Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Passion for Great Country Music

In exploring the country blogosphere, it's largely inevitable that you come across comments that make such claims as...

"Those who can do.  Those who can't... become critics."

Let's talk about this for a moment.  In essence, such commenters claim that music critics are nothing but grumpy old sourpusses who have no musical talent and no hopes of achieving a successful music career, and who thus try to feel better about themselves by slinging mud at those who do have such potential.  Strangely enough, such comments only seem to appear on negative reviews.  I have yet to see one on a positive review.

Let's break down these assumptions.  First of all, is there any sound basis for asserting that music critics never have any musical talent of their own?  That may be what some of us would like to believe when we come across a scathing review that we strongly disagree with.  But let's be humble about this - We really don't know, do we?  Some critics are very talented musicians, and it's not a given fact that every person on earth with the slightest shred of musical talent is going to pursue fame and fortune as a country star.  Bear in mind also that good writing is a talent in itself.  Perhaps the said critic has found that his true calling is to be a writer rather than a professional musician.  At any rate, there is little basis for assuming that the critic does what he does solely because he is not the one making the hit records.

The greatest error of such a comment is assuming that the the critic is motivated entirely by hatred and bitterness, when in fact such could hardly be further from the truth.  A music critic is motivated, not by bitterness, but by passion.  We love to write.  We love great music.  Isn't it easy to see why we might enjoy writing about music?

Understandably, this might beg the question of "If y'all are motivated by passion, then why so many negative reviews?"

Consider another typical comment-thread complaint:

"You know my daddy always said if you have nothing good to say about something then keep your opinion to yourself. As in things you may dislike someone else dearly loves."

Negative reviews happen.  That's just the way it is.  But that in no way suggests that an unimpressed reviewer is negative about music in general.  Since we have a passion for great music, that passion often causes us to be particularly critical of not-so-great music.  So why don't we keep our opinions to ourselves?  Since mainstream releases from major record labels draw a great deal of attention, record buyers are interested in knowing if it's really worth their dollars.  So we eagerly listen to new releases, and review them to help our readers determine what's worth buying.  If we honestly don't think it's any good, then we tell you why we hold that opinion.  Thus, negative reviews serve a purpose just as the positive ones do.

There's definitely no need to become angry or defensive if a critic pans music that we enjoy.  After all, does the negative opinion of one critic prevent us from listening to and enjoying the music for what it is?  Definitely not.  In such a scenario, the old adage "Agree to disagree" is very applicable indeed.  If you do disagree, then it's perfectly acceptable to leave your own comment and express why the music appeals to you.  I love it when I get reader comments that cause me to view a song or album from a new and different perspective, and to see positive qualities that I might not have noticed at first.  That only makes for an interesting and enjoyable blog discussion, as long as opinions are expressed with tact, diplomacy, and respect for others.

If you find that a certain critic reliably disagrees with your opinions on music, then that simply means that the two of you analyze music on different levels.  You and he are two unique and different individuals who have different tastes, different sets of opinions, and who look for different qualities in what you consider to be great music.  Maybe that critic just isn't the one for you.  That's okay.  You might find another critic whose opinions you can relate to more clearly.  You may find that you can rely on that critic to help you determine what type of music will appeal to you.

As an avid country music blogger, I can say that it always makes me happy when I see comments like these:

"Thanks for the review, was trying to decide whether or not to buy it. I think I've decided, upon reading this, that I will."

"Jamey has a nice earthy quality which is quite entertaining.  Thanks very much, Ben, for making me aware of him."

Introducing you to great music is like introducing you to a dear friend of ours.  One of the most satisfying aspects of reviewing music is having the opportunity to introduce you to new music that you might not have discovered otherwise.

There are countless different styles of music to choose from, even just within the genre boundaries of what we call country music, and there is an endless variety of opinions on music.  Surely, the Internet is big enough to accomodate all of them.  A country music blog is an ideal forum for all of us to share the great music we love, to freely express our opinions, and to engage in discussion over it.  In today's digital age, such interaction is made quicker and easier than ever before.  We may agree.  We may disagree.  But the one thing that all of us have in common is that we all have a deep love for great music.  We may have our differences, but our passion for the music is what unites us.

Wow, that last sentence could really use a string section and a gospel choir, don'tcha think?