Wednesday February 1, 2012

What kind of music reviewer am I?

Posted by Karthik

This is going to be tough, but I need to get this off my chest.

Milliblog is 5+ years old. I have ‘reviewed’ 100s of soundtracks across languages. Initially when people used to mail me that they love my reviews and that I have great music sense, I used to feel good. After 5+ years, these days, I feel odd when people say that.

I have said this before, but it is worth repeating – I’m not trained in any form of music. I do not play any instrument. The best I can add here is that I used to sing reasonably well while in school and college, and used to be the first one to be called to sing on stage. That’s my claim to fame when it comes to music.

Does that make me eligible to review music? I have no idea and I don’t care either. Because I write what comes to my mind when I listen to music.

And listen I do a LOT. I have this voracious interest to listen to all kinds of music. Some of it sticks, some of it doesn’t. But I make it a point to articulate my thoughts quickly in the form of a 100 or 200 word review.

There are far, far better music reviewers out there. They are far more equipped and experienced to review music than me. They have tremendous knowledge about assorted genres, Carnatic/Hindustani raga awareness, can identify a lot of instruments and have adequate knowledge on a lot of nuances within music.

Me? I have vastly limited quantities of all those – mostly things I learnt myself out of sheer curiosity and interest. Still, I don’t usually use those in my reviews unless I’m completely sure that I’m not making a fool of myself.

If I were to dissect my reviews honestly, they are opinions written from the perspective of a normal music lover, because I’m just that. I use words from a finite set of adjectives and I believe most regular readers of Milliblog would be able to identify common words in my reviews.

When I explained this briefly to someone recently, I was told, ‘But your reviews are mostly spot on…’. This is something I don’t understand – what is ‘spot-on’, after all?

Does it mean I predict market success of most soundtracks correctly? (I don’t – I have raved on many soundtracks that have been duds, commercially) Or do people agree with my reviews in the sense that they like what I like too and they don’t like what I don’t like too? Either way, that is perhaps a wrong way to approach music reviews, because prediction of market success of soundtracks is not a review. And I cannot write reviews to ensure that they match a lot of my readers’ expectations. I write for a very selfish reason and write what comes to my mind when I hear something.

Anybody can do what I do with Milliblog if they spend time with music and are good with their language. And I strongly encourage more people to do that since it is so easy to do it online. The point is this – there is no entry barrier to become a reviewer anymore, of anything. Access to movies and music are open to everybody (except privileged, early access) and anybody can build a review site if only they do it consistently.

The only thing I’d give myself a pat for is having a good ear for music. But this too is not something I believe I was born with – it is an acquired trait, thanks largely to my exposure on ItwoFS and my dad’s interest in music which was instrumental in exposing me to a lot of interesting music since I was young.

I have no idea how to conclude this post since I don’t know why I’m penning this anyway.

Continue enjoying good music!

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