Sunday 25 September 2016

Show me your clicks: Why you should be wary of instant online music reviews

Stephen Byrne

Published 03/09/2016 | 16:48

Frank Ocean: Blond
Frank Ocean: Blond

Microwave media hot takes and first listen reviews by influencers, often baloobas on their own ego, winning the internet by nanoseconds. It’s an ‘I‘m first, I’m king’ mentality. As a result, most reviewers don't give the album the attention or research it deserves. Let’s proceed straight to the Google Analytics masturbation session - 1,500 views on screen. Show me your clicks, baby.

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Sadly, these boil-in-the-bag, no effort, no research reviews of albums, particularly sudden drop and event albums, such as Frank Ocean's Blond and Beyoncé’s Lemonade are becoming more and more frequent, bestowing ‘Instant Classic’ or ‘Basement Bin’ status upon albums before metaphorically speaking, the arm of record player has returned to its cradle.

This is a dangerous development for both the public and artists alike. For many albums that excite on first listen, soon wane, and in a week or two are put away never to be played again. Other albums can be jarring and abrasive to the ear on first listen and surprise you later by slowly revealing their quality to you.

Surely your readers and the artists at your mercy deserve more than a one listen or less reaction to a piece of work that may have taken several years to create.

Beyonce Lemonade
Beyonce Lemonade

Even if you hated every single one of the 17 tracks on Frank Ocean’s Blond and even if it transpires to be in retrospect the most preposterously overhyped album of 2016. Wouldn’t you need to listen to it several times to pin down exactly what it was that you hated or indeed loved about it?

Could you really spot every sample, including The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Gang of Four and The Mohawks? Decipher every lyric, on a myriad of themes, delivered by over ten voices and consider how their meaning and messages reflect both Ocean’s personal state of being and wider societal issues – from just one listen?

If so, congratulations you are a ninja level critic. Lester Bangs will meet you at the gates of heaven. And also let’s not forget to take the original instrumentation into consideration in this one post-midnight listen.

Now that you’ve considered the album so ineptly, sorry I mean in-depthly, it’s time to consider its position in the R ‘n’ B cannon beside its contemporaries such as Blood Orange’s ‘Freetown Sound’. But of course you’ve done that already…

Don’t worry Lester, it’ll be a short line of zero because it’s simply impossible to deliver a well-balanced and considered review of an album, having only heard it once.    

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