is, to be perfectly honest…
I don’t like them.
I don’t like writing them, and I don’t like reading them. So I do neither. As a writer, I think they’re lazy and, frankly, too easy to write. It is infinitely easier to tear something apart than it is to build something up. And I feel a considerable portion of bad reviews act simply as a form of shameless, Gawker-style clickbaiting, looking to draw page views (read: ad revenue) from irate fans of whatever band the reviewer has thrown under the bus.
As a reader, though, I think they’re just completely pointless. I’ll explain…
20 years ago, negative reviews served a much greater, one might even say “benevolent”, purpose. And just as a reminder of how old you’re getting, 20 years ago was 1994.
You see, in 1994, the internet sucked, Green Day weren’t on Broadway, and music came on CD’s. CD’s were something you had to drive to a store and pay actual money for, or order from a mailing list using actual paper mail. Music was something you invested your money in. Doing any sort of “investing” without doing any research is just plain stupid, so before you dropped around 15 of your 1994 dollars for a CD, it’d be really nice if there were a way to know if it didn’t totally suck, huh?
So you look in your favorite, trusted music magazine’s review section, and there, lo’ and behold, is their review of the album you’ve been thinking about buying! But man, they seem to think this album is, uh, well, really quite terrible, and proceed to tell you why in great detail. So you decide not to buy that particular album, and instead invest that same $15 in your friend Jeff’s small, unknown tech company named after a river in South America or something. 20 years later, you’re now a millionaire.
And it was all thanks to a negative review.
That story got away from me, but my point is this:
Things have changed since 1994. For better or worse, music is essentially free for consumers now. Anyone can go on YouTube or Bandcamp or Soundcloud (or The Pirate Bay…) and listen to something before they purchase it, (or simply download it for free, unfortunately.) This factor of “try it before you buy it (or just steal it)” has made the negative review obsolete in my mind, since consumers nowadays can decide for themselves whether or not to buy something because they’ve already listened to it. These days, posting a completely serious negative review for a band’s record really only serves to deter people from even listening to it in the first place which, I’ll be blunt:
That’s a dick move.
The hardest part about being a modern musician putting your work out there is actually getting anyone to pay attention to it. I refuse to be an additional hurdle in the way of that crucially needed attention for any bands or artists in this genre by posting something telling people not to listen to a particular album. To me, that’s messed up. There is an old saying that maintains “all press is good press, even bad press.” Until a Kardashian joins a This Will Destroy You tribute band, I’ll maintain that that saying doesn’t apply, and bad press serves only to hurt any bands with little to no exposure in this genre. Also, I pray that tribute band never happens.
The argument can be made that posting negative reviews offers bands feedback in the form of constructive criticism. This doesn’t hold water with me either. There are infinitely better forums and communities online for a band to get genuine feedback without having their name, and all of the work that goes into making an album, publicly dragged through the mud in the name of “constructive criticism”.
So, when a record doesn’t really resonate with me, the absolute worst I’ll do is simply stop listening to it, and not post about it.
I know, what a jerk…
There is a lot of post-rock and post-metal being constantly released into the wilds of the internet, and I’ve mentioned before that over-saturation is just as much an issue in post-rock as any other genre. As a reviewer, I suppose I’m subjected to its effects more than most, but the honest truth is that a sizable chunk of it is really, really bad. But still I listen to a ton of it, and only bring back to PostInTheName what I personally think is really enjoyable, and what I think others might like as well. There are no shortages of albums that I could absolutely tear to pieces and write scathingly bad reviews for, which I’m more than capable of doing, in typical “Minnesota Nice” fashion.
But I’d get tired of writing them really quick. And you’d get tired of reading them even quicker.
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