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Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Thrill of Being Done Listening to Critics

I've been wrestling with this question for the better part of a year. Critics, why listen to them? Let me provide a little back story. I have worked in radio for the better part of ten years. In that time I have listened to a large variety of music. Metal to underground hip-hop. Classic rock remasters to local area garage bands. The new indie rock sensations to new wave punk. Having listened to such a wide variety of music for such an extensive period of time, I found myself becoming hyper critical of ever song and new band I listened to.

Actually to be more accurate I became a music snob. "What do you mean the drum beat is in a 5/4time scale, how dare The Shins do such a thing!", "What do you mean their new record doesn't sound like their debut album!", "The Black Keys at the United Center, well they sold out. I remember seeing them at enter the name of any small club in Chicago. They were good then, now they are not". These would be typical comments you would hear from me whenever I talked music. 

I reason that since I listened to so much music, I just knew more than the average person did. I read Pitchfork daily, listened to Sound Opinions weekly. I knew of bands before they made it big. I could argue music with the best of them, and on my radio show I would make a point of letting the listener know that I knew better than they did. Yet I didn't play any instrument. I never wrote a song. I was and am still a complete novice to the creative process it takes to create music. But it didn't matter. I knew what music was better than other music.

Then in late 2011/early 2012 as I continued in my music snobbery something happened to me that shook me loose. One of my friends just mentioned to me, after one of my music rants, "Pete it's music. You should just enjoy it, and besides it's your opinion. When did your opinion become fact." These words hit me like a ton of bricks. Mainly because they were true. It's my opinion. Just because it is my opinion doesn't make me more right than another person's opinion. After that I began an 180 degree reversal. On my radio show I changed my year in review show from "The Best of...", to "My favorites of...".

As I continued changing my views something else happened. I began enjoying listening to music again. At the height of my music snobbery there was very little new music that came out that I enjoyed. I would shit on everything. Because I saw myself as a critic, that is what critics are supposed to do. Listening to music was my job, and it had begun to lose some of it's fun factor. However after I switched my viewpoint, people were more willingly to talk to my about music again, and the conversations would be very enjoyable. Listening to music became fun again.

About two weeks ago, Jim DeRogatis from Sound Opinions wrote a review of the Beatles' film Magical Mystery Tour. Now in full disclosure, I am a diehard Beatles fan. They have been my favorite band since 1996, and they could put their name on a bag of dog shit and I would buy it, for the shear fact that it says The Beatles. Now Magical Mystery Tour is a bad movie. I don't think anyone will argue that point, it is pretty common knowledge. In his review, Mr. DeRogatis takes the film to town, discussing every bad point of the film, and why it is so bad.

As I was reading his review, I became of the opinion that Mr. DeRogatis was almost getting personally offended that A) This bad movie was re-released and B) A few famous people (Martin Scorsese) have said they like the film and have been inspired by it. Now I know that a critics job is to be critical, but it seems like in order to be a critic you have to give up any sense of joy you have towards that subject matter. It is almost like you have to become a snob.

Now Mr. DeRogatis is entitled to his opinion, and he has every right to express that opinion. (Plus he makes his living doing it.) At the same time I just want to say, lightened up. It's a movie. The world will not end because it has been re-release or a few famous people have defended it. Just don't listen to/ watch it. Is it the Beatles best stuff, absolutely not. But who cares!! It totally reminds me of when Homer Simpson became a food critic. All his critic peers yelled at him because he loved all the food he ate.

He went from loving everything to this:

Don't become what Home became. Just remember it's opinions, not facts. Since I realize this, I have enjoyed so much more music, and people are more willingly to talk to me about music. It's a win, win!!

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