Unless you spend a lot of time wading around the shallow end of the music media, you probably missed the recent kerfuffle where a number of high-profile musicians (starting with Lorde) used social media to express their disapproval of magazines – specifically Complex – putting artists on the cover then bagging them out in reviews:
bugs me how publications like complex will profile interesting artists in order to sell copies/get clicks and then shit on their records? it happens to me all the time- pitchfork and that ilk being like “can we interview you?” after totally taking the piss out of me in a review. have a stance on an artist and stick to it. don’t act like you respect them then throw them under the bus.
[Yes, we know we’re not music reviewers. We’re going somewhere with this, trust us]
Unsurprisingly, Complex had their own take on this:
Contrary to whatever Lorde may think, for Complex to give a cover to an artist like Iggy Azalea or current covergirl Jhené Aiko (or even Lorde for that matter) it simply boils down to Complex thinking the artist is someone our audience is interested in. Giving someone a bad review basically boils down to thinking someone our audience is interested in didn’t make a very good record. We can’t speak for all publications, but we imagine it works about the same way for them.
And the internet being what it is, everyone else who’s ever written a word about music chimed in:
This, in turn, is indicative of a more pervasive problem, which is the idea that everyone’s opinion is equally valid, regardless of its premises or coherency. It’s not. You either know what the fuck you’re talking about or you don’t.
Still, you would like to think that most artists have some grasp of the difference between what we might call a “feature”, that is a story and/or photo, usually involving an interview with them, and a “review”, a critical appraisal of their work. And, in understanding the difference recognise the differing roles.
“suggesting that a magazine’s staff – let alone the freelancer who is not on the masthead but is increasingly responsible for producing this type of content in exchange for peanuts and pennies and open bar press passes – owes you a positive record review simply because you and your publicist were kind enough to grant their employers a mutually beneficial interview is tantamount to promoting corporate censorship in arts criticism.”
Why are we mentioning any of this in a comedy blog? For one thing, we’re jealous: can anyone seriously imagine the television critics of Australia rising up if someone famous took a swing at them for being inconsistent? Oh wait, that would never happen because the situation would never arise – the unity between “criticism” and overall editorial opinion that Lorde is asking for is what we currently have in the world of Australian television coverage. We live in a land where TV coverage is based entirely on having a (favourable) stance on an artist and sticking to it no matter what. And hasn’t that worked out so well for viewers?
As for comedy critics… well, not a year goes by it seems without one comedian or another having a go at the critics covering the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. It’s hard to know what’s more depressing about that: the fact that no-one steps up to defend comedy criticism the way these writers have defended music criticism, or the fact that the comedians are usually right.
But mostly we’re just in hysterics. If you said “suggesting that a magazine’s staff owes you a positive record review simply because you and your publicist were kind enough to grant their employers a mutually beneficial interview is tantamount to promoting corporate censorship in arts criticism” to a television publicist you’d see an awful lot of blinking and not much else. Because that’s exactly how television publicity works in this country: if you want access to the stars, you have to suck up to the stars. And if you don’t want access to the stars, what are you doing writing about television?