Everyone, they say, is a critic. Opinions, they continue, are like assholes in their ubiquity and, with the rise of modern communication platforms, humanity is now collectively exposed to a near endless stream of both. While arguably there is Big Data value in having access to such a wide range of global viewpoints, current technology allows any shitbird with an internet connection to let us know how they feel (in most cases, this takes the form of calling people names on Youtube).
That’s what makes writing about music such a funny gig. No matter what my credentials are or how much of a smartypants I like to think I am, the reviews I write are little more than opinion dressed up in my attempts at clever word craft (Fuck yeah, thesaurus.com!). The goal, as always, is to give my subject matter a fair shake and provide you, the reader, with adequate background and context explaining my conclusions in the hopes that it helps you decide whether to check something out or give it a pass. Where things get tricky: my basic function is to tell you whether or not I think someone else’s art is good or shitty. As you can imagine, musicians are understandably upset when my verdict tends towards the ‘fecal.’ And who can blame them? Music is an incredibly personal form of artistic expression, so, when someone writes, “ha ha, this album = poo poo emoticon,” it’s going to sting a bit.
As a drummer in a band that has received its fair share of gloriously negative reviews, I want to use this rant to impart an important piece of advice:
Dear bands of the globe,
When you receive a negative review, whether it be from an established publication, an up-and-coming music blog staffed with brilliant and sexy writers, a Facebook post, a Tweet, a Snapchat (I’m too old to fathom how this would work), or even via a Goddamn carrier pigeon, for the Love of God chill the fuck out and don’t throw a fit. Below, I’ve provided a set of easy to follow Do’s and Don’ts for dealing with a negative review. Hopefully, this will help you move forward in your career and prevent people from thinking you and your bandmates are giant, entitled crybabies.
I know, easier said than done, right? That smug, asshole blogger totally misunderstood your killer use of pan flute samples and reinterpretations of early Nickelback lyrics. Now, there’s a crappy review sitting on his site for the whole world to see! Before you take to your band’s Pinterest page to create a board consisting of repins that could only be interpreted as a stinging retort, please read the following Wikipedia definition of the Streisand Effect.
It is incredibly difficult, just shy of impossible, for a band to publicly respond to a negative review and not come off looking like a bunch of whiny, petulant fuckwads. You might be tempted to take the ‘clever’ route and post something about how awesome it is that such-and-such publication shit on your stuff. By doing this, you are essentially inviting your existing fan base to give you the comforting pat on the back you clearly need to continue feeling special, and concurrently asking them to gang up on the mean bully that called you names.
The only situation in which it is acceptable to publicly address a negative review is if said review is libellous in nature. What does this mean, you ask? Well, while everyone is entitled to an opinion, reviewers cannot make false claims of fact that damage your reputation. So, while a reviewer is well within their rights to say that your pan flute samples are derivative of Jethro Tull and your take on Nickelback shows a complete disrespect for Chad Kroeger’s latent brilliance, he’s not allowed to say something like, “Even though this band kidnaps transients and forces them to fight in highly ritualized, and oddly sexual, underground hobo brawling tournaments, I really like the pan flute.” (Unless, of course, this is a true statement—if so, please send me your latest EP).
Friends, I know the urge to reply is strong. Your art has been maligned by philistines who don’t get your vision and you must, for the sake of all that is good and true, set the record straight! I implore you to reconsider. Abe Lincoln once said, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” So, if by chance you are disinclined to accept the opinion of someone whose pastime may involve occasionally shitting on your life’s work, listen to the motherfucker who helped end slavery in America and killed a bunch of vampires all while wearing a bitchin’ hat.
Oh, interestingly enough, Lincoln’s follow-up statement to the above quote was, “Fuck pan flute.”
Written by Jesse Gainer
*edited by Danielle Kenedy