The Stupidity Of Objective Reviews


Written by: BitterCOld
Published: 10.05.2011


I've been batting around this column idea for a while, so fuck it, here it is.

The word "objective" gets bandied about a lot, usually it comes up when someone writes a review for an album and scores it lower than some insulted fan thinks it should be scored. Clearly the reviewer who might have only scored it "good" lacked the magic word… OBJECTIVITY.



What? You call new Iron Opeth a 9.3? It's clearly a 9.875!! OUTRAGE! UNOBJECTIVE!


(Side note: this also some times occurs when the reviewer 'overrates' the album, but I have never seen this brought up when reviewer and reader agreed on an album's worth… I guess if both think something is an 8 or 9, clearly that reviewer is objective.)

There is one fatal flaw in that logic.

A strictly "objective" review would be not only terribly boring, it would be basically useless to those interested in learning about the album being reviewed.

How so? Here so. In order to be remotely useful - and vaguely interesting - it has to be chock full of subjectivity. What follows below is an objective review of Metallica's Metallica:

___________________________________________________________________________________


In 1991 Metallica released their self-titled fifth album. The cover art features the band's logo and a coiled snake derived from the Gadsden Flag. Done in all black, it has caused this album to be also known as "the Black Album" and has drawn comparisons to the imaginary Spinal Tap album Smell The Glove.

At this point in their career Metallica featured Kirk Hammett on guitar, James Hetfield on guitar and vocals, Jason Newsted on bass guitar and backing vocals, and Lars Ulrich on drums.

Metallica consists of 12 songs and lasts over an hour. The band opted to have Bob Rock produce the album after his work on Motley Crue's Dr. Feelgood. Metallica spent four consecutive weeks at number one on Billboard 200, has sold more than 15,000,000 copies, and was certified 15x platinum (diamond) by the RIAA.

The songs are music with electric guitar played with distortion, bass and drums. There are guitar solos in all 12 songs. Hetfield plays an acoustic guitar on "The Unforgiven", "Wherever I May Roam", and "Nothing Else Matters".

Five of the dozen songs were released as singles and received radio play. They were "Enter Sandman", "The Unforgiven", "Nothing Else Matters", "Wherever I May Roam", and "Sad But True". Videos were also made for these five songs.

The song "Don't Tread On Me" features the motto of the Gadsden Flag, whose snake image was also found on the album cover.

___________________________________________________________________________________

I hope that was helpful. Limited to strictly objective analysis, devoid of anything subjective - such as opinion - I was handicapped in my ability to describe what this album sounds like or how it makes me feel. I cannot even use the word "metal" in describing this release as that is a subjective term in and of itself. A fellow staffer, who proofed that bit, stated, "It reads more like a fact sheet."

Well, in order to be objective, I guess fact is all you have.



An initial scan of this publication reveals it devoid of subjectivity... but I will have to run this by the Council of MetalGeeks for confirmation.


Ultimately, it is not objectivity, but subjectivity which gives the review any worth or entertainment value. I challenge any of you to look back at your favorite review (be it of a metal album on this site or a movie/book review elsewhere) and look into why you like it. My guess is in 99% of cases, it will be because the reviewer had the stones to dare to insert their opinion in to it.

Sure, it would be a plus if the guy or gal reviewing the work had one foot set in objective-land, rather than writing a review fellates the artist (with one hand cupping their balls and another plugging their anus) or bends the artist over and mounts them (without having the common decency to give them a reach around) …

Ultimately, though, it doesn't matter. What matters is the reviewer's opinion - even if you disagree with it. Music is 99% a subjective experience dependent solely upon the listener. Not that this will matter. Team NERDRAGE will continue to froth at their keyboard and hamfist pound out ranting diatribes that call into question parental lineage of a reviewer for scoring something only somewhere between 'good' and 'very good.'



 



Written on 10.05.2011 by BitterCOld has been officially reviewing albums for MetalStorm since 2009.


Comments page 3 / 3

Comments: 79   Visited by: 612 users
21.11.2012 - 13:32
R'Vannith
ghedengi
Written by Aristarchos on 21.11.2012 at 11:34

Anyway I don't think a rating of a reviewer says more of how good I will find an album than an random vote, since the chances that I will have the same musical taste as the reviewer is almost zero, but a review can help me to get a picture of how an album actually sounds, rather than how good it is, and than on that I could base if it is worth checking out.


You have a distinction between how an album sounds to the reviewer and what is "good". The idea you have there of "good" is an objective one, something free of the subjective input of the listener/reviewer. That's exactly what this article is pointing out, there is no such thing as "good" in this sense. For an album to be good it requires some judgement by the listener, in other words "goodness" is in the ear of the beholder.

There is no difference between "how an album sounds" and "how good it is", saying something is "good" requires personal judgement.
Loading...
22.11.2012 - 17:21
Aristarchos
Written by R'Vannith on 21.11.2012 at 13:32

There is no difference between "how an album sounds" and "how good it is", saying something is "good" requires personal judgement.

If I for example say an album sounds like a mix of power metal and doom metal with some progressive influences and an epic atmosphere, and draw comparisons to other albums, it says at least something of how an album sounds, but it says nothing about how good it is. Their is a huge difference.
Loading...
22.11.2012 - 18:07
R'Vannith
ghedengi
Written by Aristarchos on 22.11.2012 at 17:21

Written by R'Vannith on 21.11.2012 at 13:32

There is no difference between "how an album sounds" and "how good it is", saying something is "good" requires personal judgement.

If I for example say an album sounds like a mix of power metal and doom metal with some progressive influences and an epic atmosphere, and draw comparisons to other albums, it says at least something of how an album sounds, but it says nothing about how good it is. Their is a huge difference.


With your example there you are describing how the album sounds in general terms, giving it a sub-genre allocation etc. When you proceed to describe how "good" it is it still requires reference to how it sounds. How can you pass judgement upon how "good" it is without referring to how it sounds?

Say for instance you find that a particular musician demonstrates technical proficiency for their instrument. In order to pass any comment on how "good" it is in relation to the music it requires reference to how it sounds. I mean music is an audial medium, we need to hear it and describe how it sounds to validate any claims that it is "good."

The sounds produced in music aren't inherently "good." They are just sounds. An objective review tells us nothing about how something sounds and neither does it tell us how "good" it is. Saying something is "good" is a judgement based upon how something sounds.
Loading...
22.11.2012 - 18:13
Aristarchos
Written by R'Vannith on 22.11.2012 at 18:07

How can you pass judgement upon how "good" it is without referring to how it sounds?

I don't see a point to do that.
Loading...
22.11.2012 - 18:20
R'Vannith
ghedengi
Written by Aristarchos on 22.11.2012 at 18:13

Written by R'Vannith on 22.11.2012 at 18:07

How can you pass judgement upon how "good" it is without referring to how it sounds?

I don't see a point to do that.


Umm, so your saying that the qualities which you would perhaps describe as "good" aren't based on sound? But music is sound... how can you say music is good without referring to how it sounds? I just don't get that.
Loading...
22.11.2012 - 18:25
Aristarchos
Written by R'Vannith on 22.11.2012 at 18:20

Written by Aristarchos on 22.11.2012 at 18:13

Written by R'Vannith on 22.11.2012 at 18:07

How can you pass judgement upon how "good" it is without referring to how it sounds?

I don't see a point to do that.


Umm, so your saying that the qualities which you would perhaps describe as "good" aren't based on sound? But music is sound... how can you say music is good without referring to how it sounds? I just don't get that.

Actually I have no idea why you started quoting me, because you don't seem to understand anything I write.
Loading...
22.11.2012 - 18:37
R'Vannith
ghedengi
Written by Aristarchos on 22.11.2012 at 18:25

Actually I have no idea why you started quoting me, because you don't seem to understand anything I write.


I think we can agree on that at least.
Loading...
24.11.2012 - 14:12
Mr. Doctor
Skandino
Yeah, this conversation is not passive-agressive at all.
----
Written by BloodTears on 19.08.2011 at 18:29
Like you could kiss my ass
Written by Milena on 20.06.2012 at 10:49
Rod, let me love you.
Loading...
26.11.2012 - 13:59
Aristarchos
Also I would say that saying that the cover features a snake is not totally objective. Even saying the cover is black is subjective, since there are no objective colours.
Loading...
26.11.2012 - 17:52
BitterCOld
Gringo
Written by Aristarchos on 26.11.2012 at 13:59

Also I would say that saying that the cover features a snake is not totally objective. Even saying the cover is black is subjective, since there are no objective colours.


it does feature a snake. it is established as such by the band, based upon the snake found on the Gadsden Flag. That flag also features the saying "Don't Tread On Me", which also happens to be the name of one of tracks on the album.

but keep arguing.

if you trust numbers supplied by random strangers who may or may not even use the scale (7 = good, yet is seen as a bad score by folks 'round here), rather than an established reviewer who gives you a decent track record of tastes and scores, that's your call.

i'll take an endorsement from someone whose tastes i understand and who takes 250-500 words to say why an album makes them feel a certain way, any day, over driveby users who spam 9's and 10's to their favorite bands.
----
get the fuck off my lawn.
Loading...
28.11.2012 - 16:19
Aristarchos
Written by BitterCOld on 26.11.2012 at 17:52

it does feature a snake. it is established as such by the band...

I think it is established by the band that Lulu is their best album since Master Of Puppets too.

I found it really amusing that you really took your time and argue that it is a snake.:D
Loading...
28.11.2012 - 19:02
Warman
Erotic Stains
Great article. Because of this "objectivity" there's a lot of albums I'd never review, because people would just throw poo at me. For example, first Black Sabbath album. I'd rate it a 7, 7.5 maybe. It's a good album, some great songs there. But overall, I'm not crazy about it. In a sort of objective review, it certainly deserves a 10.
I wrote "sort of" because there's no such thing as a fully objective review (unless the example in the article counts a proper review). A review is based on someones thoughts. And those thoughts are formed by the person's emotions, age, background, socio-economic status etc.
----
Loading...
28.11.2012 - 19:18
Mr. Doctor
Skandino
The point.

^ Someone missed it.
----
Written by BloodTears on 19.08.2011 at 18:29
Like you could kiss my ass
Written by Milena on 20.06.2012 at 10:49
Rod, let me love you.
Loading...
29.11.2012 - 17:08
Warman
Erotic Stains
Written by Mr. Doctor on 28.11.2012 at 19:18

The point.

^ Someone missed it.

I did?
----
Loading...
29.11.2012 - 17:50
Mr. Doctor
Skandino
Written by Warman on 29.11.2012 at 17:08

Written by Mr. Doctor on 28.11.2012 at 19:18

The point.

^ Someone missed it.

I did?


Damn, Sorry... When I was posting your post wasn't there.

This is awkward.
----
Written by BloodTears on 19.08.2011 at 18:29
Like you could kiss my ass
Written by Milena on 20.06.2012 at 10:49
Rod, let me love you.
Loading...
29.11.2012 - 18:06
Warman
Erotic Stains
Written by Mr. Doctor on 29.11.2012 at 17:50

Damn, Sorry... When I was posting your post wasn't there.

This is awkward.

I'm just glad I didn't post some bitchy response.
----
Loading...
19.04.2016 - 18:20
Karlabos
Weirdo of MS
Nice article which I wasn't aware of the existence. Good thing it was pointed out somewhere else

Yeah, people complaining about reviewers stating their opinion on their review are the worst.
Funny thing is that in most cases the complain is about the reviewer's opinion not matching the complainers subjective opinion about the album.
----
2016

2017
Loading...
19.04.2016 - 21:59
Enteroctopus
I'm a fan of comments sections. Makes me feel quite good about myself, like taking a casual stroll through a Wal-Mart.

I'm so smart and in such great physical condition!

It's really quite a way to turn a frown upside down, assuming that comparing yourself to miserable, out-of-shape people does that for you.

I watch Intervention for the same reason. La la la!
Loading...
09.05.2016 - 17:09
pdepmcp
I see the point, but it's clear enough it's a sophism.
It's obvious that a review is subjective. Many philosophers could enforce it be saying that the reality you see is already filtered be your senses and that the common language is misleading.

BUT emergent behaviors exist and craft the community.Comparison with similar things determinate a scale commonly accepted.
There is no way to have a completely objective review of Metallica's black album, but we can have a balanced review written for thrash metal fans that are likely to read it. This is not objective, but is the balance between subjective opinions and the comparison to similar music, by the same listener that is supposed to have a taste similar to the readers (just more...educated).

And that's why often reviewer specialize in some metal genres and avoid reviewing other styles: they lack the comparison with something they don't know (or at least not so well) and the connection with the readers.

The point of the critic is that sometimes the reviewer for some reason miss that link. It can happen, it's not a fault (in particular when it's occasional), but it doesn't need to be "defended". Eventually it can be explained just exposing the point of view of the reviewer: in fact it's usually related to the score, not the review itself.
Loading...

Hits total: 9698 | This month: 47