I know the pen is mightier than the sword. If you are an artist, do not take my ratings as a personal attack on you as an individual. I know it’s hard to not do so. Artists are some of the bravest people I know because they consistently put their guts out on display for complete strangers to poke over and discuss. This is not an industry for cowards but yes, I acknowledge that if I give you anything less than a 4.0, you’re probably going to feel a little butt hurt. Just realize that my review is one of many, probably won’t affect your bottom line, and I don’t know you personally so it isn’t personal. If we are friendly and on a first name basis, realize that I agonized over giving you anything less than a 4.0.
That said, I’m going to explain the mechanics of my rating system:
Anything below a 3.5 needs to be rethought because this signifies a serious craft-fail. If I take the time to review a work in this category, it isn’t to bash the artist with how bad it is but to provide constructive criticism on what needs improvement and why. The fail could be in production. In these instances, I find that the live performance deserves a much higher rating and also gives the work a higher rating post-review. If it is a production fail, I will say so. It’s still a craft fail but it may be outside the artist’s control (or budget).
A 3.5 to 3.9 is an endorsement of solid craft but there are underdeveloped elements that I would like the artist to address and lavish with attention in the next recording or redevelop in the live performance. Oft times this rating is based on a comparison with previous recordings. I also find that artists with line-up changes and “super groups” have this rating on their first release with the new personnel. It is very rare that people who have just started working together put out an opus. Sometimes I do go a little hard on the artist here, especially if I am a fan of individuals in the group. I personally want these bands to grow artistically and succeed. Often the live performance is so much more than the recording. As an artist, if your album received this rating, your live performance rating most likely will jump up to one of the next two categories.
A 4.0 to 4.4 indicates that the artist has exceeded expectations. The work is not only well-developed but there are elements that surprise and excite my senses. I’ll point out a few things that need attention, but overall, the work is worthy of critical acclaim and the artist is deserved of hearty slaps on the back, thumbs-up, and at least a six-pack of good craft beer or a fifth of preferred poison.
A 4.5 to 5.0 means that I had a visceral, ecstatic response to the work. Endorphins were released in large quantities. The craft is superlative and sets the bar for all other works in the (sub) genre. This is where I want every artist to be. I know it won’t happen on every album, and the artist should know this too. This kind of work deserves a gala with lots of champagne. If there is criticism, it’s with a light touch because having one song on an album that doesn’t make me cream my pants isn’t a bad thing. Everyone needs a breather between orgasms.
So that’s how I do it. It took me a while to get to this point. Just like every artist, I am honing my craft and trying to figure out where I fit in the big picture. I don’t get paid a salary for doing this either. I’m not rolling in dollars here so music is just as much a passion of mine as it is to the various artists that I critique.
I write. I listen to music. The two go together. It’s what I do. If there’s one thing you can count on from me, it is honesty. I’m not afraid to tell the people I admire the cold, hard truth. Will I be mean about it? No. There is a responsibility that comes with the mighty pen and I choose to use my powers for good.
©2014 iokirkwood.com “Album Review Rationale for Annoyed Artists.” All rights reserved.
In between bouts of writing for metaldescent.com, blogging, and banging her head, I.O. Kirkwood is the author of The Needless series, “Subatomic Revolt” in Mike Lynch’s No Revolution Is Too Big series and the short story “The White Carpet,” a finalist in the Scribes Valley Publishing Fiction Contest in 2013.