This might become a regular thing that I do but for now I want to take it slow and see how it goes. I feel like most of the other staff members rarely read reviews on the site, but I read a lot of them and sometimes I’m shocked at the lack of basic grammar and punctuation skills displayed. As if that wasn’t bad enough, a lot of reviews lack concrete ideas and are generally just poorly worded and expressed. So I’ve picked a review that exemplifies those issues and I’m going to dissect it. On the chopping block is Bulldog’s review of B.o.B.’s The Adventures of Bobby Ray.
Section #1: The Summary
The review hits its first snag in a very fundamental way: the summary is horrible. Ideally, this is the first (and sometimes only) thing that people will read when they look at your review. It sums up your thoughts succinctly and gives the reader a good gauge of your opinion prior to diving into the meat of your writing. Bulldog chose this to do that:
“Alternative hip-hop for the masses. But above all, this is really a concrete testament to the diversity in, and morphability of, hip-hop…or is it?”
First of all, “morphability” is not a word. No discussion. It does not exist. Google it and you will find a bunch of websites talking about the “morph ability” in Dungeons and Dragons. This is actually a fairly common mistake. People will invent a word and dismiss that red squiggly line that appears under it and assume that no one will notice. If you’ve ever seen the word “genericism” in a Sputnikmusic review (and you have), then hopefully the little Grammar Nazi inside of you did a double-take.
The general point he makes in the summary is a good one. He says that the album is a good example of how hip-hop is not one-dimensional; many different elements can be incorporated into it while still staying true to the spirit of hip-hop. But then he gets to the clincher: “…or is it?” Really? There is no place for that in a review. If you wrote an essay for a college class, would your thesis statement contain that? “George Washington was a fantastic military leader…OR WAS HE???” Review summaries should be thought of as thesis statements, not an M. Night Shyamalan film.
Section #2: The Intro
“It’s been long overdue. Seeing as B.o.B generated some serious hype in ‘08, he’s been due to explode for quite awhile now. A solid all around artist, B.o.B is not only a rapper and a singer, but a multi-instrumentalist and mixer. After a postponement that spanned the course of five months, his debut album is here. After being exalted by several of my school’s senior sh*tty music correspondents, I expected this to be just another sappy, multi-platinum, radio-rap release. Boy, was I dead wrong. B.o.B. is, essentially, the mainstream’s one man version of The Roots. Needless to say, he’s not as good, less thoughtful, and more pop-influenced, but the comparison stands to serve.”
The first sentence is unnecessary. There’s nothing wrong with writing a short sentence and then expounding upon it in a longer subsequent sentence, but he might as well have said, “It’s been long overdue. Seeing as B.o.B generated some serious hype in ‘08, it’s been long overdue.” It’s simply redundant. Bulldog then makes a mistake that will go on to plague the review: he elevates himself above the average hip-hop listener. People at his school have heard B.o.B.? He must suck then! Bulldog is then wholly surprised by the fact that someone other than himself was right about a hip-hop artist being good. Elitism is inescapable on a music website, but this is inexcusable. Instead of realizing that he was the one with egg on his face, he downplays the fact that his expectations were wrong by saying, “Ah well, those guys are shit anyway.” Comparing him to The Roots is good, but Bulldog makes the comparison essentially worthless in the next sentence by saying that he is actually not like The Roots that much at all. Also, anyone who’s listened to both artists will realize that comparisons are basically nonexistent except for the fact that they’re both black.
Section #3: The Body (get through this one without slapping your forehead, I dare ya)
Despite being a newbie under the southern regime that employ crunk, snap rap, and pop-hop as the triad of platinum-driving subgenres, B.o.B. is really unique considering what region he hails from. If first impressions counted for anything, one would believe this is a techno-influenced, alternative hip-hop album in the lieu of Kid Cudi. After all, the cover artwork screams out “thoughtful” and “electronica” amongst other things, and the first song, “Don’t Let Me Fall,” is sci-fi pop with tinges of acoustic rock. But that’s not right at all. The next track, “Nothin’ On You,” displays strong R&B influences. Still not right, let’s skim through some more. “Past My Shades” is infused with bouncy, bluesy soul, “Airplanes” is tinged with emotional pop, and “Bet I” is your typical southern beat fare, pumped full of heavy electronics and bumping bass . I don’t know if B.o.B was just trying to craft a musical portfolio with a diverse blend of sounds and styles, but this album seems to weigh itself down with an identity crisis. Despite being instrumentally good, the overall musical aspect is sporadic and shapeshifting, and that makes for an uncomfortable, less-than-flawless album flow.
So what common themes does it have? B.o.B. delivers some some good lyrics that is essentially a combination of smarts, feelings, and pop sensibilities. Regardless of the fact that his lyrics incorporate hulking pop elements, they’re still deep. (Well, that is, with taking into account the standards of the mainstream.) However, B.o.B. does a great job of portraying himself as a hipster. Regardless of whether or not he actually is, his donning of sleek, modernist glasses in the video for “Nothin’ On You” and casual wielding of guitars in multiple photographs, compliment his hipster look so well, it’s disturbing. But I digress. Along with his indie-like image, he has a knack for creating pop appeal. With guests like Hayley Williams, Eminem, and Rivers Cuomo (of Weezer) representing his pop sensibilities, and guests like Lupe Fiasco representing his ‘alternative’ side, it’s clear that B.o.B. has the best of both worlds.
Snap rap? Pop-hop? Those terms are okay within the right context (a.k.a. if you acknowledge their stupidity and non-existence), but he claims they are legitimate sub-genres. Also, the album cover apparently “screams ‘thoughtful’ and ‘electronica’ amongst other things.” One can only hope that “other things” refers to “not those previous two in the slightest.”
If you made it through both paragraphs without falling asleep, you’ll see that he goes on to describe B.o.B as everything from “pop” to “alternative” to “indie,” pin-balling from word to word without any purpose or reason, stuffing each paragraph full of musical jargon that he hopes will join together to create a review. He describes the album’s flow as “less-than-flawless” (an awkward descriptor of its own), but at least it doesn’t flow as horribly as his writing. Perhaps the worst thing about the body of the review is his use of the word “hipster,” which apparently is anyone who “casually wields a guitar” or wears glasses.
The real problem with the bulk of the review is that Bulldog never really states an opinion. Go ahead, read through those paragraphs again. Can you tell if Bulldog actually likes the album or not? Nope, because he never says anything concrete. Granted, the rating at the top of the page is a “3,” which is the sort of middle-ground rating for an album that isn’t bad but also isn’t memorable enough to warrant a higher rating. In that regard, the review succeeds. He never really says anything bad about the album (except that the flow isn’t so great), and he never states that anything about the album is all that great either. But isn’t that lazy? His opinions are barely even opinions; he just states things about the album and what B.o.B looks like in promo photos. He tells us that there is a slew of guest appearances on the record but he never says whether or not they’re any good. If you read his review without any prior knowledge of B.o.B, then you’d probably scratch your head and say, “Well jeez, is the album worth getting or not?”
The basic point of a review is to let people know whether or not the album in question is worth their time. Instead, Bulldog simply states arbitrary facts about the artist and a few of the songs. The second paragraph starts off well, with Bulldog telling you that you’re in for a few sentences about the album’s themes. But wait. Smarts? Feelings? Pop sensibilities? If you asked me what an album’s primary theme was and I told you “feelings,” you would probably take off your leather glove and slap me with it. His main point seems to be that B.o.B is deeper and better than the Southern scene from which he came, but he still holds the rapper to the standards of that scene. It’s a common sense issue that often slips through the cracks.
Section #4: The Conclusion
The conclusion is what lazy people will read to know whether or not the album is worth their time (which, remember, is the point of the review in the first place). Knowing that, what the fuck is this?:
“He sings (well, and without autotune, thank you very much,) he plays (multiple instruments) and he raps (in a literate, barely uptempo fashion.) B.o.B. is your go-to one man band. Unhindered by the trifecta of plagues that beleaguers the image of the south. In a region that reeks of amateurism, materialism, and unoriginality, B.o.B. is something fresh, original, and talented. I was impressed by his debut, and can only hope he expounds on the potential he displays on …The Adventures of Bobby Ray“
Bafflingly, he somehow forgot to put a period at the end of the last sentence (perhaps he needed an extra one for that ellipse he puts in front of the album title which, by the way, should not actually be there). Even more bafflingly, there’s a goddamn fragment in that paragraph. Only the most inane of writers will let a fragment slip past their proofreading abilities. This is the same user who tried to write 30 reviews in 30 days. Perhaps he should take a cue from Josh Hartnett and attempt to keep himself from having sex for 30 days instead; I’m sure he’d be much more successful with that.
Final Review Grade: D+
It’s good for a first review. He shows potential and with a bit of polishing, I have no doubt that he…wait a minute. He’s written 87 of these damn things? And this B.o.B review is from a week ago? Dear lord.
|JesusDeEspana (1:48:21 AM):||do jewish cannibals only eat other jews|
|GDandBlinkfan76 (2:05:41 AM):||i dont know|