The Stupidity Of Objective Reviews

Written by: Xnoybis
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
Xnoybis
BitterCOld has been officially reviewing albums for MetalStorm since 2009.
More articles by Xnoybis ››




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Guib - 21.05.2011 at 22:39  
Written by The Norseman on 21.05.2011 at 22:27

This is pointless. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree.


But what If I don't because I'm too stubborn to realize that opinions are always unobjective and
that I simply can't please everyone with my ways of thinking and my musical tastes.
Will this ever end ? Or will we all die in a pool of blood because we refuse to see someone
thinking differently, because obviously my way of thinking ''should'' always be the best (grin) ?
ADIresiduos - 26.05.2011 at 01:20  
Agree! But now a days is quite easy to get an idea of how a band sounds like: you tube, metal radio, etc.; and whenever a friend of yours tells you to catch a certain band because they sound "very heavy, brutal, epic. etc", you can always check it out on the internet (90% positive that you'll find something on it). So, use technology after reading a review and decide for yourself.
Guib - 26.05.2011 at 06:07  
Written by ADIresiduos on 26.05.2011 at 01:20

Agree! But now a days is quite easy to get an idea of how a band sounds like: you tube, metal radio, etc.; and whenever a friend of yours tells you to catch a certain band because they sound "very heavy, brutal, epic. etc", you can always check it out on the internet (90% positive that you'll find something on it). So, use technology after reading a review and decide for yourself.


Smart... but ya know, if everyone would check every bands and songs (and god knows theres alot of them... fuck god) then what would be the point of good 'ol reviews ? We always like the entertainement of someone expressing his opinion about a subject, especially concerning music. Don't ya think so ?
ADIresiduos - 26.05.2011 at 18:25  
Written by Guib on 26.05.2011 at 06:07

Written by ADIresiduos on 26.05.2011 at 01:20

Agree! But now a days is quite easy to get an idea of how a band sounds like: you tube, metal radio, etc.; and whenever a friend of yours tells you to catch a certain band because they sound "very heavy, brutal, epic. etc", you can always check it out on the internet (90% positive that you'll find something on it). So, use technology after reading a review and decide for yourself.


Smart... but ya know, if everyone would check every bands and songs (and god knows theres alot of them... fuck god) then what would be the point of good 'ol reviews ? We always like the entertainement of someone expressing his opinion about a subject, especially concerning music. Don't ya think so ?

Yes, I agree with that. Music is entertainment and a music review should also be for that purpose and also to give a hint as to what to expect from a certain band/record. I guess when all of us get interested in a band after reading a review, we will try to get a glimpse of their music before we actually buy the CD. I.e.: Metallica, I've always been a fan, up to the black album. After that, even though I read some good reviews on their following records, when I downloaded them I really got dissapointed and never bought the original ones (I own the originals from Kill 'em All through Metallica (black album... and now Death Magnetic).
Milena - 27.09.2011 at 11:06  
Written by ADIresiduos on 26.05.2011 at 01:20

Agree! But now a days is quite easy to get an idea of how a band sounds like: you tube, metal radio, etc.; and whenever a friend of yours tells you to catch a certain band because they sound "very heavy, brutal, epic. etc", you can always check it out on the internet (90% positive that you'll find something on it). So, use technology after reading a review and decide for yourself.

Never could rely on that. Lets say that, for an example, I get to check out a whole song on youtube, but I don't like the song. I still have to try out the whole album to see if it's crap, which consumes 45 mins to 1 hour. What if it's a bad album? Then I suspect that just might be one low point in the band's career. So what do I do then, listen to their whole discography on youtube? That way is very tiring and time-consuming, obviously. In fact (I suppose most of you peeps who are lucky enough to have record stores in their country download your albums before you buy them, for me it's just download), before you waste time and internet-connection to download something, you could try and read about it to see if it will match your taste. That's why I use MS and the reviews on this site. Sure, a third of bands I've found was pretty much not my thing, but I'm finding a lot of bands to my liking.
JD - 11.10.2011 at 12:12  
Quote:
(with one hand cupping their balls and another plugging their anus)


Hahahaha
Aristarchos - 20.11.2012 at 18:21  
Written by Xnoybis on 21.05.2011 at 20:50

Written by The Norseman on 21.05.2011 at 17:33

I give you an example. I usually listen to power/heavy metal but sometimes I like to try other styles like Black for example. Being a person that don't know much about black metal bands, where do I base myself to pick an album to listen to? The reviews? No, never. I base myself on the ratings an album has, because that is an average grade given by several persons, so the chances of it being more accurate are greater. Reviews, I'll find several reviews saying different things because most people fail to actually give an imparcial note.

This is just my opinion, I respect yours and I'm not looking to change it.




are you kidding me? you take the album scores? those are horribly overinflated by folks who just click a number... if you had any idea how many THOUSANDS of votes i've nuked from users who create accounts just to spam 10s to "cool" artists and 1's to slag off either uncool artists or others topping the charts in direct competition to their favorites.

if you think reviews are impartial why would you expect scores to be any different? just clicking "10" is a lot easier than typing 500 words why something is a 9.8 or whatever.

you hit the nail on the head the prior paragraph. and it holds true with music, movies, books, everything. you are best off finding someone who does reviews with tastes similar to your own.

I think the ratings give a much more fair picture of how good an album is regarded as than a review, as long as you check out that the album has enough ratings. I don't read reviews to see how good the reviewer think it is. I read them for getting a picture of how they sound.
Xnoybis - 20.11.2012 at 20:51  
Written by Aristarchos on 20.11.2012 at 18:21

I think the ratings give a much more fair picture of how good an album is regarded as than an review, as long as you check out that the album has enough ratings. I don't read reviews to see how good the reviewer think it is. I read them for getting a picture of how they sound.


as someone who has had to nuke literally tens of thousands of votes due to fraud, allow me to retort:

hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.
Mr. Doctor - 20.11.2012 at 21:08  
*spit take*

That's all I have to say about the ratings.
Aristarchos - 21.11.2012 at 11:34  
Written by Xnoybis on 20.11.2012 at 20:51

Written by Aristarchos on 20.11.2012 at 18:21

I think the ratings give a much more fair picture of how good an album is regarded as than an review, as long as you check out that the album has enough ratings. I don't read reviews to see how good the reviewer think it is. I read them for getting a picture of how they sound.


as someone who has had to nuke literally tens of thousands of votes due to fraud, allow me to retort:

hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

Anyway I don't think a rating of a reviewer says more of how good I will find an album than a 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 then on that I could base if it is worth checking out.
R'Vannith - 21.11.2012 at 13:32  
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.
Aristarchos - 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.
R'Vannith - 22.11.2012 at 18:07  
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.
Aristarchos - 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.
R'Vannith - 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.
Aristarchos - 22.11.2012 at 18:25  
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.
R'Vannith - 22.11.2012 at 18:37  
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.
Mr. Doctor - 24.11.2012 at 14:12  
Yeah, this conversation is not passive-agressive at all.
Aristarchos - 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.
Xnoybis - 26.11.2012 at 17:52  
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.
Aristarchos - 28.11.2012 at 16:19  
Written by Xnoybis 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
Warman - 28.11.2012 at 19:02  
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.
Mr. Doctor - 28.11.2012 at 19:18  
The point.

^ Someone missed it.
Warman - 29.11.2012 at 17:08  
Written by Mr. Doctor on 28.11.2012 at 19:18

The point.

^ Someone missed it.

I did?
Mr. Doctor - 29.11.2012 at 17:50  
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.
Warman - 29.11.2012 at 18:06  
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.

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