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!



  • jeanjohny

    The point that you listen a LOT makes reading your reviews worthwhile! It requires a lot of listening to make out what’s different, fresh and new! Even I don’t know how to classify songs technically(ragas, genre et al) much, but most of the times even I felt that your reviews are spot on!

  • Dear Karthik,

    U did not need to write it anyway. I don’t know why you are doing this. Because of people who love you, or because of those who might have claimed to hate you. In case one, maybe you are right in taking it out, but if it’s case two, I don’t think you need to think twice. Now that I have a blog that caters to thousands daily (i.e. Bollymeaning), I get lovers as well as haters, but the one who says my explanation touched him as much as the song did, makes my day, and keeps me going with whatever I feel like doing.

    And yeah, I don’t really think that ‘knowledge’ of music is always necessary for a review. I have seen reviewers who have deep knowledge, and show it off, and even impress me, but get some comments that clearly say that the review didn’t have a soul, it was just a dissection. Happened quite recently actually.

    So just keep going, that’s all I have to say. And yeah, you are one of my great inspirations, even though I saw your blog after I started mine.

    Now, not writing a post longer than yours, I stop here. 🙂

  • Oops! Sorry for the wrong spelling. Courtesy a close colleague who writes that one. 

  • Prasanna venkatesh krishnamoor

    Karthik, daily i check up milliblog to see if u have posted any new reviews. Slowly i have become a fan of u. I should agree here, most of the time ur reviews match mine at times they wont example VTV music i liked but u didnt, so dont worry about anything just keep posting ur reviews for people like me.

  • Spot On – to me it means what others feel for the tracks, and most of the times it proves identical to your 100/200, becomes spot on. Even when I post a review, many times I get surprised that you or even Harshit [Gupta] has posted pretty similar thoughts. [and sometimes I think, hope people won’t count me as ‘plagiarised’ reviewer 🙂 ] 

    As Harshit put up in his comment, no need to get this off you. You just write what you feel. That’s it. 

  • In spite of not doing music reviews for a living, the sheer commitment, energy and time your putting in is something worth a lot for us (fans). Also, one of the most impressive features about milliblog is the exposure to all SouthIndian/Bollywood/Indipop (sometimes International) music which not many would be even aware of if not for your reviews. I just wish you carry on your good work without caring much about resultant external factors as you have always done. As a tribute to your 100 word blog, I conclude my 100 word comment though it deserves 300 words.

  • I enjoy reading your reviews on soundtracks (other than Tamil and Hindi) and thanks to your broad minded approach, have been able to listen to songs in other languages (particularly in Telugu.)

  • Karthik sir,

    You very well know how much I disagree with your opinions. Cutting long story short, if you really knew what true music was, you wouldn’t have bashed so many works of a “certain someone”. *wink*

    But that is where I regard you. At least, you are conveying what you’ve felt. Even if you have limited knowledge of music, and you are biased towards some specific artists (hope you still remember the sound file I sent you, *tehehehe*); the reader can judge what is going on in your mind when you said something.

    They say that food was made for humans to consume resources on earth, and if they hadn’t had taste buds they wouldn’t have invested so many resources in eating. Nearly all people pay more preference to taste over nutritional value, isn’t it? Similarly very few people look at music from perspective of a form of art, and how does the singer connect with god while singing it. Most people care about whether something catches the fancy of their ears or not, that’s it.

    So when you like or dislike something, it indicates how would someone who doesn’t have a lot of knowledge of the field, would react. If I was a composer, I would have anticipated your opinions eagerly. How many people buy original audio CD’s on their own money, listen to it, and share their opinion with the world? It is a *bonus* for a composer, that they are getting to know how a vital man from the ‘aam junta’ would react to their music.

    In your case, I know that you listen to music while driving, so you don’t use headphones most of the time.
    Also your native language is Tamil, and your knowledge of Hindi isn’t as good as those who grew up in the heartland.
    You grew up listening to Illaiyaraja’s brand of music, unlike some of my colleagues who grew up on Punjabi pop.
    For you, arrangements matter much more than the efforts that go in a melody.
    Your knowledge of other Indian languages is as good as mine, and so there has to be something that attracts the investment in buying an audio CD.

    While I will continue disagreeing with you on several occassions in future, I do hope that we end up agreeing on the same thing. Especially when they are related to a “certain someone”. *double wink*

    I will conclude with two points.
    1. Trolls. When you bash someone, you know that people would abuse you. Some write pretty nasty comments in return. But that doesn’t stop you from doing what you are doing. Though I never trolled you, nor did I ever ask any of my friends to spam your blog post comments after you blasted someone dear to us; you treated me very well. You respond to my tweets, at times went out of the way to help me, etc. How many reviewers create a connect with their readers? IMO, anyone can create a connect with those who agree with them, the real deal is to do that with those who disagree on several occassions.

    2. Beast of traal. I feel that if Milliblog was never there, then probably BOT wouldn’t have been as well. Personally I am more fan of BOT than Milliblog, and I have always maintained that BOT was one of the inspirations for me taking up blogging for work related purposes. I have had people coming to me and saying that your music sense isn’t too great, to which I replied saying you were very good professionally, particularly in Social Media, and you had a blog which they must check out.

    In coming days I won’t be as active on Milliblog as I am right now. So I am glad that I made this post at the right time, and you were kindful enough to accept it on your blog, just the way you never raised any issues over my tweets/emails/comments. Good luck, may your cult increase, and may you gain more loyal followers.

    P.S. – You aren’t good at judging vocals as well. I am saying that on the basis of… yeah right, that “certain someone”. 🙂

  • Sakshar Thakkar

    Most of us cannot give words to what they feel about every song…You give words to people’s feeling about songs… hence “spot on”

  • Harish_Metha

    @Karthik:twitter I would really like to know what kind of sound set up you use to listen to music. Please tell in detail about the kind of environment, cabinet model, headphone model,etc.. 

    • milliblog

      As a normal music listener, I use a standard Sony in-ear head set. I have a Sony music player in the car with extremely standard speakers fitted on the doors 🙂

  • Jaydeep

    Imo, and I am sure quite a few of us will agree here, you are one of the most progressive music reviewers around with a strong stand as well as readiness to make amends whenever required. The passion you have for music comes across unadulterated (who else can rate NW1W to an SEL-Farhan-Shahrukh album or call Ghajini a turkey or give a deserved credit to an unknown talent like Gulraj Singh) & thats what is your supreme strength as a reviewer. Also, I think you underrate yourself a bit. Your taste & knowledge across the genres is impeccable. The finite set of adjectives you claim to have is larger & more meaningful than quite a few reviewers out there. So is your knowledge of music. I get amazed when you can identify a raga (like mention of Charukesi in Agneepath) despite not being a trained musician.
    So give yourself some credit, you don’t need approval from us, you are doing a phenomenal job.
    On a side note, you are a very patient reviewer, who reads each and every comments by presumptuous commentators like me & even responds to most that deserve a response.

    • Jaydeep

       Another virtue is your dedication, it is almost synonymous to your passion for music. Even reviewers with incentives & remuneration cannot match up with the sheer volume of work you do, forget quality. Like I saw this morning, you posted 6 posts since weekend & here I am sitting with Papon & Rangeele sitting side by side on my desktop for a week now, yet to be inaugurated. Hats off to you, man.

  • Raviteja Andhavarapu

    Karthik, I follow your blog and based on your overall feedback I decide whether or not to listen to a soundtrack many times. I appreciate the time you put into and the number of soundtracks you review for us folks to consider them. But I don’t like it when you compare each song with an existing composer’s style. I feel that’s discrediting the effort of the composer. 

  • Keshav Kulkarni

    I like your blog because I can read it quickly and gives an idea about the album. More importantly you write about South Indian languages too, including Kannada. 

  • Humility is a virtue

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