Like most music nerds, I spend a lot of time reading album reviews. I started really reading them around the time I got Broken Social Scene’s You Forgot it in People. I bought the album thinking it would sound like Coldplay, but it didn’t sound anything like Coldplay. It sounded weird, but I liked it, and I read as many reviews as I could so that I had a way of explaining to my parents and friends that this album made of strange sounds was actually really great. I looked to music critics then, as I do now, as an example of how to talk and think about music.
I think there’s some kind of magic in a really good review. A critic can make you feel an even deeper connection with a work you love or they can make you laugh along with them as they scathingly cut something down to size. I love great reviews, but I was never really able to identify the mysterious ingredients that make a good critic.
Then I came across a New Yorker article entitled “A Critic’s Manifesto: The Intersection of Expertise and Taste.” In the article, Daniel Mendelsohn explains why critics are important and what it takes to be a good one. He brilliantly condenses his argument into one equation: “Knowledge + Taste = Meaningful Judgment.”
Mendelsohn writes that the role of the critic is to explain the narrative of how they arrive at a judgment, and this is where knowledge comes in. Knowledge comes from being immersed in an artist’s work and being able to explain how a work fits into a larger context. Critics should aim to use their knowledge to explain to the reader how they arrived at a judgment and how a work can be approached and understood in the same way they do.
The next part is taste, which is a little trickier. Taste is a personal and subjective feeling, and the critic should fully understand their taste so that they can most honestly and clearly explain their reaction to a work.
Mendelsohn writes that knowledge and taste come together to give a review significance, allowing the critic to explain why art means something or nothing.
In honour of the review, this week we present an ANDY that’s full of them. We hope you think it’s good, but that’s for you to judge.
Senior ANDY Editor