Hi. My name is Adam. I’m 22, I speak three languages, and I don’t believe in god. When I was 15 I got my heart broken and fell into radio pop-punk, which put it back together again without even thinking twice. Since then, I’ve gradually fallen deeper and deeper into music; I discovered post-rock through God Is An Astronaut and dubstep through Burial, and as it grew more dizzying it got more important. I love music.
Is it so wrong to admit that? And yet, almost every professional music publication in the world denies the humanity behind both its writers and its readers by presenting itself as wholly impartial. Critique 101 reads as follows: “don’t refer to yourself in the first-person; it looks unprofessional.” Is that what “professionalism” means now – detachment? How can you expect people to take seriously any article whose author claims that what he’s written is not a reflection of himself? Why would you want to? People don’t listen to music in a state of disconnect; whatever’s playing right now, the chances are that it’s making you feel something. So why would you ever want to even pretend that the best way to talk about music is by taking five or ten steps back? Or even one?
There is simply no such thing as an objective stance on music. OK Computer is not better than “Friday” by Rebecca Black. Sorry. I wish beyond all limits that it were possible to say so, but there are definitely countless people who detest “Paranoid Android” but sing their hearts out whilst wondering which seat they should take. You can’t argue that majority rules, either, because then Adele is the best performer on the planet right now. And if you’re going to base your opinions around supposedly measurable things like technicality, you’re automatically excluding the most beautifully simple songs ever written – beautiful in my opinion, anyway.
And because there’s no such thing as an objective perspective, there’s no such thing as an objective review. Every write-up you ever read was written by a human being who cares about music in a specific way, someone who has favourite bands and favourite songs and is unequivocally biased in the sense that they like certain things and dislike others. Every review is penned from an angle, with the weight of someone’s mindset and life story on every word they say. The way you first heard a band or an album can change anything and everything; it’s like butterflies and hurricanes, chaos theory – the smallest thing can have the hugest impact. If you find yourself capable of removing yourself from the music, you don’t deserve for your opinions to be taken seriously.
Some people conclude from these points that music journalism should concern itself purely with the reporting of facts: Band X will be at Festival Y; Band Z has a new album out in June. But just because you can’t be officially right about something doesn’t mean you can’t write – and think – with all the conviction in the world. It’s the only honest way to go about it. As readers we find someone who writes in a way with which we identify, who sees things the way we do, and then, possibly, take their advice on what to check out every once in a while. We need that right now; there’s so much music, and so many ways to find it, that we need some way of cutting through the masses to the select few albums that can change people’s lives. To know which ones they are, it helps to listen to people they’ve already made an impression on.
So next time someone approaches you – be it in print or in person – and tells you a band is good, make sure that translates as “I love this band”. The way we talk about music should never be to tell people what to like, just what they might like; I write not because I think I’m right, but because I hope that I have enough in common with enough people for it to matter. There is no such thing as a professional opinion. However professionally something is written, it’s still an opinion, and I’m tired of pretending otherwise. I’m Adam, and I think Taylor Swift is brilliant. There’s a pretty good chance you don’t. Which is fine. Just as long as we know where we stand.