I often write about new albums and songs, giving my subjective thoughts and opinions on the production, content, and presentation. When I write about a certain album, it’s because I have strong feelings about it that I can’t help but share, whether they’re extremely negative or positive. The result is a volatile review system, where it seems like I either love something or hate it, and more often than not it seems like I love everything, since I usually write best about the songs and albums that I love. I find myself overthinking this often, especially when I’m writing; I start to question whether or not the review is objective, and what makes a valuable review for the average reader. In examining these questions about music reviewing, I find myself turning to YouTube’s self-proclaimed “internet’s busiest music nerd” Anthony Fantano, who is notable for his frequent album reviews on his channel theneedledrop.
I only started watching Fantano’s reviews a few years ago, and hesitantly at first; I didn’t believe that music could truly be judged, since it is inherently subjective, and I often disagreed with his reviews of my favorite albums. However, there was something fascinating about his approach to reviewing, specifically the vast amount of musical knowledge and terminology he used when examining albums. He is able to fill a ten minute video entirely with thoughtful musical opinions, grounded in absolute reasoning. He certainly has biases (easily seen by genres he prefers), and always reminds his viewers that he is just sharing his opinion, but he always approaches new music and genres with an open mind. I still disagree with some of his final ratings (especially the 3/10 he gave Mac Miller’s Swimming), but I find it hard to argue with him; nothing he says is factually wrong, and at the end of the day it just comes down to a different taste in music. For example, he says that Mac Miller’s singing is off-key and mediocre, with a weak presentation, but I hear the same thing and find it intimate and endearing. It just comes down to a subjective interpretation of objective musical facts, and I find that relationship so fascinating in reviewing music.
After thinking about what makes Anthony Fantano such a fair and interesting critic, I narrowed down great music reviews to two important things: understanding and discussing music objectively, and being passionate about the review. With only objective facts you have a boring and generic review, and with nothing but passion you have an intellectually shallow review that offers no value to the reader’s understanding of the music. With these two thoughts in mind, I look forward to writing more music reviews in the future; thankfully there is no shortage of new and interesting music.