What Is This Shit?: Criticizing the Critics

Corbin Mills

Staff Writer

Art is an expression of the soul, so why should we care what other people think of it? Artists themselves should always want to improve their work, but after a while, it becomes exhausting to hear over and over again whether something is “good” or “bad.” Who has the authority to say these things? Should anyone have the authority? To explore these questions, let’s take a look at Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Albums of All Time.

In 2003, The Beatles’ “Sgt. Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band” was ranked number 1 on Rolling Stone’s List of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. But then, number 3 was “Revolver” by The Beatles and number 5 was “Rubber Soul” by, guess who? The Beatles. And lastly at number 10 was “The Beatles (The White Album)” by, obviously, The Beatles! What is this shit? Why does one singular band have 4 albums in the top 10? Yes, The Beatles are important to the development of music, possibly the most influential of all time, however, taking 4 of the top 10 places is maybe taking it a bit too far. What about hip-hop? What about jazz? What about women artists? They have great stuff. 

The people who put this original list together were critics, yes, music CRITICS, people who literally judge music for a living. They went through the albums and decided “Well, I say this is great,” but did they ask me? Or you? No. They did not go through the general public and ask everyone what an album meant to them. Music is important to people because they relate to it, they feel something from the music that they can’t easily express otherwise. Then, beyond the list, there are people reviewing albums the moment they are released to the general public, sometimes before, and they do not allow themselves to sit with the music, allow it to simmer, and they judge based on technicalities and whatnot. Then some critics compare an artist’s new album to some of their older music saying that they have “lost inspiration” or have “lost their touch,” but what right do these people have to say such things? What is this shit? 

Let’s take a moment and take away the idea of society. Let’s say that the apocalypse happens tomorrow and most of humanity dies. What do we do now? Does the Grammy Award for Album of the Year matter now? That critic who was judging someone else’s music because it didn’t hold up to their other stuff is dead now, probably. The few people that are left on the planet aren’t going to care about whether something is better than another thing. There won’t be very many people to compete with. At this point, people will just want to listen to music because it’s what humans do. Their next-door neighbor, who just days ago, before the apocalypse, was just an average kid playing guitar with his friends. Nobody knew who he was. Now he plays for the people left on Earth, and he’s suddenly the greatest guitar player in all the world. Some may judge him, but whatever that is I don’t know. Art is for feeling and expressing. Yes, it is good to be pushed to make one’s art better, but in the end, who cares? Just…be with the art. Enjoy it. 

In 1970, Bob Dylan released an album called “Self Portrait” and it is rumored that he made the album just to joke with the critics because they were saying his music had become lazy and was not as good as it had been in the past. A critic named Greil Marcus wrote a review on the album saying “What is this shit?” Today, the album has been reevaluated and some say that it is a lost treasure. Also, Dylan didn’t stop making records because he didn’t care what the critics had to say. Because who should? Anyway, to repeat what Marcus said, I say it back to the critics themselves. You say that one thing is better than the other or something isn’t good at all. Well, it is probably good for someone so, what is this shit?

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

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