Review Summary: Talk is cheap!
I have a love/hate relationship with the practice of music journalism, or any other form of written or verbal description of music. On one hand, it is the most practical way to record your thoughts on any particular song or musical moment. If someone were to ask you, “Hey, what do you think of Come Together?”
you wouldn’t write them a song. You wouldn’t bake them a cake. You’d simply say, “I like it! It’s super chill, with a tight, yet minimal groove that fits right in the pocket.”
On the other hand, words often fall short of the bigger picture. No matter how romantic your prose is, or how many fancy adjectives you use, it is impossible to capture the exact feeling of a song without pulling it up and pressing play. Many reviewers and critics lose sight of this, assuming that their word is gospel, and that to disagree with them is to disagree with the decisions of the artist. But it is not so; their words are a secondary source of absorbing the music.
Language can also manipulate people’s opinions through the use of clever rhetoric. Take I Want You (She’s So Heavy),
for example. Think about how easy it would be to put a negative spin on this song. The lyrics are ridiculous, repetitive and redundant. It is stylistically jarring, switching lanes as soon as you get comfortable with the groove. And the ending is just three minutes of bullsh*t noise. While wordsmiths are beating their brows trying to think of a way to weave their taste into poetics, the casual listener can tap into the truth: It’s just good, man.
First and foremost, the Beatles wrote sonic experiences. Their whole ethos was in spite of the critic, in opposition of the elitist appraiser. It can be difficult to put a finger on exactly why their vague appeals to “LOVE” feel so profound, but that’s part of the magic. They were masters of mystique. Whether written about sub-nautical flowerbeds, solar cycles, drag queens, or drunken royalty, each moment is imbued with a subtle brilliance, deeper in practice than on paper. By rendering the need for verbal description obsolete, they threatened the status quo of writers who served as the musical gatekeepers of their time.
Clearly, we should follow their example and banish all music criticism. Bring pitchforks to Pitchfork! BURN DOWN SPUTN- I’m kidding. I don’t wish to demonize music journalism, in fact, that’s what this is. But it can be helpful to remember that listening to music is an intimate experience between you and the artist. It is not an intimate experience between you, the artist, and some snobby pencil pusher who needs to submit their review by 5 pm CST, or they will get a stern talking-to from the higher-ups. Music is personal. Don’t take my word for it, though. Talk is cheap!