Everett True

Six more golden rules of music criticism (with explanations)

Six more golden rules of music criticism (with explanations)
Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

By Everett True

  1. Reviewing music is never just about ‘the music’. If it was, then… uh… music criticism would be fucked.
  2. I have no problem with anyone who takes issue with people who dislike music they like. Insulting people who like music you don’t like doesn’t automatically make your criticism invalid. Often, it makes it more entertaining.
  3. Maybe you liked something… or someone (a music critic, say)… in the past. Maybe you don’t any more. Maybe it’s not them who changed, but you.
  4. Hiveminds form wherever people regularly congregate (message boards, say). Often, these hiveminds are unaware of their own behavioural patterns. Often, this doesn’t matter. Obviously, the people who communicate within these hiveminds like to consider themselves individuals. And sometimes, they are.
  5. Disliking certain pop groups doesn’t make you sexist, or even (shudder) rockist, or even (worse shudder) elitist. Not automatically, anyway. Often, it means you just don’t like those pop groups.
  6. Just because you miss the 80s, doesn’t mean everyone does.

“Within liberalism, tolerance is linked to rationality, and, like freedom, is powerfully supported by scepticism. The enemy of liberal tolerance is fanaticism. Two lines of Yeats have been repeatedly quoted by liberal apologists in recent years:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity. (‘The Second Coming’)

It must be agreeable to have no convictions, yet be able to account oneself among ‘the best’. What the endorsement of these lines indicates is that liberalism inclines to tentativeness (to use Russell’s word) and even uncertainty, and is suspicious of too strong convictions.”
Anthony Arblaster, The Rise and Decline of Western Liberalism (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1984), pp. 55-59; 66-91)

5 Responses to Six more golden rules of music criticism (with explanations)

  1. RJC October 7, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    I had never heard of this Weingarten character before ET’s open letter. This is more to do with my own limited sphere of awareness than a snidey dig at Weingarten’s fame/infamy (or lack thereof).

    I do know who Dorian Lynskey is though. I follow him on Twitter although I have not read his book (who ever said that the Internet killed attention spans?). I’m happy to accept that Lynskey is a fan of Haim’s music, I think I just hoped that he would have opposed them on ideological grounds. Its all well and good tweeting outrage at the behaviour of Paul Dacre, but at roughly the same time as the Mail/Miliband saga was unfolding you had a Haim/Cameron photo op happening across town.

    A Haim/Cameron photo makes Big Dave look good. We do not want Big Dave to look good. They could have said no if they wanted to. Sycophantic slags.

  2. Everett True October 7, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    Sycophantic slags.


  3. Dan October 7, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    Your quote there reminds me of something I was reading on the train this weekend.

    “The liberal view of morality sets its face firmly against the didactic. Indeed, one of the great cliches of modern criticism is that teaching and preaching are fatal to literary art. ‘Works that are too overtly didactic, that too obviously are trying to impart a message’, writes Lamarque, ‘are seldom prized highly.’ ‘Overtly’ and ‘too obviously’ make the point conveniently incontrovertible; but that even a touch of didacticism is distasteful is as received a judgement for the literary establishment as Shakespeare wrote some rather impressive stuff.”
    Terry Eagleton, The Event of Literature, (London: Yale, 2012), pp. 68-69.

  4. RJC October 7, 2013 at 9:20 pm


    Well, quite. Wading into a sexism debate and then using the term ‘slags’ isn’t going to do my argument any favours, is it? Some things are often said merely to provoke. In my defence, that insult was aimed more at the hivemind than at Haim themselves but I should be old enough by now to know that context is everything.

    I should also know better than to quote Smiths lyrics when in the presence of music journalists. I thought the debate had moved away from sexism and onto Thatcherism but clearly I was wrong. I kind of wish I hadn’t made that comment now, but I don’t have the benefit of an edit button. Forgive me. I can’t imagine that being accused of sexism is much fun.

  5. Ben Green October 15, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    Reading today’s Australian newspapers I noticed “faction” is now the #1 bad word, you can tell by the relish and frequency with which certain people are using it. Other negative buzz-words for 2013: union, bound, quota, class warfare, gang, club, football team. “Hivemind” isn’t as buzzy (…wait) but its use fits the pattern enough for me to think of it just now. It’s ok if all the individuals coincidentally make the same judgment of “merit” (positive buzz-word 2013), and dissent is ok as long as it’s explicitly disorganised, isolated and unstructured (“I just don’t like it”), but collectivity, commitment and factionalism are weird and hive-like.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.