What is the point of a review?

For this issue we asked some of our writers the question ‘what is the point of a review?’ Enjoy!

Music reviews: a love-hate relationship. Some people like them, some don’t mind them and some hate them. They aren’t a mandatory requirement for people to write or read, and they come down to personal choice. The reviews are the listener’s own opinion and come down to personal taste. If they are a long-standing fan reviewing their favourite artist’s new album, which isn’t as good as the other albums they’ve released, they might give it a lower rating. However, someone who has recently discovered the artist might prefer the recent album over the début or the second album.

Reviews are there to showcase personal choice and shouldn’t deter people from buying the album. Artists should only read the reviews if they want to, taking negative ones with a pinch of salt. Potential album buyers should decide for themselves if the album is worth buying through listening to the track samples, not reading reviews.

Max Wrigley

Why do we care about, and why should we listen to, other people’s opinions of music? Are our opinions and tastes in music too dependent on and influenced by that of others? Can we trust music reviews to inform us on how to and whether to listen to a new song, album, or artist? Do positive and negative reviews increase and decrease the worth and value of a piece of music?  Do reviews save us time, and does ‘good’ music have to be mutually agreed upon?

There’s nothing worse than when you’ve been waiting months for your favourite band’s new album release and all of the reviews are negative – tearing the album apart. The awful thing about music reviews is that they can taint your own opinion or experience of a piece and completely devalue the song, album, or artist.

But who’s to judge whose opinion is right? Opinions can be divided. Music is something that connects and appeals to your own feelings, emotions, experiences, styles, and tastes. It can bring people together or have more significance for the individual.

Sometimes music reviews can encourage you to listen to music in new unique and distinct ways: it allows you to experience it through an alternative perspective, through someone else’s ears. You can pick up on the smaller details, quirks and influences you didn’t notice before – or wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. Lyrics, rhythms, beats, instruments. It allows you to experience music through different levels; it can elevate and develop the way you experience listening to music, helping you make and justify your own opinions.

But how can you become confident in your opinion when it comes to writing your own music reviews? Music is interpretive. Each time you listen to a song you could notice something new; your focus can transition from the lead singer to the drummer to the guitar solo, the music can change depending on the volume, pace, atmosphere or setting in which it is played, its significance and meaning can change depending on the individual listener’s experiences. 

The point of a review is to share your own experience and interpretation of a piece of music, to inform and influence the perspectives of others. To write a good music review, is to be an experienced, familiarised, and informed listener – who is aware of the context, history, style, and genre of the music they’re writing about. But to be a reader of music reviews, is to be open to another’s experience and opinion of music. To let it inform you, but not completely determine and shape your own experience and interpretation, until you take it upon yourself to listen and form an opinion of your own.

Lily Boag

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May 2022
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The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

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