Music Reviews in 2020: Pitchfork is for Narcs and Fantano Gets a Pass

Only narcs still read Pitchfork

For a long time music journalists were powerful people. They could make or break artists. If the right magazine, the right fan zine, the right person said a record was good, it sold. It was necessary for journalists with their ears to the ground and their manicured tastes to tell the masses what was worth purchasing and what wasn’t, there was no way to listen to it in advance unless a friend already had the record. In that case a journalist’s opinion wasn’t so important. The 70’s through the 90’s print publications ruled. Rolling Stone, Maximum Rock and Roll, Cream etc. Post-Rolling Stone era, blogs reigned. They reviewed music, but mostly highlighted what they and their friends thought was cool. They represented specific scenes and if an artist was included it lent that artist credibility, it associated them with a host of other more successful artists. Blogs gave the ‘cool’ stamp which often translated directly to record sales. It’s easy to see where the music critic becomes less relevant as time goes on. Napster, iTunes and on into the streaming era and social media revolution. People are their own critics, music is more accessible than ever, who gives a shit about what some nerd has to say about it? 

Photo: Peter Lombardo

Music journalists aren’t usually liked or respected for their opinions. They are liked for their writing. Music is a fun and interesting topic to write about, but it’s the creation of one piece of art inspired by another that makes writing about music worthwhile. It’s not boxed into just writing anymore either, Anthony Fantano is the most prominent music journalist today and I don’t think anybody actually cares about his opinion enough to change their feelings about a record. Millions of people watch The Needle Drop because they like Fantano. 

All this to say, fuck your album review. 

alt="Ty Segall by Peter Lombardo"
Ty by Peter Lombardo

It’s pointless, nobody cares about an “objective” constructivist critical analysis of a Chainsmokers record. Pitchfork can give The Chainsmokers records 2s and 3s forever and it won’t matter because The Chainsmokers don’t suck. They are trash, undoubtedly, but that point has been beaten to a pulp ad nauseam. Their music is genius garbage. It’s genius because it did exactly what they intended it to do, it sold. Their music isn’t art, it’s a product and products’ successes are judged by their sales; Chainsmokers songs sold and sold well.

There is a difference between art and product. 

The line is incredibly blurred in the artworld at large. In the music industry, in fine art, in craft. Some things are created out of an artist’s sheer need to create, to express themselves through a given medium. This art can then be critiqued and sold, but the critique and sale was never the point of creation. Alternatively some things are created with the sale in mind. These things geared towards the sale are products. The critiques and reviews serve to advertise and garner attention which leads to sales. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, but often the most offensive shit to music nerds are these products that have little or nothing to do with the art they love. The Chainsmokers and Nickelbacks are so offensive to people who read blogs, who go to shows and participate in music culture so those types of people rip them, give them horrible reviews to discourage potential listeners or buyers. But the person buying, the average consumer of Chainsmokers tracks, do we think they read Pitchfork or NME? Do we really think they give a single thought to what “music culture” thinks about their taste? So who are we writing these reviews for? Trashing mainstream pop to a group of fanatics who will never listen to it, or praising the more legitimate endeavors of artists like Taylor Swift as a ‘fuck you’ to elitist hipsters? It’s like punching a brick wall.

alt="Mosh Pit Peter Lombardo"
Photo: Peter Lombardo

That’s not to say critique is out of the question. It’s a very different ball game, talking about why something sucks is cathartic within our own spheres of influence. There is a reason why hipster kids and scenesters are always trashing pop music. Modern pop is often created in the studio by a bunch of people trying to get paid, where a lot of what we love is made by weirdos and psychos who give everything they have to this with no monetary guarantee, no safe return on investment. It is made with a flagrant disregard for health, safety and security and no matter how many records The Chainsmokers sell, it’s not going anywhere. 

The Chainsmokers’ music isn’t art, it’s a product and products’ successes are judged by their sales.

alt="Crowd of concert goers"
Photo: Peter Lombardo

What are music journalists supposed to do then? If the album review is dead what else is there? So many things. Be a journalist, go find a story and tell people about it. Go to a show and talk about it. Talk to the kids at the shows. Write something interesting, because trashing or praising a record from an ‘objective’ perspective is not it. The critic in your head is a policeman who must be destroyed. Only narcs still read Pitchfork. 

alt="Trevor of Coffin by Peter Lombardo"
Trevor Carr of Coffin by Peter Lombardo

So let’s stop conflating art with products. Stop reviewing consumer goods like they are art.

Stop trying to turn art into something that can be bought or sold en masse. Stop putting numbers to music. It’s boring, it’s pointless, nobody fucking cares. *

Photo: Peter Lombardo

*Fantano is exempt, millions of people care about his reviews and I think he’s cool. But if you’re a shit head writer like myself, kick rocks. 

If you enjoyed this article check out a Kollection style “review” of Yung Lean’s new record Starz here