Originally, it was my dream to become a music writer, like Hunter S. Thompson only without the guns and drugs, and to follow some of the biggest and best bands on their way to and through stardom. Sadly, like hunter S. Thompson, that dream ceases to any longer be.
My foray into music journalism went so far as writing single, album, gig reviews and subbing for a variety of websites, to whom I will be forever grateful. But, I found with the world of work at my fingertips, that dedicating enough time to each of the six publications was becoming a nightmare, and henceforth decided to concentrate on my fledgling PR career.
Why should I bring this up now?
Writing reviews taught me many things, one of which that manifests itself in those fingertips (as opposed to pen) and will do til the day I type no more: reviews are not about the reviewer. Nor are they about the thing that is being reviewed.
Reviews are about giving a reader something to compare their own opinion against. There can be of course, a problem with this. Take a book review for example. It may take the reviewer a week to read the book and then write about it. In that time his or her opinion will be forrmed and then splashed across a page. A reader will then take in this review and make a decision to buy or not buy said literary work.
They will, if they buy the book, then have their chance to form an opinion on it, taking a stance with or against the review they previously read, which will in turn be influenced the review in the first place.
After absorbing a review, the reader very rarely goes into consuming a product with a blank state of mind, and will subconsciously start looking for points with which to agree or disagree with the writer on, thus objectively affecting their point of view.
This isn’t a bad thing – but the reader very rarely takes into acount the state of mind of the reviewer. Was he or she hungover and grumpy or high as a kite? Was he or she writing against a looming deadline and in order to get the piece done, picked holes in the work (because it’s easy to crticise, but difficult to critique)? Or did they just utterly dislike the object they were writing about for no real reason? We don’t know.
Which is why I took, and continue to take, a firm stance on reviewing, whether it’s a CD or a search engine.
I think it’s important to have an opinion, that is after all what you’re (hopefully) getting paid for and what people read the article for. But, it’s also important to be fair to the people that you’re reviewing and the product they’ve produced. They’ve done it that way for a reason, be it in your eyes right or wrong. So I try to let them have their say – if i think something is blue, I’m happy to let them say it is red, because the reader should know what the thinking behind their product is. This also helps to bring the consumer and brand closer together, I think, because it gives an insight into a philosophy.
This is more important to whether the product is good or not. Look at the rise of fairtrade and ethically produced goods. Some of the bits that are produced, are terrible, and sometimes in particular, the coffee is dreadful. But, you’re buying into a certain philosophy; that you’d rather help to make a poor farmer’s life better than line the pockets of a multinational multibillion dollar brand.
I could write a scathing review of a coffee brand and you could agree with me until I mentioned, in the last sentence, the word fairtrade, until then it’s just a coffee brand. All of a sudden the connotations of this word would completely negate the previous 300.
I figure that my point is not to be put off or turned on by a review, but to think about why it’s been written in whatever tone with whatever point of view, and to think about why the product, be it art or a building, has been made the way it has. Then, with all those things considered, you’ll probably ignore everything and go with your initial gut instinct.