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It’s all relative, especially if you’re from Kentucky!?

Reviewing movies is easy. Lots of different people with lots of different jobs all contributing to one finished product: writing, acting, editing, direction, sound, music, lighting, etc… With a central plot and main characters. Almost no challenge at all–just dig in and go.

But how the heck does one review an album? It’s a collection of individual songs, often not related to each other in either lyrical content or style. The only connection between these songs is the band and the production. So even if the BEST ROCK SONG EVER is on an album full of filler and crap, you still can’t give the album more than a passing grade. Can you?

Do you review the album song by song? Do you just skip the weak songs and review the strong ones? Can you review the band members performances individually, or must you review them together? Does the production quality trump the song writing? Does anyone really care about lyrical content? If you have a large collection of mostly great tracks with only one dud, can you still rate the album as ‘Perfect’? A movie can still be ‘Perfect” with lots of small flaws so why can’t an album? Maybe it can…?

What about instrumental songs that are sometimes put in between the vocal tracks. Are they considered a complete track and worthy of the same level of critique? What about concept albums with wanky spoken dialog and intros (like many progressive albums have), can these rune a “Perfect” score even if the songs are all exceptional?

If an album has 13 awesome songs and 3 crappy ones does it still score higher than an album with only 10 awesome songs, yet just 1 crappy one?

And what about a single weak band member. Can a bad bassist in a great band hurt an album’s score? I know a bad vocalist can, but does “bad bass” really matter? “If you find a bass player on your front porch what do you do?–Pay for the pizza.”;)

Lots of questions, and I can’t seem to find a single agreeable answer amongst the seemingly hundreds of music review sites I’ve visited. The standards between what’s “Perfect” and what’s just “Great” are hard to even define. A 10 vs 9.5–WTF is the difference?

In movies or books a single scene or element can hurt a classic but on an album can a single bad track out of 10 or more even be counted (like the absolutely horrid song Axl Rose threw on at the end of ‘Use You Illusion II’)–maybe it can and should!

Does a consistently good band’s weaker albums score higher than albums of similar quality from lesser bands? What about bands that have one or two really good members but the other members are of average skills. Do they get higher scores than more evenly skilled average bands, even if their albums are of the same quality? What about band members whose skills have diminished, or have a poor performance on a single album. Does it justify a lower grade even if the songs are of quality?

You see, unlike a movies or books, albums consists of many individual pieces of art. Every song is reviewable on its own because they are (usually) self-contained. But when many of these songs come together they may not be easily “relatable”. Just like if I were to review all of the films in a trilogy together as one piece. Is ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ less of a film because ‘Temple of Doom’ wasn’t as good? Or perhaps, ‘Temple’ is better because ‘Raiders’ and ‘The Last Crusade’ and both strong?

Here’s the answer I’ve come up with. “Everything counts and everything is relative.” One bad song can ruin an album, but only if the ruining of the album can be justified. A vocalist who no longer hits the high-notes can affect the review’s grade only if the rest of the band and the album content doesn’t compensate. If a band performs admirably and writes solid, enjoyable music while taking risks and stumbling a little a long the way I may still give that album a high score–effort does count!

When you listen to an album, the emotion it gives off and the feelings it generates in the listener are more important than a few duds, or even the lyrics.

I’m a guy and lyrics don’t usually matter to me. It’s true–lyrics, even if you can decipher them, don’t matter. Take all of the pop, rock, metal, dance, rap, country, and jazz songs and review only the songs with clever and meaningful lyrics. Maybe about .0001% of those songs would remain. The lyrics are almost all crap–especially country;) That includes most of the songs considered all-time classics.

And a really great song can improve a crappy album, but it also depends on the level of crap. Somethings are simply not redeemable.

I prefer harder music. It’s what I like. So softer music must be “better” to get the same grade that metal or hard rock music gets. That’s just the way it is.

Music is reviewed by people with personal preferences–that’s the point! So again I reiterate, “Everything counts and everything is relative.”–take it or leave it.

P.S.

I’ve heard thousands of albums representing all kinds of music. Yet, I can barely read a line of music. I’m virtually music illiterate. Does that disqualify me from providing a valid opinion on the albums I listen to and like? No! It just makes it that much harder to review music and not sound like a complete moron. And I don’t always succeed;)