From the comments (and in reference to an item on the death of music criticism that I posted from the Christian Science Monitor the other day), FlatRat offers up an example of modern criticism that is, in his or her opinion, done right – Aidin Vaziri’s review of Paris Hilton’s album “Paris.” (In fact, some of the review appears to have come directly from the Wikipedia entry for Donkey.)
Personally, I don’t really know if there’s been a profound decline in good music criticism, because I never went there for good writing in the first place. I’ve kind of opened myself up to the idea (especially in the past couple of years, when media ubiquity, the growing reality of ambient information, and the idea that important news will “find me” have emerged) that good prose and sharp thinking come from anywhere – and usually when I’m not desperate for them.
Frankly, I read ingenious wordcraft weekly in the sex column “Savage Love,” run into examples of profound thinking daily on twitter, and even see a rare show of perspective once every couple weeks or so in some random listicle that shows up in my feedreader from some dude trying desperately to make diggbait.
On a related note, this weekend I found myself wishing that all sports writing were more like Anthony Lane’s “Letter from Beijing” columns, which have appeared in the last couple issues of the NYer. (I may well be the only sports “fan” who cares about this, or who holds this opinion; FINE.)
Rather than writing, as sports reporters too often do, inside the hermetically sealed bubble of the sporting world, in jaded tones that jam events into rote storylines, there’s actually a sense of WTF in these columns; the WTF that people actually feel when they go to sporting events.
Of a U.S. fencer who has just lost a match to an opponent who’s also her teammate and practice partner, Lane writes, “The natural high color of her face was deepened with perspiration and laved in tears; she looked like a woman ready to call a cab to the airport.” Nice. He goes on, “Instead of which, she composed herself, walked out twenty minutes later for the bronze-medal playoff against the Russian Sofiya Velikaya, went 1–6 down, composed herself again, overhauled her opponent, and won the match, 15–14. How she did this I have no idea.”
I wish all my sports writers were so ignorant.
Later, cracking through into the tightly sealed world of sport are Alan Arkin, Plato, and Fabrizio del Dongo.
I guess what I’m saying is that any person with a degree of cultural fluency can read “care.” Music critics may still care about their subject matter, but most don’t care about their work, or their readers as much as they do about turning the crank. Maybe, as finding good sports writing can mean getting it from film critics, it’s best to look to those who are music-agnostic to find good ideas about tunes.
Meanwhile, it’s become easier, and more fun, to find the few cared-for gems in the listicle-making rough.